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!
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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. It’s no wonder that in-the-know Cuba travelers love to head to the island’s interior and always add one of these hiking destinations to their Cuba itinerary – these are some of the best things you can do in Cuba!
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 in some of the best places to visit in Cuba.
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; these are 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 among the best hikes in Cuba for a reason, so of course it has to be first on our list. As Cuba’s highest peak at 6,476 feet (1,974 m), it’s an impressive, moderately challenging hike boasting jungle and ocean views, and even some cool historical sites you won’t want to miss.
While this two-day hike isn’t for everyone, it’s an absolutely incredible adventure and I’d recommend it to any traveler who is relatively physically fit and looking to get up close and personal with a truly beautiful, lush spot in Cuba. You won’t regret adding this to your itinerary, that’s for sure!
Hiking in the Sierra Maestra, Cuba
Pico Turquino is located in Sierra Maestra National Park (Gran Parque Nacional Sierra Maestra), which, if you know anything about Cuban history, is probably a spot you’ve heard of. 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.
Visitors to the Sierra Maestra and hikers planning to summit Pico Turquino can visit the camp used by Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and others during the Cuban Revolution. Known as the Comandancia de la Plata, this spot is a super unique addition to your hiking route, certain to be unlike anything you’ve ever seen on a hike.
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.
Hiking Pico Turquino
Since Pico Turquino is inside a national park you’re required to visit and complete the hike with a guide. You can find registered guides in Alto de Naranjo or Las Cuevas (two towns where hikers depart for Pico Turquino) or in the larger eastern cities of Holguin and Santiago de Cuba.
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, while the route from Las Cuevas, slightly steeper, is 7 miles.
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.
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. With frequent and quick access to Havana by bus, and with plenty to see and do on all budgets, it’s no wonder this is a favorite day trip from Havana – just make sure to plan your trip soon before word gets out!
Soroa’s 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 Havana. Anyone can add it to their Havana itinerary and make it back in time to visit Fábrica de Arte in the evening!
Hiking in Soroa, Cuba
While there are several great hiking trails in Soroa, 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 – and ends with extremely impressive jungle waterfall views!
While this 72-foot (22 m) waterfall is much more impressive in the rainy summer months between May and October, it is worth a visit year-round – the short trek rewards visitors with a beautiful waterfall view and a swimming hole below. While the shaded paths offer relief from the Cuban sun year-round, there’s nothing like a plunge in the swimming hole, especially during the hottest part of the day.
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.
More To Do in Soroa
Soroa has several other destinations worth a visit as well as its main waterfall, including the Soroa Orchid Botanical Garden. Conveniently located across the main road from the entrance to the waterfall, it’s an easy visit for most hikers in the area.
In addition to its great hikes, Soroa is also a destination for bird watching. There are plenty of guides in the area that offer tours and treks to spot some of the area’s hundreds of bird species.
Another great stop while in Soroa is Cafetal Buenavista. 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. Just make sure to check that the bus headed to Viñales will make the stop in Las Terrazas before getting on – specifically ask the bus drivers, as not all buses will stop here!
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.
If you’re planning a trip to Cuba you’ve surely heard of the stunning countryside destination of Viñales. Well known for its beautiful scenery with steep limestone mountains called “mogotes” that soar from the lush valley below, Vinales is also home to Cuba’s best tobacco plantations and much more.
While Viñales is incredibly popular with travelers to Cuba, far too few visitors take advantage of the hiking potential here in this stunning national park – many just take in the stunning viewpoints or take the classic horseback riding tour to the tobacco plantations in the valley. In fact, Viñales is another fantastic destination for hiking in Cuba given the countless trails throughout the beautiful park.
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.
Read More: Ultimate Travel Guide to Vinñales, Cuba
Hiking in Vinales, Cuba
Within the national park area of Viñales, visitors are free to wander and follow the hiking routes you’ll find here. While routes don’t tend to be well-marked in Viñales, they are completely 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. Check out AllTrails before heading to Cuba (or use a VPN while using the internet in Cuba), as hikers add new details and route recommendations frequently.
If you’re looking for different guided routes, you can also go for guided hikes as well. Hire a local guide (you’ll find plenty) or book ahead online. I generally recommend booking ahead online as you’ll guarantee you’re going 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.
Viñales Hiking Tips
- Remember that 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.
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. This is a very unique destination for hiking in Cuba – here you’ll see everything from the world’s smallest bird, flamingos, Cuban crocodiles, and much more – and there are some great hikes to see it all.
Known for being one of the best areas of the country to witness wildlife endemic to Cuba, 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!).
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. Whether you’re looking for a specific type of trail or hoping to spot a particular type of animal along the way, this is a great way to do it.
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.
Read More: 10 Best Cities to Visit in Cuba
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, and 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. Just make sure to ask when you arrive at the entrance of the park – you’ll be able to get directions to the exact experience you’re looking for.
Don’t think about traveling to Cuba without a good VPN (Virtual Private Network). Using a VPN while connecting to the internet is an easy way to keep your personal information safe from hackers and trackers. We’ve used NordVPN for years and couldn’t recommend it more – it’s a must for safety online, especially in Cuba.
How To Get to Ciénaga de Zapata
Ciénaga de Zapata is easy to get to from many areas around the island, whether visiting as a day trip from Cienfuegos or from any other major Cuban city.
- 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 Viñales 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).
Read More: 10 Best Things To Do in Cienfuegos, 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 even wrote about seeing El Yunque in his journals due it its distinctive shape.
Hiking El Yunque isn’t like any other hike – it’s also an incredible wildlife experience unlike any in Cuba. Here you’ll see tons of species endemic to Cuba, including Cuba’s national bird (the tocororo), as well as 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 the climate of a tropical rainforest, and there are plenty of areas to swim along the way.
Hiking in Baracoa, Cuba
The hike up and down El Yunque in Baracoa 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 its steep.
While most travelers who have a decent level of physical fitness find it to be quite doable, the final ascent isn’t recommended for travelers who aren’t confident in their abilities. 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.
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 bring your best hiking boots for this trek, mostly due to the ascent.
As El Yunque is within yet another national park that requires visits with a tour guide, there are many guides that arrange visits from Baracoa. They 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.
Read More: Baracoa, Cuba: Ultimate Travel Guide
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 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. While Baracoa also has its own airport, it’s small and only receives two flights from Havana every week.
Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Home to Havana and Explorers Away. She is a serial expat and traveler, having visited 40+ countries and counting. Carley has written for publications like Travel + Leisure, MSN, Associated Press, Weather Channel, Wealth of Geeks, and more. Find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.