day trips from havana

9 Best Day Trips From Havana: A Local’s Guide [2024]

There’s no place on Earth quite like Havana, Cuba. However, travelers who look just beyond the bounds of Cuba’s awe-inspiring capital will find that Havana offers just a small taste of all the best things to do in Cuba.

As locals, we’ve had the pleasure of exploring every inch of Havana and taking all the best Havana day trips to explore the areas around the city. In this ultimate guide to the best day trips from Havana, you’ll find our top (local!) recommendations for the best day trips from Havana that you just can’t skip when planning your Havana itinerary.

havana to varadero day trip
chrispictures / Depositphotos

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Best Day Trips From Havana

If your time in Havana allows you to get out of the city for a bit, you’re in for a real treat. Are you looking for some quick recommendations for the best day trips from Havana? These are our top picks:

  • Best Beach Day Trip from Havana: Varadero
  • Best Adventurous Day Trip from Havana: Soroa and Las Terrazas
  • Best Family-Friendly Day Trip from Havana: Havana’s Countryside

There’s nothing more popular than the day trip from Havana to Varadero, the closest beach to Havana that is among the nicest beaches in Cuba. While ideally, you’d want to spend at least one night in Varadero, it’s more than doable in a day and the perfect way to visit the beach if your Cuba itinerary includes just cities like Havana.

However, if you’re looking for something different, there are plenty of incredible day trips from Havana to consider. Read on for more details about how to enjoy some of our favorite Havana day trips.

resorts in varadero cuba

Havana Day Trips

1. Varadero

Best Beach Day Trip 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 the very best day trip 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.

sierra del rosario
Kamira / Shutterstock

2. Soroa and Las Terrazas

Best Adventurous Day Trip from Havana

If you’re looking for something a little more exciting than sitting on a beach, taking a day trip from Havana to Soroa and Las Terrazas is for you. Hidden within the Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve, 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

Travel Insurance

Cuba requires that all travelers have proof of a comprehensive travel insurance policy in order to enter the country. Check out our guide to travel insurance for Cuba for more details. We recommend these brands for Cuba travel insurance:

  • Visitors Coverage: Coverage for Cuba travel available to citizens of all countries, though not currently available to residents of New York and Maryland in the United States.
  • Insubuy: Coverage for Cuba travel available to citizens of all countries and states of the United States.
vinales cuba tobacco

3. Havana’s Countryside

Best Family-Friendly Day Trip from Havana

If you’re traveling with kids and looking for an easy and engaging day trip from Havana, there’s no better place to visit than Havana’s countryside. Hassle-free, quick transportation to the countryside and engaging, kid-friendly activities like farm visits and time to explore are a winning combination.

Here 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, most authentic 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.

playas del este

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 transportation, 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:

  • Marazul
  • Santa Maria
  • Guanabo
  • Boca Ciega
  • Bacuranao
  • Tarará

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.

things to do in vinales cuba
eastfrisian / Depositphotos

5. Viñales

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.

soroa cuba

6. 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, along with over 130 species 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.

Travel Essential

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. 

havana day trips

7. 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

cayo levisa
Delpixel / Shutterstock

8. Cayo Levisa

If Varadero sounds a little too popular and built-up for your tastes, consider taking an excursion to Cayo Levisa, one of the white sand cays located west of Havana in the Pinar del Rio province. Almost entirely undeveloped and untouched, it’s perfect for a disconnected beach day.

Located about two hours west of Havana, Cayo Levisa is known for its pristine white beaches and legendary snorkeling and diving, boasting incredible reefs and 17th- and 18th-century shipwrecks just offshore. Only accessible via a once-daily ferry that departs from the tiny village of Palma Rubia (between 9 AM and 10 AM every day), Cayo Levisa can feel like a bit of a trek, but it’s well worth it.

Cayo Levisa used to be a popular overnight destination with one basic but charming hotel perched on the best beach on the island. However, after the hotel shuttered during the pandemic, it’s more popular as a day trip destination from either Havana or Viñales (about an hour and a half away). Or, spend a night at one of the basic casa particular guesthouses in Palma Rubia on the coast to extend your stay.

Read More: Cayo Levisa: Ultimate Traveler’s Guide

cayo jutias

9. Cayo Jutias

Just a bit further from Havana than nearby Cayo Levisa, the white sand islet of Cayo Jutias is another one of the untouched and undeveloped beach destinations that far too few travelers get the chance to experience. A famous beach covered with spiky red starfish and white sand shores hidden among mangrove forests make the island truly something special.

Unlike Cayo Levisa, Cayo Jutias is connected to mainland Cuba via a causeway, making it more easily accessible. However, the drive from Havana can be a doozy, at around three and a half hours along sections of somewhat bumpy roads.

While Cayo Jutias is technically within day trip distance from Havana, it makes for a much better day trip from Viñales, which is just over an hour away. Many travelers interested in visiting Cayo Jutias and Viñales find it easy to find a car from Havana to take them to Cayo Jutias for the day before leaving them in Viñales.

Read More: Cayo Jutias: Ultimate Traveler’s Guide

Havana Day Trips: Even More Options

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

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.