A trip to the quaint town of Viñales is the most popular day trips from Havana, Cuba. The Vinales Valley is a UNESCO world heritage listed area encircled by mountains and with landscape interspersed with dramatic rocky outcrops.
It’s possible to visit by catching public transport from Havana to Vinales. Alternatively, you can take a taxi or tour which includes transportation to the main activities in Vinales including a trip to a tobacco farm where you can learn to roll world-famous Cuban cigars and go horse-back riding.
This trip was one of the highlights of our Cuba vacation so don’t be afraid to set aside a day to visit.
Your options to get to Vinales are pretty simple but even though a few people write about it we didn’t find the information to be particularly insightful or up to date, so here are all the options.
We’ll tell you exactly how and where to book your tickets and what everything should cost.
Fun fact: the name comes from the word Vineyard because this is where French colonists came to grow wine. After ripping up the tobacco fields and planting vineyards they discovered the wine sucks. So they went back to growing tobacco which they are particularly good at.
Havana to Viñales Map
The distance from Havana to Vinales is 92 miles / 183 km which takes about 2.5 hours driving.
By bus or Collectivo the journey is a little longer at about 3 – 4 hours.
Here’s a quick rundown of the six options to get from Havana to Vinales:-
- Take the Bus, 3 – 4 hours, from $20 cuc (stay overnight)
- Take a Collectivo, 3 – 4 hours, from $15 cuc (stay overnight)
- Private Transfer, 2.5 hours, from $70 cuc per car (stay overnight)
- Hire a Vintage 1950s Taxi, from $140 cuc per car (day trip)
- Take a Tour, from $60 cuc (day trip)
- Hire a Car, from $75 per day (min. 3 days) (day trip)
If you’re planning a day trip from Havana to Vinales, taking a tour is the easiest but most expensive option.
A tour will include transportation to and from the Capital plus they will take you to all the important places of interest.
For those of you who plan to stay a few nights and just want to know the fastest, easiest or cheapest way to get there from Havana, I’ve discussed the one-way options first.
If you’re considering taking a day trip to Vinales a detailed write up follows about what your itinerary will include, which spots to hit and which spots to miss, and how to organise the trip. Plus lots of super photos of this glorious region.
Havana to Vinales
If you plan to spend at least a night, these transportation options may work for you.
Note that due to the distance involved and transportation schedules, it’s not viable to get a bus or collectivo to Vinales and return to Havana in the same day.
Buses and Collectivos depart from Havana Bus Terminal. A taxi from downtown Havana will cost about 10 – 15 cuc. Another note, most transportation departs for Vinales in the morning.
If you arrive in the afternoon your chances of grabbing a bus or collectivo are more slim, so you might have not option but to catch a taxi if you arrive then.
If you’re spending more than a day in the countryside read about these options to get there from Havana.
Catching the bus from Havana is the cheapest way to get to Viñales.
The bus costs about $15 cuc and takes around 3-4 hours. As the bus gets closer to Vinales it slows because the streets become narrower, windier and in more disrepair.
Several bus companies operate the route, but the best equipped is Viazul. These buses are typically air conditioned coach style vehicles with bathrooms and televisions (in Spanish). Be prepared to stop along the way at a restaurant serving average quality meals – so consider packing some snacks for your journey in Havana.
Catch the bus from Havana Bus Terminal on Avenida de la Indepencia near Plaza de la Revelucion. There are lots of different local buses running up and down the main streets in town which you can catch to the Bus Terminal for a few cuc. They are marked with Terminal de Buses.
Havana Bus Station Map
Any taxi driver in town will know where to take you if you just say “Vamanos a Terminal de Buses”.
They’ll also probably ask “Donde” aka where are you going? If there’s a couple of you sharing a cab to the station, you might as try to negotiate a taxi fare because …
Buses in Cuba are very unreliable.
That 2.5 hour drive that becomes 3 hours due to the slower bus can easily become 4 or 5 hours after you factor in waiting in line to buy tickets (often up to an hour) and then buses often arrive an hour late. It’s enough to make any punctual German sick.
Fortunately, opportunistic taxi drivers know the score and are more than willing to help you find your way to anywhere in Cuba for a good price which leads us to your next option ….
Collectivos are a popular form of transportation all over Latin America. Essentially they are minivans which follow a nominated route like a bus. You usually pay when you get out of the Collectivo based on the distance you travelled.
As always, it’s better to agree the rate in advance. There are Collectivos to Vinales from Havana Bus Station which leave regularly, as soon as they are filled with enough passengers. Prices are 15 – 25 cuc one way.
Outside Havana Bus station you’ll see rows of minivans which set off when they are filled up.
You can always try to group up with a few more tourists. Safety-wise we found Cuba to be very safe and have reports from solo-female travellers who felt the same. That said, we didn’t travel by Collectivo so we don’t have first-hand experience here. Let us know if you had any troubles!
Collectivos don’t necessarily have a fixed price, so the amount you pay will be up to you and your bartering skills.
The usual price is about 15 – 25 cuc depending on you bartering proficiency. Remember, you’re in Latin America where you’re expected to negotiate!
Note, Collectivos are not much of a viable option for a Vinales day trip because although the first shuttles depart at 8am, the return shuttle departs almost right away at around 12:30pm.
So Collectivos are perfect for an overnight trip because you get a full afternoon the first day and full morning the next day to explore the tobacco-growing region when most of the day-trippers aren’t around.
Pro Tip: If you find yourself in the middle of nowhere trying to hail down a collectivo – the way to hail one like a local is to hold out your money in your outstretched arm.
By Private Transfer / One Way Taxi
The simplest way is to hire a taxi driver to take you there. You might be able to get it as cheap as $70 cuc, though you should expect to be quoted no less than 100 cuc to begin with.
As it’s a possible one way fare for the driver, you should expect to pay a slight premium on what you would pay for a round-trip tour.
At the bus station you won’t find many vintage taxis as these tend to operate mainly around the Old Town. Instead you’ll find Government operated yellow taxis. The upside is your car will be newer and will have creature comforts like air-conditioning, airbags and a smoother ride. The downside is you won’t look nearly as cool as in a vintage aqua 1958 Chevrolet Impala.
Our advice would be to try to negotiate with a taxi or vintage taxi driver in Havana Town before you go to the effort of catching a taxi to the bus terminal just to get a cheaper taxi.
If you’re short on time or simply would rather visit in a day so you can get back to the excitement of Havana, here are the options for an incredible day trip to Viñales.
By Vintage Car
Easily the coolest way to make the Vinales Day trip is by vintage car. Riding around the Cuban countryside honestly makes you feel like you’re in the set of an old movie at times.
Hiring a vintage car in Havana is simple but you’ll almost certainly need to negotiate.
The majority of the old school cars which offer city tours will also take you out of town if you ask. However, you should know that the convertibles which are the most popular cars in town won’t take you out there for much less than $250 cuc.
Whereas you can get a tour in a hardtop vintage car for about $140 cuc.
Here are the names and contact details of three vintage car drivers you can contact (who were agreeable to this rate):-
Dairo +53 5840 8999 (green car which was passed down to him by his father. Limited English but nice guy)
Junior +53 5391 9083 (hot aqua car with air con and white trim. He doesn’t own the car so confirm he can get it for the day)
Osmel +53 5239 9393
Yovany +53 5390 7539
Another good way to find the perfect car is to try them out when you’re driving around town.
Hail down a nice looking cab for your ride and get a test ride to ensure the interior is nice and comfortable (because it is a 2 hour journey). Maybe it even has air-conditioning! If you like your ride and the taxi driver ask him how much for a tour.
Checklist for booking a vintage car tour:-
confirm how much you’ll be paying
make sure the quote is for a round-trip tour and confirm where you’ll visit (check out our itinerary below)
confirm the pick up time (about 7:30am or 8am is normal)
You’ll need to book in your tour the day before you leave. You pay at the conclusion of the tour.
By Group Tour
You can arrange a tour with Infotur, the Cuban Government-run agency for 60 cuc per person. Tours run everyday provided there are reservations which is likely because there are InfoTur offices all over Havana including in hotels.
If you’re travelling solo this is the easiest, safest and most affordable way for you to visit.
Want to organise your tour from home? Check out this Vinales Day Tour
Tours include transportation to and from Havana stopping at Las Terraces, including a visit to a Cuban cigar factory. A horse-riding tour is optional at additional expense (5 – 10 cuc per hour).
The itinerary is basically the same as the itinerary below.
The downside of the tour – apart from the expense – is that you’ll only be transported by vintage car if there happens to be less than four (4) people taking the tour that day. So chances are pretty slim and it’s more likely than not you’ll be in a minivan with up to 12 other people.
One part we didn’t like about our vintage car tour was being taken to a restaurant which is obviously geared at rorting tourists. Meals were 15 cuc per person for a pretty basic staple of pork, grilled tuna or chicken with lots of black rice (white rice with black beans) to keep you full. It’s the type of meal you’d pay 5 cuc max anywhere else.
We avoided this expense on our tour as we just grabbed some drinks so we had room to eat a nice meal in a restaurant of our choosing. You’re better spending the same money for a main course in one of Havana’s famous restaurants where celebrities dine. With a tour you’re locked in to spending about 1.5 hours of your life here.
By Rental Car
Renting a car in Cuba is simple but fairly expensive. For starters, a rental car in Havana will cost $75 a day including insurance. This is comprehensive insurance but it does not cover tires. There is no option to buy additional insurance for tires so drive safely!
While $75 would make it a super cheap way to visit Vinales, the minimum rental period is 3 days (i.e. $225). In addition, you need to refuel your car before you return it. Obviously that’s pretty standard practice with rental cars but the variable in Cuba is that lines for gas queue around the block. If you wait until the city to refuel – which you’ll probably need to do to ensure you return it full – I estimate the lines will take 1 – 2 hours. Yes, you read that right. Gas stations in Cuba are infrequent and every time I saw one the line was around the corner and down the road.
I don’t know all the ins and outs of pumping gas in Cuba but from my observations when our driver filled up at less busy gas station 1 hour outside of Havana, you need to line up until you are #2 in the queue. Then you pre-pay your gas from a cashier in a booth at the front of the gas station. Then you pump your gas.
Other things to keep in mind is that gas is more expensive than the States at $1 per litre or nearly $4 per gallon. Also, road rules are enforced. Our driver was pulled over for speeding when the highway briefly dropped down to a 60km/h zone. Interesting to note he didn’t receive a fine but did accrued demerit points which presumably will lead to a fine or disqualification from driving in the future.
Fun fact: Cuba gets its petrol from Venezuela.
If you want to rent a car in Cuba you can book online at a slight premium or visit one of these car rental agencies:
- Rex Parque Central (267 Agramonte, La Habana, Cuba)
- Via-rent-a-car (Avenida 47, Miramar near Casa Doña Nilda)
- HavanaAutos (Calle 21 between Calle N and Calle O on the street leading to the driveway to Hotel Nacional)
Day Trip Itinerary: What to Expect
A tour to Vinales typically involves:
7:30 – 8am departure
10am – admire the view of th Valley from next to Hotel Jazmine. Next to the hotel is a lookout where you can enjoy the dramatic karst landscape. There’s also a cafe, restaurant and souvenir stall
10:20am – drive through town. Check out the quaint 1 or 2 room houses in pastels which all feature a pair of rocking chairs out front
10:40am – visit a tobacco farm. Learn how tobacco is grown, how different parts of the plant are used for different types of tobacco and then how different parts of the tobacco leaves are used for different layers of the cigar. Try one or buy some to take home as a expensive-looking but inexpensive gift.
11:am – horse-riding tour (optional). Visit a coffee farm, try some rum (ron) made from Guava which is the only non-sugar cane made rum. One of the most famous in Cuba but is not exported and only 10,000 bottles are made each year. You may only buy 1 per person.
1pm – lunch (optional). If you take the government-run tour this is included. We were brought to a restaurant where we were offered lunch for 15 cuc a person. Unfortunately, the food didn’t look half as appetizing as the restaurants in Havana where meals cost less than half the price.
Murales de la Prehistorica (giant mural 2 cuc entry) or Cuava Indio (Indigenous cave discovered by a farmer in the 1920s. This is not an activity for claustrophobes as you need to crawl through a narrow cave before taking a small boat to another area. Entry is 5 cuc) or Slave Cave (years after the Spanish Colonists departed Cuba they discovered this cave where escapee slaves fled to and hid from their captors. The cave is a short 5 minute walk and you’ll see a short performance from local afro-caribbean performers at the end. There is also a restaurant where you can stop for lunch. Entry is 3 cuc including a drink at the bar at the cave opening. The cave bar also turns into a disco on a Saturday night. You can also pay $1 cuc more for a horse and cart ride back to the opening of the cave. The horse ride lasts all of 5 minutes but on the way you can stop and visit a tobacco drying shed, buy more cigars and see a coffee plantation. If you don’t want to pay an extra $1 cuc for the horse and cart ride, you’ll save time by walking back through the cave to leave rather than walking the long way around on the road outside.
3 – 4pm – return home
Tours commonly include a trip to a tobacco plantation where you can see a Cuban cigar is made and even smoke one.
The process was simple and fascinating to watch as we learned how different parts of the tobacco plant were used for different sized and strength cigars.
Different parts of the tobacco leaf are used in three stages to hand-roll a cigar.
The difference between cigars made on the farms and those made by the government and exported to the world is the farm made cigars are 100% natural whereas the government cigars use a preservative spray to make them last longer.
Also, cigars made on the farms use honey as adhesive to keep the cigar together. However, if you buy cigars from the farm they come wrapped in a bamboo leaf container which if kept refrigerated will last for 5 years in your fruit and veg cooler.
Neither of us smoke but I had to try a Cuban cigar. Our tour was lead by a 6th generation tobacco farmer. When the revolution occurred his family was given the choice to give 90% of the farm’s crop to the government or hand over the farm.
Cigars can be purchased for $4 which is half of what you’ll pay from a shop in Havana, or about a 10th of what you’ll pay overseas.
Where to Stay in town?
If you’ve decided to spend a night or two in Viñales the best place to stay is the center of town.
Here you can find lots of interesting restaurants, cafes with wifi (essential in Cuba) and fun bars to hang out in.
There are plenty of Casa Particulars – neat rooms and apartments offered by Cubans – available for rent up and down the main streets.
Hotel options are limited with Hotel E Central Vinales the pick of the bunch.
If you’re looking for a hotel with a pool check out Pinar del Rio which is a short drive away.
When to go visit?
If you want dry days with mild temperatures, we would recommend visiting Vinales from Nov – March.
If you are looking for vidid green colors you will need to visit Vinales in the wet summer months.
Wondering when to travel to Cuba? You can check out a month by month breakdown in our guide detailing the best time to travel to Cuba.
What to do in Havana?
Unless you’re heading cross-country to Trinidad, all roads from Vinales head back to the bustling capital, Havana.
Our guide to the 50 Best Things to do in Havana contains more than enough fascinating activities to keep even the most active traveller occupied for days and days.
If you’re done with riding vintage cars it never really gets old checking out some of the famous sites in the city with these hot cars making the perfect muse for your photos.
The Revolution Museum where you can see decommissioned rockets, planes and tanks is just a few minutes walk from Parque Central. Here you can learn all you need to know about Cuba’s modern history and tensions with the Western World.
We’ll also show you how to take a tour of the bunkers from the Cuban Missile Crisis, which conveniently is in one of the most scenic and ritzy spots in Havana. Seems like quite the juxtaposition, right?
We’ll also name and shame the fancy hotel bars, dimly lit nooks and spectacular terraces Ernest Hemingway and Hollywood stars of yesteryear celebrated in before Cuba was closed to the US.
Where to stay in Havana?
There are 5 main tourist neighborhoods in Havana where all the tourists stay because they are safe, central and have good accommodation options.
The pick of the bunch – in our opinion – is Habana Vieja (Havana Old Town). It’s in the middle of all the action – for better or worse.
You’ll find most of the beguiling bars Hemingway frequented here, rooftop cafes, fine dining and yummy cheap eats.
Plus the main attractions of the Capitol, El Floridita for daiquiris described by Hemingway as the best in the world, and the imposing El Morro Castle across the bay.
For the best hotels in Havana Vieja (with working wifi) and more details about the other fabulous Havana neighborhood check out our guide to the Where to Stay in Havana.
Questions about how to get to Vinales from Havana?
If you’ve made it this far through our guide then you’ll have all the information you need to know to plan your journey from Havana to Vinales.
We’ve noticed inflation is pretty rapid in Cuba (at least for what you’ll tourists pay in cuc) so if you’ve experienced new prices please comment below so we can keep this guide up to date!
If you have any more questions about getting to Vinales let us know and we’ll be happy to help out!