Is it any wonder why Trinidad is a favorite “second city” for travelers looking to experience Cuba beyond Havana? This small, historic city is the epitome of charm and beauty, making it one of Cuba’s ultimate gems and one of the best places to visit in Cuba for that perfect combination of a beach getaway and a colonial city, all in one.
As locals, we’ve loved learning Trinidad like the back of our hands. Read on for our local tips on the best things to do in Trinidad, Cuba, plus some of the best day trips from Trinidad and the experiences you just can’t miss.
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Best Things To Do in Trinidad
From waterfall hikes to exploring the beautiful historic center of Trinidad, there are so many things to do in Trinidad, Cuba you won’t want to pass up. I usually recommend at least two to three full days in Trinidad to take in all it has to offer!
Looking for a quick few recommendations of the top highlights of Trinidad? These are the things to do in Trinidad that you can’t miss:
- Explore Historic Trinidad
- Visit Playa Ancón
- Take a Day Trip to Valle de los Ingenios or Topes de Collantes
There’s just no way you can skip exploring the historic center of Trinidad; this is why everyone travels to Trinidad in the first place! In addition, you’ll also want to make time to visit the nearby Valle de los Ingenios, packed with gorgeous rolling landscapes and historic sugar mills, or Topes de Collates, a lush, forested mountain region that hides hidden waterfalls and coffee plantations.
While most travelers want to visit Trinidad’s nearby Playa Ancón, located just 15-20 minutes from the city, feel free to skip this in your itinerary if you’re already planning to head to Varadero or another premier Cuban beach destination.
Things To Do in Trinidad, Cuba
1. Climb the Bell Tower at the Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco
Get a birds-eye view of historic Trinidad’s red-tiled rooftops and the surrounding mountains from the bell tower of the Iglesia y Convento de San Franciso in the heart of old Trinidad. There is just no beating this view!
The church is centrally located in town and is impressive inside. A few small museum exhibits display artifacts related to an uprising called the “Lucha Contra los Bandidos” against the new Cuban Revolution in the 1960s; feel free to skip through these rather quickly (especially if you can’t read in Spanish!), though the patio with its jeep and ship used in the battles is interesting!
Climb to the rooftop and bell tower for the most impressive part of the visit to this integral part of the Trinidad skyline. While there aren’t any elevators to the top, it’s worth the several flights of stairs to reach the top for the incredible view that awaits. This is one of the best things to do in Trinidad, and a highlight for most visitors to this gem of a city.
2. Take a Free Walking Tour of Trinidad
One of my favorite things to recommend for travelers heading to some of Cuba’s most popular cities is to check for a free tour! Civitatis offers a number of free walking tours in cities around Cuba, all hosted by expert local guides who have a true passion for their city and for Cuba.
The free walking tour of Trinidad is a particularly great one, as there is just so much to see in do in the historic center of Trinidad. It’s incredible to get a little bit of the background of Trinidad’s most famous spots, as well as getting local recommendations for things to do in Trinidad, the best places to eat, and hidden local gems along the way. I couldn’t recommend it enough!
Looking for free walking tours in other Cuban cities? Register for your spot here for these free tours of Cuba’s most popular destinations:
3. Visit the Valle de los Ingenios
Part of Trinidad’s well-deserved UNESCO World Heritage List designation stretches beyond Trinidad to cover the neighboring Valle de los Ingenios, or Valley of the Sugar Mills. The heart of the sugar production that made Cuba such a rich colony and nation for so many years, this valley is filled with rich and layer history and stunning vistas, making a visit to the area a must for any visitor to Trinidad.
Highlights of a visit to the Valle de los Ingenios include visiting famous sugarcane plantations like Manaca Iznaga, with its tower to observe all corners of the plantation and the San Isidro de los Destiladeros, left in ruins after its closure at the end of the 1800s, though still a fascinating destination.
You can plan on taking a taxi out to these areas and the most famous destinations or schedule a guide from Trinidad for a private trip or a small group excursion with other travelers. It’s a popular spot, so you’ll have no problem finding others to visit with you.
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4. Hike to Waterfalls in Topes de Collantes
A trip to Topes de Collantes is easily one of the best things to do in Trinidad, Cuba, but it’s also one of the best things to do in Cuba. The lush jungles of this national park (Gran Parque Natural Topes de Collantes) boast beautiful peaks, stunningly clear waterfalls, and more. Whether you have an entire day to spend here or just an hour or two, you’ll quickly see how special this place is.
Some of the highlights of a day trip from Trinidad to Topes de Collantes include El Rocio waterfall with its stunning hiking path, Centinelas del Rio Melodioso, which takes you along coffee plantations. Other popular spots include waterfalls like Salto de Vegas Grandes and Salto de Caburní located within the Parque Altiplano.
El Nicho waterfall is arguably one of the most impressive waterfalls in Cuba, and while it’s technically located within Topes de Collantes, it’s located on the far western side of the park, closer to Cienfuegos. Many visitors take a day trip from Cienfuegos – it’s one of the best things to do in Cienfuegos.
You can choose between traveling to Topes de Collantes via private or shared taxi, or booking a small-group excursion to Topes de Collates, as there isn’t any public transport that reaches the area, or at least in a reasonably quick or straightforward way.
Read More: 8 Easy Day Trips from Trinidad, Cuba
5. Visit Playa Ancón
Cuba’s north coast is the true stunner when it comes to beaches, boasting almost all of the best beaches in Cuba spread across mainland Cuba and the tiny cays that dot the coast. However, Playa Ancón, just 15 minutes south of Trinidad, is known as perhaps the best beach on Cuba’s southern coast. Visiting Playa Ancón is by far one of the best things to do in Trinidad, Cuba.
Playa Ancón is a typical stunning Caribbean beach with fine white sand, shallow, clear waters, and overall stunning scenery. Popular with locals and visitors alike, Playa Ancón can get busy at times, especially during the winter (December through April), though it’s large enough and long enough that it’s not overwhelmingly crowded.
Local buses serve the beach and cost next to nothing, but most visitors take a taxi, whether you choose one shared with other travelers or private. Some visitors to Trinidad prefer to stay directly at the beach and take day trips into the city, but most prefer the historic guesthouses and boutique hotels of Trinidad.
6. Explore Parque El Cubano
The closest park within Topes de Collantes to the city of Trinidad, Parque El Cubano is a more popular destination for a quick trip or a half-day excursion, while further-off Topes de Collantes spots are generally best saved for a full-day excursion.
However, they share many of the same characteristics: lovely hiking trails, lush forests, and stunning waterfalls. Many of the excursions to Parque El Cubano include horseback riding excursions, while Topes de Collantes excursions tend to include longer visits to more waterfalls.
You’re free to enter Parque El Cubano as you please and choose the hikes or paths you’d like as you explore the park if you’re not interested in going with a group or guide. The hiking path to Salto de Javira (Javira Waterfall) is perhaps the most popular choice – this waterfall is stunning and has a fantastic (though always cold!) swimming hole perfect for hot days. The one-hour round-trip hike is easy.
7. Take a Catamaran to Cayo Blanco
If you’re looking for a fun day trip from Trinidad – and a different beach experience to the one you’ll have at Playa Ancón, consider taking the increasingly popular catamaran excursion to Cayo Blanco, a white-sand cay just off the coast of Trinidad.
Excursions include lunch and a relaxing day at this island, otherwise deserted except for a small restaurant and bathrooms for visitors. You’ll also get to enjoy snorkeling along the way! While we thought the snorkeling at La Batea was better (keep reading below for more on this!), it’s still a fabulous snorkeling experience amidst a great rest of your day.
An important note for travelers: due to admittedly strange regulations surrounding Cuban citizens using boats, this excursion isn’t one that Cubans can enjoy. If you’re traveling with Cuban friends or family, this might not be the excursion for you.
Read More: Trinidad, Cuba: Ultimate Travel Guide
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8. Go Snorkeling
Trinidad isn’t just known for its stunning beachfront at Playa Ancón – it’s also home to some truly great snorkeling experiences. While you can certainly rent snorkeling gear at Playa Ancón, head to Playa La Batea for much more impressive reefs with stunning fish.
The main beach access point at Playa La Batea has great snorkeling just offshore, but you can also swim north along the beach for impressive snorkeling spots as well. A variety of colorful coral and tropical fish await!
Playa La Batea is actually slightly closer to Trinidad than Playa Ancón, located between Playa La Boca and Playa Ancón. You’ll find fewer beach amenities here than you will at Playa Ancón, but Playa La Batea has its own dive shop, and you’ll enjoy much calmer, more uncrowded shores.
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9. Dance at Casa de la Música
Trinidad’s Casa de la Musica is a popular evening institution in Cuba, and while it isn’t much more than a plaza and staircase with live music and (admittedly great) drink service, it’s absolutely perfect to enjoy a warm Caribbean evening. Though it’s in a more touristy area of town, it has a local, authentic feel.
Just a block away from Plaza Mayor, Casa de la Música is super easy to find. We found Trinidad to be great fun, with tons of spots offering live music and found a good number of places to dance, drink, and hang out during the evening, so if Casa de la Music isn’t your style, no worries – there’s plenty here for you!
10. Take in the View at Cerro de la Vigia
This list of the best things to do in Trinidad, Cuba starts with a great spot for a stunning, and it has to end with one as well. With the gorgeous mountains in the distance and the stunning rooftops of the historic center, it’s only fitting!
Take the easy 25-minute hike up this hillside just outside of central Trinidad for gorgeous views of the hillsides, with sweeping vistas reaching as far as the ocean. While you won’t get as great a view of the actual city from this spot, it’s a great complement to the view from the bell tower at the Iglesia y Convento de San Franciso.
Make sure to come prepared with sunscreen and a hat, and try to plan your visit for the morning or as the sun starts to set to escape the hot Cuban sun. The path is quite well-defined, and with a radio tower at the top of the hill it is easy to keep your endpoint in view as you hike.
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.