A self-drive journey across Cuba, with the freedom to spend each day exactly how you wish
Cuba is, without doubt, the Caribbean’s most interesting cultural destination. This trip’s title says it all: during a tour lasting almost three weeks you will experience the very best of Cuba’s incredible history and explore its most amazing places. From cosmopolitan Havana in the west, you drive across central Cuba all the way to the Oriente in the east. This, the Revolution’s birthplace, is a region unlike any other. All of this makes ‘Cuba – Simply the Best’ the perfect adventure for explorers looking to journey into the unexpected.+ Read more
Wander the centuries-old streets in Havana, tour the verdant Viñales Valley, enjoy spectacular nature while staying in a castle in Soroa and experience the colonial charm of beautiful Trinidad. Then head off the beaten track and follow the Revolutionary Road in eastern Cuba, visit splendid Baracoa, Cuba’s oldest city, and get acquainted with the rough diamond that is the country’s soul: Santiago de Cuba. After the journey, relax at the fabulous Playa Esmeralda beach resort.
Tour on map
- Departure time
- Starts in Havana, ends in Varadero, with transfer included from Varadero to Havana on departure day. Gateway Varadero can also be used for this journey.
- English, Spanish
- Activity level
- Easy (light walking)
- Insider's tip
- In Santiago de Cuba, visit the Casa de la Trova, the city's premier music venue. Some of Cuba’s best musicians and top artists have graced the small stage at this intimate, living room-style setting. Did you know that the famous Buena Vista Social Club is originally from Santiago?
Day 1: Welcome to Havana
Meet and greet at Havana international airport on arrival day, including use of our VIP services:
- Our airport representative will meet you at the gate and direct you to Preferential Immigration, the customs booth for VIP lounge clients, diplomats and airline crew.
- You will have use of the VIP lounge at Havana airport while your luggage is taken care of.
- Luggage assistance.
- Private transfer to Havana City.
Upon arrival in Cuba you will receive:
- 100 CUC (the local currency) to help you pay any expenses on your first day. This prevents you from waiting to exchange cash in the airport.
- WiFi scratch card: wherever you find WiFi available, you’ll be able to log on using this card.
Day 2: Havana
You will have two days to fully explore Havana City. Your hotel in the old, historic city center is the perfect base to venture into Havana’s old town, founded in the 16th century and now an incredible living open-air museum of architecture, art and culture. This part of the city is great for walking, or you can hop on a horse-drawn carriage, bike taxi, or take a ride in a tricycle 'cocotaxi', which is always a hilarious and thrilling experience. Our tip: make sure you agree on the fare beforehand!
Optionally you can book tours, such as:
- Private City Tour - Sightseeing in Havana in an Oldtimer, driven by a private chauffeur. After the ride, a local guide will show you the most beautiful sights of historic La Habana Vieja during a walk in the old town.
- Private Hemingway Tour - Visit Finca Vigia, the house of the late Ernest Hemingway, where the author wrote some of his most famous novels. You can also follow in his footsteps by visiting some of his favorite hang-outs in Havana City.
Day 3: Havana Day and Night
Spend the day however you would like. In the evening there are an array of different activities to choose from. Our recommendations:
- Dine like a local in a paladar, where you can enjoy some delicious traditional Cuban cuisine.
- Hipsters Cuban style: visit the cultural project Fábrica del Arte Cubano (FAC), the Cuban Art Factory, and meet some real Cuban artists. The project, brainchild of internationally-renowned Cuban musician X Alfonso, is supported by the Ministry of Culture and the Institute of Music. Insider tip: combine this visit with dinner at the privately owned El Cocinero restaurant next door.
- Cabaret Tropicana! The one and only paradise under the stars. An extravaganza that appeals to all of the senses. Expect live music, crooners, fabulous dancers and dazzling costumes, all in an exotic setting like no other. The grand show starts at 10:00pm. Our local assistants will make the reservation for you.
Day 4: Havana - Viñales Valley (approx. 180 km/110 miles)
- Pick up your rental car.
This is your first day on the road, heading for the lush splendor of the Pinar del Rio province, where the wonderful Viñales Valley lies. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the region is dotted with tobacco fields and surrounded by hillsides of 'mogotes', craggy shaped limestone formations that rise like giant cones from the earth. This is the area where the best Cuban cigars are produced. Experience rural Cuba, where the pace of life is exceptionally peaceful. Expect to see ox-carts in the fields, smell fragrant leaves in the tobacco sheds, and take in colorful farms as children wave at you as you pass. A reminder of the beautiful simplicities in life.
Day 5: Viñales Valley
Day 6: Viñales Valley – Soroa (approx. 110 km/70 miles)
The ride through the Pinar del Rio province is an experience in itself. Think of driving in Cuba as an important part of your vacation and take your time to enjoy the charming sights you spot on your way to new destinations. The only thing you need to remember is to try and arrive at your next stop before dusk. This certainly applies to the lodging in Soroa, the hotel 'Castillo en las Nubes' (or 'castle in the clouds' in English), which is perched on top of a hill. The hotel has six rooms, all with stunning views of the surrounding nature, including green hills with waving palm forests, rivers, waterfalls, indigenous flora and fauna and orchid gardens. The hotel’s exceptional 24-hour butler service can take care of your every need.
Day 7: Soroa - Cienfuegos (approx. 330 km/205 miles)
From serene nature to a city boasting a wealth of history and attractions: Cienfuegos is also known as the 'Pearl of the South'. This charming port city is home to French-inspired architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Make sure you visit the eclectic Palacio del Valle and the central park’s Tomás Terry Theatre, a 19th-century architectural gem. Also worth a visit is the Punta Gorda peninsula, which was once an exclusive residential area but has now been transformed into a quaint seaside neighborhood. The area’s beautiful wooden houses often have vintage cars parked in their driveways.
Day 8: Cienfuegos – Trinidad (approx. 85 km/55 miles)
Take a relaxing trip to Trinidad, approximately 85 km/55 miles southeast of Cienfuegos. This is a beautiful part of Cuba to drive through, on roads which partly follow the coastline. In Cuba, travel time is not always proportional to the driving distance, so take your time and enjoy the ride. Your accommodation in Trinidad is based in the heart of the historic center, where you’ll discover a vibrant nightlife; here music plays all around you, whether it’s in the streets, or in Trinidad’s cozy bars and restaurants. You’ll find yourself immersed in the festive atmosphere.
Day 9: Trinidad
UNESCO World Heritage Site Trinidad was founded in 1514 and is Cuba's best preserved colonial city, and arguably also its most beautiful. The picture-perfect town is relatively unchanged from Spanish colonial times, complete with horse-drawn carriages that clatter down its cobbled stone streets. The colonial center is quite compact, making it easy to explore on foot.
Optional tours you can book include:
- Private City Tour – During a three-hour walking tour, a local guide will show you around the historical part of Trinidad where you’ll learn more about the city’s fascinating heritage and culture.
- Boat trip on the Caribbean Sea – A wonderful boat trip along the south coast of Cuba. Swim, snorkel and enjoy a lunch of fish, lobster and shrimp on the white sandy beach of a small island.
Day 10: Trinidad – Camaguey (approx. 260 km/160 miles)
Today you travel eastwards to Camaguey, the heart of central Cuba, which boasts a raft of beautiful historic buildings at every turn. Camaguey’s mazy street plan, typical of some old cities, offers visitors only one exit. Designed intentionally, this made it harder for pirates to make a quick escape from the city after an invasion. Another characteristic is the tinajones, large ceramic vessels that were used to collect rainwater from the roofs. They are a symbol of old Camaguey and used as decoration all over the city.
Day 11: Camaguey – Bayamo (approx. 210 km/ 130 miles)
Today you travel further east towards the Oriente. Along the way you’ll experience incredible nature, with plains full of palm trees and the rugged mountains of the Sierra Maestra looming mysteriously in the distance. This is a relatively unexplored area where few foreign visitors journey. Today’s final destination is Bayamo, Cuba’s second oldest city. A place of historical significance, it’s also the birthplace of the Cuban identity, where the national anthem was sung for the first time.
Day 12: Bayamo – Santiago de Cuba (approx. 100 km/ 65 miles)
Santiago de Cuba, the country’s second largest city, is on the program for today. While driving there you can make a detour to El Cobre, the most important pilgrimage destination in Cuba. Here at the Basilica of El Cobre, you will find the Virgen del Cobre, which is worshipped by Catholics and devotees of the Cuban Santeria-religion equally.
Day 13: Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba boasts the strongest Caribbean spirit of the entire island. Santiago once was the most important port for the slave trade and the largest center for the flourishing sugar, coffee and tobacco industry. The multi-ethnic groups in Santiago form a truly exotic melting pot of cultures, reflected in the city’s many festivals. Santiago is also referred to as Cuba’s 'Capital of Music', and is the country’s second-largest city. With a rich history and many attractions, Santiago de Cuba is an inspiring city full of wonders.
- A highlight is the area around the Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, also known as the Morro Castle, about 10 km / 6 miles southwest of the city, overlooking the bay.
You can book an optional private city tour (six hours), which includes:
- A visit to the Moncada barracks and the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery (the final resting place of Fidel Castro), Morro Castle, Casa del Habano and Ron Caney (premium Cuban cigars and rum!).
- Boat trip to Cayo Granma, a small island, where lunch is served.
Day 14: Santiago de Cuba – Baracoa (approx. 250 km/ 155 miles)
Founded by Spanish conquistadores in 1512, Baracoa is Cuba’s oldest, and easternmost, city. A spectacular drive takes you from Santiago de Cuba to Baracoa along La Farola, a rugged road with hairpin bends, in about five hours. On the way, you will witness fantastic vistas and spectacular scenery, including high-peaks dominated by pine forests. Due to its isolated location, Baracoa is visited relatively infrequently by tourists. Nevertheless, as a destination it is truly beautiful, and the city’s old forts make it especially interesting for people wanting to explore Cuba’s fascinating culture. Cacao plantations adorn the region, and the flat-topped mountain 'El Yunque' rises high in the distance. This magnificent sight is one of the landmarks which most impressed Christopher Columbus when he was first exploring Cuba.
Day 15: Baracoa - Guardalavaca (approx. 250 km/ 155 miles)
Drive for approximately four hours to get to Guardalavaca, where you will stay at a beach resort. The beaches in this area are truly magnificent and offer plenty of opportunities for scuba diving and snorkeling. Diving excursions can also be booked from the hotel. Be sure to sample a delicious mojito or fruit cocktail at your all-inclusive resort.
Day 16: Guardalavaca, Playa Esmeralda
Paradisus Rio de Oro is one of Cuba’s most exclusive resorts. Set on the fabulous Playa Esmeralda Beach, which is part of the beautiful Bahía Naranjo Nature Reserve, the resort is for adults only (18+). Enjoy two days of complete relaxation, taking in the splendor of its luxury facilities and gourmet restaurants.
Day 17: Playa Esmeralda
Day 18: Guardalavaca – Sancti Spiritus (approx. 450 km/280 miles)
Get ready to enjoy a full day of driving across Cuba’s mesmerizing countryside. You will leave the resort after breakfast and reach Sancti Spiritus before evening falls.
- Sancti Spiritus is a picturesque colonial town that’s surprisingly overlooked by many tourists – it’s a real hidden gem with charm to spare. Don’t miss the quaint bridge over the River Yayabo. Your hotel for the night is in the historic heart of the city.
Day 19: Sancti Spiritus – Varadero (approx. 300 km/185 miles)
- On your way to Varadero, we recommend you drive via Santa Clara, the site where the main battle of the revolution led by Fidel Castro took place. It was here that his revolutionary comrade, the legendary Che Guevara, emerged as one of the country’s great heroes. The impressive mausoleum in Santa Clara houses his remains.
- Drop-off car in Varadero.
Day 20: Varadero
- The journey ends at the beautiful beaches of Varadero. Here you will stay at a beachfront resort where you can relax after your trip. Varadero beach boasts more than 20 kilometers of fine white sands and an array of resorts and water sports facilities. Varadero is Cuba’s number one beach destination and one of the most famous beaches in the Caribbean.
Day 21: Homebound
- After your beach holiday, you will be transferred to Varadero or Havana International airport for the return trip.
- Accommodation with meals as per description
- Transfers: arrival transfer, from Havana international airport to hotel in Havana and departure transfer, from hotel in Varadero to Varadero or Havana international airport
- Car rental, SUV manual (Peugeot 2008 or similar) from day 4 (pick-up in Havana), to day 19, (drop-off in Varadero)
Note: this is a flexible program; the hotels and car category can be adjusted to suit your wishes, as well as the duration you stay at each destination. The final price depends on travel dates and the options chosen.
- Hotel El Castillo, Baracoa
- Hotel Raquel, Havana
- Hotel Castillo en las Nubes, Soroa
- Hotel Melia Sol Palmeras, Varadero
- Hotel Encanto Camino de Hierro, Camagüey
- Hotel Encanto San Basilio, Santiago de Cuba
- Hotel Los Jazmines, Viñales
- Hotel Paradisus Rio de Oro, Playa Esmeralda
- Hotel Encanto Mesón del Regidor, Trinidad
- Hotel Encanto Don Florencio, Sancti Spíritus
- Hotel Encanto Royalton, Bayamo
- Hotel Palacio Azul, Cienfuegos
Customise your trip
- The travel program is flexible, adaptable to your travel wishes. This allows you to add destinations, alternate hotels, number of nights, excursions or travel sections. With your specific wishes and our expertise, together we put your ideal journey together. Once you have that perfect itinerary, the booking process is easy. The trip can be confirmed and booked within one day, a unique service, which you will not find elsewhere.
- This journey is a self-drive trip, which means you will drive along the route yourself in a rental car. The car and accommodation will be booked according to the itinerary. For the rest of the program, you have the freedom to enjoy each day exactly as you want to. Driving in Cuba isn’t too challenging, but it does help to be prepared. To help you feel more confident, check out our <driving in Cuba hyperlink> information.
Terms and conditions
The price for this example tour is an indication of what a travel plan such as this would cost on average. This price is per person, based on room occupancy with 2 people, and is exclusive of international flights. The exact price varies per season and depending on availability.
Indication prices per season:
- Low season (May-Jun, Sep-Oct): 2145 EUR
- Mid season (mid-Nov-Dec, Jan): 2445 EUR
- High season (Feb-Apr, Jul-Aug): 2695 EUR
- Peak season (mid Dec-early Jan): 3045 EUR Average low/mid/high: 2445 EUR
*Please note: peak season prices may apply during festivals and fairs/events Travelling with children:
Travelling with children:
Suppliers often have different conditions with regard to prices for children. For babies (0-2), take into account 10% -25% of the indicated price per person. For children up to and including 11 years old, a rate of 50% -75% of the indicated price often applies. Most suppliers see children aged 12 and older as adults and charge the regular rate for them.
The final price for a customized tour depends on the travel dates, availability and your personal wishes. Please contact us to discuss the options, we’re happy to explore with you how we can make a trip to Cuba possible for you within a set budget.
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