Adventurer’s Guide to Vinales Valley National Park

The Viñales Valley in western Cuba is an adventure-lovers’ playground. Our local insider Claire takes you trekking, climbing, zip-lining, and horse-riding through this UNESCO World Heritage-listed hidden gem.

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The Viñales Valley is made up of limestone mounds, known as mogotes, that are covered with shaggy vegetation, rising from the flat floor of the valley.

This photogenic landscape is surrounded by Royal Palms, oxen tilling fields, tobacco fields, and tobacco leaf drying huts. The views here are simply sublime – especially on blue-sky days.

Small tobacco plants in the Vinales Valley. Photo credit: Claire Boobbyer

At the heart of the valley is the small town of Viñales, now the tourist capital of western Cuba.

From here – and its vast number of excellent B&Bs – travelers can explore the caves, the mogotes, the tobacco, and the great food.

Trekking in the Viñales Valley National Park

The Viñales Valley National Park is crisscrossed with trekking routes.

The Visitors’ Center, close to the Los Jazmines Hotel, has tons of information and a booking service. If you’re planning a trek here, make sure you bring an official guide.

Horse Riding in the Viñales Valley

Horse riding in Vinales Valley. Photo credit: Claire Boobbyer

Riders can hire horses and guides through many B&Bs in town; this also gets you into the neighboring valleys.

The horse ride to the Palmarito Valley will lead you past tobacco leaf-drying huts to the Palmarito Cave, where you can swim. 

Zipline Canopy Tour in the Viñales Valley

On the edge of the Palmarito Valley, at Loma del Fortín, there’s a new zipline canopy tour. With four lines and eight platforms, it’s a great way to get a bird’s eye view of the valley as you fly through the air.

Climbing and Caving in the Viñales Valley

Climbers can come to grips with the mogotes and climb more than 250 routes offered here. 

Spelunking or caving fans should head to the Santo Tomás Caves to explore some of the 28 miles of subterranean stalagmites and stalactites. Guides and headlights are provided for your safety.

Top Landmarks Close to Viñales Town

If you’re staying in Viñales Valley, here are a few attractions you can visit. These are all accessible either by a bit of walking, a taxi, or by the hop-on hop-off Viñales BusTour, which takes an hour to circuit the sites and departs 8 times a day.

To the north of town, inside a mogote, is the Cueva de San Miguel cave, where you can see a reconstruction of a runaway slave settlement. Don’t miss a meal at El Palenque de los Cimarrones restaurant while you’re here for some delicious local fare.

North of here is the popular Cueva del Indio, where a boat ride powers visitors through the cave.

West of town is the shockingly lurid Mural of Prehistory defacing a mogote wall, which was designed in 1961 by a Cuban muralist. Shield your eyes and walk beyond here into the valley to a new mirador for drinks and fantastic views.

South of town, up the valley side, is the small La Casa del Veguero. In this small tobacco farm, you can witness cigar-rolling, but you’re better off with the real deal in Vuelta Abajo.

At the top of the hill, the viewing terrace of the Hotel Los Jazmines offers outstanding valley views.

Close by, sip a mojito at the cute Balcón del Valle restaurant in the trees with its winning mogote views.

Thing to Do in Viñales Town

Vinales town street and locals. Photo credit: Claire Boobbyer

After shooting the breeze with the owners of your B&B while sitting on the terrace rocking chairs, mojito in hand, explore some of the activities in the town center.

The Jardín Botánico (Botanical Garden) was set up by two sisters, Carmen and Caridad. Today, the tangle of plants and flowers is still flourishing, and visitors are welcome to wander the grounds and dine in the small restaurant. 

Those with bigger appetites should head up the hill for the farm-to-table feast at outstanding organic Finca Wilfredo’s, with its pretty wooden house and awesome panoramic mogote views.

Feasting should be followed by dancing. Look out for the band Sol del Valle at the Patio del Decimista, and salsa bands at Patio de Polo Montañez, as well as disco and live band nights at Cueva San Miguel.

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Put down the cigars and step out of the vintage cars! Explore historical sites of revolution, taste peso food, or go diving among vibrant marine life.

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