Western Cuba’s furthest point from Havana is a 7 hours’ drive, and packed between the capital and the tip is the stunning scenery of the Cordillera de Guaniguanico, the world’s best tobacco soil, palm-fringed beaches, caves, and a bounty of natural wonders.
Just an hour outside of Havana is the eco-community of Las Terrazas. Here, you can hike forests past old coffee plantations, bird watch, take a canopy tour, lunch on organic vegetarian food, and cool off in the afternoon in the pools of the San Juan River.
Near Las Terrazas is the country’s largest orchid garden at Soroa, and on its hilltop is the newly-opened Castle in the Clouds hotel.
Fit trekkers can climb Western Cuba’s highest peak, the Pan de Guajaibón (699m).
A former hacienda surrounded by the forested Parque La Güira has been restored. Explore the area and head to Che Guevara’s 1962 Cuba missile base, Cueva de los Portales.
Western Cuba’s poster attraction is the UNESCO World Heritage Site Viñales Valley.
Round-topped mountain stumps cast adrift around ruddy red soil, royal palms, farms, working oxen, and walking trails create a lush backdrop to rural Cuba.
The valley town, Viñales, is the center for accommodation, trekking, horse riding, cave visits, and more.
The tobacco inside the world’s best cigars come from the rich soils of Western Cuba – if you haven’t heard, their cigars are legendary.
South of the Viñales Valley is the area known as Vuelta Abajo, the best tobacco-growing region in Cuba. Take a tour of one of the working tobacco plantations, and learn about the crop from seed to harvest, and from leaf drying to the artisanal creation of the cigar. The most famous is the Alejandro Robaina Plantation.
An outstanding tour is offered at the Finca Hector Luis Prieto (Finca Quemado de Rubi) .
Grab lunch, or stay the night in attractive riverside cabañas with crop views.
In Pinar del Río city, stop by at the Francisco Donatien Tobacco Factory to watch workers crafting the puros (Cuban cigars).
Western Cuba is fringed by beautiful, palm-tree studded beaches.
Closest to Havana is north coast Cayo Levisa, a sublime lick of white sand facing shallow turquoise sea.
The food is a let down, and the dive shop is not always working, but if you can, snag a spacious beachfront bungalow and forget about the bad taste in your mouth – it’s a real treat.
Between Cayo Levisa and Cayo Jutías, there are remote, wild, beaches such as Playa La Mulata and Playa La Altura, and a handful of B&Bs.
Cayo Jutías is the closest beach to Viñales, and a popular day trip, where there’s a restaurant/bar and water sports center.
Walk to the eastern tip for driftwood sculptures, and see bright orange starfish in the crystal clear shallows.
María La Gorda is a popular dive center on a beach at the western tip of the island. There’s a range of accommodation, but limited food options.
Diving here gets mixed reviews, but it’s not Cuba’s top diving spot.
At the extreme western tip of Cuba is the Guanhacabibes Peninsula, home to sharp limestone terracing, bird life, nesting turtles, and deer.
The Playa Las Tumbas beach at Cabo de San Antonio is not remarkable. This western extremity is a hard-core trip for birders, divers, fishermen, and naturalists.
There are state-run cabañas, and a small restaurant if you do wind up there.
Find out where to go trekking, climbing, zip-lining, and horse-riding through this UNESCO World Heritage-listed hidden gem.
Just over two hours east of Havana is the undeservedly-overlooked Matanzas province. Our local insider shows you why it’s time to add Matanzas and Varadero to your itinerary.