In this blog post, we’ll explore Cuba, a country known for its rich and unique culture, breathtaking landscapes, and a history that’s both complex and fascinating. Read along as we take you on a journey through this vibrant nation, sharing practical tips, local insights, and recommendations. Our trip was in December, allowing us to experience the holiday season, including Christmas and New Year’s in Cuba.

Our journey began in the city of Havana, where we planned to spend a night before heading to Vinales. Our travel plans hit an unexpected snag when our flight from Toronto was delayed for approximately 4 hours due to bad weather conditions. As a result, we had just one precious hour of sleep in Havana before we had to wake up to catch our taxi to Vinales.

How much does it cost to get from José Martí International Airport to Havana city centre?

Our Casa host in Havana organized a taxi to pick us up from José Martí International Airport, which cost us a total of $30.

How to get from Havana to Vinales

Our Havana Casa host also organized a shared taxi (taxi colectivo) which cost us $25 each for our 3-hour journey to Vinales. Meticulously preserved classic cars were the norm for most of our taxi rides in Cuba, including our ride from Havana to Viñales.

Six of us shared the taxi, and while these vintage vehicles are undeniably beautiful, their charm doesn’t quite extend to comfort, which becomes quite evident during a three-hour journey on the road!

Is Vinales worth a visit?

Vinales is a quaint and laid-back town nestled in the heart of the Cuban countryside, which provided us with an authentic glimpse into rural Cuban life.

Vinales also offered a range of outdoor activities. We went on hikes, explored caves, and marveled at the panoramic vistas from viewpoints that revealed the true beauty of the region.

What to do in Vinales


We did a lot of Cycling! We rented our bicycles from our Casa host for $10 each per day.

Mural de la Prehistoria

The Mural de la Prehistoria symbolizes the theory of evolution and is worth a stop if you’re in Vinales. Accessing the Mural costs 120 CUP each.

Mural de la Prehistoria

Cueva de la Vaca

Accessible via a staircase ascending to its entrance, the Cueva de la Vaca is a captivating cave offering a breathtaking view of the valley below. Although the entrance to this cave is open to all, reaching it entails a stroll through a local farm (we parked our bikes at the farm and proceeded on foot for the remainder of the journey).

Rent a tuk-tuk

One of our days was spent exploring the area with a rented tuk-tuk, which cost us $20. Our first stop was at the Cueva del Indio —a cave adorned with impressive stalactites and stalagmites. The cave tour was very insightful and cost 150 CUP per person, including a short 5-minute boat ride inside the cave.

Our journey continued to Palenque de los Cimarrones, a historical site steeped in the legacy of the Maroons who sought freedom during colonial times. We roamed through the remnants of settlements that once provided refuge for the Maroons. The tour cost 120 CUP per person.

Next on our itinerary was Valle del Silencio—an exquisite vantage point in Viñales, accessible either on foot or by horseback. We trekked from the eco-farm on foot, as far as the tuk-tuk could take us, and the views from the valley were simply breathtaking. We strongly recommend making the effort to hike to this viewpoint if you find yourself in the vicinity.

We then had lunch at an organic eco-farm, Finca Agroecológica El Paraiso, which offered stunning vistas of the valley. To ensure the best experience, aim for an outdoor table and consider booking in advance. The buffet-style meal cost $10 for the vegetarian option and $15 for the non-vegetarian one.

To round off our day, the generous folks at the farm arranged a taxi back to town for us for $5.

How to get from Vinales to Playa Larga

Once again, our Casa host booked a collectivo from Vinales to Playa Larga for $40 each. Drive took around 4.5 hours.

Scuba diving in Playa Larga

One of the main reasons we chose Playa Larga was to do some scuba diving. We weren’t disappointed. Our dives were booked through our Casa host just one day before and were booked with a gentleman by the name of “The King”. We did a total of 4 dives in Los Tonnelos, Los Coral, Cuevo de los Pesces and Jaguey sito with a maximum depth of 35 metres. We’ve done a lot of diving, but this was the first time classic cars were used to take us to the dive sites. It added a raw and authentic quality to our overall experience. We loved diving with this company, and we definitely recommend it to anyone interested in diving while in Playa Larga!

Snorkeling in Playa Larga

On our last day in Playa Larga, we caught a taxi from Playa Larga for $25 (including return) and spent the afternoon relaxing and snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of Cuevo de los pesces. The coastal part is much nicer than the cenote across the road which costs 50 pesos to access. 

Restaurants in Playa Larga

We didn’t really enjoy eating out at many restaurants in Playa Larga – they are definitely NOT vegetarian-friendly. Our best meals were prepared at our casa particular, where our host catered to our vegetarian preferences and prepared delicious dishes to our liking.

How to get from Playa Larga to Havana

We managed to find a taxi colectivo from Playa Larga to Havana on New Year’s Eve, which cost us $30 each. We would recommend avoiding long taxi trips on public holidays – finding a taxi last minute for a decent price was not an easy task!

How to spend 2 days in Havana?

Havana is a large city – we wouldn’t have had enough time to explore the entire city in 24 hours, so we decided to base ourselves in a quaint casa in ‘Old Havana’. We spent our time exploring the city by foot and indulging in food. Some historical places we stopped at:

  • Plaza Vieja
  • Parque Central
  • Malecon

Restaurants in Havana

There is a good selection of restaurants and bars in Havana, especially when compared to Vinales and Playa Larga. We particularly enjoyed:

Cuba Travel Tips

  • Use to download offline maps – works much better than Google Maps in Cuba.
  • Dusk and dawn in Playa Larga is prime time for sand flies (no-see-ums)! Our insect repellent didn’t seem to offer much protection. Aside from steering clear of outdoor activities during these hours, there aren’t many effective prevention methods we can recommend. Aside from the itching, we were generally fine.
  • Rely on Casa hosts – In most cases, your Casa hosts can pretty much arrange whatever you need during your stay. This includes booking taxis, bicycles, a place to stay at your next stop, food, and more. 
  • Bring all toiletries & toilet paper – Resources are lacking in Cuba, your casas will likely not provide enough toiletries.
  • Bring enough cash. USD and EUR are most sought after.
  • You will need to exchange some CUP while in Cuba (some vendors do not accept credit cards) – for a better exchange rate we exchanged our US Dollars at our casa particular.
  • Language: some people speak fluent English, others don’t speak any English at all. But, overall, language was not a problem.
  • Wifi – you will need to have a wifi card or else like we did you would have to ask casa owners to occasionally switch on wifi for you.
  • Bring a portable powerbank with you (we suggest to charge everything when you can – in case power goes out)
  • We suggest bringing small cash note denominations. You may not always receive change, and if you do, it’s typically in pesos.
  • Ensure your banknotes are in pristine condition; even minor rips or damage might result in them not being accepted.

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