trinidad cuba

Trinidad, Cuba: A Local’s Guide for Travelers [2024]

A few minutes is all it takes for travelers to see why historic Trinidad is one of the most popular places to visit in Cuba. Considered one of the best-preserved colonial cities in the Caribbean, Trinidad oozes beauty and culture, making it a dreamy destination that is often the ultimate highlight for travelers to Cuba.

As locals, we’ve visited Trinidad countless times but still can’t get enough. Read on for our local tips to enjoying all that Trinidad, Cuba has to offer. We’re sharing the best things to do in Trinidad, where to stay in Trinidad, and the best day trips from Trinidad – plus so much more!

trinidad cuba history

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Trinidad Cuba

Wedged between white sand beaches and the lush, jungle-covered Escambray Mountains, Trinidad is a historic jewel of a city and one of the top destinations for visitors in Cuba. After Havana, the city of Trinidad is the most popular city in Cuba for travelers, who flock here to take in all it has to offer.

The opportunity to walk the historic streets of this city – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and take in the beauty and history that oozes from every corner is enough of a reason to visit. Grand churches, colorful historic buildings, restored mansions, and beautiful plazas await here, all offering unprecedented access for travelers.

However, Trinidad is much more than just its historic heart. The beautiful outskirts of Trinidad hold incredible jewels that would be worth traveling for, even if Trinidad itself was nothing special.

Nearby you’ll find the stunning beaches of Playa Ancón, white sand cays, jungle waterfalls, and the legendary Valle de los Ingenios – the former capital of the Caribbean sugar trade and yet another UNESCO destination. All in all, it makes for an incredible way to spend a few days exploring and enjoying some of the best things to do in Cuba.

What is Trinidad Cuba Known For?

Trinidad is best known for its beautiful and historic city center with old churches, cobblestone streets, and colonial mansions. However, 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.

Trinidad Cuba Map

Trinidad is easily accessible from Havana and well-connected to the rest of Cuba. We created a Trinidad map and dropped pins in some of our favorite places to visit in Trinidad and the surrounding areas, including the beautiful Trinidad day trip destinations like Topes de Collantes and Playa Ancón.

You’ll find 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. Plan to devote at least three or four hours to just exploring the old town heart of the city, checking out cafes and restaurants, and popping into the restored mansions and museums.

Looking for some of Trinidad’s must-see attractions? We wrote an entire guide to the best things to do in Trinidad, so make sure to give it a read, but these are just a few of our favorite things to do in Trinidad 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!

2. Visit the 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 you’ll certainly want to stop in the courtyard. Here you’ll find the jeep and the ship that were used in these battles – they’re quite impressive! Though explanations are all in Spanish, you’ll get the idea (or download Google Translate and use their handy photo translation tool if you’re not proficient).

visit trinidad cuba

3. Climb the Bell Tower at Convento de San Francisco de Asis

Despite all these reasons to visit the Convento de San Francisco de Asis, the biggest draw for visitors is undoubtedly the view from the top of the church’s bell tower – this is why we recommend skipping right through most of it unless you’re particularly interested in the exhibits!

From this historic convent’s bell tower, you’ll get the most spectacular view of Trinidad and the surroundings – it’s truly one of the most picturesque spots I’ve found in all of Cuba.

With the Escambray Mountains just beyond the city and the surrounding valleys, it is truly a site to behold. The red-tiled rooftops of the city are stunning against the lush mountainside just beyond. There is no better vista of Trinidad.

Try to time your visit for the late afternoon or near sunset, as the light is spectacular! Though the climb to the bell tower is several stories up, the steps are quite easy. Take your time if necessary – the view is absolutely worth it!

Read More: 10 Best Things To Do in Trinidad, Cuba

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.

4. Walk Through 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 live music that spills out into the streets for all 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 during your visit.

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5. Visit the Museo de Arquitectura Colonial

This isn’t any boring old museum to skip! The Museum of Colonial Architecture (Museo de Arquitectura Colonial) is another Trinidad attraction well worth visiting, especially considering it’s housed in one of the city’s most impressive historic buildings.

While the museum exhibits themselves aren’t that impressive unless you’re a true architecture and history buff, the rooms in this restored colonial mansion are lovely and maintained with their original style and decor. It is worth a quick visit, and tickets are just a few pesos.

6. Explore the 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 historically significant spot in the city that you can’t miss. While the church needed a fair amount of rebuilding after a hurricane did some damage in the late 1800s, it still contains priceless relics from centuries prior.

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. It’s a stunner!

parque el cubano

7. Escape to 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 from Trinidad. 

Throughout the park, you’ll find several trails that are mostly 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 Parque El Cubano, as shared taxis frequently leave Trinidad to bring visitors. Day tours like the popular horseback riding excursion in Parque El Cubano sell out fast! The entrance to the park is about $10 USD (in Cuban pesos), though if you book one of the popular small group excursions the entrance will be included.  

Read More: 8 Easy Day Trips from Trinidad

8. Walk the 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.

Read More: 10 Best Things To Do in Trinidad, Cuba

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.
best things to do in trinidad
mathes / Depositphotos

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 Cuban 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 – and learning about the region’s role in Cuba’s history as the world’s most important producer of sugar. Visitors can explore the former sugar plantations that shaped the region, taking the opportunity to learn about Cuban history, past and present. 

Things To Do in the Valle de los Ingenios

1. Visit the 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 sugar plantations in the area. While the main house of this former sugar plantation still stands and is now a restaurant for visitors, the tower, with its sweeping views, is the most popular attraction here.

This seven-story tower has a dark history, as it was first 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.

2. Visit the 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 in 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.

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. 

el nicho cienfuegos

Topes de Collantes

Topes de Collantes is a nature reserve located outside Trinidad, occupying a large area of the Escambray Mountains and a true must-visit destination in Trinidad. This stunning 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 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 to different areas of Topes de Collantes – it’s definitely worth it traveling with a guide who can take you throughout the park!

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!

Reviews and Bookings: Topes de Collantes Day Trip from Trinidad

Salto de Caburní Waterfall

The most popular (and easiest) waterfall to visit from Trinidad is the Salto de Caburní (Caburní Falls), a waterfall with a natural swimming hole at the bottom. The hour-long hike to the falls is mostly downhill through the shaded forest and is back out the same way.

Salto Vegas Grandes Waterfall

Even more impressive than the Salto de Caburní is the Salto Vegas Grandes waterfall. Though it’s a bit further from Trinidad, it’s well worth the trip. Though mostly an easy journey, make sure you have good sneakers or shoes for the trek, as the path can get muddy. You’ll also want something like swimming shoes or sturdy sandals to navigate in the water in the swimming hole

Read More: 10 Best Things To Do in Trinidad, Cuba

playa ancon

Trinidad, Cuba Beaches

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.

Read More: 12 Best Beaches in Cuba

Playa Ancón

Just a 15-minute drive from central Trinidad, maybe a bit longer by bus, Playa Ancón is a gem of a beach in Cuba and makes for the perfect addition to your Trinidad itinerary. Make sure to squeeze in at least a day here – you’ll love it!

Looking to cruise to the beach 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.

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 (even if you don’t stay at the resort) 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 a catamaran ride to the nearby Cayo Blanco – a cay just offshore. These catamaran tours to Cayo Blanco are generally inexpensive and are a great way to have an even more thrilling beach day that feels like a day trip from Trinidad.

iberostar grand trinidad
Courtesy of Iberostar Grand Trinidad

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 and just a few larger hotels to choose from. These are the best places to stay in 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 love the outdoor patio with a bar and covered tables for afternoon drinks.

Reviews and Bookings: Casa Jesús María 407

Hostal Cabriales ($)

The simple Hostal Cabriales is my favorite choice for basic budget accommodations in Trinidad – expect basic but comfortable rooms and incredibly welcoming hosts who will make you feel like you’ve gained a whole new Cuban family.

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

Reviews and Bookings: Hostal Cabriales

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. Even with all the historic properties in Trinidad, this one is truly something special.

Casa Colonial Torrado 1830‘s 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 feel like you’ve stepped inside one of Trinidad’s historic museum properties but with a welcoming and comfortable twist.

Reviews and Bookings: Casa Colonial Torrado 1830

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.

Reviews and Bookings: Casa Amistad

trinidad cuba car

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

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

Havana to Trinidad Transportation

Comfortable greyhound-style buses frequently depart from Havana to Trinidad and are accessible from the main Havana bus terminal near the Plaza de la Revolución.

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. 

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.