Havana, Cuba has plenty to keep you busy for days or even weeks, but those looking to explore beyond the bounds of Havana will find out just how much Cuba has to offer beyond its show-stopping capital. In fact, Havana offers just a small taste of all the best things to do in Cuba.
In this ultimate guide to the best day trips from Havana, you’ll find our top recommendations for the Havana day trips you just can’t skip when planning your Havana itinerary. Waterfall hikes through the rainforest, untouched white sand beaches, and countryside cooking await, all leaving you plenty of time to make your dinner reservation before heading to Fábrica de Arte in the evening.
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Day Trips From Havana
Just over two hours from Havana, Varadero is one of the nicest beaches in Cuba (and one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean), making it among the most desirable day trips from Havana. Whether you’re looking to just arrive and find a spot on the beach to spend a day, or you’re looking forward to snorkeling, exploring caves, or anything in between, Varadero is the perfect place.
With miles and miles of pristine beachfront, it’s very easy to have an enjoyable beach day at Varadero without staying at a resort, which isn’t the case at every beach. Rent beach chairs and umbrellas, or simply find a shady area and enjoy Cuba’s favorite beach town – you’ll quickly realize why it’s such a popular destination in Cuba with travelers and locals alike.
While Varadero is great for day trips from Havana, we also love Varadero for more than just a day trip. The beach is just so perfect, and there’s so much to see and do around Varadero, that as soon as you arrive you’ll wish you had more time here.
Consider planning a (relatively cheap!) overnight in Varadero by staying at one of Varadero’s many casa particular guest houses. Of course, you’ll have a number of impressive resorts to choose from as well.
2. Soroa and Las Terrazas
Increasingly one of the most popular Havana day trips is the lush forested areas west of the city at Soroa and Las Terrazas. Hidden within the Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve (more on this later!), these areas are popular escapes from the city for locals and visitors alike, home to great hiking trails and a plunging waterfall with a swimming hole perfect for cooling off on a hot day in Cuba.
Soroa’s Salto del Arco Iris (Rainbow Falls) is a stunner and a major attraction for visitors; this towering 72-foot (22-meter) waterfall surrounded by palms and forests is just what you’d expect from a rainforest waterfall. Less than a mile round trip hike makes it accessible for almost everyone, with a great swimming hole, stunning jungle landscape, and impressive views.
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 area is easily accessible from Havana by bus – make sure to catch a bus from Havana to Viñales that makes a stop at Las Terrazas, as not all do. Alternatively, take a guided excursion from Havana to Soroa and Las Terrazas for even easier transport.
Read More: Havana to Viñales Day Trip: A Local’s Guide
Just two hours west of Havana, the small town of Viñales is in the heart of the countryside and on the edge of one of the most impressive landscapes in all of Cuba. A major destination for hiking, adventure sports, and farm-to-table cuisine, Vinales is one of the very best day trips from Havana – read our Havana to Vinales Day Trip Guide to see why!
Home to the impressive Viñales Valley and national park, the stunning area of Viñales is marked with impressive mountain-like limestone karsts that shoot dramatically from the valley for a totally unique landscape – it’s a site you need to see to believe.
On day trips from Havana, you can take a horseback riding excursion through the valley to one of Cuba’s best tobacco plantations or take in the views over a local meal and drinks at Balcón del Valle. Learn about local tobacco production and how Cuba’s world-famous cigars are made, or just enjoy the incredible views; either way, Viñales has a lot to impress.
Transport is relatively easy by taking a bus from Havana, though Vinales is just far enough from Havana that a day trip excursion to Viñales is well worth it for hassle-free, comfortable travel.
If you have an extra day to squeeze into your Havana itinerary, we’d also recommend spending at least one night in Viñales – you’ll have plenty to do and have a great choice of excellent casa particular guest houses in Viñales to choose from.
4. Playas del Este
Located just on the outskirts of Havana, a cluster of beaches known collectively as Playas del Este – the beaches of the East – are some of the most popular day trip spots outside of Havana, drawing endless locals and visitors alike. With quick and affordable transport you can be on the beach in under half an hour enjoying a drink at a beach bar or on the sand under an umbrella.
Playas del Este comprises a few beaches, including these:
- Santa Maria
- Boca Ciega
The nicest beaches in the area of Playas del Este are Marazul or Santa Maria. These beaches have the nicest sand and clearest water. With a good amount of transportation options to get you here from Havana and great places to eat, and even accommodations nearby if you want to spend the night, they’re the perfect beach day (or long weekend) getaway.
Don’t get us wrong, Playas del Este are fantastic beaches, stellar even, it’s just that with the postcard-perfect, award-winning beaches around Cuba at Varadero and on Cuba’s northern cays it’s hard for anything else to compare. While we always recommend Varadero over these beaches if it’s possible for you to get here, don’t worry – you’ll have an incredible beach day either way.
Havana Beaches Guides
5. Sierra del Rosario
Located between Havana and Viñales, the Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve and mountain range is one of the most beloved ecotourism spots and natural gems in Cuba. While most travelers that visit the area stick to Las Terrazas and Soroa, the area has so much more to offer than just these areas.
Proper day trips from Havana to Sierra del Rosario can look like hiking to stunning viewpoints, world-class birdwatching in areas with hundreds of species of birds, many endemic, and visiting historic coffee plantations. Make sure to visit the famous orchid gardens (Orquideario) to see over 700 international species of orchids beside over 130 native to Cuba.
Transport is easiest by taking a private or shared taxi directly from Havana, or taking a bus from Havana to Viñales and getting off at the Las Terrazas stop to explore from there. You’ll need transport to properly explore all the best parts of the biosphere reserve, so most travelers opt for day trips from Havana with transport included.
6. Yumurí Valley
Located on the outskirts of Matanzas, the Yumurí Valley is a lush, beautiful area of many travelers just drive through the way to Varadero, missing out on all this impressive valley has to offer. The jaw-dropping view of the valley from the Mirador de Bacunayagua is just the start.
Take a jeep tour through the valley, float down the river, and explore ranches with pineapples and tropical fruits; it’s an off-the-beaten-path experience that feels ages away from nearby Havana and Varadero.
You’ll find a lot of dedicated Yumurí Valley day trip excursions actually start from Varadero, as many visitors love to combine a visit to the valley with excursions to snorkeling destinations nearby, which fits perfectly with a beachy trip to Varadero. However, you can also find drivers from Havana more than willing to take you. Or, combine a visit with an overnight to Varadero if you can!
Reviews and Bookings: Yumurí Valley Day Trips Excursions
7. Cayo Levisa or Cayo Jutias
If Varadero sounds a little too popular and built-up for your tastes, consider taking an excursion to either Cayo Levisa or Cayo Jutias, two of the white sand cays located west of Havana in the Pinar del Rio province. These stunning yet tiny islands are almost entirely undeveloped and untouched, perfect for a disconnected beach day.
You won’t find much to speak of on Cayo Levisa and Cayo Jutias other than the pristine Caribbean beaches you’ve always dreamed of. Cayo Levisa is known for its incredible snorkeling and diving and has a small dive shop on the island and a tiny hotel, making it slightly more popular than Cayo Jutias. Cayo Jutias has a famous beach covered with starfish, and some spots for renting beach chairs and umbrellas.
Cayo Jutias is likely the best day trips from Havana; while slightly further from Havana than Cayo Levisa, it’s connected to the mainland with a causeway that makes transportation easy. Cayo Levisa, on the other hand, is only accessible via a ferry from the small mainland town of Palma Rubia.
Just over an hour north of Viñales, Cayo Levisa and Cayo Jutias are also very popular day trip options from Viñales – they’re actually probably more popular day trips from Viñales than they are from Havana. However, if you’re looking for a beach getaway from Havana and Varadero and Plays del Este don’t quite seem to be the right fit, these spots are sure to please.
A little over three hours from Havana, day trips to these beaches will mean long days if you’re not planning to spend at least one night, but they’re unforgettable destinations worth the trip.
8. Havana’s Countryside
You don’t have to travel far for spectacular day trips from Havana. The farmland and countryside just outside of Havana make for a fascinating day trip in which you’ll get to see an entirely different side of the city. Spend the day touring through the countryside before visiting local farms and learning about local organic agriculture before tasting some of the best Cuban dishes you’ll try in Cuba.
We know because we’ve done the same thing with family in the United States visiting family in Cuba; it’s a total highlight of a trip to Cuba, and one that you won’t forget. Plus, most Havana countryside tours are half-day excursions within half an hour of the center of the city, which means they’re a great addition to a short Havana itinerary and leave you plenty of time for sunset drinks and dinner before heading out for the evening.
Havana Day Trips
While there are plenty of things to see and do in Havana, adding good day trips from Havana into your itinerary is a fantastic way to see a whole new side of Cuba. Whether you’re looking for a beach getaway, an adventure sports hotspot, or something in between, these Havana day trip spots have it all.
A bit too far from Havana for a day trip are the stunning cities of Trinidad and Cienfuegos, as well as Cienaga de Zapata, the crystal-clear beaches at the Bay of Pigs, and so many more incredible destinations in Cuba. Make time in your Cuba itinerary for these memorable spots as well; they’re all well worth traveling for and will show you an entirely different side of Cuba.
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.