bicycle touring in cuba
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Bicycle Touring in Cuba 2019

We went bicycle touring in Cuba for about two and half weeks in January of 2019. We’ve always been drawn to traveling in Cuba and round trip tickets were amazingly cheap, so it was an easy pick.

We knew Cuba was going to be a little more difficult than many other touring destinations, because as Americans, we have to deal with our country’s frustrating sanctions and regulations about travel to Cuba. The biggest issue is that as of January 2019, American debit cards don’t work in Cuba, so you have to bring every cent with you and carry it around everywhere you go.

Our usual procedure when traveling in a foreign country is to take money out in $100 increments so that we never have too much cash on hand. Cuba was quite a bit different – we traveled there with $2700 cash and had to pay a 13% exchange fee every time we changed money. Pretty frustrating when you’re used to going to an ATM and taking out local money for free.

bicycle touring in cuba
Us with our bikes on a bridge.

Route

cuba bicycle touring map
Overview of our route through central Cuba.

Havana

Immediately upon arriving in Havana, Jenny came down with the flu and was bedridden for the better part of three days. Luckily we found a nice casa particular, Maya and Enrique’s, on AirBnb. It was in central Havana, not the old Havana that most people visit. Our hosts were really helpful in taking care of Jenny, and we were super grateful for their hospitality.

old lada in havana
Lots of cool old cars in Cuba.
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Andrew’s bike in Havana. Jenny was still bedridden at this point.

After three days of recovering from sickness in Havana, we took a bus to Sancti Spiritus and started our ride back to Havana. We decided to chop off a chunk of the trip (the Camaguey to Sancti Spiritus section) because of the illness delay. The bus ride went smoothly – we had to take the front wheels off our bikes to get them in the cargo hold, and they made it through the drive unscathed.

havana streets at night
Walking around Havana on a rainy night.

Sancti Spiritus

After arriving in Sancti Spiritus, Jenny got hit with a final bout of flu so we took another rest day. Again our hosts were amazing. The casa particular system is fantastic and we easily found great accommodations. The casa we went with was right in the main square and we could easily walk to lots of food options. We spent a day doing touristy things, walking around the main square and checking out all the main sights in town. Sancti Spiritus has a lot of fascinating colonial architecture and an awesome laid-back Caribbean vibe.

houses in sancti spiritus
Colorful houses in Sancti Spiritus.
overlook in sancti spiritus
Nice overlook of the town.
old truck in sancti spiritus
Car spotting never got old.
streets of sancti spiritus
Long exposure shot in Sancti Spiritus.

Eventually we got on the road and headed towards Trinidad. The riding was easy with gently rolling hills and little traffic on a good quality road surface. We passed farmland and small towns with mountains on our right and the ocean somewhere off to our left.

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Typical road in Cuba. Not much of a shoulder but there was very little traffic.
bicycle touring cuba
Riding through the countryside.
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Nice road on the way into Trinidad.

Trinidad

We ended up spending an extra day in Trinidad. We found a casa particular by showing up, sweaty and tired, in the main square and we were quickly approached by a nice older Cuban woman. She invited us to stay at her casa and she seemed nice, so she walked us back to her place which had a beautiful terrace overlooking the town. It worked out very well for being approached by a stranger and taken back to their house.

sunset in trinidad cuba
Sunset from our casa in Trinidad.

Trinidad was a fun town to hang out in with lots of cool museums and old buildings to check out. Andrew had a strange medical episode brought on by the high power antibiotics he was on, or maybe it was just placebo, but either way he about passed out in a square while some Cuban musicians did a great rendition of Buena Vista Social Club songs. Jenny ran back to the casa and got a cliff bar, which saved the day.

santeria church in trinidad cuba
Santeria church in Trinidad.

Cienfuegos

We arrived in Cienfuegos after spending a night in Playa Yaguanabo. Cienfuegos is a beautiful town with great architecture but we struggled to find a decent place to eat and ended up getting some pretty bad pizza. 

bicycle touring cuba
Riding along the Caribbean on the way to Cienfuegos.
sunset in playa Yaguanabo
Sunset from our casa in Playa Yaguanabo.
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Cienfuegos town square.
cienfuegos cuba
Cool car and architecture in Cienfuegos.
state run ice cream shop in cuba
State-run ice cream shop in Cuba. Apparently Fidel Castro loved ice cream and made it a priority for every Cuban to have access to affordable ice cream. Say what you will about the man but I’m totally on board with this policy.

The next day we headed out towards Playa Giron. We started out trying to avoid the main road for as long as we could, and we ended up on an industrial side road that went by a lot of large factories or shipyards. It was interesting riding with almost no traffic and it was nice to be off the main road. The best bicycle touring experiences tend to be on roads that don’t get us where we’re going as quickly.

bicycle touring cuba
This guy timed his wave perfectly.
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Biking through an agricultural area.

Playa Giron

We ended up staying in Playa Giron for two nights at a casa particular called Tres Hermanas. It was some of the best food we had in the whole country, and the casa had a wonderful relaxing courtyard to hang out in.

bicycle touring cuba
Biking around the Bay of Pigs landing site.

On the second day we rented some snorkeling gear and rode out to a resort in a small cove to check out some coral and tropical fish. It was $15 for a wonderful buffet lunch and all you can drink mojitos, such a good deal!

After relaxing in Playa Giron for an extra day, we headed on towards Playa Larga. Easy coastal riding with light traffic and beautiful views of the Bay of Pigs the whole way.

coastal bicycle touring cuba
Old car on the coastal road.
beach in the bay of pigs
Checking out one of the beaches right off the road. This area is famous for scuba diving since you can get to reefs right off the beach.

Playa Larga

When we arrived in town we had a bit of a struggle picking a casa – it seemed like every other house down by the coast was a casa particular and it was tough to choose when they all looked pretty nice. The one we went with was great (as they’ve all been) and our host was very accommodating.

mojitos on the beach in cuba
Getting drinks and relaxing on the beach in Playa Larga.
sunset in playa larga
Sunset in Playa Larga.
dog at sunset in playa larga
Photogenic dog in Playa Larga.
farmer's market in playa larga
Farmer’s market on the way out of town.

Back to Havana

After leaving the Bay of Pigs, we crossed to the other side of the island via San Miguel de los Banos, lots of small towns, and Matanzas.

bicycle touring cuba
Guys on a scooter.
abandoned buildings in cuba
Cowboy eating ice cream in a small town.
small town in cuba
Streets of the same small town.
bicycle touring cuba
Taking in the cool buildings.
Gran Hotel & Balneario in San Miguel de los Baños.
We walked around the abandoned Gran Hotel & Balneario in San Miguel de los Baños.
grand hotel of san miguel de los banos
Inside the Gran Hotel, plants growing out of the floor.
streets of matanzas cuba
Walking around the streets of Matanzas.
cuban cigar in matanzas
Enjoying a Cuban cigar.
pharmacy museum in matanzas cuba
The Pharmacy Museum in Matanzas was really interesting – lots of cool old bottles and equipment from long ago.
matanzas town square
Matanzas town square.

Finally, we made it back to Havana, where we stayed for a couple days while we boxed up our bikes and got ready to fly home. It was nice to spend a little more time there since Jenny was sick the first time around.

church in havana
Old church in Havana.
rickshaw in havana
Havana at night.
produce cart in havana
Produce cart in Havana.

Check out our Routes page if you’re interested in our current world bike tour!

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