How To Get There and Where to Stay
When traveling to Cuba you’ll most likely be flying into Havana and a lot of people will stay there the duration of their trip. Don’t do that. Located about 2 1/2 hours south west of Havana is the beautiful town of Vinales. You’ll watch the scenery slowly change from cityscape and classic cars, to countryside and horses.
There are two types of travelers, the ones who work so hard that they just want to be laid up at an all-inclusive resort relaxing for four days while a tan papi schmoozes them with his accent and pina coladas. Then there is the traveler who wants to adventure from morning until night and may return home with a wound or stomach bacteria… while drinking all of the pina coladas.
When I travel I like to maximize the amount of things I see. I’m usually dog ass tired after but I’m fulfilled and my FOMO is a real problem, so I choose to fit it all in. I was in Cuba for a total of four days and made sure that a night in Vinales was not left out, I would suggest you do the same!
The host from my AirBnB in Havana was also a taxi driver so he picked us up at 9:00am to head out to Vinales. I would suggest leaving no later than this if you only have one day to spend here. It cost us 100CUC for the four of us but we met a couple who had paid 50CUC/person and a solo traveler who paid 75CUC flat. As with everything in Cuba, make sure you negotiate with them but honestly I felt that 100CUC for our car was fair. It’s a long ride and he had to go back to Havana.
I inquired about arranging a car ride back to Havana with the website I used to book my stay in Vinales, he quoted 180USD for a modern car and 160USD for a classic car. CUCs to USD are 1:1 so it’s cheaper to arrange this once you’re in Havana.
Pulling up to the casa, it is seemingly just a family neighborhood. Tucked on the back left is Casa El Porry with the nicest host who wastes zero time in showing you the reason why it’s the best place to stay. You have access to the roof at anytime and the most gorgeous time to see it is over breakfast, which is included in your stay.
The original casa(s) I had inquired about was booked but the management company proposed Casa El Porry and it was fucking magical. I reserved it before leaving the US and the agency website I went through was http://www.havanaunique.com/ The website still isn’t updated with Casa El Porry as an option but you can send a message through the website to arrange it.
We went during Christmas, which is considered the high season and it was 25USD/person. I would suggest booking ahead of time as rooms can get booked quickly and there is a lack of hotels. If Casa El Porry has no vacancy you should check out my friend’s AirBnB, her boyfriend and his dad built this casa with their bare hands so you should support that kind of skill. http://abnb.me/EVmg/Hk598AX7bB
I’ve read some various blog posts about Vinales and there are three things I’d like to address:
1.) Yes, it’s a tourist spot. Everyone keeps talking about this as if they didn’t just come from Havana where they hung out with a bunch of white people wearing visors and fanny packs. The tourism in Vinales is nothing like you’ll see in Europe so I hate that this is even a comparison. Vinales is necessary as a tourism destination to decongest Havana and Varadero. If you take a horse ride through the tobacco fields you’ll find out that the government keeps 90% of the production with the whopping 10% leftover allotted for tourism. Another reason why tourism is crucial to the local population.
2.) I read someone’s post who had said there was no hot water for showers anywhere in Cuba. I stayed in three different places and had hot water in all.
3.) No matter where you end up staying, don’t base it on a pool advertisement. The new laws allowing self-employment have allowed the Cuban people to make extra money to survive. Which is why I mention in my Havana, Cuba post to support the people of this Communist country by staying in their AirBnBs and casa particulares. With that being said, the provincial government of Pinar Del Rio allowed casa’s to build pools only to shut them down for the “crime” of building pools. They had actually withdrawn the business license of the casa I stayed at and it seemed to be a discriminatory process because they allowed some pools to continue operating. After months of not getting any answers the government required everyone with a pool to drain and cover them. Most websites aren’t updated often with this information because.. Communist wifi.
Casa El Porry is just a couple of blocks from the main strip, there’s a little store selling wifi cards and rum “Capri Suns” for 2 CUCs each. There’s also a bank if you’re desperate but read my Havana post, exchange before you get here. Across from the bank is a street market selling all of the souvenirs you could want. Don’t buy your sombrero from Havana wait until Vinales, it’ll be cheaper.
We did some shopping, eating and drinking… Because what’s better than riding a horse through the Cuban countryside? Doing it tipsy.. it’s MUCH more enjoyable watching everyone try to keep their shit together. My mom did not find it as humorous.
Bring pants, it’s not really an activity you want to do with your legs exposed as you’re gripping the saddle for dear life. Leggings are life and most definitely count as pants in my book. I forgot them for the first time ever so I had to improvise, these PJs worked just fine.
Your casa can arrange this tour for you but I set up mine through my blogger friend How Not To Travel Like A Basic Bitch. Her manfriend Alejandro, who also runs the AirBnB I included the link to above, will walk you from your hostel to where you mount your ride of death. JK I loved every second of it but if riding horses isn’t your thing, you shouldn’t do this. There are a couple of men who will assist you onto your horses, but that’s about it. As with all of the Caribbean and Latin America.. No rules. You get on a horse and go.
Those fedora’s are fedorable and all but lightweight, so our hats fell off and onto the ground as soon as we were on. One of the horsemen deemed it the “shit hat,” or rather the “sheet hat,” if I’m serving the memory correctly due to his Cuban accent. So he switched hats with me, smacked the horses ass and sent me on my way. Which I guess was a good thing that I got distracted because I’m just now thinking of all of the things that were on that hat before it was on my head…
First stop: Tobacco crops and cigar rolling.
We had one guide to the four of us and we weren’t shoved into another group tour which was amazing. This backdrop is phenomenal! Everything is so lush and green. You take a brief tour of the barn where they dry the leaves and then sit at a table where a man explains the process and everyone gets to smoke a cigar. They dip the mouth piece into honey and they’ve ruined me because this is now the only way I will ever smoke another cigar. As I touched on above, the government keeps 90% of the cigars and the farmers get to keep 10% for tourism purposes. This is why they’ll tell you not to buy cigars from people in Havana, they’ll be as fake as hell.
Second Stop: ALCOHOL.. and Coffee.. and Honey
Your guide will go through the steps of how they process their coffee, honey and rum. (Ask for rum in your coffee if you get down like that!) All while chickens that look like furbies, pigs that are going steady and kittens run around you.
Don’t tell TSA…
It is also a nice shaded area to get out of the sun and rest your crotch from riding a horse but maybe I was the only one still sore two weeks later…
Third Stop: Sunset
Your guide will take you to a viewing spot to catch the sunset. It was perfect timing and it’s a place that will really “stirrup” all the feels.
Not that the whole ride isn’t gorgeous, because it absolutely is phenomenal, but let’s just all stop for a minute to appreciate this GORGEOUS backdrop. The sun setting on Vinales Valley was probably the most beautiful thing I’ve seen. I will forever remember one of the most romantic moments of my life.. with my mom and brother. 😉
I felt like the pictures could explain this beautiful town better than I could, but I’ve been wrong before so there’s a comment section below.. Do you have any questions on Vinales?