Where's the Gringo?

Backpacking in Cuba – 4-6 Week Itineraries

Because Cuba has been shut off from capitalist principles for so long, many Cuban individuals & small businesses simply don’t understand how to market themselves & gain exposure.  Combine this with the scarcity of internet, and it can become difficult to find good, up-to-date information about what to do and how to get there, especially after you’re already on the road in Cuba.

I traveled Cuba from end to end for 6 weeks, and felt like I accomplished a lot while not “rushing it”.  I spent 3 weeks in the occidental (west), & 3 weeks in the oriente (east) and I decided to create 1-6 week suggested itineraries based on my travels there.  I will recap where I went, why you may want to go there, & include some contact details to improve your experience. Hopefully this will help eliminate some uncertainty & assist you in planning your backpacking trip to Cuba.

This is Part 2 of a 2-part series, and will detail my 4-6 week itineraries for backpacking in Cuba.  These itineraries are based on the assumption that you have already spent 3 weeks traveling western Cuba after landing in Havana, & supplement my 1-3 week backpacking in Cuba itineraries.  

Things to Note:

– My trip was between March 26–May 8th, 2015 during the dry season.  We had great weather the entire time, & travelers should note that weather may be an issue between May–October, which is the rainy season.  

– All prices were negotiated, and could be different for you depending on the season & your negotiation skills.  Don’t be shy about negotiating – it is expected & welcomed in Cuba.    

I personally vouch for the cleanliness & safety of each casa particular listed, and the friendliness & honesty of each person listed. 

$1 CUC = $1 USD.  Casa particular = houses that Cubans rent to foreigners.  For a more detailed description, please see Part 1 of my backpacking in Cuba itineraries.  

–  It makes more sense geographically to work your way across the island from west to east like I did, but if you have limited time to travel eastern Cuba, direct bus options to Baracoa/Santiago should be explored.  

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 12.52.03 PM

My route (after arriving from Santa Clara) in the east of Cuba – Mi ruta (despúes de llegar de Santa Clara) en el este de Cuba 

Backpacking in Cuba – 4 Week Itinerary

Santiago de Cuba

The 2nd largest city in Cuba, and located closer to Jamaica than to Havana, Santiago de Cuba in many ways feels like a different country.  The city prides itself on it’s Afro-Caribeño culture, and this unique melting pot has birthed everything from traditional dance son (from which salsa is derived), to Bacardi Rum, to The Revolution itself over the years.  It was here that Fidel Castro started the movement that would change the direction of his country, and eventually the world.

In addition to countless revolutionary sites & museums, the UNESCO site San Pedro de La Roca (El Morro) is worth a visit & the surrounding mountains provide endless opportunities for exploration.  Ladies – if you want to learn how to salsa, this is the place.  Cubanos line up to swing girls around the dance floor almost everywhere you go.

backpacking in cuba

El Morro used to defend the Bay of Santiago de Cuba from invaders – El Morro solía defender la Bahía de Santiago de Cuba de invasores

Tip: Don’t let all of those noisy motorbikes on the streets of Santiago get on your nerves.  Instead use them to your advantage.  It’s common practice to wave down any motorbike as they pass by, & ask for a quick “mototaxi” ride to where you’re going.  You can get around anywhere in the city for 10 pesos cubanos (less than $.50), which makes navigating the city surprisingly simple & cheap.  Don’t let them charge more, 10 pesos is the price.

backpacking in cuba

You see motorcycles everywhere in Santiago – Ves motocicletas por todos lados en Santiago

Suggested time: 3 days

Go for:  Revolution history, Salsa dancing your butt off, African folkloric dance shows

Where I stayed:  

Talk to Couchsurfer Lianne “Mama Chicken” Rodríguez & she can arrange cheap accommodation with her friends. Teléfono:  (+53) 53146937.  Correo (Email): liann76@nauta.cu.  CS Profile:  https://www.couchsurfing.com/people/liann76


backpacking in cuba

Overlooking Baracoa – En el mirador con la vista hacia Baracoa

Baracoa is the hardest place to get to in Cuba, and for many, the most enchanting.  Founded in 1511, Baracoa was the first Spanish settlement in Cuba, & Christopher Colombus described it as, “the most beautiful place in the world.”  It was isolated from the rest of Cuba for over 400 years until a highway was finally constructed up & over the mountains in 1965.

Being an outdoor enthusiast, I loved Baracoa as beckoning mountains, dark & white sandy beaches, & rushing rivers all converge in what is truly the most tropical corner of Cuba.  It reminded me of Costa Rica, but with the richer culture & timeless charm of Cuba.  Baracoa’s culinary scene is every bit as unique as it’s landscape, & the region’s abundance of banana, coconut, & cacao spice up the traditional Cuban diet, creating deliciously infused plates.

backpacking in cuba

The bridge over Río Miel en Baracoa – El puente de Río Miel en Baracoa

Tip: Most climb El Yunque mountain for a rite-of-passage Baracoan adventure, but those looking for a more refreshing day trip should look no further than Boca del Yumurí.  Take a boat from the beachside mouth of the river up into a spectacular canyon that looks like a scene out of Jurassic Park.  After docking the boat, allow yourself a few hours to hike up the winding river which has more clear, green swimming holes, hanging vines, & exotic birds around every corner.  

backpacking in cuba

Adventure awaits up the river in Boca de Yumurí – La aventura te espera en el río de Boca de Yumurí

Suggested time:  3-4 days

Go for:  Tropical adventures – hiking, climbing, swimming, caving, etc. 

Where I stayed:

Casa Ines María Hernandez Hernan.  Direción:  Flor Crombe 110 entre Frank País y Marabi.  Baracoa, Cuba. Teléfono: (+53) 21645698. Correo (email): yurimafabre@correodecuba.cu. What I paid: $16/night/room (up to 4 people) breakfast included.  

Backpacking in Cuba – 5 Week Itinerary

Spend more time in previously mentioned places, and add in…

La Boca, Santa Lucía

About 2 hours to the northeast of the city of Camagüey, near Playa Santa Lucía, is a little fishing town called La Boca.  Most people don’t go to La Boca, but when they do, they go for solitude & relaxation.  There are probably 50 people in the whole town, with only 3 casa particulares, 2 restaurantes, & 1 playa bonita.  Playa Coco is small & gorgeous, & sometimes it feels like you have the whole thing to yourself.  I was just about the only foreigner when I was there, and by the time I left I had met virtually the entire, friendly town.

backpacking in cuba

Stressed out? Go hang out in a hammock for a while on Playa Coco – Estresado? Date un tiempo para relajarte en una hamaca en Playa Coco

Tip:  Go find Tómas, who lives in the little wooden shack next to Hostal Coco Beach.  He is a phenomenal cook, & if you stay in town for a few days & promise to eat at his house everyday, you can negotiate to eat delicious seafood for dirt cheap  How cheap you say?  I ate lobster, octopus, & conch for $4/plate.  

backpacking in cuba

My $4, beach front octopus platter – Comiendo un plato de polpo que costó $4 frente a la playa

Spanish Challenge!:  Seek out Alexander & Daylenis’ family, who live on the point facing Playa Coco.  Alexander & his little brother go spear fishing everyday, and they will probably take you for free just like they did me.  Just tell them, “Hola, soy el amigo de Ford, el gringo que se quedó en su hamaca.  Él fue a pescar con ustedes, y me preguntaba si puedo ir también.  Les invito a tomar unas cervezas.” There you should be set, but know that you just bought them some beers in exchange for a fun-filled day spearfishing at a sunken ship wreck site.  Small price to pay, right?  Their cell # is 53272895 & house # 52267054.

Suggested time:  2-3 days, or as long as you don’t want to be found

Go for:  Beautiful, secluded beaches, great seafood, & feeling like you’re truly off the map

Where I stayed:

In my hammock between 2 palm trees actually – you should too, or you can stay at Hostal Coco Beach.  Santa Lucía, Camagüey, Cuba.  Teléfono: 5248-9359.  www.hostalcocobeach.com.


Guardalavaca has, put simply, some of the most stunning beaches in Cuba & all of the Caribbean.  There are plenty of spectacular beaches in Cuba, but most of them are owned by huge resorts (aka the government) & don’t allow the general public to access them.  The cool thing about Guardalavaca, in my opinion, is there are no laws prohibiting people from accessing the beach.  This means that you have a cool mix of Cuban families & foreign tourists interacting with each other, & creates a more humble atmosphere.  The resorts here are cheap, but there are also plenty of casa particulares around.

backpacking in cuba

Your dinner view from Miremar restaurant – La vista desde el restaurante Miremar

Tip:  head to the far end of the beach and you’ll find a pathway climbing up the rocks.  Continue to follow this pathway past the first restaurant, until you reach the top of the hill & find another restaurant called ‘Miremar.”  This places has the best view in Guardalavaca, & tasty seafood platters starting at $6-8, plus the owners are instant friends. 

Suggested time:  2-3 days

Go for:  White sand & turquoise blue water

Where I stayed:

In my hammock on the beach again, but you can stay with Señora Marlay Ricardo Perez. Dirección (address):  Edificio 7, Apartamento 9. 1ra Planta, Frente a la Avenida.  Guardalavaca, Cuba.   Teléfono: 52976534

backpacking in cuba

The perfect place to hang the hammock – El lugar perfecto para colgar la hamaca

Backpacking in Cuba – 6 Week Itinerary

Spend more time in previously mentioned places, and add in…


backpacking in cuba

The labyrinth streets of Camagüey – Las complicadas calles de Camagüey

Camagüey is an interesting city in the middle of Cuba that was built like a giant labyrinth in order to confuse pirates during potential invasions of the city.  It feels like you’re in some sort of video game level when you’re walking around the city, and there are plenty of parks & cool museums to duck out of the Caribbean sun from time to time.

backpacking in cuba

Having a chat with the statues of Camagüey – Conversando con las estatuas de Camagüey

Tip & Spanish challenge:  contact Couchsurfer Jorge Diaz.  He speaks some English, but you’ll be forced to practice some Spanish as he shows you around the city.  He also will arrange some cheap accommodations through his friends. (+53)54044387 Email: jedpacheco@gmail.com CS Profilehttps://www.couchsurfing.com/people/jedpacheco

Suggested time:  1-2 days

Go for:  Unique city layout & architecture.

Where I stayed: 

Casa Particular Aleida Ríos.  580 San Martin, Camagüey, Cuba.  Teléfono: +53 32 240612.  What I paid:  $20/night/room (up to 4 people)


Gibara is a vintage fishing village located on the coast about 45 minutes north of Holguín.  Most tourists head to the well-known resort beaches of Guardalavaca, and few venture here.  Gibara has some well-preserved squares, pretty beaches nearby, some caves to explore, & Spanish fort ruins.  But what I found to be most unique was Gibara’s geographic setting – an oceanfront town that is surrounded by oddly-shaped mountains.  Furthermore, every year Gibara sets the stage for the Festival Internaciónal del Cine Pobre (Low budget film festival).  People come from all over the world to this indie film festival to indulge in film screenings, street parties, comedy shows & street food.

backpacking in cuba

Gibara is surrounded by weirdly shaped mountains – Gibara está rodeado por montañas de distintas formas

Tip:  Contact Yudy & Julio, a lovely couple who sell handcrafts in Guardalavaca but live in Gibara.  Not only will they show you all the best places around town, they will bend over backwards with their hospitality to make you feel at home & comfortable.  They will help you find accommodations with friends in town.  Their cell #’s are 58606411 52468938 & email is yudiamor@nauta.cu.

Suggested time:  1-2 days

Go for:  Getting off the tourist trail, a unique film festival, stunning landscape

Where I stayed:  See tip above

And that was pretty much my route!

There are many places I didn’t go to in the oriente (east) of Cuba, but I’m happy with the 3 weeks that I spent there.  If I had more time I would have liked to have gone to places Jardines de la Reina for scuba diving, or to the Sierra Maestra mountains to climb Pico Turquino or see La Comandancia de la Plata, Fidel Castro’s hidden, mountaintop base where he headquartered the Revolution.  I just have more of a reason to come back!

Overall, I would say that the oriente of Cuba is drastically different from the occidental (east). Both are worth a solid look, and I recommend taking 2 distinct trips to Cuba to allow time to thoroughly explore both, or spending at least 6 weeks in Cuba to travel the entire island. Whatever you do, DON’T try to cover the whole island in 3 weeks.

Are You Ready to Go Backpacking in Cuba?!?

If you’ve already been to Cuba, do you agree with my suggestions?  Which parts of Cuba do you recommend for 4-6 week itineraries?  I’m curious to hear about any cool places that I may have missed!

For those traveling a shorter amount of time, please check out Part 1 which covers 1-3 week itineraries on backpacking in Cuba & focuses on the western part of the island.



6 thoughts on “Backpacking in Cuba – 4-6 Week Itineraries

  1. Susan

    Your descriptions and information is so thorough and detailed. Very helpful. Thank you. DId I miss where you are from. I am wondering the best route to take from Chicago,,,,Is it best to go from Mexico???

    Any suggestions?

    1. fordquarterman Post author

      Thanks for reading my blog Susan! I am from Georgia, but my parents met in Chicago so that city will always have a place in my heart. I would recommend flying to Mexico first, yes. If you look at the airline Interjet, they have very economical flights from Mexico to Cuba (I believe I bought my roundtrip from Mexico City to Havana for $200). Neither the Mexican nor the Cuban customs care anything about Americans coming to Cuba, so you’ll be alright! Just make sure you ask the Cuban customs to stamp your tourist VISA paper instead of your passport. Let me know if you have any questions and enjoy Cuba!

    1. fordquarterman Post author

      Hey Gau. I’m glad you asked. I spent about $1,500 USD in 6 weeks – SUPER cheap. That’s because I weaseled my way into cheap situations with my Spanish and dirtbagging lifestyle (aka I slept in my hammock on the beaches, and under a few roofs illegally). I also ate wayyyy too many peso pizzas and took loads of local transport (camiones, gua-guas, etc.). The key is to get Cuban pesos and use them as many ways as possible. I’ll be posting a “How to Travel Cuba Cheaply” post here in the next few weeks so I hope you’ll check back for some tips and tricks and how to make it work for a shoestringer’s budget! Cheers!

  2. David Thurlow

    Hi Ford, I’ve just been reading with interest your article on East Cuba, we,that is Eden,my wife and I are flying into Holguin in early March for three weeks,not backpacking as such but travelling quite lightly, we have already booked into a casa for our first two nights in Gibara. La Boca in one direction and Baracoa in the other both look interesting for the next part. Any information you can give would be appreciated,such as travel between Holguin and Baracoa,bus/taxi/how long etc,and Holguin to La Boca. Hope to hear from you,regards,David

  3. Pingback: Incredibly Detailed One Month Itinerary for Cuba - Hippie In Heels

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge