Trinidad, Cuba should be a highlight of any Cuba trip.
Founded over 500 years ago as one of Cuba’s original 7 Spanish “villas,” it seems as if the town is still stuck in the colonial days. Characterized by brightly colored Spanish colonial buildings, linked by cobblestone streets, & surrounded by beckoning mountains & breezy beaches, Trinidad has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site & has a little bit for everyone.
Despite having limited time in Cuba, I ended up spending a solid week in Trinidad. I couldn’t bring myself to leave. Sure there are plenty of people who say “Trinidad is too touristy!” To those people I have only one question, “Why do you think that is?”
People go to Trinidad not only because is it scenic & lively, but also because there is a healthy selection of things to do. After spending 7 days in Trinidad filled with plenty of activities and an opportunistic attitude, I’ve whittled down what are, in my opinion, the 5 best things to do in Trinidad, Cuba.
Bike Ride to Playa Ancón
Regardless of your method of transportation, at least go to Playa Ancón because it’s a lovely beach to spend a day or few at. But instead of a taxi ($8 CUC one way, $15 CUC roundtrip), we opted for renting & riding bicycles.
Workable bicycles can be procured for $4 CUC/day, but make sure you test the brakes! The ride is a leisurely 1 hour, 12km(8 mile) pedal from town. Be sure to take the fork right at Casilda on your way to the beach! The trip will take you through a few typical Cuban towns, past farms with cows grazing, and out onto the windy peninsula until you reach the beach, the whole time with beautiful views of the mountains.
On the way back there is only one hill and it’s more long than it is steep, gradually climbing on your way back into town. You’ll break a nice little sweat & feel better about all the peso pizzas & sugary mojitos you’ve been consuming lately!
We rented our bikes from Victor at Hostal Victor. Actually, he piece-mealed them together from various friends, but they were all decent bicycles that held up for us for $4CUC each.
Dance & party at Casa de La Musica
Although nearly every Cuban city has a Casa de la Musica, Trinidad’s version is special. Staged high above the centro & uniquely nestled on the escalinata (staircase) above Plaza Mayor, the party here never disappoints.
Imagine a massive cobblestone staircase in which every stair is 4 feet wide, in between a bar & a music stage. The result is hundreds of people dancing on the various stairs, creating as many levels of dance floors as there are stairs. It’s a must-see experience, and you’ll have no excuse to not see it. They perform live music every night from 7pm on.
Horseback ride or hike to Javira Waterfall
Once in Trinidad, it’s not hard to look out towards the looming Escambray mountains and wonder what kind of adventure they offer. We immediately started hearing about different options for things to do from other travelers & jineteros (street hustlers). Topes de Collantes was a little far for us, & Valle de los Indios sounded enticing, but we were looking for something more natural. When our friend Felipe, a local construction worker started telling us about a nearby waterfall that he could take us to on foot or horseback, we decided to go for it with no expectations.
We chose to make the trip on foot to get a bit of exercise, and it turned out to be our surprise highlight of Trinidad. Felipe guided us the entire way to Javira waterfall, which cascades into a sparkling green swim hole thats perfect for a typical, hot Cuban day. There are cliffs to fling yourself off of, and & a swimmable cave system that extends behind the waterfall.
The waterfall/swim hole was worth it in itself, but if that wasn’t enough, Felipe then invited us into his home where we met his entire family & ate dinner with them after the tour. He refused to accept money, and we practically had to stuff money in his pocket & walk away before he could return it.
Now I wouldn’t expect a free tour or dinner, but do expect a fun time with a truly humble & genuine Cuban family (his daughter & cousin also accompanied us on the hike). Felipe told us he normally charges $10 CUC/person for the 4-5 hour horseback tour, and any Spanish ability will enhance the experience. Felipe can be contacted via his sister Rosa’s cell # 54593153. For more detailed info on how to find him, please see the Spanish Challenge! under the Trinidad section in this post.
Get lost with your camera
Trinidad is a shutterbug’s paradise with every corner providing a new photo opportunity. The multi-colored buildings line 500 year old cobble-stone streets with guajiros smoking cigars underneath their sombreros & strumming trova guitar chords.
It’s difficult to say to yourself “ya, basta!” (that’s enough!) and put the camera up, because the moment you do, something else photogenic crosses your path.
I recommend wandering through the Tres Cruces neighborhood. It’s surprisingly close to the center of town to feel so removed from the tourist traps & hustling street acts. Be sure to have plenty of space on your memory card, and bring little things like sticks of gum or bars of soap to give away to the begging children.
Get a good bird’s-eye view of town
If you’re like me, getting a good aerial view of new cities & towns while traveling is a must. Trinidad is every bit as scenic from above as it is in the streets, and there are a few places to see this. The obvious option is to climb the tower of La Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco right in the middle of town. It cost $1 CUC to climb the rickety stairs & get the bird’s-eye of the tiled roof squares of town, and includes access to an interesting museum on the first floor.
For more of a workout, opt for a climb to the radio tower on top of the hill overlooking the town center. Ask for the “calle que sube para la torre de radio” (road that leads to the radio tower). A 30 minute climb will reward you with a nice vista overlooking Trinidad & the nearby coastline.
Want a decent view but don’t want to break a sweat? There are some old church ruins next to the new hotel under construction above the Casa de la Musica that offer a nice vantage point to smoke a cigar and ponder life.
So make sure you budget Trinidad time into your Cuba trip!
No matter what kind of traveler you are, finding something fun to do in Trinidad, Cuba should be no problem. I would have liked to visit some more of the nearby attractions, seen more art galleries, and had more rum & salsa-fueled nights in Casa de la Musica for that matter, but overall I had a great time in Trinidad.
Make sure to try out some of my 5 best things to do in Trinidad, Cuba for yourself and you’ll be on your way to a memorable stay!