Beyond the city, Trinidad is surrounded by impressive landscapes. There are several places that you can choose to explore. For example, the nearby beach Playa Ancón, Topes de Collantes National Park for hiking, waterfalls, and swimming, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site called Valle de los Ingenios which was the center of Cuba’s sugar industry. Depending on how many days you have to spend in Trinidad, you can enjoy them all or choose the one that best suits you.
The beautiful beach of Playa Ancón is situated a short distance away from Trinidad and offers a relaxing escape from the restless city, with crystal clear waters and long stretches of white sand. While we visited Cuba, we were more interested in the local life and culture and disregarded beaches. I do regret not having visited a single beach in Cuba. We should have done a day trip at the beach, either from Viñales to Cayo Jutias, or from Trinidad to Playa Ancón, or Havana to Varadero. We’re not big fans of lying in the sun and getting tanned, so we prefer being active. For this reason, we chose to explore Topes de Collantes National Park instead of resting on the beach.
Topes de Collantes National Park
This nearby national park features lush forests with hiking trails and waterfalls, a great place for outdoor enthusiasts. Don’t forget to take your swimwear if you wish to go for a swim at the Vegas Grande Waterfall or Salto del Caburní.
The National Park entrance is paid, and you need to purchase a ticket from a tourist office in Trinidad and then show it to a park ranger somewhere along the trail. Strangely, they only accept card payments for the ticket. As you may already know, many cards are not accepted in Cuba. We have a dedicated article about handling money and making payments in Cuba that we recommend you to check out. While in Trinidad, we had with us cards from 2 different banks. One didn’t work, while the other we prefer not to use while traveling for safety reasons. We spent around 20 minutes insisting that our card doesn’t work and that we would like to pay cash because we don’t have any other alternative. However, their rules are clear: only card payments. Unless we had a card that worked, we couldn’t explore the park. Finally, we pulled out the card issued by a Romanian bank that worked, and we got our tickets.
We took a taxi arranged by our host in Trinidad to take us all the way to Topes de Collantes, wait for us, and then take us back to Trinidad. The road is winding and uphill, a true challenge for Cuba’s old cars. Our driver made several stops along the way to cool down the car by throwing cold water on the radiator.
On the way, there’s also a great viewing point to admire all the greenery that surrounds that area. Obviously, this was also a great stop to let the old taxi car cool down.
Vegas Grande Waterfall
Moving forward, our driver stopped at a shop where you can get a quick tour, and discover how coffee is processed, and do some tasting if you wish. After walking through the coffee shop and their garden, the path to the Vegas Grande Waterfall revealed itself. Overall, finding the trailhead towards Vegas Grande Waterfall without the help of our driver seemed unintuitive. From there on, the trail was easy to follow with occasional signs pointing in the direction.
Along the way, you can have the opportunity to take a break and enjoy a refreshing drink. The trail goes up and down on a dirt path through lush vegetation. Adding to the experience, you can pass through a cave along the trail, but you can also avoid it on an alternative trail.
The waterfall is truly beautiful, but the water feels quite cold after hiking for 2.5km (1.5 miles). There’s also a lifeguard on duty, which was totally unexpected. Even if you don’t go swimming, this is a great place to sit in tranquility, admire nature, listen to the water, and enjoy the cool air that comes from it.
The trail to Vegas Grande Waterfall is not too difficult, but rather pleasurable and relaxing for a seasonal hiker. It took us just a bit over 2 hours with breaks and photos included. Out and back, the trail is almost 5 km (3 miles) long and has an elevation gain of 290 meters (950 feet).
Salto del Caburní
Salto del Caburní waterfall is not too far from Vegas Grande Waterfall, but there’s a separate trail that goes there. The trailhead is a short drive north of the trailhead of Vegas Grande. Theoretically, the 2 trails can be combined, but there isn’t an official trail for it. While we were at Vegas Grande we were not able to see any other trail that surely took us to Salto del Caburní. If such a trail exists, then it might be wise to take a local guide with you.
Otherwise, you can use the same taxi to go to the Salto del Caburní trailhead. The hike here is pretty similar in difficulty from what we read, but we haven’t done it. Looking back I regret it, but while we were there I guess we were too upset with the bad food experience we had the previous day in Trinidad. I’ll talk all about this under the challenges that we faced.
Valle de los Ingenios
Valle de los Ingenios is another place worth visiting. It is just a short drive from Trinidad, so whenever you’re in a taxi you can take a quick 1 hour detour to explore the remains of the sugar plantation and climb the Manaca Iznaga Tower for panoramic views. Again, we regret not having visited this UNESCO World Heritage Site on the same day we went to Topes de Collantes National Park. Our trip took only half of day, and we would have had time left to visit both Salto del Caburní and Valle de los Ingenios, or at least one of them.
Unfortunately, the challenges we faced in Trinidad left us powerless when faced with great exploration opportunities. I am sad thinking about it, and I regret not being able to enjoy the limited time we had spent in Trinidad.
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