DebbieApril 11, 2017 at 10:03 amPost count: 0
We have four nights in Havana on arrival then three weeks to travel through Cuba. I would like to get as far as Santiago and Baracoa if time permits. We don’t mind catching a flight back to Havana. Could you please suggest an itinerary for us? Love the tourquoise water beaches but not all inclusive resorts. Prefer less touristy style. Love eating, drinking and dancing. Love natural swimming holes. Love old architecture and cobbled villages. Off the beaten track is great.MarioKeymasterApril 11, 2017 at 6:37 pmPost count: 149
Hi, I can set you up an itinerary. Just know that Cuba is a well traveled place. The best beaches already have hotels on them. And the ones that don’t have hotels, it’s usually because they are too far from anything to make them viable destinations. I know that some travel books will tell you about “the best hidden beach in Cuba” and things like that, but generally speaking all the truly great beaches are not so hidden anymore. The hidden ones are far away and would be mostly expensive to get to with a private taxi, and once you are there, you will be alone on the beach, but also alone within a 20km radius, so no water, restaurants, groceries, markets, etc. Many taxi drivers will not go far from the highway simply to get to a hidden beach, because if their car breaks down they are stuck.. and there are no on-call tow trucks in Cuba. Anyway, I just wanted to mention that.
Also, how do you plan on getting around? My suggestion it to use city to city taxis. If you are solo or a couple, it will save money. If you are 3 or 4, you might be better off renting a car. But there are risks to that.
Days 1-4: You are in Havana. Relax, explore the city. You won’t get bored.
Days 5-7: Go to Vinales. It’s a fun place and if you like nature you will enjoy the mountains and valley. Also you can check out the secluded beaches. You can go to Cayo Jutias or Cayo Levisa. Cayo Jutias is more popular and it only costs 15cuc per person to take a taxi there. Cayo Levisa costs 30cuc per person, but that also includes the ferry to get to the island. From Vinales you can organize these excursions at the tourist office in front of the main plaza in the town (there will be a crowd of people there and it is impossible to miss). Taxi drivers all around will offer rides to these beaches.
Day 8: Leave Vinales and take a taxi to Playa Larga. It’s gotten built up a lot in the last year, but it is still a small beach town with charm. Go there just to relax for a day. If you like it stay longer, but there is nothing much there.
Day 9: Go to Cienfuegos. It’s not my favorite town but it has charm and it has french architectural flair. Spend the night there and enjoy the day wandering around. If you like it stay longer.
Day 10 – 13: Go to Trinidad. Spend 4 nights in this area. One to explore the town. One for a horse ride or hike around the fields and hills. One for the beach (Playa Ancon) and one for going to the nearby Topes de Collantes mountains. You can also check out El Nicho waterfall. You might want to spend more than a day here. More info here. It’s between Cienfuegos and Trinidad. Also for trinidad, check out my free mini guide to trinidad.
Day 14: For most people, this is as far east as they go in Cuba. Please know that going further east, you will see a different, poorer and much less touristy Cuba. You can go to Camaguey. This is a large city. You can stay there for 1 or 2 days to explore.
Day 15: You can go to Playa Santa Lucia. This is about 2 hours north of camaguey. There are tons of secluded beaches in this area. The main town has resorts, but walk for 15 minutes away and you can find empty beaches. There is nothing else there.. just small empty beaches. You can find a casa or stay in a hotel. Hotels are not expensive here.
Day 17: Go to Holguin. It’s a beautiful town. Spend 3 nights. That gives you enough time to see the town and the surrounding countryside. There is a beach at Guardalavaca. It’s the nicest beach in the east. Many hotels, but still lots of secluded areas and rental casas.
Day 20: Go from Holguin to Moa. There is nothing in Moa but it is the main area to take a communal taxi to Baracoa. This is one of the eastern most towns in Cuba and the first place Columbus landed in North America. Baracoa only has 2 roads in. One from Moa and one from Santiago. The town was hit by a hurricane and has not fully recovered, but it is ok to visit. See here and here for more info. Spend 2 or 3 nights in Baracoa.
Day 23: Go to Santiago de Cuba. The largest big city in the east and the former capital. Spend 2 or 3 nights there. It’s a hot place… super hot. But nice and not touristy. Check out the Sierra Maestra mountain range.. the tallest mountains in Cuba (El Turquino). Rich in history, this is where Castro and the rebels camped out for years.
Day 25: Take a flight from Santiago de Cuba to Havana… and then go home. Check the flights at http://www.cubana.cu. Flights from Santiago to Havana are usually about 100CUC per person.
Anyway, with a trip like this, you see all of Cuba. You can say you explored the island. But you did it quick. You saw Cuba but I don’t know if you can say that you “know” Cuba. Either way, it gives you a great sense of the country and the people. The trip is long and it won’t be cheap to see all these places. You might be exhausted at the end.
If you want something more relaxed, then cut out Cienfuegos and Camaguey. Or, if you want to spend more time in the east, cut out Vinales. Generally, the more time you spend in one place, the easier it is to establish relations with the locals and learn culture. But, if you spend all the time in one place, then you don’t see much of the country. It’s the trade off.
What do you think?
I hope his helps,
3 1/2 weeks in cuba
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