Planning a hiking trip to Cuba? A holiday spent hiking in Cuba is really something special. But not everyone wants to go the “whole hog” as they say. Hiking in Cuba offers variety from casual wanderings through city streets to an epic adventure in the wilderness.
Let’s look at a few of the best options Cuba has to offer.
1. EASY: Walk Through Havana’s Historic Centre
It’s probably a given that you will want to explore Havana’s historic centre (Habana Vieja) during your time in the country. This is the geographical, historical and cultural heart of the capital. Most of the major tourist sites you’ll want to visit can be found here. Yet there are still many other hidden nooks and crannies to explore. You can see most of the area within a day on your own, However you might want to book a walking tour of the area to ensure that you don’t miss out on anything.
It’s better to do the bulk of your walking during the morning before the heat of the day builds up. You can also avoid the worst of the crowds! The best way to explore Old Havana is to start at one of the major plazas. From there you can fan your way out and explore.
The Plaza de Armas or the Plaza de la Catedral are ideal starting points. The Plaza de la Catedral is also great on a hot, busy day. You can duck inside the magnificent Havana Cathedral and get out of the heat and also sit and gaze at it’s beauty. Also known as “La Catedral de la Virgen María de la Concepción Inmaculada de La Habana”. Old Havana’s is one of the more relaxed options when it comes to Cuba hiking trips, but it’s an unforgettable experience.
2. MEDIUM: Viñales Valley and Surrounding Hills
The picture perfect town of Viñales is just a little under 3 hours from Havana, and exemplifies rural Cuba. The town is home to a just under 30,000 people and is never hectic. You can see colonial era architecture and the town is surrounded with rolling green fields (where much of Cuba’s tobacco is grown).
The valley and hills around Viñales are where hiking in Cuba becomes a little more physically demanding. However not yet an epic hike. The rolling hills eventually become sheer mountains, and you can venture as far as your level of fitness allows.
You can explore some of the hills on your own. It’s difficult to become lost just so long as you keep the town of Viñales in sight. Some of the longer trails are more physically demanding, the higher into the hills you go. It can be a good idea to go with a walking group and some of these tours will take in the so-called bandit trails. These trails were developed and utilised by revolutionaries in Cuba’s troubled history. Many guided tours can be booked in the town itself.
If you’re so inclined, you can also do some rock climbing in the hills around Viñales. Do not attempt to do this on your own, as some of the climbs can be very demanding, and should not be undertaken without the necessary safety equipment. If you want to you can arrange for a walk through the tobacco plantations and just admire the hills from afar.
3. MEDIUM: Topes de Collantes National Park
Located a short distance from Trinidad, is the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Topes de Collantes National Park in the Sierra del Escambray mountains. The park is named after its third highest peak and offers incredible panoramas across Viñales. A number of set trails make that exploration possible. Salto del Caburni Trail is probably the most popular.
At just 4 km in each direction from the trail head, the Salto del Caburni might not sound like much. However the trail does include some steeper sections that are easiest to tackle with a little previous hiking experience. You’ll find the trail head at the Casa de la Gallega, a graffiti-covered café which serves basic lunches. It then plunges into a forest of eucalyptus trees and 40 different varieties of the coffee plant. At the end of the trail you’ll find the Salto de Caburni waterfall. Impressive in its own right it tumbles almost 65 metres into a pool of cooling water.
An alternative 8 km round trip in Topes de Collantes National Park is the Salto Vega Grande trail. This also leads to another beautiful waterfall set around pristine greenery.
3. HARD: Alejandro de Humboldt National Park
Some of the most demanding Cuba hiking trips can be found in Alejandro de Humboldt National Park, which sprawls across the provinces of Holguín and Guantánamo, in the southeast of Cuba. Even the shortest of walks through the park can be difficult since the park is the most humid area in Cuba… you will break into a sweat without even taking a step, so plenty of water is a must if you’ve even going to contemplate a hike!
This humid environment has resulted in a lush rainforest with an amazing variety of flora and fauna. Hiking in the park should only be considered with a guide, since the park spans an amazing 685.72 km2 (264.76 square miles). Most guided tours can be arranged in the nearest major town, Guantánamo.
One of the most popular regional hikes is that along the Balcony of Iberia trail, which begins in the town of Santa Maria before crossing the river of the same name – just one of the water ways through the park. Taking around five hours, this 11 km trail offers the chance to catch sight of the Cuban solenodon (or almiqui), a large shrew-nosed rodent, and birds including parrots and the Cuban trogon among others. The pristine environment of the park means you will never forget your time hiking in Cuba.
Hiking in Cuba: Conclusion
Though it may not immediately come to mind when thinking of trekking destinations, there is some phenomenal hiking in Cuba. From easy strolls around the capital, to tricky hikes through the island’s most pristine landscapes. Cuba has it all!