Alright, time for a new city!

After spending the last 4 days in Havana, it was time to head west about 200km to the tiny town of Vinales.

Gone is the sprawling city to make way for plush vegetation and tobacco fields.

As I figured out yesterday, getting a taxi at 6am to get me to the bus station in time for my early morning bus I had already bought tickets for just didn’t seem that easy.

Instead, I had booked a collectivo (a shared ride) that would pick me up right from my casa for $25.

My final night’s sleep in Havana was highlighted by a loud, obnoxious Brazilian who tried having conversations with me while drunk and unable to speak English.

Naturally, he also came in late at night, didn’t care about the lights being on, and, well, you get the idea.

The silver lining though is that I have private rooms booked for myself the rest of the trip so I won’t have to deal with any of that.

At 8:30, I got up, packed my gear, had breakfast, and waited for the collectivo to come.

The ride to Vinales

Honestly, my expectation was different from what I got.   I knew it was a shared ride, but I guess I was expecting something bigger, like a Jeepney that would fit a dozen people.

Instead, it something much more simple than that.

A taxi.

The driver came to my casa at 11am and as he led me to his taxi I was genuinely confused.

Was this a taxi ride for just me all the way out to Vinales?   Was he picking me up to bring me where the “real” collectivo was?

So many questions.

Turns out we were on our way to pick up 3 more people and we’d all be going together in the taxi.

On the way to pickup the others, my taxi guy, who spoke very little English, kept going on about how the casa charged me $25 but it was $30.

I legit couldn’t figure out if he wanted me to pay him $5 more or what he was trying to tell me.

Eventually, he put in his Google Translate that I was charged $25 which was okay, but the people he was picking up had paid $30 and not to tell them how much I paid.

Alrighty then, no worries on that.

I had envisioned the three people we were picking up as backpackers like me and we’d talk our ears off over the course of the next three hours.

Yeah, ah, nope.

Instead, it was three old German people who literally didn’t say a word to me the entire trip.


Oh well.

I rolled the window down and just closed my eyes as I let the nice breeze hit me as we sped down the highway towards Vinales.

Hola Vinales

The actual town of Vinales is quite small and is mostly contained in a 5×5 block area with one main street running down the middle while there is a vast valley surrounding it.

By 2pm we had arrived and my casa hosts were waiting for me by the front door.

I sat down at the little table with the son, a 30 something year old, as he was the only one who knew any English.

For the next 20 minutes, he explained, in his broken English, all the different things outside of the town to visit including caves, horseback riding, and tobacco farms.

Aside from today, I have two full days here and I booked a tour tomorrow morning to do most of the things on the list.

I’m not exactly sure how to do the other stuff the next day as I really didn’t understand what he was saying when it came to that but I figure I’ll ask my guide tomorrow or maybe go to one of the tour shops on the main street and ask.

I don’t know, I’ll figure it out.


At just before 3pm, I headed out to the main street to find some lunch.

On my way, I met yet another friendly Cuban asking me where I was from.

This time, instead of saying “no, gracias”, I stopped and had a conversation with him.   You see, I actually needed to exchange some USD for pesos.   I had assumed my casa would do it like I did all the time in Havana but they don’t have that service so I had to put my trust in someone from the street.

He offered up the same exchange rate I was used to so, on blind trust, I gave him my $40.

Was he going to run off with my money?


He led me a couple blocks down to where the man with the money was.

I still wasn’t 100% sure I was going to be ripped off.

Was I going to get robbed?


In the end, the exchange went down without a hitch, but there was alot of trepidation on my part about whether I was going to get ripped off somehow the entire time it was happening.

Incredible lunch

I had previously marked a handful of recommended restaurants on my map that were scattered along the main street so I searched them out to see what I was going to have for lunch.

The first couple of places were pretty expensive and maybe better suited for dinner while the last one I checked out literally had buffalo and goat cheese in every dish along with a side of spaghetti.

With every dish!


I ended up walking by another restaurant with a trio of smiling girls standing by their menus.

I looked at the menu and it seemed priced pretty well and had a pretty large selection.

Sounds good to me.

Did I mention the trio of smiling girls?

Anyway, the one girl who served me was actually awesome.   She was friendly but not in a fake kind of way.

When I had stopped at the restaurant last night, I had noticed the couple next to me eating a huge lobster tail (Langosta) and when I saw it on the menu here, I knew that was going to be my lunch today.

I also found out their ice cubes are made from fresh water so there were a couple of pina coladas also in my future.

Along with the Langosta (1600 pesos, $6.50) and two pina coladas (600 pesos each, $2.50), my bill came out to about $15.

Not to shabby for lobster dinner and a couple drinks…

Ironically, by the way, the virgin pina colada is 550 pesos which means they only charge 50 pesos extra for the rum in the drink.

By 3:30, I was done lunch and I left with such a good feeling about the place.

I mean, maybe I was dumbstruck by a pretty girl, but, honestly, both the food and service were great.

Regardless, I decided that this would be my place the next couple of days.   No need to try any other place.

Napping, Power Outage, and Dinner

I was just hanging in my room for awhile and by 5:00, I felt the affects of another early morning after a night of broken sleep.

I was tired.

No worries though as, honestly, the only other thing I had planned for today was to go back to that restaurant for dinner.

I know, I lead such a hard life…

So, I set my alarm for 8pm and fell asleep in my nice big bed with the a/c blasting.

I woke up just over an hour later.

It was hot in the room and in my groggy state I couldn’t figure out why.

Did the plug for the a/c come out?   Did someone come in here and turn it off while I was sleeping?

Then I realized everything was out.

Power outage!

How lovely.

It’s all good man.   Part of being in Cuba, right?

I cracked open all the windows to get some air back into the room as it was slowly becoming an unbearable hotbox.

I ended up taking a shower in the dark just to cool off and, sure enough, as I was finishing up, the power came back on.

9:00, time for dinner.

Sadly, this time around the service and the food were both subpar.   The food, chicken with pineapple, potatoes and veggies, took almost an hour to come out and it just was alright.   The server I had before was there but she wasn’t serving me and I just didn’t feel the same vibe with this new server as I did with the other.

I honestly was so disappointed and I remember thinking on the way back that if I had had this experience first, I wouldn’t have come back to the restaurant let alone contemplating coming here for all my meals.

Just goes to show you what one server can do to change your experience.   I say that as a server myself who takes pride in giving guests a great experience so it was interesting to be on the other end of it here.

So, where does that leave me for the rest of my meals here?

I may just have to try some new restaurants I guess.   Definitely not the end of the world, that’s for sure.

By 11pm I was back in my room typing away this lovely blog you’re reading right now and by midnight I was asleep.

Tomorrow is an early start as someone is picking me up at 9am for a morning tour of alot of the Vinales Valley.

I’m actually really looking forward to seeing all the cool stuff Vinales has to offer…

Cuba Trip 2024, Trip Journal, Vinales, Cuba
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