cuba hiking

A Guide to Hiking in Cuba: Top 5 Cuba Hiking Destinations

Cuba is known for its cigars, rum, and classic cars, but there is so much out there to discover – visiting one of the many incredible Cuba hiking destinations is the way to do it! The tourist path in Cuba tends to be quite well-worn, despite the size and diversity of the island, and the countless hidden gems that are left off of many tour itineraries.

These Cuba hiking destinations are some of my favorite recommendations for travelers to Cuba – here you’ll find the true beauty of this island, find an opportunity to connect with locals along the way, and have an experience in Cuba that is truly an adventure. Keep reading for the best hikes in Cuba!

pico turquino

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Cuba Hiking

Hiking in Cuba is one of the easiest ways to get off the beaten path – away from the tourists! – and see some of this island’s incredible sites. While most tourists to Cuba head to Cuba’s stunning beaches, you’ll be surprised that so many natural wonders on the interior of the island are unexplored by visitors.

Here you’ll find soaring waterfalls, tropical rainforests, and even some of the island’s most important revolutionary history.

Use the lack of tourists in many of these spots to your advantage. While it may be a bit more challenging to find excursions or transportation to these sites, you’ll generally save a lot of money when visiting, and have an unforgettable experience.

Best Destinations for Hiking in Cuba

There are countless beautiful and scenic hikes in Cuba, and you’re never too far away from one, but today I’ll be sharing some of the most notable hikes – the ones worth traveling to get to!

You can click on the map below for the locations of these destinations and more details about how to get there.

1. Pico Turquino

Pico Turquino is the best hikes in Cuba for a reason, so it’s first on my list. As Cuba’s highest peak at 6,476 feet (1,974 m), it’s a great, moderately challenging hike with some fantastic views and some historical sites as well – an incredible tropical mountain hike in Cuba!

Hiking in the Sierra Maestra, Cuba

Located in Sierra Maestra National Park (Gran Parque Nacional Sierra Maestra), this area is an extremely important one in Cuban history, as these mountains were the home base for Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and the rest of the 26 de Julio revolutionary army responsible for the Cuban Revolution.

You can visit their camp, known as the Comandancia de la Plata along the way up through the national park hiking Pico Turquino, an experience I definitely recommend!

Here you’ll find Che Guevara’s field hospital, barracks, the original Radio Rebelde radio station, and more. This site is fascinating and will inform the rest of the things you’ll see on your trip to Cuba.

Since this is a national park you’re required to visit with a guide. There are two major routes for the summit hike, one beginning from the north in the town of Alto del Naranjo and the other beginning in Las Cuevas on the coast of Cuba near Santiago de Cuba.

The route from Alto de Naranjo is 8 miles, the route from Las Cuevas is 7 miles, and steeper.

The major benefit of taking the northern route is that you can first hike to Comandancia de la Plata before continuing on to hike Pico Turquino.

From there you’ll continue on to Aguada del Joaquin, a base camp with basic accommodations to spend the night before summiting in the morning with the sunrise for some incredible views.

It is easier to hike Pico Turquino in one day via the southern Las Cuevas – Santiago de Cuba route, though you’ll miss the Comandancia de la Plata and have fewer viewpoints over the mountains.

Alternatively, you can hike up from Las Cuevas and down towards Alto de Naranjo for a more complete journey.

However you visit Pico Turquino, there is a lot to see in the national park – the Sierra Maestra mountains are full of endangered and endemic flora and fauna, like wild orchids and ferns, the world’s smallest toad, and species of birds that make this a birdwatching destination as well.

You won’t regret visiting this famed destination for hiking in Cuba – not only is it a fantastic hike, but it’s steeped in the revolutionary history of Cuba, making for quite an experience. Hiking Pico Turquino is easily my favorite Cuba hiking destination and a top recommendation for travelers!

How To Get to Pico Turquino

Pico Turquino’s northern route is most commonly visited via Holguin, by taking a bus or shared taxi first to Bayamo, and then on to Santo Domingo, near the base of the mountains. From there, SUVs continue on to Alto de Naranjo, which marks the start of the northern route.

To summit the mountain via the southern route, most travelers head from Santiago de Cuba to Las Cuevas along the southern coast and start the trek from there.

soroa cuba

2. Soroa

Located just 60 miles (95 km) west of Havana, the area of Soroa is one of the most popular getaways from Havana for locals, as it still remains relatively unknown to foreign visitors.

Its proximity to Havana makes it the perfect day trip, and there is plenty to see and do here for hikers and in the town as well. It’s easily one of the best and most popular Cuba hiking destinations for its proximity to the city.

Hiking in Soroa, Cuba

The hike to the Salto de Arco Iris (Rainbow Falls, also known as the Salto de Soroa) is an easy one – less than a mile round trip from the main road.

This 72 foot (22 m) waterfall is much more impressive in the rainy summer months between May and October, but is worth a visit year-round – the short trek rewards visitors with a beautiful waterfall view and a swimming hole below.

Following the signs to the Mirador (lookout) is a longer, moderate trek up a small mountain near the waterfall for incredible views over the valley below – these two hikes make for a fantastic route.

Soroa has several other destinations worth a visit as well, including the Soroa Orchid Botanical Garden, conveniently across the main road from the entrance to the waterfall, an easy visit for most visitors.

Soroa is also a destination for bird watching, and there are plenty of guides in the area that offer tours and treks to spot some of the area’s hundreds of bird species.

You can also visit Cafetal Buenavista in Las Terrazas – the town you’ll pass through on your way in and out of Soroa. Built in 1801, Cafetal Buenavista is the oldest coffee plantation in Cuba. This place has a magnificent view over the rest of the area and of course, good coffee.

The restaurant is nice, though a little on the pricey side, but makes for a great excuse to enjoy the view.

How To Get to Soroa

Many of the Viazul buses that depart Havana’s main bus station (near the Plaza de la Revolución) and head to Viñales will make stops in Las Terrazas, a town just 15 km away from Soroa, making one of these buses the easiest way to get here.

Just make sure to check that the bus headed to Viñales will make the stop before getting on!

Once in Las Terrazas, you can look for a taxi to Soroa for around $8 USD, or look for a shared taxi headed that way, which will be cheaper. You can also rent a bike in Las Terrazas to visit Soroa!

What to Pack for Cuba

Check out our Ultimate Cuba Packing List to help you pack for your trip – we’re sharing exactly what to bring to Cuba and what we never travel without.

vinales cuba

3. Viñales

Viñales is a popular destination for visitors thanks to its incredible scenery – steep limestone mountains called “mogotes” that soar from the ground amidst some of Cuba’s finest tobacco farms.

However, far too few visitors take advantage of the hiking potential here in this stunning national park – this is another fantastic destination for hiking in Cuba given the countless trails throughout the beautiful park.

Read More: Ultimate Travel Guide to Vinñales, Cuba

Hiking in Vinales, Cuba

Hiking in Viñales, you’ll be able to see some incredible views of the beautiful mogotes, as well as exploring caves, small tobacco farms and fields, and much more.

Though you won’t find much shade here (come with a hat, sunscreen, and water!) you’ll find some unforgettable scenery and delve deeper into this often-visited but little-explored place.

Within the national park area of Viñales, you’re free to wander and follow the hiking routes you’ll find here. They don’t tend to be well-marked, but are available for visitor use.

Make sure you download Maps.me on your phone before setting out – this offline map which will help you keep track of your route along the way.

There are plenty of guides in the town who may try to make you feel like you have to hire a guide to explore – but you don’t! If you do want to explore with a guide, I recommend booking in advance and make sure you go with someone with experience.

These are some popular hiking excursions in Viñales:

Guides can also often combine a hike with a visit to a tobacco farm – even if you aren’t a smoker, these are fascinating! You’ll see and learn about how tobacco is grown, stored, and sold – and learn a lot about how the government of Cuba manages agriculture along the way.

Locals are also always there to help. You may find their first word of advice is to simply hire a local guide – you’ll hear this anywhere you’re hiking in Cuba, but they can help steer you to where you want to go if you persist.

Make sure you have the gear you’ll need for this hike – nothing special, but make sure to wear dark-colored clothes and shoes, or clothes you don’t mind getting dirty. The earth here is super red, and if you’re hit with some mud, it will stain!

Chacos or old sneakers are your best bet, and make sure you wear something to keep you cool. Sunscreen is a must.

Read More:

How To Get to Viñales

There are frequent buses leaving from Havana to Viñales from the Havana bus station near Plaza de la Revolución, but make sure to book at least a day in advance, as seats can sometimes sell out in high tourist season.

The Viazul buses cost $15 per person, and the trip takes between 3-4 hours.

You can also find shared taxis leaving from the area around the bus station to Viñales, which normally charge around $25-30 per person. Expect to pay at least $75 for a private taxi to Viñales, one way.

4. Ciénaga de Zapata

Located on the southern coast of Cuba, Ciénaga de Zapata is the perfect Cuba hiking destination for wildlife lovers.

Known for being one of the best areas of the country to witness the wildlife, Ciénaga de Zapata – in English, Zapata Wetlands – is home to over 900 species of plants and over 175 species of birds (many of which are only found – some are found only in this park!).

This is a very unique destination for hiking in Cuba – here you’ll see the world’s smallest bird, flamingos, Cuban crocodiles, and much more – and there are some great hikes to see it all.

Cienaga de Zapata covers a massive area of nearly 1,700 square miles (4,350 square km) – an entire peninsula on the south coast of Cuba. Within this vast area, there are several portions particularly worth a visit, both for their interesting things to see and do, and their hiking potential.

Hiking in Ciénaga de Zapata

Within Ciénaga de Zapata National Park, entry with a guide is required for visitors, but guides will take you to the best spots in this massive park, which is very helpful.

Refugio de Fauna Bermejas

Visiting the Refugio de Fauna Bermejas, there are several different guided visits around and through the area. One of the most popular ones is a birdwatching tour – with hundreds of rare species here, this is a well-known birdwatching destination.

The second tour is more hiking-oriented and explores more of the refugee. This tour follows the path called the Sendero Enigma de las Rocas and you’ll get to see tons of wildlife (as well as birds!) like fish, crabs, maybe even crocodiles.

The route ends near some cenotes (underwater caves) where you can swim, which is an awesome highlight of any visit.

Peninsula de Zapata

The largely uninhabited wetlands area is home to flamingos, crocodiles, and much more. There are several ways to visit the wetlands, including taking tours through the mangroves in kayaks, which are becoming more popular guided visits.

There are other hiking trails and walks that can be arranged from the National Park office in Playa Larga.

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The nearest towns to the area are Playa Larga and Playa Girón (also known as Bay of Pigs, the site of the 1961 failed U.S. invasion of Cuba).

It is easier to visit the Refugio de Fauna Bermejas from Playa Girón, while it’s easier to visit the wetlands from Playa Larga, which also has the national park office, making it easier to visit this area.

The beaches here are amazing as well – don’t miss this on a trip to the area. Playa Girón is known for some great snorkeling spots, though Playa Larga is known for nicer beaches.

How To Get to Ciénaga de Zapata

Ciénaga de Zapata is easy to get to from many areas around the island.

  • Viazul buses make two daily stops in Playa Girón and Playa Larga as they travel routes to Havana and Varadero;
  • Viazul buses make one daily stop in Playa Girón and Playa Larga as they head towards Cienfuegos and Trinidad from Viñales, and vice versa.

Shared taxis also often pass through Playa Larga when traveling between Vinales and Cienfuegos / Trinidad, a great private option that is usually available as well – just ask around, especially with your homestay host.

Taxis between Playa Larga and Playa Girón are frequent and you’ll find shared options or private options (expect to pay $10-15 for a private taxi).

el yunque cuba

5. El Yunque in Baracoa

One of the most interesting hiking destinations in Cuba is El Yunque, located just outside of the coastal city of Baracoa on the far east of the island. El Yunque is a tabletop mountain that stands 1,886 ft (575 m) high, and its shape resembles an anvil – un yunque, in Spanish.

Christopher Columbus landed at Baracoa in 1492 and wrote about seeing El Yunque in his journals.

Here you’ll see tons of species endemic to Cuba, including Cuba’s national bird – the tocororo, hummingbirds, lizards, snails, and much more.

You’ll also see tons of species of palm trees and cacao trees planted near the base of the mountain. The area has a climate like a tropical rainforest, and there are plenty of areas to swim along the way.

Hiking in Baracoa, Cuba

The hike up and down the mountain is about 8km in total, and while most of the hike is quite smooth and easy-going, the last part of the ascent can be challenging and is steep.

The hike generally lasts about two or two and a half hours up and about two hours back. You will want to wear good walking shoes or hiking boots for this trek, mostly due to the ascent.

Another national park requiring visits with a tour guide, there are many guides that arrange visits from Baracoa, and generally charge anywhere from $13-20 per person depending on group size. These will include admission to the park, access with a guide, and transport.

Bring some extra money – locals in the area will cook for hikers, and this is a great opportunity to try some delicious local food.

An alternative route that doesn’t reach the top of the tabletop mountain exists for an easier hike, along the Sendero Juncal, through the rainforest and fruit plantations in the area.

How To Get to El Yunque

El Yunque is a popular day excursion from the town of Baracoa, and guides in town advertise it frequently.

Most homestay and rental hosts, as well as hotels, will have connections to guides that can organize a visit and provide the best advice.

Most visitors arrive in Baracoa by bus or car from nearby Santiago de Cuba or Holguin – both cities have international airports and frequent flights and buses from Havana.