trinidad cuba

Trinidad, Cuba: Ultimate Traveler’s Guide

It’s no wonder why Trinidad Cuba is one of the most popular places to visit in Cuba. One of the best-preserved colonial cities in the Caribbean, Trinidad oozes history, beauty, and culture, making for an unforgettable travel destination. 

The opportunity to walk the historic streets of this city – a UNESCO World Heritage site – and take in the beauty and history is enough of a reason to visit. Nearby you’ll find plenty of natural beauty, like stunning beaches, jungle waterfalls, and the Valle de los Ingenios – the former capital of the Caribbean sugar trade and yet another UNESCO destination.

In this ultimate travel guide to Trinidad, Cuba, we’ll take you even deeper into all the things this charming city has to offer. We’re sharing the best things to do in Trinidad, where to stay (at a variety of price points!), and the best day trips from Trinidad.

trinidad cuba history

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Trinidad Cuba

Wedged among the low, lush Escambray Mountains, this historic jewel of a city is one of the top destinations for visitors in Cuba.

While it is a city, Trinidad is a small one, and its quaint cobblestone streets and historic facades make you feel like you’ve been transported back in time to a colonial village. Surrounded by natural beauty as well, a visit to Trinidad Cuba is an eventful and memorable one.

Is Trinidad Cuba Worth Visiting?

Trinidad is one of the most beautiful historic towns not only in Cuba, but in all of the Caribbean, and its historic charm and beauty is just one of the reasons Trinidad is worth a visit.

Along with the neighboring Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills), Trinidad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, revered and protected for its history, beauty, and unique attributes.

Even if you’ve had plenty of time to explore historic Old Havana, colonial Trinidad is totally different, and not to be missed when visiting Cuba!

What is Trinidad Cuba Known For?

Trinidad is best known for its beauty, mostly in its historic city center with old churches, cobblestone streets, and colonial mansions. However, it’s also well known for being at the heart of a beautiful natural zone as well.

Within just a few minutes of Trinidad you’ll find beaches, waterfalls, mountains, and valleys. A few minutes south of town, you’ll find Playa Ancón, widely regarded as the best beach on Cuba’s southern coast.

To the east and west of the city, Topes de Collantes in the Escambray Mountains, home to beautiful waterfalls where visitors can swim, and Valle de los Ingenios, a stunning and historic valley at the center of the Caribbean’s sugar trade.

playa ancon

How Far is Trinidad Cuba from Havana?

Trinidad is about 195 miles (315 km) from Havana, which makes it about 4 hours away by private car, or about 5 hours away by bus. It’s too far to plan a Trinidad day trip from Havana, but definitely a great spot to spend a weekend.

Visiting both Havana and Trinidad as part of a Cuba itinerary is quite a popular choice with travelers, and buses between the two cities are frequent.

Trinidad Cuba Map

Check out our Trinidad Cuba map to get a sense of Trinidad’s location in respect to the rest of Cuba, and what there is to see and do in Trinidad.

We dropped pins in some of our favorite places to visit in Trinidad and the surrounding areas, like the beautiful Topes de Collantes and Playa Ancón.

We’ve marked all of the places we recommend in this article – and more! – so check it out as you start planning your trip to Trinidad.

Things To Do in Trinidad Cuba

Among the best things to do in Trinidad is simply exploring the historic center of town. Make sure you have Maps.Me downloaded so you know where you’re headed – this is one of the best apps for travel in Cuba, among several that I recommend!

Devote at least an hour or two to just exploring, checking out cafes and restaurants, and wandering.

There is a lot to “discover” here, including some of the following things to do in Trinidad Cuba that you can’t miss!

1. Take a Free Walking Tour

Civitatis hosts regular FREE walking tours of the Old Town of Trinidad – yes, they’re free, and offered in English and Spanish! It’s recommended to tip the guide, of course, but these engaging free tours are between 2-3 hours long and take you along to the best spots in the city, many of which are on this list.

Make SURE you book online (click here!) at least 24 hours in advance if you plan to attend! They’ll need to coordinate guides and plan for participant numbers in advance.

2. Convento de San Francisco de Asis

The Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco de Asis (Church and Convent of Saint Francis of Assisi) is arguably the most popular destination in the historic center of Trinidad. Beautifully restored and brightly painted, its bell tower is also an important feature of the Trinidad skyline.

Inside you’ll find a small museum commemorating the “Lucha Contra Bandidos,” a small uprising against Castro and the Cuban Revolution that took place in the area.

Skip right through unless you’re a history buff, though the jeep and the ship that were used in the battles and are displayed in the courtyard are quite impressive.

Despite all these reasons to visit, the biggest draw for visitors is undoubtedly the view from the top of the church’s bell tower. The view is spectacular, overlooking the tiled roofs of the historic center and above the colonial courtyards and churches.

With the Escambray mountains just beyond the city and the surrounding valleys, it is truly a site to behold.

Try to time your visit for the late afternoon or near sunset, as the light is spectacular! Though the climb is several stories up, the steps are quite easy.

3. Plaza Mayor

The center of historic Trinidad, Plaza Mayor is where the city’s most beautiful and historic spots converge.

This square is surrounded by churches –  home to the Iglesia Parroquial de la Santisima Trinidad and down the street from the Iglesia de San Francisco – and colonial mansions restored to their former glory.

The plaza is also great fun at night, as the bars and restaurants in the area (especially the Casa de la Música) play music that spills out into the streets to enjoy. 

The Plaza still remains the heart of the city today, and you’ll find everything you could want as a traveler within just a few blocks – many of the city’s best restaurants, bars, and shops are all within steps. It’s a great area to base yourself for your visit.

4. Iglesia Parroquial de la Santisima Trinidad

The star of the Plaza Mayor and one of the symbols of Trinidad Cuba, the Iglesia Parroquial de la Santisima Trinidad is a stunning and historical significant spot in the city that you can’t miss.

Don’t just enjoy the church from the outside – get inside (it opens from 11:00 AM onward) to see the grand arches down the nave, and the intricate wood carvings on the altars. 

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.

things to

5. Museo de Arquitectura Colonial

The Museum of Colonial Architecture is another Trinidad attraction worth visiting, especially if you’re interested in seeing some of the city’s beautiful colonial buildings from the inside out.

While the museum exhibits themselves aren’t that impressive, the rooms in this restored building are lovely, and maintained in their original style and decor. It is worth a quick visit, and tickets are just a few pesos.

6. Parque El Cubano

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to get out of Trinidad (and escape the heat), head to Parque El Cubano just a few kilometers outside of the city. While technically one of the parks that composes Topes de Collantes (more on this spot later!), a visit to Parque El Cubano makes for an easy half-day trip, as it is the park closest to Trinidad. 

Throughout the park you’ll find several trails that are mostly all quite easy to walk, and lead around the park to various natural pools where you can swim. The most impressive part by far is the Salto de Javira (Javira Waterfall) and the large swimming hole below. 

It’s easy enough to get to, as shared taxis frequently leave Trinidad to bring visitors, and day tours like the popular horesebacking riding excursion in Parque El Cubano sell out fast. Entrance to the park is about $10 USD (in Cuban pesos). 

7. Cerro de la Vigía

A walk up the hill just above the Plaza Mayor will bring you to the top of Cerro de la Vigía in just under half an hour, rewarding you with some of the best panoramic views of the surrounding valleys and the city. You’ll even get a view of the ocean just beyond the city from here!

At the top of the hill is a radio transmitter, so it’s quite easy to follow the path and keep your endpoint in sight.

The walk is quite an easy one, and a refreshing escape from the city, though you’ll want to make the short hike in the morning or late afternoon / early evening when the sun won’t be at its highest.

Valle de los Ingenios

A visit to Trinidad isn’t complete without a visit to the neighboring Valle de los Ingenios, part of the UNESCO World Heritage designation area for the city, and an important part of shaping Cuba’s history.

Today a visit to the area means taking in the beautiful scenery of the three valleys that form the area (Valle Santa Rosa, Valle San Luis and Valle Meyer), visits to the former sugar plantations that shaped the region, and the opportunity to learn so much about Cuban history, past and present. 

Free Walking Tour of Valle de Santa Rosa

Civitatis offers some incredible free walking tours, and following the pandemic, local guides began offering walking tours for free in the Santa Rosa Valley, one of the valleys that compose the Valle de los Ingenios. Wow! 

Far too few visitors to Cuba get the chance to get up close and personal with the Cuban countryside, which has always been a highlight for me.

This walking tour take you to memorable spots for views of the valley, historic destinations like sugar plantations and mills, and to local farms. It’s a real treat, and a great way to explore the area. 

Torre de Manaca Iznaga

One of the most popular destinations to visit in the Valle de los Ingenios, the Torre de Manaca Iznaga is an impressive tower that rises from one of the most important the sugar plantation in the area.

While the main house of the plantation still stands and is now a restaurant for visitors, the tower and the view from the top is the most popular attraction here.

This seven-story tower has a dark history, as it was used to observe the surrounding sugar plantations and oversee the labor of enslaved peoples, as well as prevent their escape. It’s important to treat any visit with the respect and contemplation this history deserves.

Ruinas de Ingenio San Isidro de los Destiladeros

One of the most important sugar mills in the area, San Isidro de los Destiladeros is now sadly left to near ruins after its closure at the end of the 1800s.

However, a visit is a great way to experience the Valle de los Ingenios and some of its most interesting destinations.

You’ll be able to take a tour of the various buildings like the manor house, the quarters of the enslaved peoples forced to work here, and the 5-story tower on the property. It is a somber and informative way to learn more about the area and its history.

Close to Trinidad (about 12 km) this is an easy destination to visit on your own, or as part of a larger tour of Valle de los Ingenios.

manaca iznaga
manaca iznaga view

Topes de Collantes

Topes de Collantes is a nature reserve located outside Trinidad, occupying a large area of the Escambray mountain range. This nature reserve is composed of several individual park areas, each with its main hiking trail and several smaller trails as well.

Visitors come from all over Cuba and the world to visit this natural beauty, easily one of the best places to hike in Cuba.

The area is home to many microclimates due to the proximity of the mountains to the ocean and the abundance of rivers in the park, so it’s an important area for Cuba’s endemic flora and fauna.

While there are many ways to visit Topes de Collantes, most visitors opt for taking a private or shared taxi from Trinidad with a specific destination in mind, like one of the area’s many waterfalls, caves, or hiking trails.

You can also find organized excursions that depart from Trinidad, like the popular 4×4 tour through the parks that compose Topes de Collantes

The most popular destinations within Topes de Collantes area are the waterfalls and the swimming holes below them.

While Parque El Cubano has lovely the Salto de Javira, perfect for a quick trip, the waterfalls deeper in the Topes de Collantes area are more impressive!

Salto de Caburní

The most popular and easiest to reach is the Salto de Caburní (Caburní Falls), a waterfall with a natural swimming hole at the bottom. The hike in is mostly downhill through the shaded forest, about an hour to an hour and a half, and back out the same way.

Salto Vegas Grandes

Even more impressive is the Salto Vegas Grandes which is a bit further, though well worth the trip. The waterfall here is much higher than the Salto de Caburní, and the swimming area more impressive.

Though mostly an easy journey, make sure you have good sneakers or shoes for the trek. The path can get muddy, and the area around the swimming hole is always wet.

You’ll also want something to wear like swimming shoes or sandals to navigate in the water.

Visitors to Topes de Collantes can also visit the Casa Museo del Café (Coffee Museum), as the area is known for its coffee cultivation, and several coffee farms are open for visits. This is a great addition to any visit to the parks!

Trinidad Cuba Beaches

Are There Beaches in Trinidad Cuba?

Trinidad is home to the best beach on the southern coast of Cuba: Playa Ancón. Just a few kilometers outside of the center of the city, it’s easy to visit Playa Ancón no matter how long you plan to visit Trinidad.

In addition to Playa Ancón, you can also find Playa La Boca, Playa Maria Aguilar and Playa La Batea near Trinidad. In fact, you’ll pass them on the way to Playa Ancón.

These beaches are far less visited and rockier than Ancón – in almost all cases, I’d recommend just heading to Playa Ancón. If you’re looking for snorkeling, Playa La Batea is a good option.

The beaches of the southern coast of Cuba are neither as pristine nor as famous as beaches like Guardalavaca or Varadero on the northern coast of Cuba.

Read More: Best Beaches in Cuba

Playa Ancón

The best beach on the southern coast of Cuba is just a 15-minute drive from central Trinidad, maybe a bit longer by bus.

Looking to ride in style? Book a vintage American car to take you from Trinidad! The proximity makes it easy to visit the beach in the morning or afternoon and return to Trinidad for the rest of the day.

Alternatively, some visitors prefer to stay near Playa Ancón and take day trips into Trinidad. If you’re looking to stay near Playa Ancón, I recommend choosing a casa particular guesthouse room, like the favorite Hostal Puerto Casilda.

Or, right on the beach, Memories Trinidad del Mar is an all-inclusive option. 

There is quite a stretch of white sand at Playa Ancón, and though the beach can get crowded with locals on the weekends during the summer, you’ll always find a place if you walk down the beach.

You’ll find all the standard beach facilities here, including chairs and umbrellas for rent, and a variety of small restaurants and bars on the beach. 

Other than enjoying the crystal clear waters and white sand, a favorite activity is snorkeling. You can book on to a catamaran ride to the nearby Cayo Blanco – a cay just offshore – that will let you enjoy fantastic snorkeling spots and a white-sand “deserted island.”

These tours are generally inexpensive and are a great way to have a more exciting beach day. 

trinidad cuba car

Where To Stay in Trinidad

Trinidad is filled with countless casas particulares – private guesthouses owned by Cubans – as well as a handful of small, historic boutique hotels.

You won’t find any gleaming, modern luxury hotels as you would in Havana, but in this charming, historic city center, would you even want to?

These are the best places to stay in Trinidad.

Hostal Cabriales ($)

The simple Hostal Cabriales is my favorite choice for budget accommodations in Trinidad – expect basic but comfortable rooms, and welcoming hosts.

The star of the show, however, is the abundance of covered patios, terraces, and roofdecks with hammocks, tables, and lounge chairs to cool enjoy breakfast and coffee or cool off after a long day exploring Trinidad. 

Casa Jesús Maria 407 ($)

A lovely, historic guesthouse in the center of Old Trinidad, Casa Jesús María 407 is the perfect choice to bask in the beauty of the colonial old city. Comfortable, large rooms filled with antique furniture have been recently updated.

You’ll also love their outdoor patio with bar and covered tables.

Casa Colonial Torrado 1830 ($$)

Around the corner from the pedestrian-only center of town, staying at Casa Colonial Torrado 1830 will make you feel like you’ve been transported back in time.

The guest rooms and common areas like the impressive sitting room in this charming colonial mansion turned guesthouse have been lovingly restored and filled with antiques.

You’ll love the rooftop, the perfect place to enjoy a sunset view of the city and mountains.

Casa Amistad ($$ – $$$)

One of the best places to stay in Trinidad, Casa Amistad mixes modern touches with a historic building for an unforgettable stay. Rooms are large, with high ceilings, comfortable beds, and luxe details. The spacious courtyard is dripping with flowers and hidden spaces for morning coffee or evening mojitos.

Getting to Trinidad

Trinidad is well served by buses and shared taxis from across the island – as a favorite destination for travelers in Cuba, you’ll have no trouble getting in and out.

One of the easiest ways to access Trinidad if you can’t find a direct bus is through either Santa Clara or, more commonly, Cienfuegos.

You’ll find one daily bus that departs from Viñales to Trinidad – it departs from the center of Viñales at around 6:30 AM each day and takes about 9-10 hours. You may be able to split a private car with other Viñales travelers, which can shave about 3 hours off of your travel time.

Havana to Trinidad

Buses frequently depart Havana to Trinidad, and are accessible from the main Havana bus terminal near the Plaza de la Revolución. The journey lasts about 5.5 to 6 hours, and the buses are usually the Viazul greyhound-style buses with comfortable seats.

You’ll also find shared taxis outside of the bus station heading to Trinidad – it’s worth sharing a ride if you have a little more money to spare, as the ride in a private car is usually just over four hours.

If you’re interested in private or shared private transportation, you can also check in your accommodation in Havana to see if they can arrange either option.