Cuba off the Beaten Track - Jeep expedition

    • Havana
    • Trinidad
    • Sancti Spíritus City
    • Varadero
    • Bay of Pigs
    • Cienfuegos Province
    • Santa Clara
    • Topes de Collantes
    • Matanzas Province
    • Active
    • Adventure
    • Authentic
    • Nature

This exclusive and adventurous Jeep expedition shows you Cuba's versatile face with a maximum of personal and individual attention. Discover the honest, untouched landscape and the rich cultural and historical heritage. On the menu is a huge natural cake, with adventurous hikes and exciting trails as ingredients, but also with beautiful towns. Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Sancti Spíritus, Santa Clara.

Such a perfect day. Seven days a week. Such a perfect week for a ride. You're going to walk on the wild side.

You can of course drive yourself around, without a guide and in a rental car, but will you find the unbeaten tracks? You like to wander around, but without a guide you may get lost. You can also let yourself be driven.

Cuba off the Beaten Track is the answer; Columbus’ egg. Your driver is your guide and your guide is your driver. He continues driving where the beaten roads stop. He leads the way where the unbeaten starts. He tells about it and answers your questions. He knows the narrow winding path to the waterfall, the best dive site in the cave because he is from Ecotur, the Cuban specialist in the field of nature and outdoor activities.

He knows the towns on the route and he also drives you around in a robust Jeep or in a comfortable SUV. He is multilingual, he knows the people of his island, all their charms and pranks. He can be your advisor and your interpreter. With him, the contact with the local population is much easier. All qualities that a self-drive tour does not have.

Let's go. The wild side is waiting.

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Why book with us
  • Your trip, your way
  • Booked and organised in Cuba
  • Our local roots, we live in Cuba
  • 24/7 support by our local hosts

Price per room from

Opening hours

Opening hours
Phone number

Departure time
8 am
Havana - Varadero or Havana
English, Spanish
Activity level
Average (hiking, biking and more)

Day 1: Havana - Río Canímar - Ciénaga de Zapata - distance by jeep about 152 miles (245 km)

At 8 am you will be picked up at your whereabouts in Havana. Unfortunately, the first stretch is a beaten track, the highway to Matanzas, not the most fascinating landscape of Cuba, rather flat and monotonous, but enough to see while the miles are sliding below the wheels.

Near Matanzas, a landscape of quarries, caves, dikes, valleys and rivers.
One of those rivers is the Rio Canímar.

The Canímar River has a length of approximately 19km (12 miles), of which 12 (7 miles) are navigable. It runs to the east side of the Bay of Matanzas. The Canímar winds between steep, lushly vegetated banks.

An old legend tells about the love between a beautiful aboriginal girl and her cacique, Canimao (from the pre-Columbian tribe, Taíno). This place was a settlement of Cuban natives until the arrival of Columbus and Spanish colonists and is considered one of the richest archaeological sites in Cuba.

In the colonial period sugar was transported over the river and shipped from the Bay of Matanzas to Europe.

A stop has been planned at La Arboleda, a small-scale recreation park on the shore, your first encounter with ecotourism Cuban style. Horseback riding, swimming or a boat trip are the options. La Arboleda also has lunch ready for you.

You cross the interior of the province of Matanzas and along small villages such as Limonar, Jovellanos and Jagüey Grande, you approach your destination today, the nature park Ciénaga de Zapata, a unique nature reserve with wetlands, mangroves and marshes, but also with beautiful bays, white beaches and true blue waters. You are there where you want to be, in the middle of Cuba's untouched nature. Relax in your casa particular (homestay), where the host prepares a Cuban meal for you.

  • Overnight stay in a Casa Particular (homestay) in Playa Larga.
  • Meals: Lunch, dinner are included.

    • Matanzas Province
    • Meals included: breakfast and lunch and dinner

After breakfast in your Casa you first visit a farm for crocodiles and cotorras (a kind of parrot and loved by the Cubans).

Then to the shores of Laguna del Tesoro, traversing the lake by boat to Aldea Taína Guamá, an attraction in itself.

Aldea Taína Guamá is a reconstructed village as it would have looked like before the arrival of Columbus and the Spanish settlers. Cabins on stilts rise above the wetlands, connected with bridges. Twenty-five lifelike sculptures by the artist Rita Longa depict the original inhabitants in their everyday activities and complement the image of how the Taínos, the Cuban Aborigines, lived.

The loyal Jeep will cross country roads, passing small villages; Pálpite, Soplillar and Cayo Ramona. Remarkable is the traditional way of charcoal preparation, recognizable by small smoldering pyres. You get an exclusive insight into the way of life of the inhabitants of this region, where land and water usually coexist peacefully. The wetlands will be swapped for the coastline of the Bahía de Cochinos, the Bay of Pigs.

After lunch in Caleta Buena you can take a refreshing dip in one of the natural lakes or in the bay. Diving and snorkeling equipment can be rented. A boat towards the coral won’t be necessary, as you can swim directly from the beach towards the reefs.

Your green guide follows the coastline through Juragua to the elegant city of Cienfuegos, "the pearl of the south". He takes you through Cienfuegos.

Cienfuegos is a charming, pleasant and spacious city. Founded in 1819, it was built by French immigrants under a neoclassical architecture with French accents. This happened about three centuries later after the creation of other Cuban colonial cities, which explains the difference in appearance between, for example, Cienfuegos and Trinidad. Cienfuegos was declared a UNESCO World Heritage in 2005. Just like Havana, the city also has a Malecón, a graceful seaside promenade. Punta Gorda is the sympathetic peninsula, with at the beginning Palacio del Valle, a Gothic, Moorish, neoclassical palace.

Later in the afternoon you drive on to Hotel Rancho Luna, located south of the city of Cienfuegos, at the beach. The evening is yours.

  • Overnight stay and dinner in Hotel Rancho Luna.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included. 

    • Cienfuegos Province
    • Meals included: breakfast and lunch and dinner
    • Hotel Rancho Luna, Cienfuegos

Just after a homemade breakfast, the morning will take you to the El Nicho nature reserve, surrounded by rain forests and the Escambray mountains. We will leave the Jeep behind, put on your walking shoes because your first eco-trail leads to Salto de Agua, one of the waterfalls here that plunge down into natural pools full of fresh rainwater. Put on swim gear as well, because after a healthy effort, nothing gives such a refreshing feeling as a splash in the pool.

After the return you will be rewarded with a lunch in a rustic restaurant.

4 Vientos also deserves a short stopover. An explanation of this project from a residential community in the mountains will be given.

The last destination is Topes de Collantes, a pleasant place, 875 yards (800 meters) above sea level.

  • You will dine, sleep and have breakfast at Hotel Los Helechos in Topes de Collantes. The evening is all yours.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included.

    • Topes de Collantes
    • Meals included: breakfast and lunch and dinner
    • Hotel Los Helechos, Topes de Collantes

The Jeep is looking forward to this day, as it feels at home on the rugged paths of the Escambray. The next green walk starts at Guanayara. Casa de la Gallega used to be a farm, but in the wake of ecotourism it was transformed into a countryside restaurant. You’ll have lunch here, but only when you are back from the hike.

The walk on this day certainly has some challenges, nonetheless it is basically feasible for everyone with a normal physical condition, without health problems and with a pair of sturdy shoes. If bridging rivers, descending mountains and the stream of a waterfall are not your activities, you can read a book in the garden of La Casa de la Gallega, until the hikers return through the backyard.

The trail with the poetic name 'Centinelas del río melodioso' (Watchmen of the melodious river) follows the banks of the Guanayara River to the waterfall El Rocio. The same success formula as yesterday. Walk yourself warm along this beautiful route, then splash everything away under the splattering waterfall.

An experience for baristas and other coffee lovers is Casa del Café, with a significant choice of coffees. It has an educational touch but is especially charming.

This region is known for its high-quality coffee from the surrounding plantations. The construction of this cozy coffee house was an initiative of the staff. An extensive coffee menu is offered, and you can choose from a simple espresso to all kinds of mixes, such as coffee with rum (hot or cold).

A winding road with panoramic views brings you back to sea level. Another 12 miles (20 km) and you are in Trinidad, founded in 1514 as one of the first Spanish settlements. Once rich in cane sugar, almost undamaged, the town lay there dreamingly for centuries, but now, kissed awake by tourism, this crown jewel of colonial prosperity and architecture experiences is living its second youth.

  • Your dinner will be served in a Casa Particular, a homestay, in Trinidad, where also a room has been prepared for you. You can fill in the evening yourself. This won’t be any problem with so much lively beauty and stirring music.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included.

    • Topes de Collantes
    • Trinidad
    • Meals included: breakfast and lunch and dinner

A good breakfast in your casa and you will be ready to go. First on foot. Trinidad, the perfect picture, UNESCO World Heritage, radiates colonial richness. In case you are awake early, stroll around here at sunrise, when everything is silent and uncrowded. The image you get from Trinidad could also be the one of an old black and white Western movie from far before our time, colored by the Cubans with a Cuban palette. That can only be Trinidad.

When Trinidad gets smaller in the rear-view mirror, you are already in the Valle de los Ingenios (Sugar mill Valley). Sugar cane grew on vast fields, a product of fertile soil and slave labor. The former tower Manaca Iznaga recalls both prosperous times and its shadowy side. 

The expedition goes to the nature reserve Lomas de Banoa for the nature walk of the day. After a brief explanation you follow the almost unbeaten paths from Banao to La Sabina and again, for the third time, Cuba is taking care of its heated guests. There is a lovely lake for your cool down.

Jeep-on to Sancti Spíritus, the same age as Trinidad, but far less crowded as many international visitors skip the town. Have a drink at the square, stroll through the streets and you may conclude that it is unjustified.

  • You spend the night in Hostal Rijo-Plaza in Sancti Spíritus. You will also have dinner in the hostel.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included.

    • Trinidad
    • Sancti Spíritus City
    • Meals included: breakfast and lunch and dinner
    • Hotel Encanto Rijo, Sancti Spíritus

Up north, towards Santa Clara along rural roads, the countryside of central Cuba, where the villages seem to laze in the sun.

At Jobo Rosado, a protected nature reserve, your daily portion of unbeaten path starts. You can walk multiple routes there. Your guide knows the most beautiful places. It would not be a Cuba off the Beaten track without a lake to swim in afterwards.
Lunch is also served here.

  • Santa Clara may not be skipped. Your overnight stay at Hotel La Granjita, América or Los Caneyes has been reserved for you. For dinner, for the night and for breakfast.
    In the evening you are free to do whatever you like.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner are included.

    • Sancti Spíritus City
    • Santa Clara
    • Meals included: breakfast and lunch and dinner
    • Hotel Los Caneyes, Santa Clara
    • Hotel America, Santa Clara
    • Hotel La Granjita, Santa Clara

After breakfast, a tour through the city of Santa Clara by Jeep. You visit the mausoleum of Ernesto Che Guevara and his comrades who died in Bolivia (1967). After his remains were found and excavated 30 years after his death in Bolivia, El Che found here his final resting place in October 1997. Apart from the mausoleum with eternal flame, there is also a museum devoted to the life of Che Guevara.

In a north-westerly direction (after lunch) you leave Santa Clara. No more hiking trails or waterfalls. You can choose. Lay down in Varadero under a palm tree on the beach or continue in the faithful Jeep to Havana.

Whatever you choose, your driver/guide will drop you safely off.

    • Santa Clara
    • Varadero
    • Meals included: breakfast and lunch
    • Hotel La Granjita, Santa Clara
    • Hotel America, Santa Clara
    • Hotel Los Caneyes, Santa Clara

What’s included

  • Transportation per air-conditioned Jeep or SUV.
  • Program (and entrance fees) according to description.
  • Professional, multilingual driver/guide.
  • Accommodation in a single or double room with private bathroom in both hotels and in homestays.
  • Described meals.

Not included:

  • Other consumptions.
  • Other transfers and additional stays before and after the tour, as well as flights.
  • Expenses of personal nature.
  • Gratuities.


  • There are two different car types:
    • STANDARD: BAIC BJ40 (4x4 Jeep - 2-Door) accommodates three participants and luggage (2 bags [75cmH]).
      Recommended for up to three adults of average size as well as for a family with (one) child.
      - PREMIUM: Hyundai Tucson (SUV - 4-Door) seating four participants and luggage (2 large [75cmH]) + 1 small bag).
      Ideal for a family with (two) children or four participants of average size.
  • A professional driver, and your guide at the same time, will drive the Jeep/SUV.
  • All vehicles are insured.
  • Triple rooms are not bookable on this tour. In the case of an uneven number of participants, twin and single rooms will be booked.
  • Given the number of outdoor activities, it is recommended to pack appropriate (sports and swim) clothing and footwear.
  • Che Guevara´s memorial and museum in Santa Clara are closed on Mondays.
  • One must realize that the accommodation on this tour is mainly basic. Luxury five-star hotels are not or barely operational in these parts, let alone that their luxury fits within the character of this trip. Simple accommodation albeit, but with the necessary facilities, and more luxurious than camping.
  • The program can be subject to changes due to local conditions (weather, road, unforeseen closures for repairs, etc.).


  • Casa particular in Playa Larga
  • Hotel Rancho Luna - Cienfuegos
  • Hotel Los Helechos - Topes de Collantes
  • Casa particular in Trinidad
  • Hostal Rijo - Plaza in Sancti Spíritus
  • Hotel La Granjita, América of Los Caneyes - Santa Clara

You can adapt this travel program to your personal wishes. You can add or remove destinations, you can extend or shorten the trip. Do you want alternative accommodation or route? Add activities or excursions? Do you want any other travel services? We are happy to help you.

The Cuba off the Beaten Track is composed in such a way that the tour seamlessly connects with a previous stay in Havana and an extension afterwards in: Varadero or Havana

You can make these arrangements yourself or contact us. With your specific wishes and our knowledge, together we create the perfect trip.