If you love the sorbet coloured buildings of Old Havana, you’ll go crazy for Trinidad Cuba.
I’ve been based in Havana for a year now and to celebrate this anniversary I wanted to visit Trinidad Cuba.
This may seem crazy but I haven’t seen a lot of Cuba outside Havana, because there is SO MUCH to learn about Havana.
I spent a few days in Viñales with Cuban friends for carnaval, spent the afternoon at Las Terrazas and only one night in Varadero.
This is going to change, starting with Trinidad.
Where is Trinidad Cuba?
Trinidad is one of the first colonial Spanish towns and today remains one of the best preserved. It has a history of wealth with sugar cane and tobacco plantations all made possible by slaves from Africa.
Today it costs a whopping 100,000 CUC to own a home in the centre of the historic city – unthinkable when the average state employee makes 30 CUC a month.
I wanted to visit Trinidad because the reviews are polarizing. Trinidad is a gorgeous Spanish colonial city founded in 1514 and today a UNESCO World Heritage site in Cuba.
BUT…I also heard the enthusiasm for the brightly coloured houses masked a touristy experience and the amount of jinteros approaching can be exhausting.
So I convinced M to come with me to Trinidad Cuba for a couple days. Most Cubans haven’t travelled much. He had never been even though Trinidad is only four hours away.
This is what saddens me about Cuba, most Cubans don’t know their own country. And I was really excited to discover the city together.
Located in south central Cuba, although Trinidad appears to be a small city there’s a whopping 74,000 people who live there.
There are a lot of people who travel from Trinidad to other cities, which means transportation options are plentiful. I list the options below but we had originally planned to go by bus.
Unfortunately when we went to the Viazul station the day before they said there were no seats we’d need to wait until next week.
But my anniversary was tomorrow so I was not waiting!
I told M we had to go tomorrow. I was worried something would come up and we just wouldn’t go next week.
He told the woman at the ticket booth we’d take a taxi colectivo (shared cab) and she shared that if we arrived an hour before the bus tomorrow there was a 99.9% chance we’d get a seat.
That works for me.
We arrived more than an hour and a half early to get the bus. However, as soon as we approached the station a taxi colectivo driver approached us.
It cost us 5 CUC more, but we were able to leave on the spot and the drive was 4 hours instead of 6 hours.
So a year later I still haven’t taken a Viazul bus. But it’s on my to do list!
How to Get to Trinidad Cuba
By Viazul Bus:
Cuba has one state owned bus company and it is the only way to travel by bus. You must arrive one hour in advance with a print out of your reservation.
Viazul Bus Havana to Trinidad (6-7 Hours)
Runs twice daily at 7am and 10:45am and costs 25 CUC.
Viazul Bus Vinales to Trinidad (10 Hours)
Runs once a day at 6:45am and costs 37 CUC.
Viazul Bus Cienfuegos to Trinidad (90 minutes)
Runs four times daily at 12:15pm, 2:40pm, 3:15pm and 6pm for 6 CUC.
The bus station is 5 blocks away from Plaza Mayor at Plaza Carillo. If you have an ETESCA card this is a wifi spot so you can get online and get your bearings in the city.
By Taxi Colectivo or Car:
Cienfuegos to Trinidad: 80 kilometers or 1.5 hours
Havana to Trinidad: 315 kilometers or 4 hours
Viñales to Trinidad: 420 kilometers or 6 hours
A colectivo is a taxi that drives from one point to another and you share the cab with strangers. Once a car or minibus is full it takes off.
There are colectivo stands, often outside the bus station but there are also some in town, which means you don’t have to get to the bus station, which is out of the way in Havana.
Casa particulares will often book one for you and arrange for a pick up. It may be a few dollars more but the Viazul station in Havana is in my neighbourhood Vedado.
As most tourists stay in Old Havana that means paying for a taxi to the bus station which is likely more money.
I like taxi colectivos because they’ll drop you off where you need to go. In our case the casa we wanted to stay at was full, so we told our driver that we wanted to spend 25 CUC/night and he took us to a great casa.
We also took his number and a few days later he picked us up to take us to Cienfuegos.
You can find more details on transportation with this post from WhyNotCuba.
There are three flights a week from Miami to Jaime González Airport in Cienfuegos. You can look up flight details at JustFly. From Cienfuegos it is a 90 minute drive.
How Long Do You Need in Trinidad
Plan to stay 2 nights. The first day you can explore the historical centre, the second day you can take a tour outside the city and the third you can spend at the beach.
Come back to Trinidad and you can head to Cienfuegos which is 90 minutes by taxi.
How Touristy is Trinidad Cuba?
Not as bad as I expected it to be. Similar to Old Havana there are people trying to sell you things but no one was overly aggressive.
When I’m with Cuban friends people don’t even approach me. But I spent a few hours on my own while M napped and no one bothered me at all.
I’ve heard the opposite from people I trust so maybe I was just lucky?
Best Time to Visit Trinidad Cuba
The weather in Trinidad Cuba is hot. We found the sun very strong in early February and that is one of the coolest months of the year.
The best time to visit Trinidad is during the dry season, which is November – April. It is hot during the day but cools off at night.
Cuba is the hottest from May through August and I think Trinidad would feel unbearable during July and August.
Best Things to Do in Trinidad Cuba
Before even thinking of visiting Trinidad you MUST have comfortable shoes. The streets are cobblestone and if you want to survive you need to put on your best runners.
I’ve been wearing these Roxy shoes which are super comfy but I don’t feel like I’m heading to the gym.
In Havana I quickly learned that most Cuban women wear running shoes, even with dresses. So if anything you’ll stand out less like a yuma if you’re wearing sneakers.
I have to admit that when I first arrived I didn’t look at my Google Maps to find the city centre and I ended up walking all around it. Once you see the sights walk a few blocks further to see how people live,
I use international data in Cuba. Learn how you can too in my guide to Internet in Cuba
But one of the best things to do is to just wander the streets and pop into places that seem interesting. The most recent Lonely Planet includes a walking tour that includes the most photogenic spots – check it out here.
The historic centre and also the centre of tourism. Plaza Mayor and the surrounding cities were paid for by the boom of the sugar cane and tobacco plantations along with cattle – all made possible by the slave trade. None of those industries prosper now but the architecture remains.
The great thing is that many of the sites are located on the centre of very close to it; however, like all famous squares it is where things are most touristy.
There are plenty of tourist restaurants and cafes here. But that’s kind of what Trinidad is about, it’s a beautiful city with lots of tourists.
Church of the Holy Trinity – Iglesias de la Santisima Trinidad
One of the most significant landmarks is on Plaza Mayor. It was once destroyed and rebuilt in 1892 and features a wood statue of Jesus from the 18th century.
M told me that while some things are closed on Fridays the Love Museum was open. I laughed and said I didn’t want to go there but it was a mis-translation as he was talking about the Museo Romantico.
19th century home of rich sugar baron Conde de Brunet, who live there 1830-1860, which is known as the Romantic period. It highlights interior design from several wealthy Brunet’s collection along with several other wealthy families in Trinidad.
It also has an open balcony overlooking Plaza Mayor and gives you a nice view of the city.
The entrance fee for Museo Romantico is 1 CUC.
52 Calle Cristo, Trinidad
Palacio Cantero (Museo Histórico Municipal)
The home of the Museo Historico Municipal, this building from the 1800s shares the history of Trinidad.
In addition to maps and other documents, the museum doesn’t shy away from sharing its history of slave tradition in addition to its battles and UNESCO World Heritage site designation.
But even if you’re not into history this place is fascinating. It’s a beautiful home that has a fantastic view of the city.
But locals call it Palacio Cantero after the man who cleverly stole from wealthy locals. The ultimate scammer, he murdered a wealthy businessman then married his widow in order to take his money.
Entrance fee for Palacio Cantero is 2 CUC.
423 Calle Desengaño
Casa Templo de Santeria Yemaya
The practice of Santeria in Cuba is fascinating. I took this a tour in Havana and I loved it because now I notice so much more just on the streets in Cuba.
This place of worship is a great place to learn about how African slaves brought their own religion of Yoruba to Cuba and were forced to hide it under Catholicism.
Calle Real del Jigüe, Trinidad
Convento de San Francisco
Built in 1813 by Franciscans, it was originally a convent, then a church, then a jail and almost completely destroyed.
Most people come for the bell tower, which has fantastic views of Trinidad and then realize there’s a museum on the bottom.
Home of the Museo Nacional de Lucha Contra Bandidos or the National Museum of the Struggle Against Bandits. It’s mostly photos, maps and a few artifacts with some information about the revolutionary history in Cuba. But like most museums in Cuba, it wasn’t great.
But it didn’t matter because like everyone else, we came for the bell tower.
Entrance fee for Iglesia y Convento San Francisco is 1 CUC
Calle Cristo, Trinidad
Museum of Colonial Architecture – Museo de Arquitectura Colonial
Visit the colonial design in the home of former sugar baron Iznaga.
Entrance fee for the Museo de Arquitectura Colonial is 1 CUC
83 Ripalda, Trinidad
Galería de Arte Universal Benito Ortiz
The former home of the Ortiz family, it features local arts and crafts from the 19th century. There are also art classes held here.
Calle Real del Jigüe, Trinidad
This is a beautiful colonial hall with checkerboard floors. A lot of tourists miss this, favouring other colonial architecture in Trinidad.
265 Calle Jesús María, Trinidad
Shopping in Trinidad
If you’re looking to shop for souvenirs in Cuba this is where to go. There are stores upon stores of pottery, paintings, dominoes and other Cuban kitsch. Don’t be afraid to negotiate a price.
Casa de la Musica
There’s a 7pm nightly live salsa music show. Just find the stone staircase beside Iglesia Parroquial, which is conveniently a wifi hotspot.
You can also enter Casa de la Music for a 1 CUC cover charge but it’s not needed. If you want to take salsa lessons (or casino, as Cubans call it) you can come here during the day.
Calle Cristo, Trinidad
Disco Ayala – Bar in a Cave
Oddly enough the club is named after Carlos “Coco” Ayala, who deserted the Cuban war of independence from the Spanish in the 1800s.
He became a serial killer who abducted children and brought them to the cave to kill them.
Who knows if this is true, but local parents would warn their children to be good or else Carlos Ayala would come for you.
We came here twice as locals told us it was the best spot. It’s only a ten minute walk up a steep dark hill to find a bar located in a cave 100 feet below. On the way there are lots of little pop-up stands selling alcohol along your walk.
Disco Ayala, also known as La Cueva, is open every night at 11pm until 3am, but no one really arrives before midnight. It’s can get quite hot down below so dress accordingly.
Beer costs 1.50 but we heard from others that bartenders charged them up to 3 CUC. Be confident when you order and give exact change.
RANT ABOUT TOURISTS IN CUBA:
There are also washroom attendants who ensure the bathrooms stay clean and often take the risk of buying the toilet paper themselves.
Some tourists complain about this in Cuba not knowing you should pay 10 cents, 25 cents if you are generous. No they don’t give change.
It drives me nuts when tourists say they want to be responsible travellers, are buying 3 CUC cocktails all night but don’t want to directly support a Cuban by spending 10 cents for toilet paper. /END RANT
It was mostly tourists at the bar and some Cubans. We noticed tons of jinteros here. Young guys just going from woman to woman looking for their best chance for who knows what. It didn’t concern us but was hilarious to watch.
Do NOT drink too much here as the 3am walk down the steep cobblestone hill can be tricky, trust me.
Entrance fee for Disco Ayala – 5 CUC includes one drink.
A hike to the top of the hill in Trinidad gives you a spectacular view. Be sure to leave very early in the morning as it gets very hot.
Day Trips from Trinidad Cuba
I’m not one for adventure travel but there are a number of easy hikes and horseback riding options in Trinidad Cuba.
Valle de Los Ingenios
The Valley of the Sugar Mills is just east of Trinidad and is an interesting mix of green sugar cane fields, sugar mills and palm trees amongst mountains.
It is one of Cuba’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and sugar is still grown here. It was also once home to 30,000 slaves working the sugarcane fields. It’s still possible to visit old barracks and to learn what slavery was like in Cuba.
If you’re looking to book a tour make sure it also includes:
- The Mirador de la Loma de Puertos
- Manaca Iznaga Plantation Tower
- House turned Restaurant Casa Guachingango
Topes de Collantes National Park
A nature reserve just outside Trinidad in the Escambray mountain range. If you’re looking to discover waterfalls, rivers and canyons this is the best place for hiking.
There are a number of trails that will take you through farms, tobacco and coffee plantations before reaching scenic waterfalls. The water is pretty cold until May but the region is so hot it’s often worth a quick dip.
Horseback Riding to Waterfalls
I don’t horseback ride at all anymore. I just don’t enjoy it and I have been on many horses around the world that don’t seem to be treated well.
Although the horses appear to look fine in Trinidad I wasn’t tempted and my Cuban friend thought February was far too cold to dip into the water – it was hard enough to get him to go to the beach!
But if you like horseback riding there are lots of tours available in the city.
Playa Ancon : Best Trinidad Cuba Beaches
Just 7 miles/12km outside Trinidad is one of the best beaches in Cuba. Playa Ancon is a stretch of white sand beach 4km long with the largest black coral reef in Cuba.
There are no casa particulares directly on the beach but there are three hotels. Unfortunately you cannot book through American-owned websites like Expedia because of the US embargo.
- Hotel Club Ancon: Read Reviews on TripAdvisor
- Memories Trinidad Del Mar: Read Reviews on TripAdvisor
- Club Amigo Costasur: Read Reviews on TripAdvisor
The bus stops at Hotel Club Ancon where you can rent lounge chairs and umbrellas for 2 CUC/day and there is a fresh water shower.
How to Get to Playa Ancon
By Bike: If you’re feeling energetic, you can rent a bike as it’s only 40 minutes out by bike. I had heard while the bike ride was short, it was a brutal ride out in the direct sun.
It is HOT in Trinidad Cuba. Just walking around the city was tiring so not an option for us.
By Bus: I was not interested in biking as I knew I could make it out but after a day in the sun I wouldn’t want to bike back.
There is a bus that runs several times a day. The price recently increased to 5 CUC return. It runs at 9am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm.
By Taxi: We asked our casa owner and she said that the lowest price was 8 CUC. I’m not a shoestring traveler, I don’t mind paying a few extra dollars for the convenience of a taxi.
Where to Eat in Trinidad
Cuban food gets a notoriously bad rap. I think it’s because Cubans try to guess at what tourists want to eat, but also because Cubans struggle with food security.
One day you may have eggs but they may not be around the next. In many ways it makes Cuban cooks incredibly versatile and inventive.
So here’s the low down on eating in Cuba:
At one point in Cuba’s history there were only restaurants owned by the state, and those fed all the tourists. These are notoriously the worst for service and food.
But former president Raul Castro, opened the economy and not only allowed Cubans to open casa particulares, which are essentially bed and breakfasts, but also paladares which are private restaurants.
In the beginning paladares were simply in people’s homes. But now they are basically just private restaurants. So they run from tiny mom and pop shops to more tourist-driven spots along Plaza Mayor.
In fact, apparently Trinidad has the most restaurants per capita in Cuba – more restaurants than Havana.
But, a paladare doesn’t ensure a good meal and neither does spending more money. If you eat in one of the beautiful cafes overlooking Plaza Mayor you may be paying more for the location than the quality of food.
Cuban’s Don’t Really Eat Out
Because Cubans don’t often eat out, the best Cuban food is in someone’s home. If you stay in a casa particular you should eat there, at least for one night.
They’ll often prepare something special for you and ask if you want, lobster or fish etc. If there’s something you’ve been wanting to try just ask.
If you want the ease of just popping into a restaurant, walk a few blocks outside Plaza Mayor. Look for small restaurants where locals are to find the best food, often they are called cafeteria. A good sign is that these restaurants will have prices listed in CUP instead of CUC.
These restaurants will cost significantly less than tourist restaurants. Expect local food at 2-6CUC whereas tour restaurants at 7-20 CUC. I like to list the price beer because I usually go to spots where beer is less than 2 CUC.
Restaurants close around 11pm so don’t make the mistake that we did and think we could take a nap and eat late. That meant we were left with street pizza, although it did have the most amazing garlic mayo on top so all was not lost.
Another night we decided to eat late we ended up in Cafe Adita. It was one of the priciest spots so I decided we should splurge and I would foot the bill. We ordered a beer each, appetizer and two mains for 38 CUC for dinner.
Cubans rarely can find or even afford steak. It often ends up in tourists restaurants and resorts. So he ordered steak and I ordered shrimp – something I never do in Cuba as it’s often disappointing. Yet we’re still talking about the food there.
The portions were huge and the shrimp was delicious and large. It was a splurge but well worth it.
Restaurante San Jose
Rated #1 on Tripadvisor, this place is so busy at lunch they now have the handheld buzzers tourists can take to wait for a table.
People try to place this off that it’s a cheap local spot but in fact it’s a tourist spot. But with beer for 1.50 and chicken at 4.50 it’s worth trying.
Maceo #382 Between Colon and Smith
Cafe Don Pepe
Coffee is extremely important for Cubans. They drink espresso several times and a day and having strong coffee is important.
However, they usually drink it at home or stop in small spots that cost less than 10 cents. Cafe Don Pepe is for tourists but it is a nice spot if you want to just take a break, sit down and have a great coffee.
It’s just a block away from Plaza Mayor on the same square as Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco.
Restaurant Sol y Son
A few blocks from Plaza Mayor, this is a really pretty spot with best food options for vegetarians.
Simon Bolivar #283 between Jose Marti and Frank Pais
This tavern is open 24 hours with happy hour specials and live music each night. With slave era decor, it’s very popular with tourists as it is a tapas spot.
M couldn’t understand why anyone would pay for small plates so he ordered the ropa vieja (9.30 CUC), which was a gigantic plate of food he said was spot on.
We had pretty good food here but I’ve heard mixed reviews so I suggest sticking with Cuban food rather than international food options.
I think the tapas options are fantastic if you want to share plates of traditional Cuban food, I ordered the ensalada fria or Cuban pasta salad (1.95 CUC) and the masa de pescado fresco (2.95 CUC), which is battered fish pieces. Although it was supposed to be tapas the portions were very large.
Beer was 2 CUC, one of the pricier options in the city.
71B Calle Amargura
Taberna La Canchánchara
Although most tourists spend their time drinking mojitos and daiquiris in Cuba, there are over 20 traditional Cuban cocktails. Canchanchara is one of the oldest and this bar is a great spot to discover it.
It’s made from aguardiente, honey and lime – all local ingredients and one of the few Cuban cocktails that isn’t made with rum. Many believe this was the precursor for the legendary daiquiri.
90 Calle Real del Jigüe
Restaurant Bar La Redaccion
If you’re craving an iced coffee this is the place to get it. The decor is quaint and they use newspapers as placemats as it was the original location for the newspaper “El Liberal.”
La Redacción is very vegetarian and vegan friendly with hummus, veggie burgers, falafels and other plant based options.
Calle Maceo 463, Trinidad Cuba
Batá con Aché
Our colectivo driver offered to drop us off at a lunch place. Against my better judgement I agreed. First he wanted to take us to a state-run restaurant, which I declined and then brought us here.
At 1.75 for a beer this was definitely a tourist spot. So I just decided to go with it and got the lobster for 10 CUC. Food was good and we sat up top under a shaded terrace.
Batá con Aché
Calle San Procopio
Accommodation in Trinidad Cuba
A popular city for tourists, there are a number of options that span from high-end hotels to more budget friendly casa particulares.
Luxury Hotels in Trinidad
Without a doubt the Iberostar Grand Hotel Trinidad is the best hotel in Trinidad. The Iberostar chain in Cuba is well known to have the best service as well as the best food.
Read Reviews on TripAdvisor. Book on Expedia.
Mid-Range Trinidad Hotels
Hotels are a great option if you want to book in advance and pay with a credit card. Keep in mind that even 3-star hotels in Cuba can be sparse, but hotels in Trinidad are in clean, well-kept historical buildings and these options are gorgeous:
Hotel E La Calesa
Casa Particulares in Trinidad
Where to stay in Trinidad Cuba? Casa particulares are a great way to directly support Cubans. They are allow you one step closer to the Cuban culture.
Plus they always offer the best breakfast options as traditionally Cubans don’t eat breakfast like we do. I once asked a friend what he ate and he said a bread roll with butter or mayonnaise…ahh no thanks.
If you speak Spanish or feel comfortable just showing up to Trinidad to finding a casa it is very easy (outside Christmas in Cuba, where you’ll need to book ahead) as most locals rent rooms in central Trinidad.
As soon as you get off the bus you’ll be approached by people with photos of rooms, trying to make a commission.
If you are traveling on a budget in Cuba and want to side step someone making a commission you can just walk into town and look for the universal casa particular blue sign. Knock on the door to see if they have a room available.
Most central casa particulares will be 25 CUC a night for a basic stay. It can increase up to 40 CUC depending on the house.
If your casa owner quotes higher and doesn’t want to negotiate the price lower see if they will throw in breakfast. Or if you really want a cheap casa walk a few blocks out closer to the bus station.
If you don’t speak Spanish don’t worry! Casa owners are used to it and you can navigate the details easily.
If you prefer to book in advance, ask your host in Havana, they’ll often have a connection that will even pick you up at the bus station.
GET $25 OFF your first booking with AirBNB with my referral code
But if you want to book in advance AirBNB is a great option as you can read reviews in advance and pay with your credit card.
Many casas have also joined hotel booking sites to make it easier for travelers. There’s a middleman so they receive less money but it’s a good option if you’re not comfortable booking directly as you’re still supporting Cubans.
3 Highly Rated Casa Particulares in Trinidad Cuba:
- Casa Coky: Read Reviews on TripAdvisor. Check Prices on Expedia.
- Hostal Dr. Suarez Y Sra. Addys: Read Reviews on TripAdvisor. Check Prices on Expedia.
- Hostal Dona Cristina de Anita y Manel: Read Reviews on TripAdvisor. Check Prices on Expedia.
Internet and Wifi in Trinidad
In the last couple years the country has heavily invested in infrastructure and even partnered with google to bring more reliable internet for Cubans, but I think mostly for tourists.
As Trinidad is a popular tourist spot there is a number of spots in the city:
- Iberostar Grand Hotel: you can go to get a drink and buy a card there
- The stairs beside Iglesia Parroquial and Casa Musica
- Plaza Mayor in the historical centre
- Plaza Carillo is nearby the ETECSA building
Wifi from an official ETESCA booth is $1/hour but you may need to wait in line. If the line is long the Iberostar is on the same square. It will cost more and you’ll need to buy a drink but you’ll save time.
Note, the wifi at the Iberostar is not better. It all comes from the same source. So if there’s no line to ETESCA go there.
Is Trinidad Cuba Safe?
This is one of the biggest questions I am asked. I have traveled solo throughout Latin America and I can confidently say that Cuba is safe for solo female travellers.
Although Cuba does not release crime data, it is well known as the safest country in Latin America. While some people go too far and say there is no crime or murders, that is not true.
However, violent crime is very rare and does not occur with tourists. There is some petty theft and pickpocketing so always be aware of your belongings. Be VERY aware in traveling in Cuba in December.
My Cuban friends told me to be on guard as many homes are robbed and tourists are pickpocketed as some Cubans make bad decisions as they struggle with the additional costs for the holidays.
Like anywhere in the world I don’t walk alone at night and I always have an eye on my bag. But otherwise I would not worry. Once I left my credit card in the ATM and quickly stopped me so I wouldn’t lose it!
Don’t forget it’s mandatory to have travel insurance in Cuba. I’ve entered the country 6 times in the last year and I was never asked for it but I’ve heard you must provide proof.
I’ve used World Nomads over the years and have also made claims (I was robbed in Nicaragua). You can get a free quote online here.
Pin It For Later: Trinidad Cuba Travel Tips
Trinidad Cuba Map
Have you been to Trinidad Cuba before? Let me know your favourite things to do in Trinidad in the comments below.