Self drive, leisurely pace, boutique hotels
Cuba Insider, a self-drive tour
During this trip you take place behind the steering wheel and are a guest ‘at home with the Cubans’, but you’ll also stay in atmospheric boutique hotels and in one of the country’s most tasteful beach resorts. Of course the programme is also top class and includes the absolute Must Sees in Cuba: the metropolis Havana, the beautiful tobacco region around Viñales, the green hills of the Sierra del Rosario, the colonial city of Trinidad and, to top it all off, the incredibly white beaches on the island of Cayo Santa Maria.
In Viñales there are a number of lovely restaurants where you can enjoy excellent food. At the finca, the farm ‘El Paraiso’, home-grown products are used to prepare typical Cuban dishes. There’s no menu, the fragrant dishes are simply put on the table, accompanied by a bottle of rum. Where they do have a menu, although it may take you some time to find it, is the rustic restaurant ‘La Complaciente El Lilo’, in the heart of the beautiful landscape of the Viñales Valley, within walking distance of the village. The self-built tables are set up outside under an ancient ceiba tree. The list of cocktails is almost as long as the list of dishes, but then again you are in Cuba. Buen provecho!
- Your trip, your way
- Booked and organised in Cuba
- Our local roots, we live in Cuba
- 24/7 support by our local hosts
Tour on Map
- Departure time
- Begins and ends in Havana
- English, Spanish
- Activity level
- Easy (light walking)
- Insider's tip
- In Viñales, visit the finca ‘El Paraiso’ for a delicious meal with only local products. There’s no menu, the dishes are simply put on the table. Delicious!
Day 1: Bienvenidos in Havana!
Meet and Greet at Havana International Airport, including our VIP service:
- A representative will wait for you at the gate and guide you to Preferential Immigration, the customs checkpoint for VIP travelers, diplomats and airline crew
- Use of the VIP lounge at the airport while your luggage is removed from the belt
- Luggage assistance
Private transfer to Havana city.
Day 2: Havana
Two days to explore Havana on your own. During your stay in Havana you will stay in the old, historic city center, in a 'CasaParticular', B and B Cuban style. The old town was founded in the 16th century and is nowadays an impressive open-air museum of architecture, art and culture. This part of the city is easy to do on foot. You can also step into a horse-drawn carriage, take a bicycle taxi or you can get hilarious in a three-wheeled 'cocotaxi' car.
Tip: agree the price in advance!
Optionally you can book excursions, such as:
- Private City Tour - A ride by Oldtimer through Havana is followed by a walk in the historic center. A local guide will show you the most beautiful places of old Havana during a city walk.
- Hemingway Tour - Visit to 'FincaVigia', the home of the late Ernest Hemingway, where he wrote some of his famous novels. His favorite spots in Havana are also visited.
Day 3: Havana
We advise you to pick up your rental car in the late afternoon. This way you're all set for departure to your next destination (on day 4).
If you are looking for evening entertainment, there are many options. Some recommendations:
- Go out to eat in a 'paladar', where Cuban Chefs can conjure up with local products.
- HipstersCuban Style: visit the cultural project 'Fábrica del Arte Cubano' (FAC), the Cuban Art Factory, where artists meet the public. The project is the brainchild of the internationally known Cuban artist X Alfonso and was realized with the support of the Ministry of Culture.
Insider tip: combine a visit to this hip hotspot with a dinner at El Cocinero, next door; we think this restaurant is one of the best 'paladares' in Havana. We are happy to arrange a reservation for you.
- Cabaret Tropicana! The only real 'Paradise under the stars'. This open-air theater is world famous for the extravagant shows that appeal to all the senses. An old-fashioned good Big Band, crooners & divas, dazzling dancers, outrageous costumes and more surprises in an exotic setting. The show spectacle starts at 22.00. We can opt for this show for you, in advance or on the spot.
Day 4: Havana – Viñales Valley (ca. 180 km)
On the way to the green surroundings of the Pinar del Rio province, where the beautiful Viñales Valley is located, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The region is dotted with tobacco fields and surrounded by a hill country of mogotes, erratic limestone formations that rise like giant cones from the ground. This is the area where the best Cuban cigars are produced. This is rural Cuba, where life proceeds peacefully. Ox carts in the fields, fragrant leaves in the tobacco barns, colorful farmhouses, waving children and a game of dominoes at the end of the day. Life can be so simply beautiful.
Day 5: Viñales Valley
Enjoy a day in the Cuban countryside. In and around the Viñales Valley you can make all kinds of trips. You can do beautiful hikes, for instance, either with or without a local guide, you can explore the valley on horseback or you can visit a so-called veguero (tobacco farmer) with a local guide. There you can see the traditional tobacco making process, from minuscule tobacco seed to full-grown tobacco plant, how the leaves are dried and how they are eventually rolled into the famous Cuban cigars. A handmade cigar is a nice souvenir to take with you. Other popular activities include a visit to the Cueva del Indio and the Caverno Santo Tomas. Are you ready for an adrenaline rush? Go to the Viñales Canopy! This zip-line of steel cables is about 1 kilometre long. Gliding by at altitudes up to 35 metres, you’ll see mogotes, tobacco fields, farmlands, charming houses and other natural treasures that make this place so unique!
Day 6: Viñales Valley – Soroa (ca. 110 km)
The drive through the Pinar del Rio province is an experience in itself. Consider driving in Cuba as an important part of the holiday and take all the time. The only thing you have to take care of is that you arrive at the destination for the evening twilight. This certainly applies to the guest house in Soroa, the perched 'castle in the clouds', as the translation of hotel 'Castillo en las Nubes' reads. Nature with a capital letter: fanning palm forests against green hills, rivers, waterfalls, native flora and fauna and orchid gardens. The hotel has 6 rooms, is isolated on a hill, with a magnificent view of the surroundings. Good that 24-hour butler service is present; enjoy at a high level.
Day 7: Soroa - Cienfuegos (ca. 330 km)
From serene nature to a city with its own character: Cienfuegos is also known as the 'Pearl of the South'. This charming port city with French architecture influences, is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage. Visit the eclectic 'Palacio del Valle' and the Central Park with the Terry Theater, a 19th-century architectural gem. Also nice to visit: the peninsula PuntaGorda, once an exclusive residential area, where beautiful wooden houses are still standing by the sea, complete with 50-year-old cars on the driveway.
Day 8: Cienfuegos – Trinidad (ca. 85 km)
A leisurely drive to Trinidad, located about 85 km from Cienfuegos. It is a beautiful route, partly along the coast. Important to know is that the mileage indicator is not always proportional to the travel time. Drive quietly and especially enjoy.
In Trinidad you’ll stay in a Casa Particular, the Cuban version of a Bed & Breakfast. It’s a great way to get to know the real Cuba, because you’re a guest in the home of a Cuban family. The Casa Particular in Trinidad is located in the heart of the historic centre, with plenty of entertainment options. The Trinidad nightlife is lively; everywhere you’ll find music, cozy cafes and restaurants. From your casa you walk right out into this festive atmosphere.
Day 9: Trinidad
Founded in 1514, Trinidad is Cuba's most intact colonial city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town seems to have fallen off the postcard, complete with the horse carriages in the cobblestone streets. Trinidad gives a perfect picture of life in Spanish colonial times. You can easily explore the city, the colonial center is not too big.
Optionally, we can arrange excursions for you. Examples include:
- Private City Tour - With a local guide you can visit the old center, a museum and the valley of the sugar mills, where the history of the sugar industry and the practices of the sugar barons come to life.
- Boat trip Caribbean Sea - A wonderful boat trip along the south coast of Cuba. Swimming, snorkeling and a lunch of fish, lobster and shrimps on the white sandy beach of an island.
Day 10: Trinidad – Santa Clara – Cayo Santa Maria (c. 250 km)
En route to Cayo Santa Maria you can visit Santa Clara, the city that is synonymous with Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara and the Cuban Revolution. A visit to the museum and the impressive mausoleum of Che Guevara is definitely worth your while. Then it’s time for Cayo Santa Maria. This island paradise is part of the ‘Jardines del Rey’ archipelago and is connected to mainland Cuba by a spectacular bridge road that also visits the islands of Cayo las Brujas and Cayo Ensenachos. On the way you can enjoy the surroundings, the azure water, mangroves and extraordinary animals. With some luck you can spot eagles, pelicans or pink flamingos!
Day 11: Cayo Santa Maria
On Cayo Santa Maria the sun, sea and beach come together in perfect harmony. The sand is powdery and white, so white that it almost hurts your eyes. The turquoise shades of the sea are more beautiful than a picture could ever capture. And the sun, the sun is generous with its rays here. Just enjoy it to the fullest.
Day 12: Cayo Santa Maria
Day 13: Cayo Santa Maria – Havana
- Accommodation and meals as described
Transfers: arrival transfer, from Havana international airport to the hotel in Havana city
- Rental car, SUV manual (Peugeot 2008 or equivalent) from day 3 (pick up in Havana in the afternoon) until day 10 (drop off on Cayo Santa Maria in the afternoon)
Note: this is a flexible program; the hotel and the length of stay can be adjusted as desired. The final price depends on the travel dates and the chosen options.
Customise your trip
The described tour can serve as an example. You can adjust the trip as you wish. This way you can add or remove destinations, alternative hotels, nights, excursions or travel items. With your specific wishes and expertise, we put together your ideal journey together.