Best day trips from Cuba

The Best Day Trips From Havana Cuba

Havana is an incredible city – it’s vibrant, it’s full-on and there are amazing places to see in Havana, but we hope it’s not the only place that you’ll visit in Cuba.  It is, however, as Cuba’s capital and where the main airport in Cuba is, where most visitors start their trip to Cuba.  Havana is also a great city in which to base yourself to visit other parts of Cuba.  Using Havana as your base location means that you’ll get to stay in the fabulous casa particular or hotel that you’ve found and return home for cocktails at the end of your day trip from Havana.    There are a variety of locations you can visit as a day trip from Havana Cuba, and some are more suitable than others.  So here’s our guide to the best place to visit on a Havana day trip.

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Whether you want to enjoy natural Cuba or head to the beach there are some great options to visit as a day trip from Havana.  And the key thing to look at when you’re planning your Havana day trips, is not, as you’ll find out, the distance away from Havana, but the time it takes to travel there and back.  You can’t apply travel and transit times that you have at home to Cuba.  For instance, to go from Old Havana to Vinales is around 180 kilometres (111 miles), but it will take 2.5 to 3 hours.   Remember that you’ll also need to add this travel time to your return journey. 

The Best Places to Visit as a Day Trip from Havana

The top places to visit as a day trip from Havana are those which will give you a different flavour from the city of Havana, but also those that aren’t too far away – spending hours and hours travelling can eat into your holiday time!  So let’s start with our tip picks for Havana Day Trips with an easy day trip that doesn’t take long at all!

Explore the Vinales Valley on a Day Trip from Havana

This is the most popular day trip from Havana.   The UNESCO World Heritage Vinales Valley is around 2.5 hours drive from Havana.  And it is stunning.  The Vinales Valley is a glorious trip to take from Havana, but it’s also worth heading here for a few days – you can read our guide to the Vinales Valley here. If, however, you have just one day in Vinales, then you can pack a lot in.   This green tranquil paradise is a great escape from Havana and most of the things to see in Vinales on a day trip involved getting out into the countryside.

I’d opt for taking a classic car for a day trip to Vinales (because, hey, why not, this is Cuba and where else do you get the opportunity?)  Once you get to Vinales, you can opt to stick with the car (quicker and easier) or rent a bike and cycle around.  You’ll want to make time to see the ancient La Cueva del Indios – the cave of the Indians, take a look at the Mural de la Prehistoria – even if it’s just from a distance – there are full details of what to expect in our Vinales guide here. In Vinales you should also visit a Tobacco plantation and learn about cigars in Cuba – try smoking one, and buy some from local farmers and you can also visit a Coffee Plantation, – tasting and purchases available too.  Take time for lunch at a local paladar and perhaps also take a horse-riding tour through one of the plantations here.  Your last stop on a Vinales day trip should be a cooling swim and cocktail at the Hotel Jazmines pool at the Vinales Valley lookout before heading back to Havana.

You can visit Vinales by tourist bus – these are operated by Viazul (our guide to the Viazul bus system is here) – although this trip takes about 4 hours and the departure times aren’t useful for fitting a visit to Vinales into a single day.  If you have just one day for Vinales, then taking a day trip from Havana to Vinales is an excellent option – we took this Vinales Valley by classic Car trip and it was an incredible day.

Playas del Este as a day trip from Havana

Playas del Este (the east beaches) are the closest beaches to Havana and this trip to the beach makes for a great day trip from Havana.  The Playas del Este are only about 30-40 minutes from Havana and you can take a private tour here by classic car – or even catch a bus.  There are more than 30 miles (50 kilometres) of glorious white sandy beaches here fringed by palm trees.    This area is known as the Havana Riviera and they are mercifully undeveloped.   If you’re in Havana between January and April you’ll likely have the beaches here to yourself as most Cubanos tend to find it too cold to visit the beach at this time.  (The water temperature in Cuba in January is about 26 degrees (79 Fahrenheit – so you can decide what’s too cold for you, but that temperature gives me a good feeling!)

There are restaurants here, bars and you can rent sunbeds and umbrellas for about US$ a day.

Playas del Este day trip from Havana

How to Get to Playas Del Este by the Hop-on Hop-Off Bus

The Havana Hop on Hop Off Bus run by Transtur goes to Playa del Este and takes about 30 minutes.  You’ll want the T3 which runs from Habana Centro, where the main stop is Parque Central (opposite the Hotel Inglaterra).  An all-day ticket costs US$10 and the service runs from 0900 to 1900.    You’ll find locals and tourists on this bus.  If you want to go REALLY local then read on.

How to Get to Playas Del Este by Public Bus in Havana

This is the cheapest way to travel from Havana to the Playas del Este.  It will cost you pennies – literally the equivalent of US$0.05.  Public buses in Havana are called “guas guas” – pronounced “wa wa”.  They’re crowded, there’s no A/C and you’ll stand out as a foreigner.  Keep a close eye on your bags and wallets.  The bus to Guanabo is the one that you want. 

How to Get to Playas Del Este by Pre-Booked Transfer

This is quite the easiest way to take a day trip to the beaches of Playa del Este in Havana.  You can arrange to have exclusive use of a private driver and classic American car.  How long you want to spend at the beach is up to you – four hours?  Eight hours?  Longer?  Choose your options for beach day trips from Havana here.

How to Get to Playas Del Este by Taxi

If you’re playing it by ear, then you can head out into the street, ask your casa particular owner, or aim for the nearest major hotel and find a taxi.  A taxi from Havana to the Playas del Este beaches will cost around US$15 each way, depending on your negotiation skills. 

Go to Varadero on a day trip from Havana

Varadero is known for long white sandy beaches and all-inclusive resorts.  There are five miles (8 kilometres) of glorious beach here.  The beaches and setup here are more touristy and less Cuban than the beaches at Playas del Este. 

Spend the day lying in the sun, swimming or snorkelling.  You’ll also find watersports at the fronts of the various beachfront hotels here.

Beaches at Varadero on a day trip from Havana

It will take you around 2 hours each way from Havana to Varadero by private transfer.  (check prices and availability of private transfers to Varadero here).  You can also take the Viazul Bus to Varadero from Havana, but it’s not really an option for a day trip – as the bus stations aren’t convenient and neither are the bus times! If you want to spend more than a day on a visit to Varadero, then here’s our guide on what to do in Varadero.

This private day trip to Varadero from Havana is a great option if you want to see the sights of Varadero, but not commit to more than a day.  You’ll leave your hotel or casa particular around 0730 and drive out towards Varadero, taking a break for a view and an included pina colada cocktail drink after an hour.  Then you’ll get to see Saturno Cave ( and take a dip in the water if you’d like.  You’ll arrive at Varadero by 1130 and have five hours free to enjoy this gorgeous beach resort before returning to your hotel in Havana.  The return journey from Varadero to Havana takes 2 hours, so you’ll be back in time for cocktails. See what else is included and book your day trip from Havana to Varadero here.

Head to Matanzas for a day trip from Havana

We were very excited when we arrived in Havana – planning to head to Matanzas for a day trip on the historic Hershey Train.  The Hershey Electric Railway is an electric train that runs from Havana to Matanzas.  Sometimes.  Not often.  If it happens to be running when you’re in Cuba TAKE THIS TRAIN.  If it is running it will cost around US$3 each way and will take about 3 hours each way.  The Hershey Train departs from the Casablanca Station in Havana (get a ferry from old Havana) However, it’s unlikely to be running unless it’s for a specific special occasion, which is rather sad.  This electric train opened in 1917, and yes, it’s the Hershey name of chocolate fame.  There’s more on the train and Hershey in Cuba here.

We never did get on the Hershey train but did spend time in Matanzas, which is good for a day trip from Havana if you’re interested in something a little different.

Matanzas day trip from Havana

The only logistical way to get to Matanzas from Havana for a day trip is either a private transfer (check prices here) or a taxi.  You can read about our experiences taking a colectivo from Matanzas back to Havana here. It will take about 90 minutes to travel to Matanzas from Havana.  We’d recommend booking a private transfer – as there are several places to visit in Matanzas where you’ll need transport. 

If you’re taking a day trip to Matanzas you’ll want to see at least some of the 17 bridges that this “city of bridges” is famous for.  The Puente de Bacunayagua is the highest in Cuba, resting 100 metres near the River Yumuri.   Taking a walk around the centre of Matanzas is interesting – you’ll want to stop at the San Severino Castle Museum where you can take a guided tour of the castle and fortress and understand a little about slavery in Cuba too.   Wander through Parque Libertad – a lovely green space at the heart of Matanzas.  The Sauto Theatre is also rather picturesque.   For museum lovers, the Pharmaceutical Museum (Museo Farmaceutico) in front of Parque Libertad, is a stunning display of a 19th-century pharmacy and a guided tour is well worth it.  (I think it’s better than the one in Havana).  Finally, while you’re out this way, I’d recommend including a trip to Bellamar Caves.  They’re some of the biggest and most impressive in the Caribbean (there are more caves also in the Vinales region to explore).   The Bellamar Caves were discovered in 1861 and are about 5 kilometres (3.1 miles) to the southeast of Matanzas.  Guided tours are available and entry costs around US$8.  

An alternative to Bellamar Caves or an addition even is the Cueva de Saturno (Saturn Cave) – it’s a cenote – which has stalactites, blind cavefish and cave shrimp.  Swimming in the freshwater here is very popular and you can also arrange to dive in the cenote.  Entry costs US$5 and the Cueva de Saturno is 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) from Matanzas.

For a great lunch with a fabulous view head to Chef Bahia on the main coast road to Varadero.  You can also take a day trip from Varadero to Matanzas – it’s an easy one!

If you’re considering a day trip from Havana to Matanzas, we really do recommend organising your own itinerary and route, planning it via a private transfer/taxi and making the most of your day in Matanzas.  Book a private car for Matanzas here.

Note: You can also take a day trip to Matanzas from Varadero – so if you’re visiting both Havana and Varadero, it’s an option.

Explore the eco-village of Las Terrazas and the Soroa UNESCO Biosphere

For a nature-inspired day trip from Havana, your best options are either to head to the eco-village of Las Terrazas or the Soroa UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.  You can easily make each visit last all day and visit both by public transport, but we recommend combining the two as they’re quite close, to get the most from your visit.  (If you do decide to head to Las Terrazas on the bus, then there’s one bus a day).

Las Terrazas is in the Sierra Del Rosario and is an eco-village that was founded in 1968 as an experiment.   The area on which the Las Terrazas project was built was part of a natural forest that had been destroyed by intensive cultivation of coffee during the 19th century.  You can still see the ruins of some of the 54 old coffee plantations here.

It is seriously green and peaceful.  There’s a coffee plantation here, a Moka hotel built right into the forest and some great bird watching.   At Las Terrazas, you can trek, zip-line on 1600 metres of lines, coffee taste and explore nature.  There are also rowing boats and water bikes for rent here.  Don’t miss a cooling tip in the natural pools in the San Juan River.  Artists will also love the opportunity to meet with the local artists here at their studios. This awesome day trip to Las Terrazas from Havana will get you right to the heart of the Sierra Del Rosario.

If you want to spend more than a day at Las Terrazas then the Hotel Moka was the first eco-hotel in Cuba and there are several Casa particulars here too – Villa Juanita and Villa Tres Hermanas are highly recommended.

However, if you’re planning to try and see more in your nature-themed day trip from Havana, then you’ll want to push onto Soroa – where you’ll truly commune with nature.  It’s not much further from Las Terrazas but is much less visited.  Still located in the Sierra del Rosario, it’s also still part of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.  There are so many waterfalls here that the combination of sun and water droplets has caused Soroa to be called the “Rainbow of Cuba”.

Soroa takes its name from two Spanish brothers who settled here and acquired the Merced coffee plantation (and several others).  Today it is a natural paradise.  You’ll find a huge number of trees, orchids and waterfalls.   As part of a day trip to Soroa, you’ll have time to see the Rainbow Falls – Salto del Arcoiris – a 22 meter (72 feet) waterfall surrounded by palm trees and giving you’re the opportunity to take a swim in the pool below the falls.  You should also visit the Soroa Orchid Garden – Orquideario de Soroa where, in this small, but spectacular botanical garden you’ll see an amazing collection of 20,000 specimens of orchids.  But for the best views of Soroa head to the Castillo de la Nubes – the Castle of the Clouds.  It’s a medieval-inspired building on top of a hill with the best views of the Sierra del Rosario.

If seeing Soroa as a day trip from Havana doesn’t sound like long enough for you then the Hotel Castillo de las Nubes (Castle Hotel of the Clouds) has both luxurious accommodation and spectacular views, or if you’d like to experience life in a Cuban Casa particular then Casa Los Sauces Jorge y Ana Lidia, Casa Vivó Soroa and Hospedaje Don Agapito are great places to stay in Soroa. 

Visit Cojimar and Finca La Vigia on a Day Trip from Havana

This is the day trip from Havana for Hemingway fans.   Ernest Hemingway spent more than two decades in Cuba and a Hemingway day trip from Havana is a great way to explore his haunts.   Cojimar is a small fishing village east of Havana and it’s where Hemingway spent a lot of his time.  He’s said to have gained some inspiration for his 1954 Nobel Prize-winning novel, The Old Man and the Sea here.  In the novel, the Old Man docked the boat, El Pilar, here during the 1940s and 50s.  (check out our list of great books set in Cuba here)

Cojimar is an authentic slower-paced village with a lovely, small seaside town charm.   You’ll find a small Malecon along the seafront and a statue to Hemingway under an arch near the waterfront opposite the Cojimar Tower.   The tower dates from 1649 and is what remains of Cojimar Fort, and is listed as part of the UNESCO World Heritage “Defense of Havana” sites.   A final stop in Cojimar for Hemingway fans is La Terraza restaurant.  It has glorious views over the bay, where the author used to fish, but the restaurant is also where Hemingway spent his time – along with friend Gregorio Fuentes – captain of El Pilar in real life.    You’ll know that you’re in the right place by all the photos of Hemingway, including ones with him alongside Fidel Castro.

Cojimar day trip from Havana

The next stop on a Hemingway inspired day trip to Havana is La Vigia or Finca Vigia – the property that he rented in 1939 and then bought it later.   The house, on a hill in the quiet neighbourhood of San Francisco de Paula, in San Miguel del Padron with Havana province, is now the Ernest Hemingway Museum.  Hemingway lived in Finca Vigia until he returned to the USA in 1960 and it was here that he wrote much of The Old Man and the Sea, Islands in the Stream and For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Finca la Vigia day trip from Havana

There are books everywhere.  Outside you’ll find Hemingway’s 38-foot fishing boat and the cemetery where he buried his 4 dogs and 57 cats.  The museum has eclectic opening hours and shuts on rainy days entrance to the museum is US$5.

Heading back to Havana there are three key sites to visit on a Hemingway themed day trip from Havana.  The first is the Ambos Mundos Hotel to visit the room that Hemingway used to book – his typewriter and books are still there!  His room, 511, is preserved as he used to use it.  You’ll find the Hotel Ambos Mundos on the corner of Calle Obispo and Mercaderes. 

The two final stops on a Hemingway day trip of Havana are two of his favourite haunts in Havana – La Bodeguita del Medio and El Floridita.    La Bodeguita is, these days, better known for food than cocktails, but it’s worth getting to the bar and watching the bartender make mojitos – trust me it’s a great show!  And having a daiquiri alongside the statue of “Papa” at the bar in El Floridita really is an experience.  Read about the history of Cuban Cocktails in our guide here.

If you’re based in Old Havana or Havana Centro (check out our where to stay in Havana guide here), then walking to the Ambos Mundos Hotel and the two cocktail bars is easy.  And while Cojimar and Vigia are relatively easy to get to on public transport, but it will be difficult to see them all in one day.  You’ll save a lot of sweaty bus time by arranging to see all these sights together as part of a guided Hemingway tour.   Why not book this Hemingway themed day trip with an English speaking guide, personal driver and see all these places without any stress?  

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions about Havana Day Trips

Got questions about taking day trips from Havana? Check out our frequently asked questions about Havana day trips below, or ask us yours in the comments.

Can you take a day trip to Trinidad from Havana

Technically, yes you can take a day trip from Havana to Trinidad, but we think once you get here you’ll realise that there’s so much more to do in Trinidad than you can fit into a day, that you’ll regret it.

If you really don’t have the time to spare, then why not look at combining Trinidad and Cienfuegos into a two-day tour from Havana?  This great trip also combines a visit to the Zapata Swamp AND the famous Bay of Pigs – where you can visit the museum of the Bay of Pigs invasion in Playa Giron- which I highly recommend.  You won’t have time to go diving in the Bay of Pigs, but you will get to snorkel this historic site.  Check out this two day trip from Havana to Trinidad and Cienfuegos here.

Can you visit Cienfuegos in a day trip from Havana?

Cienfuegos is located about 2 hours and 45 minutes from Havana.  It’s a glorious city, with both a colonial and industrial heritage.  We think that there’s lots more to do in Cienfuegos than you can fit into a day, which is why we don’t recommend it as a day trip option from Havana – but it works well if you combine visiting Cienfuegos with Trinidad for a two-centre trip from Havana.  Details here.

Final Words on the Best Day Trips from Havana

Making Havana your base and exploring some of the relatively close areas of Cuba is a great way to see more of the country while heading back to your home base.   There are several sites that lend themselves to being great options for day trips from Havana.  Some of these day trips you can make on public transport, if you’re a little adventurous, others will definitely need a car or a driver.  Whichever of the day trips from Havana you take, you’ll get to see some of this stunning country and meet some incredible people. 

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