DURATION: 2 DAYS
Vinales, in the province of Pinar Del Rio, is located three and a half hours West of Havana. It's a rainforest town in the valley floor, home to distinctive rock formations know as 'mogotes' only a few of which exist on the planet. The valleys climate and soil lends itself to the growth of tabacco with the area renowned for farming and cigar manufacturing.
The best way to see Vinales is by one of the many tours of the area, highlights for us included:
Just outside Los Jasminez is Casa Verde boasting quite the view of the valley and the local wildlife (a frog jumping on the table next to us!). El Olivio on the main street provides a comprehensive menu and is a popular alternative.
Cayo Juitas stole the show for us - being the closest to paradise I have come. A two hour drive out of town, the calm waters of an untouched remote beach comes with a bar so you can drink your Cuba Libre while sat in the warm Caribbean waters.
Your biggest accommodation decision will be wether or not to stay at Los Jasminez, the hotel with the famous view of the Vinales Mogotes (above) - we would recommend one night in the hotel.
A more economical/comfortable accommodation can be found in the valley floor at Casa Bernardo y Belkis, a charming location with a roof top swing looking out at the mogotes.
Public transport in Cuba is reserved for locals only, the Viazul is a bus service exclusively for tourists, which we recommend getting tickets the day before. Alternatives in Vinales are hiring a local or taxi driver, as was the case for our trip to Cayo Juitas. We negotiated $60 for round trip including waiting while at the beach. It was an experience in its own right, dodging chickens and other wildlife and providing an insight to rural Cuban life.
Be sure to bring insect reppellant, Mosquitos were quite previlant and aggressive, especially in the mountains and in the valley. A Mosquito net is a worth while investment even in the low season.
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