Cycling Cuba, Havana to Trinidad
Cultural, rhythmic and evocative, Cuba promises to be like nowhere else you’ve cycled. This vibrant Caribbean island has many steep contrasts. It boasts beautiful beaches and tropical sun, crumbling but opulent architecture, cigar-smoking Cubans who groove to salsa beats in the streets, and a revolutionary history of both triumph and oppression. Cycling through Cuba is one of the best ways to experience this fascinating country. Most Cubans travel by bike, rendering the roads relatively car free. On this adventure we spend eight days biking through Central Cuba’s most cultural and historically rich cities, including Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, and the Bay of Pigs. We stay far from the all-inclusive beach resorts and experience the authentic Cuba.
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|2||Havana to Matanzas||35 km/22 mi||171 m / 561 ft||Hotel||B,L,D|
|3||Matanzas to Playa Larga||90 km/56 mi||335 m / 1076 ft||Hotel||B,L,D|
|4||Bay of Pigs - Cienfuegos||45 km/28 mi||119 m / 390 ft||Hotel||B,L,D|
|5||Trinidad||80 km/50 mi||551 m / 1807 ft||Hotel||B,L,D|
|7||Manicaragua to Santa Clara||20 km/12 mi||539 m / 1768 ft||Hotel||B,L|
Day 1: Arrival Havana
Upon arrival into the Havana International Airport, a BikeHike Adventures representative will greet you and transfer you to a comfortable hotel in Havana. The remainder of the day is spent at leisure exploring this fascinating city. You’ll find crumbling palaces, vintage American cars, and meet the local people who are frequently huddled together in the streets, smoking Cuban cigars.
Day 2: Havana (Biking)
We’ll start with a group orientation before fitting everyone with bikes. Then we’re off for a morning cycling tour of Havana, exploring the Presidential Palace, the most important Colonial Squares, the Revolution Square, and the Prado promenade. This is the ideal way to see Havana, as we can get into the nooks and crannies of this eclectic city and really experience the pulsing rhythm of Cuba. It is important to drop any preconceptions at the door and enter Cuba with an open mind, being ready to be shocked and surprised by everything and everyone you encounter. Havana is a fascinating city, economically poor, but architecturally opulent, culturally rich but at the same time difficult to understand. We’ll break for lunch in a restaurant and then have a bit more time to explore on your own before transferring to Matanzas, a beautiful colonial city on the coast. Here we’ll check into a comfortable hotel and have dinner. Biking 35 km / 22 mi. Total ascent: 171 m / 561 ft (B,L,D)
Day 3: Playa Larga (Biking)
Today we set off from our hotel, cycling through Matanzas to the Peninsula of Zapata. We ride from north to south crossing many citrus orchards and what used to be prime sugarcane land. We’ll have a few kilometres on the Carretera Central. This single lane road is now used for local traffic, so expect to share the road with ancient Soviet tractors, inner town buses, trucks, 50’s American Cars, horses, and other cyclists. Cuba once became extremely rich farming sugarcane. We’ll cycle through villages where entire families were once employed in the crops. About 20 km / 12 mi into the ride we’ll reach Triumvirato where a monument commemorates a slave uprising and reminds us that Cuba was one of the last countries to relinquish slavery. At the 65 km / 38 mi mark we stop in the small agricultural town of Pedro Betancourt. From there we continue another 25 km / 16 mi to Jaguey Grande where we’ll stop cycling and transfer to Pio Cua for a late lunch. After lunch we transfer by vehicle to Hotel Playa Larga, a basic hotel right on the beach where the CIA invasion of Cuba happened in April 1961 during the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Those who are still keen to cycle can cycle this last leg. Dinner will be in one of the seafood paladars (family run restaurant) in Playa Larga. Total ascent: 335 m / 1076 ft (B,L,D)
Day 4: Zapata Peninsula (Biking)
We start with a dawn walk through a nature reserve, birdwatching with our guide. We’ll return to our hotel for breakfast then spend the rest of the morning on our bikes. We’ll ride around the biggest swamps in Cuba (Zapata’s Peninsula). The road clings to the Bay of Pigs, giving us views of the emerald Caribbean Sea. We’ll stop at Playa Giron to learn how the CIA backed the invasion of Cuba in the early 60’s. From here we have a short ride to lunch in Caleta Buena, a natural sea pool teeming with tropical fish. There will be the opportunity to have a dip in the Caribbean after lunch. From here we’ll continue by vehicle to Cienfuegos or carry on cycling for a further 20 km / 12 mi or so. Tonight we’ll dine in a paladar on the waterfront of Cienfuegos. Overnight in a comfortable hotel. Biking 45 km / 28 mi. Total ascent: 119 m / 390 ft (B,L,D)
Day 5: Trinidad (Biking)
We’re back on our bikes this morning, riding along an undulating coastal road with a few short steep hills that lead us through beautiful pasture lands. Around the 20 km / 12 mi mark we’ll be rewarded with the spectacular view of the Escambray Mountain range across a valley of sugarcane fields. The road then sweeps up and climbs over gentle hills until we meet the coast just beyond Guajimico. We stop for lunch after 50 km / 31 mi. The final 30 km / 19 mi is on a flat road that clings to the glistening Caribbean coastline all the way to Trinidad. There are some hilly sections just before Trinidad, but once we enter Trinidad it’s downhill all the way to our accommodation for the night. Tonight we’ll be enjoying Cuban hospitality, staying in a Cuban style bed and breakfast (casa particular). The accommodation is simple but the rooms are air-conditioned and have en-suite bathrooms. We’ll enjoy a home cooked dinner prepared by our hosts this evening before heading out into Trinidad to explore this charming World Heritage Site. Overnight in a casa particular. Total ascent: 551 m / 1807 ft (B,L,D)
Day 6: Trinidad
Today we have a full free day in Trinidad. Trinidad is probably Cuba’s most famous provincial town and rightly so. It’s a picture-perfect colonial town with cobbled streets, pastel painted colonial homes and very little traffic in the centre – other than horses and the occasional vintage car. Walking around Trinidad is like stepping back in time. In the evenings, Trinidad welcomes visitors with live music and local bars where you can kick back and enjoy a rum cocktail or practice your salsa steps. Optional activities can be arranged locally including horseback riding, catamaran trips, and salsa classes. Overnight in the same casa particular. (B)
Day 7: Manicaragua to Santa Clara (Biking)
For those who want the ultimate cycle challenge, set off from Trinidad by bike and climb the steep route up to Topes de Collante. Although only 20 km /12 mi in total, the route is part of Cuba’s pro cycling race, the “Vuelta de Cuba,” so expect some steep hills! We start with a tough 10 km / 6 mi uphill grind of switchbacks that winds through a pine and eucalyptus forest. Once we reach the summit, we descend to Santa Clara. Today is the most spectacular scenery day as we cycle through the national park. Palm trees and other tropical plants slowly replace pine forests. We cycle along the valley floor between impressive mountains before reaching the market town of Manicaragua where we’ll stop for a picnic lunch. From here we either continue by bike or transfer to Santa Clara by bus, arriving in time to visit Che’s Mausoleum before checking into our hotel for the night. Tonight you’re free to wander through the centre of Santa Clara and pick up dinner in a restaurant or paladar of your choice. Total ascent: 539 m / 1768 ft (B,L)
Day 8: Havana
We’ll transfer back to Havana this morning, arriving in time for lunch. After lunch we’ll have a two-hour tour of Havana in a vintage American Car, finishing in El Floridita Restaurant for a famous daiquiri. El Floridita is where the daiquiri was originally developed and was famously frequented by Ernest Hemingway back in the 1930’s. They even designed a daiquiri in his honour. This evening we’ll head into Old Havana for our final dinner in a central located paladar. We’ll then return to our hotel for our last evening in Cuba. (B,L,D)
Day 9: Departure
You’ll be transferred to the Havana Airport for your flight back home. (B)
Important Note: BikeHike Adventures is a Canadian based company and does not hold a license that allows U.S. citizens to legally visit Cuba yet. Therefore, any U.S. citizens that participate in this tour are solely responsible for any possible legal implications thereof.
Meals as indicated (B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner), all accommodation (twin shared), all internal transportation, mountain bikes (Specialized Hard Rock Sport Disc.), support vehicle, airport transfers and veteran guides.
Trip Does Not Include:
Gratuities, airport departure taxes, meals not indicated and items of a personal nature.
8 Breakfasts, 6 Lunches, 5 Dinners
Hotel: 8 Nights
Cuba is a country shrouded in mystery. Its notorious struggle with internal and external political conflict has greatly overshadowed its cultural soul. First time travellers are surprised to find an intriguing and romantic setting, and not the drab communist-warn state they were expecting. Instead, Cuba is a colourful world of gritty architecture, vintage cars, offbeat markets, and passionate locals. Its unique blend of classic culture and raw spirit is a rarity in a quickly globalizing world. The time is now.