- On August 12, 2019
- In Exploring Cuba by bike
Cycling routes tips for Cuba
How to find Cubas best cycling routes?
Cuba is 1250km long and in width it’s something between 191km and 31km from shore to shore.
Like in life itself the best route to take through Cuba is the one you find yourself. So the best advice probably is take your time, find your own path and don’t miss out on experiences along the way. But we are happy to share some of our experiences that might help you find the right route for you.
First of all, consider the wind! There will always be a little wind and it makes a difference if you have it on your back or in your face. We were lucky to have friends who went on a cycling trip in Cuba before us and made us aware. Cuba has a east to west wind – almost always.
Since we had planned to spend 5 weeks in Cuba to be able to see most of it we decided to cycle from east to west and if possible along the coast as much as possible. After scouting flights we decided to fly into Holguin and out of Havana.
We really liked Holguin as a starting point because the airport was small and therefore relatively easy to arrive into and relatively far east. After we collected our bike boxes we found a taxi and less than 30 minutes later he had brought us to an ATM (there are no ATMs at the airport) and we arrived in our Airbnb. We usually don’t book in advance but after a long flight and with two heavy boxes it’s certainly more convenient.
From Holguin the first part of our cycling trip would take us all the way to the far east point of the island of Cuba.
Our Cuba cycling route
Click through the route of our Cuba trip to get inspirations for your Cuba adventure
Holguin – Gibara – Guardalavaca – Mayari – Moa – Baracoa
Between Gibara und Guadalavaca
The east end of Cuba
We decided to start with a short day since we needed the morning to put the bikes together, exchange some of our CUC to Pesos and buy a couple of wifi cards.
From Holguin it’s only 33km to Gibara, a charming little fishing village. The road from Holguin to Gibara was in good condition and there was little traffic so it was the perfect start to our adventure. The next day we cycled a short stretch back the way we came before taking a left in a small village onto a dirt road to go further east. We were surprised to be bouncing along a busy dirt road with one house built next to another until we reached the main road between Holguin and Guardalavaca again. After about 50km we reached Guardalavaca and decided to stay there for the night and since it was still early when we arrived we spent most of the afternoon on the beach. We built up the distance every day, we cycled around 85km to Mayari, a provincial town with a nice vibe. It was almost 100km to Moa the day after which was a fairly ugly industrial village. There would have been the option to split this leg and stop after about 58km in Sagua de Tanamo for a night. From Moa it’s about 75km to Baracoa, an old and very isolated Cuban town with a laid back atmosphere. The road you take to get there passes through Humboldt National Park, is very bumpy, not passable for busses and you’ll see only a few cars but even more locals cycling or walking from one small little village to another. If you want to cut the last day short you could stop and stay in a casa at the beach along the way about 20 km before Baracoa.
 Cuba has two currencies. CUC or Convertibles pesos is what you get at the bank for your euros. Pesos or Moneda National is what Cubans use themselves to buy eg. fruit and veg from each other.
A long day: Mayari to Moa
Coffee stop in Humboldt National Park
Every bridge an adventure
Baracoa – Imias – Guantanamo – Santiago de Cuba
The mountains of Guantanamo province
Leaving Baracoa heading south means cycling over La Farola. The road through the mountains of Guantanamo is supposed to have 261 curves and at least as many spots with breath-taking views before you reach the southern Cuban coastline. This day we cycled about 70km to Imias, a tiny little village with 2 casas. One of them owned by the president of the La Farola cycling club. The next approximately 85km to Guantanamo city start with a lonely hot dessert road between the seashore and giant rock formations. Make sure to bring enough water and a snack because there are little or no options where you could buy food on route. From there it’s about another 85km to Santiago de Cuba if you take the Autopista. What might seem very dangerous in other countries is no problem here in Cuba because there is very little traffic.
Streetfood in Guantanamo City
Along the south coast after La Farola
A day with a local friend in Santiago
Fresh fruit - a special treat
Santiago de Cuba – Chivirico – Campismo La Mula – Marea del Portillo – Manzanillo – Bayamo
Our cabana at campismo La Mula
The most stunning road in Cuba
The cycle from Santiago de Cuba to Chivirico is an easy and scenic 75km journey along the coast. Chivirico is a small coastal village where we enjoyed the afternoon sun on a little beach strip next to locals listening to dance music. The next day took us along the coast through the Turquino National Park. If you are up for a hike we recommend stopping of in the campismo La Mula about 40km from Chivirico and plan your hike up the Pico Turquino, Cuba’s highest peak. Even without the hike, the campismo is an interesting and fun way to experience how Cuban’s spend their holiday city escapes. The next 50km from La Mula to Marea del Portillo cover the most stunning stretch of all of Cuba’s cycling routes. A lonely road in conditions that can hardly be passed by car invites you to slow down and enjoy the cycle along the shore with waves splashing water over your head in some parts. Marea del Portillo is a small village with a lovely beach. It’s not far from Pilon, a slightly bigger village and more options to stay. We cycled the next stretch of more than 100km to Manzanillo in one day. But if you want to split it up, you could stay a night in Media Luna. The road to Manzanillo was mostly flat through fields of sugar cane but we got really hot that day. Make sure to have enough water with you. After that long hot day on the saddle, the route of less than 70km to Bayamo will feel easy and relaxing.
Sunrise on the coast
Waves splashing over the road
Bayamo to Sankti Spiritus – on bus or train?
To see more of the nicest places of Cuba we decided to skip a stretch in the middle of the island and use public Cuban transport. Since we so far enjoyed the freedom of traveling by bike we haven’t really researched other transport options but as we arrived in Bayamo around 11am we had enough time to find out more.
After a short visit of Bayamo’s train station we decided to take the bus. A relaxed train journey through the scenic landscapes of Cuba while having delicious coffee is what I pictured. Reality is that Cuban trains are unreliable because the rails can’t be maintained properly. Our train would have left around midnight, would have most likely been seriously delayed, and it would have taken us more than 12 hour to reach Sankti Spititus. We were recommended to go to the bus station to get our tickets for the next day. Feeling a little tired after a few hours of cycling and a walk to the train station in the heat of the city, we decided to try another form of local public transport and hopped onto a rickshaw-like bicycle taxi. The driver was delighted to see us. We didn’t spot many tourists in Bayamo but the little plaza in front of the train station was packed with horse carriages and bicycle taxis waiting for costumers. He knew his way around and looked happy about this excellent workout opportunity and chatted away with us while breaking a sweat chauffeuring us around town. As we arrived at the bus station he didn’t have any change so we told him to keep the change and wait for us while we are buying our tickets and he could then bring us back to the town centre.
As we wandered into the bus station and lined up at the ticket counter we talked about him and his colleagues. All those men are waiting somewhere for customers, to take them around on their single speed rickshaws trying to make a living. Looked like on most days they won’t have any business. We wondered if we would see him again. I said I wouldn’t wait if I were him.
The girls behind the ticket counter refused to sell us a ticket for the local bus which confused us for a minute. Are we not in the right place? She told us yes there are busses but no you can’t go on them. How often did someone tell you that you can’t buy something because you are not from here? We both actually had similar experiences but it was always a little trick to get tourists to buy the more expensive version of something. Turns out it’s not like that in Cuba. There is one company that provides bus services for tourists, and Cubans if they can afford it. Their little office was just behind the bus station and after another 30 minutes wait, Cubans are very relaxed about work, we go the ticket. As we went out of the tiny office more than an hour after we were dropped off by the rickshaw, I was sure we won’t see our lovely rickshaw driver again. But the honest man had actually waited for us and took us back to our casa.
The next morning, we and our bikes had to go on the bus. After so many days of traveling totally independent it felt simply annoying to have to wait for the bus. It was of course delayed. And traveling by bus with a bike is not the most enjoyable trip. But after we managed to put our bikes into the luggage department of the bus we found a place in the last row and slept for most of the 9 hours until we arrived in Sankti Spiritus. For the first time we arrived in the dark and found ourselves under a bit of pressure to find a room to stay.
The best pizza in Cuba - and we tried them all
A train broke down in the middle of the road. Only cyclist can sneak past the traffic jam.
On the bike taxi
Sankti Spiritus – Trinidad – Cienfuegos – Guasasa – Playa Giron – Playa Larga
Graffiti in Sankti Spiritus
Cueva de los peces
Breakfast on route
This whole stretch is relatively easy. It’s not very hilly and it’s possible to do shorter distances. Sankti Spiritus has beautiful colonial style houses and we found interesting graffiti artwork along the river walk. The 70km to Trinidad are easy because the road conditions are a lot better than in the east. Since Trinidad is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Cuba there was also a lot more traffic and cars were going a lot faster. We arrived around midday and found half a day to be enough to explore the streets of Trinidad. The next day we cycled about 80km to Cienfuegos, a town that we didn’t expect much of but that surprised us with beautiful colonial buildings, a scenic waterfront and the friendliest casa welcome. From here we started our next leg on the 8am ferry to cross over the bay and cycle 50km to Guasasa, a village with only a few houses and one beautiful casa overlooking the beach. To find the small sandy back road along the sea, turn left 9km after getting off the ferry. We probably wouldn’t have found this place without a recommendation from a woman who also cycled through Cuba but in the other direction. She had stopped us the day before when our path crossed and handed us a house key. She had taken it from that casa by mistake and asked us to return it if we pass by. As she told us to, we took the small sandy path along the sea and found the tiny town. It looked like a little paradise so we decided to stay the night, went to a fresh water lake for a swim, chilled in hammocks and enjoy some delicious lobster food for dinner. Playa Giron was only a short 26km cycle and we arrived there early the next day. Giron is one of Cuba’s most famous beach towns, located in the bay of pigs it’s probably one of the places that most people have heard of since an US military invasion took place here in the year 1961 and it ended up being a disaster for the US troops. For more information about this, the town museum is worth a visit. The village itself was different from what we expected. Playa Giron is two streets full of casas particulars, a state owned hotel with a concrete wall instead of a view of the sea and a nice but unspectacular little beach strip. We stayed in the area to go diving. Diving here was cheap (25CUC per dive) and easy from the shore, the equipment was old but well maintained and no one cared about dive licences or certifications. After 2 days of diving we went about 35km further to Playa Larga which has a bit more beach town flare than Giron. From here we brought our bikes on a second and last bus trip to Havana (Important notice: We bought the bus tickets in Playa Giron the day before! There is no Viazul office in Playa Larga and the busses are often fully booked!)
Citywalks in Cuba
Hammock coconut day in Guasasa
To ride or to hike your bike to cross the puddle?
Cycling in the sand
Havana – Laz Terrazas – Soroa – San Diego de los Baños – Viñales
The Sierra del Rosario mountains
Time to hike
Breakfast on route
This was the last stretch of our cycling adventure. We left Havana early in the morning and even though there was not much traffic, the fumes of the beautiful old cars passing by made us feel a little sick. Since we came closer to the end of our holiday, we took a very direct route for about 80km to Las Terrazas on the motorway. For about 40km we were lucky to have the whole 3 lanes to ourselves as the police had blocked the road for a triathlon that happened the same day. After the last 10km cycling up the hills of the Sierra de Rosario we reached the little valley of Las Terrazas, a small community and nature reserve with lots of possibilities to hike in the area and a vibe that felt different to any other place in Cuba. Since we couldn’t get enough of the hiking, we decided to cycle the short but steep 18km to Soroa from where we hiked for more amazing views and cooling off underneath a waterfall. To relax after all the hiking, we cycled a little less than 60km to San Diego de los banos which is famous for it’s sulphur baths. This Cuban version of a spa didn’t turned out to be that relaxing but was definitely another interesting experience. After we ran into a local English and sports teacher and visited his school library where he impressed us with his knowledge about Ireland. The next 50km to Vinales over steep hills and bumpy dirt roads with stunning views of limestone rock formation would be our last cycling day in Cuba. We had decided to sell the bikes in Vinales before we take the bus back to Havana and fly out.