Cycling around Vinales

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
6
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
3
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
6
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
7
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
3
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
5
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
60 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
North America
country
Cuba
Length of time
1 day or less
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 10
Time of year visited
May
Primary Tags
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RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
204th/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 70% SUMMARY RATING: Worth doing

Summary

Heading to the Vinales area is all about the broader adventure of getting a feel for Cuba.  The cycling is fun for half a day, the surrounding landscape is nice to look at and the little town of Vinales has some cute restaurants and pleasant main street.  But anywhere else in the world, it wouldn’t really be something to write home about.  Yet, it Vinales being in the Cuban countryside that makes it so interesting and a great stop as part of a week long visit to Cuba (see my recommended itinerary for a week in Cuba here – Going back in time for week in Cuba)

highlights

#1 Cycling through the tradition-steeped landscapes of Vinales, with some gorgeous green hills breaking up the area into a nice ride through

#2 Watching the lazy world go by from a porch on the main street . . . sipping mojitos

#3 Seeing some of the very colourful, and very odd, displays painted on the sides of the hills

Travel Tips

  • We stayed at Casa Nenita and would recommend – as with so many casa particulars (local homestays), very friendly and the rooftop has some great views across the low rise town and surrounding hills
  • For cycling, the highlight is the Valle de Vinales – which is just to the west of town.  Also generally just have a cycle round – the landscape is quite flat and very pretty for slow paced exploring
  • You’ll be able to rent your bike through your homestay for very cheap.  Just make sure you test the breaks first! (really – test the brakes)
  • The town itself – let yourself have a wander of the bars and restaurants along the main street and just off it.  Some great little spots for sitting by the porch watch the lazy town go by and for ad hoc rooftops to see the sun go down
  • Getting there from Havana and around – my suggestion is to get a local Cuban (such as in your homestay) to help you out – a driver through them will be more expensive than local public transport but save you a lot of hassle and time.  We got a collectivo taxi shared with 4 of us in total and was around US$80
  • Broad travelling in Cuba tips:
      • Cuba often feels like another world – my suggestion is try to embrace this and enjoy the experience.  Throw out the window the expectations of efficiency and how you think things should be run, and be prepared for things simply not to work.  The idea, for example, of customer service can often be very alien in certain industries and you’ll find yourself often being completely ignored in a shop when the shop attendant has found something more interesting to do
      • That being said, the Cuban people are a seriously friendly bunch who, if you engage them with the right level of friendliness and respect, can be the real highlight of your trip.  To be able to have a discussion (languages permitting) with people who look at the world so differently to you and are so proud and enthusiastic for their country, is something you’ll always remember
      • Stay in a Casa Particular – from what we saw, some of the international hotels (in particular in Havana) were super expensive.  Way better to stay in a casa particular (private homestay).  Whilst the standard won’t be high, its a better experience as it allows you to meet local Cubans (arguably the highlight of the whole trip for us) and to see more of the real side of Cuba (think living in a tropical 1950s).  To find the right homestay, I’d suggest starting with Airbnb and www.cubacasas.net (booking.com didn’t work at the time in Cuba)
      • Cash – the money situation is a funny one and one that seems to change quite often.  The best tip is just to do a 10min search on google before you go and check with your bank / credit card company as to whether your card will work for withdrawals and for spending.  Broadly when we went, anything US-aligned (eg cash and cards) didn’t work.  Euros did
      • See here for my itinerary for Going back in time for a week in Cuba

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone