6 best things to do in Trinidad, Cuba

The last leg of our November Cuba trip took us to Trinidad, a little town in the middle of the island, famous for its multi-coloured colonial old houses and cobblestone streets.

And now that I look back at this trip, it’s the Cuban place I most wish to return to (mainly because I was so sick by then I feel like I missed out on so many things).

A Unesco site since 1988, Trinidad is easily accessible from Havana (it’s a 4h, 30CUC pp affair and the views on the way are incredible). And it’s the sort of pastel-coloured, fairy tale place that needs to be seen to be believed.

6 best things to do in Trinidad, Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

But that’s not all! Architecture, nature, beach… There’s so many great things to do in Trinidad that fully justify adding the city to your Cuba itinerary.

1. Wander around the beautiful pastel-coloured streets

There’s a reason why the whole of Trinidad is a Unesco site and it’s because every corner is absolutely gorgeous!

From the technicolour colonial houses, to the intricate forged iron window frames and the ever-green mountain background, the entire city is an Instagram dream come true – absolutely no filter needed!

So put on your walking shoes (those cobblestones are no joke!) and make the most of it.

6 best things to do in Trinidad, Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

2. Trek the Parque el Cubano and swim in the Javira Waterfall

With the gigantic Parque Natural Topes de Collantes to the west, trekking opportunities abound in Trinidad.

The easiest (and shortest) one will take you through Parque el Cubano up to the Javira waterfall, where you can swim into the natural pool below it, which is really quite a fantastic way to spend the day!

6 best things to do in Trinidad, Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

3. Climb San Francisco de Asis bell tower

Located by the very pretty Playa Mayor, San Francisco de Asis is the best spot to get a bird’s eye view of the city.

Vertigo-averse folks will want to stop at the first level, where the wide terrace offers fantastic views of the city, the mountains and even the sea.

And if the weather’s all sorts of crazy you’re lucky, you might even catch a quadruple rainbow!

6 best things to do in Trinidad, Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

4. Have a few of the Trinidad’s signature Cachanchara cocktails

Created in Trinidad in the late 1800s, the Cachanchara is considered to be Cuba’s oldest known cocktail.

The no-fuss recipe, originally used as medecine, calls for simple ingredients -rum, lime and honey- and is traditionally served in clay cups.

Strong but perfectly balanced, it’s well worth switching your default mojito over for.

5. Bask in the sun on Playa Ancon

Blue water. Golden sun. Does this really need explaining?

6 best things to do in Trinidad, Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

6. Try La Botija’s Cuban-style fried rice

I’m not going to lie and pretend like the food in Trinidad (or in Cuba, really) changed my life. To be honest, I ate mostly rice and plain bread anyway (such glamour!).

That being said, the arroz fritto at La Botija was one of the best things we had and comes in very generous portions.

Also on the plus side, the restaurant is open quite late, there’s live music being played throughout the day and a weird-but-intriguing drink selection (the Ciego Montero pineapple soft drink is goooooood!)…

6 best things to do in Trinidad, Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

PS. If you’re looking for a great place to stay in Trinidad, this is the Casa we stayed in. Robe & Nina are the sweetest hosts and the breakfast was beyond fantastic!

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6 best things to do in Trinidad, Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

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13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba

6 best things to do in Trinidad, Cuba

13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba

It’s been a week since we came back from our big trip to Cuba.

We had been planning this holiday for about 6 months, deciding on our itinerary, noting down things to do, places to see and dishes to eat.

In that time, we did our research. We read every guide book we could get our hands on and dozens of blog posts, we talked to friends and colleagues who’d visited, saved pictures on Pinterest, pinned everything down on an offline map…

13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky 13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

And yet somehow, there was still so much about Cuba that surprised us.

As my friend Kristin put it when she was sharing her top Cuba tips ahead of our trip – no matter what you expect, it’s not quite what it’s going to be like, but it’ll be amazing regardless.

So here are a few things to keep in mind on your first trip to the Pearl of the Antilles.

13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

1. It does look just like the pictures

Seriously – everywhere in Cuba is just gorgeous.

From the pastel-coloured, half-crumbled streets of Havana, to the breath-taking landscapes of Vinales and the island’s white-sanded beaches, every single bit of Cuba is simply gorgeous.

13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

2. Everyone runs a business from their front room

Seriously – Cuban are so enterprising. They make the most of whatever situation they’re put into and whatever space they can get hold of.

There are people running restaurants in their living room (the paladares). People selling coffee / souvenirs on their door step or through their window. People running flower businesses from their building’s entry hall…

Most of those are regulated by the state, extremely good value for money and an incredible way to get a look into what Cuban life really looks like.

3. People will want to talk to you

Partly because they’re very aware that tourism is the best way for Cubans to make money, through network and referal fee systems.

But also because the locals are also incredibly curious and genuinely interested in you, where you come from, why you’ve decided to come to Cuba, what your travel plans are…

As a consequence, Cubans get quite offended if you ignore them when they greet you in the street. So don’t. Greet them back, indulge in a bit of chit-chat and if people try to sell you something, a simple ‘no gracias’ and a smile should be enough.

13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

4. Rum is (almost) as cheap as water

In most restaurants, you’ll actually pay the same price for a mojito or a bottle of water, which is completely INSANE.

And you know, amazing.

5. Health and safety isn’t really a thing

Most cars don’t have seat belts. A lot of staircases and tower-type buildings don’t have banisters. Emergency exits aren’t clearly maked…

And you know what? It’s okay. You’ll survive it.

13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky 13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

6. Eating a full casa breakfast is a challenge

If you’re travelling to Cuba on a budget, casa breakfasts (as in, the breakfast served by your casa hosts for a small fee) will be your new best friend.

Your typical breakfast will include a plate of fruit, toast with butter, eggs, a cheese and ham toastie, varied treats (potato or plantain fritters, French toast, pancakes, cheese with guava paste, cookies…), freshly squeezed juice and a lot of strong coffee.

It’s really quite the spread and it will definitely keep you full until well into the afternoon!

13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

7. Cats & dogs are everywhere

A lot of them seem to be semi-stray (some even have an identification card attached to their collar) and most are absolutely adorable.

Over the course of our holiday, I stopped approximatevely 3241 time to pet cats in the street and have been tempted to take one home about as many times.

8. And so are old-school American cars

They come in every colour of the rainbow and absolutely no shock absorbing system.

A tour in one of the iconic, old-school American cars often comes up on the list of must-do activities in Cuba, but a lot also run as regular taxis or taxi collectivos if your budget doesn’t quite stretch that far.

13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

9. Unless you call your bank ahead of time, your card won’t work

Make your life easier – take a lot of cash with you (changing cash is quite easy).

Also make sure you call your bank ahead of time with your travel dates and ask them to lift security locks in case you need to withdraw more money.

It’ll save you a lot of time (and £30 phone calls) to get it all unlocked…

10. Internet isn’t really a thing

There is internet in Cuba, but you have to buy a top-up card (about 5CUC for 1h) and will only be able to access it from the very few wifi hotspots.

Most cities will only have one of those. But despite its scarcity, the wifi was surprisingly fast everywhere we used it, so you know, you win some, you loose some.

11. And neither is public transport

There are actually quite a lot of local buses – but they’re really just for the locals. As a tourist, you can use taxis, cyclotaxis or ‘mango taxis’ for short distances (my favourites!)

Trains however simply don’t exist, and neither do intra-island flights, which means your only options to go from city to city are Viazul buses or taxi collectivos.

Inbetween cities, we only used taxi collectivos. They can be arranged with your casa hosts, run a door-to-door service and are typically quicker and similarly priced as the bus service.

13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

12. Experiencing the real, local Cuba can be challenging

As explained above, Cubans are very aware of the importance of tourism to their economy. As a result, they will go above and beyond to ensure you make the most out your trip.

But they don’t really mingle with you – casa hosts are always happy to cook a feast for you, but they’ll eat separately. Taxi collectivo drivers are often happy to show you around a city but they’ll wait for you in the car while you take in the sights. Locals will happily recommend restaurants to you but will rarely eat there themselves.

Not to forget that Cubans use a whole different currency altogether and most places only accept one of the two currencies, making the divide very ‘official’.

13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky 13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

13. No matter what you expect from your first trip to Cuba, it’s not what you’ll get

Cuba will surprise you. The city- and landscapes will take your breath away. The native’s generosity and ingenuity will melt your heart. The music and the rum will never fail to put a big smile on your face.

No matter how much you prepare for your first trip to Cuba, you’ll never be quite ready but you will definitely have an amazing time!

13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba