We enjoy walking very much. It gives you more time to admire things around you and let them sink in. Walking gives you more opportunities to observe the lifestyle of the local people and even interact with them. You can get a better understanding of everything around you with insightful details. For this reason, we never lose the chance to stroll around towns and pop in places whenever something catches our attention.
I never thought, for example, that we would be visiting a baseball field while in Viñales, and yet it happened. The sounds of the kids playing and their parents and friends cheering for them draw our attention one evening. We popped in and enjoyed watching an unexpected once-in-a-lifetime baseball game in Viñales.
The Town Center of Viñales
Viñales’ town center is made of a long strip of restaurants and shops, although most of them are not for tourists. Even so, it doesn’t mean that you can’t go inside shops and supermarkets. On the contrary, I believe that this is a unique opportunity to get a glimpse into the life of the Cuban people. Feel free to enter every store and take a look.
Some shops have clothes or toiletries, others have food and beverages for anybody to buy, and some shops are only for locals where they can buy rationalized foods (productos normados, venta normada).
Rationalized foods are basic food products that can only be bought by locals such as bread, rice, oil, and many others. Occasionally you can see people queueing up at these stores when a rationalized product is in stock again.
In the center of Viñales you can also sample the cheapest ice cream you could ever buy. The place is called Heladería El Rapidito and it should be a mandatory stop on the main street of Viñales. I forgot to mention that they are so quick at pouring the ice cream into the cone that we didn’t even have time to film it, so be prepared or you won’t even see it. In April 2023, an ice cream here was 15CUP, which is less than 10 cents (USD or EUR).
If you’re looking for souvenirs, then there is a great artisanal crafts market where locals sell handcrafted products, just off the main street. These products are truly unique because Cubanos have very little crafting materials at their disposal, but they are very ingenious and resourceful. For example, we bought a pair of maracas (musical instruments also called rumba shakers), and you can never guess what they are made of: the shell of an empty coconut filled with rubble. This artisanal market has lots and lots of unique stuff, most of them specific to Cuba, so they make for great souvenirs. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, it is still worth a look.
While strolling around Viñales you will get to see how locals go about their daily lives. While some private vendors sell hand-crafted objects, others sell vegetables and fruits on the streets. Since you are in a rural Cuban town, you can be sure that the fruits and vegetables are locally sourced. If you fancy a fresh, sweet, and juicy pineapple or any other fruit, street vendors in Viñales are a great choice.
Other peculiar things that you will get to see in Viñales are the trucks and cars they use to transport things and even potable water. Yes, you read correctly. In Viñales, potable water reaches its destination by trucks, and it gets stored in water containers that each house has and uses as tap water. Even though it is potable, it is not recommended to drink tap water as you might get diarrhea. Only drink bottled water in Viñales, and the entire Cuba for that matter.
Public transportation trucks are also a very unusual sight for us but for sure a very normal thing in the daily life of the locals. Their private means of transportation are old cars, and scooters, both with very loud engines.
If you’re looking for a short-distance taxi, then look no further than the horse-powered taxis.
All in all, the main street is wide and flanked by restaurants and shops in the very center, but then it gets wider, with lawns and high trees on the side and huge sidewalks. Here you will also encounter some beautiful houses that stand out. What Cuba has, and Viñales in particular, is very few cars, no traffic gems, and clear roads.
Trails in Viñales
Besides the main street of Viñales, there are a lot of secondary streets. Most of them are unpaved, or they have been paved a very long time ago. These roads go even deeper into the lives of people in Viñales. It is here where you get to see where people live. People in Viñales take great care of the things they have. They will always broom and clean their porch, take care of their garden, and keep everything clean and neat. You won’t see garbage on the streets in Viñales, which comes in a very high contrast with Havana.
As you can see, it is on these smaller streets of Viñales where the true character of Viñales opens up, displaying the rural and agricultural side of this beautiful town. First of all, note that you will get dirty!
Cueva de la Vaca
One of the streets on which we recommend you start your off-the-beaten-path adventure in Viñales is Calle Adela Azcuy, and head towards Cueva de la Vaca. The paved road soon turns into a reddish dirt road, but you can notice the same care that people have to keep a neat space outside their homes.
On this road, you will encounter occasional sightings of pigs and chickens. I believe that their land, animals, and crops are an important part of what makes Viñales so different. Although the basic foods are rationalized, like in the entire Cuba, people here can grow their own food, especially compared to Havana.
You will soon reach a sign marking the trails that you can go explore. There’s a long one of 6km (3.7 miles) and a short one of 1.5km (1 mile). Although this sign looks promising, don’t expect to see any other signs along these 2 trails. We recommend you turn left and head toward Cueva de la Vaca and walk the trail out and back. This trail is visible even on Google Maps when in satellite view. We marked the trailhead towards Cueva de la Vaca on the Cuba by Travelfoss Google Map.
The sign in the photo above is located where the X is on the map. If you turn left, there’s an easy-to-follow path towards Cueva de la Vaca. We went by bike on the path to the right, trying to reach Valle del Corazón and Cueva del Palmarito. The trail starts promising, but then it seems to be mostly for horses, and too difficult for bikes. There are horseback rides that start at this point and can take you to Valle del Corazón and even Valle de Dos Hermanas & Mural de la Prehistoria. This is the Red Route that we mentioned in the Viñales cycling guide.
The first part of the trail is a dirt road that eventually gets out of the trees, exposing the astonishing landscapes that surround Viñales.
You will walk close to agricultural land with crops, a tobacco house, some mogotes, a small lake, and an extensive pasture where goats graze undisturbed. There are some cows grazing across the lake as well, and perhaps horses resting, and the goats have a few suckling cubs.
From the wide pasture surrounded by mogotes, the trail leads you to the stairs that go all the way up to Cueva de la Vaca.
Caution: rocks might fall off the cliffs as you go up the stairs. As you can see some steps have been crushed by rocks that have fallen from above. Going up to the cave, and inside the cave is at your own risk.
Once you reach the cave, a strong smell will hit you. It’s the smell of bat droppings. Don’t worry, the bats are asleep during the day. The view from the cave is very picturesque. The cave is in fact a tunnel, and you can walk through it and get out on the other side of the mogote.
Make your way back to Viñales on the same path you came. Don’t rush, admire the landscapes and the stillness and beauty of nature. Once in Viñales, it’s time to enjoy a well-deserved dinner!
I am sure you will enjoy walking this trail. It is short, and straight. You can go by yourself, at your own pace, whenever you have 1h to spare, or even better 2h to spare in order to get immersed in the true beauty of Viñales.
There are numerous trails to walk around Viñales, but you have to pay close attention to where you are going, keep track of where you are coming from, and don’t venture too far on your own. Hurricanes are a common occurrence each year, and trails are often destroyed and then redone by locals walking the area. The new layout of trails might not be the same as the previous one, making maps useless.
Don’t be put off by what I am saying. I just want to make sure you are prepared. Ideally, take a gadget with you that records the path you’ve walked and helps you to follow it back. Garmin watches are probably best at this, but Apple Watches also have similar features.
There are a few other trails around Viñales that are not too long to explore by foot if you wish, but you can also opt for a horse or bike ride.
- Valle El Silencio is a very famous valley to explore near Viñales. Here you can also find tobacco farms, mogotes, caves, and mesmerizing landscapes. It can be done by foot, or even riding a horse. We’ve done it by foot with a guide, and we talk all about our experience in a more detailed article about Valle El Silencio.
- Locals told us that Presa El Salto lake is a great place to chill and even bath after a long walk or, even better, after a bike ride. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time in Viñales to reach Presa El Salto, but we would have really wanted to.
More Things To Do in Viñales
The exploration of Viñales doesn’t stop here. We have an article with lots of things you can do while traveling to Viñales.
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