Vinales is what you see on Cuban postcards; lush, green landscapes, mountains, horses and tobacco farms dot this beautiful landscape. Unfortunately, our trip to Vinales was cut short due to poor planning on our part. It was in Vinales that we first started to realise that we hadn’t brought with us enough cash and we only had US credit cards that wouldn’t work in Cuba. Once we realised this we quickly took the bus back to Havana hoping to figure something out in the city.
However, going back to before things became so bleak…
We organised a taxi from our Casa in Havana to pick us up at 7am to get to the bus terminal. The bus was due to leave at 8.30 but they all recommend to get there early. The Taxi cost us $10, the bus was $12pp and then when we got there the owner of the Casa picked us up from the Bus. Vinales is small and there were heaps of Casa owners at the Bus stop so you could possibly go without booking anything and find something there. I actually wish we would have done this because we didn’t really like where we stayed.
We booked Casa Tony y Odalis through Casa Vieja in Havana and it was pretty bad, it was one of the reasons why we left Vinales. The bed was very hard, there was no toilet seat, the electric shower blew up (literally with sparks and smoke), even before that it barely worked. The only thing that I’ll say was the hosts were amazing and the food was good. But, I wouldn’t recommend staying there.
I would recommend the horseback tour through the countryside with Tony. Tony is a friendly, funny, knowledgeable guide who made a miserably rainy afternoon magical. We started off on our tiny horses through this gorgeous landscape where everywhere you look is a postcard. Our first stop was a tobacco farmer who showed us his drying shed and explained (in Spanish) about his process. Then we sat around and watched him roll a cigar, he then lit a few up for us to smoke. The cigars made in these small farms are free from any chemicals or nicotine, they’re smooth to smoke and taste like rum and honey (what he sprays on them as they’re drying). Really beautiful. Just be careful, if you buy some they might be badly rolled and moist (it’s tropical weather so you can’t really help that), make sure you check them all before you buy them.
After that we visited a coffee bean farmer who also makes fantastic cocktails, a lake (which might’ve been nice if it wasn’t miserable weather) and lastly, a bar with an amazing, expansive view of rolling green hills, cows grazing, a little house sitting next to beautiful mountains. It was a beautiful place to have a drink and a cigar and I literally could not even tell you the name of it! During wet season you will only be able to get there by horse (and even then, it’s a sloppy ride), you’ll just have to take Tony’s tour to find out!
Vinales is a strange little town. Surrounded by farmers and breathtaking landscape tourism still fuels a lot of the town. Horse drawn carts share the road with 50’s American cars and huge, old, thunderous diesel trucks that spew fumes into the streets. You walk down the street and every second person has a Casa or a Taxi for you. As beautiful as it is, there’s really not a lot going on. I wouldn’t plan on staying for more than a few days, however, definitely plan on the trip to Vinales, It’s worth it.
A quick note… American credit cards do not work in Cuba, not in the hotels, not in the banks, not in the money exchanges. If all you have is US cards then make sure you take enough cash, plus some for emergencies. It’s quite expensive being a tourist in Cuba. Accommodation ranges from $25-300 a night, meals are around $5-$30. Although this might not seem too pricey for some, it’s not exactly a ‘cheap’ destination. We ended up with enough for food and accommodation but no extra for travel or fun which made things seem pretty bleak. We couldn’t get any money transferred from friends from any country (they’ve changed the rules recently so you can only send money to a Cuban resident) and we couldn’t even log into Paypal in Cuba. The embargo works…
Another quick note… We had lunch at a place called Villa Dary y Tuty and I had a sneaky look at one of the rooms there. Quite nice, lunch was nice, rooms were much nicer then where we stayed and were the same price.