As a perfectly preserved colonial centre with a local edge, Trinidad Cuba is full of colourful sights and unknown corners. Here are our favourite things to do in Trinidad.
At first glance Cuba’s Trinidad looks like just another tourist drawcard. Thousands flock to the cobbled laneways to enjoy colourful architecture built on the fortunes of the local sugar industry, and snap photos of weathered donkeys and melodic troubadours.
But, scratch just below the surface and a surprisingly local Cuba exists beside the vibrant tourist squares.
In the afternoon, stroll along the backstreets and find ancient Cuban faces engaged in high-stakes dominoes. Strike up a disjointed conversation with a family sitting on a stoop while their kids polish freshly re-conditioned engines – their handiwork lined up ready for sale.
In the evenings, local bars beat to the sound of Trinidad’s excellent live music scene, where the food is as good as the tunes.
After strolling every lane and square, head out of town to enjoy Trinidad’s excellent location. Take a day trip to the nearby Escambray Mountains for a hike to an idyllic waterfall, or simply laze on the white sands of Playa Ancón.
Here are our favourite things to do in Trinidad Cuba.
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1 – CLIMB THE BELL TOWER AT THE MUSEO DE HISTORIA MUNICIPAL
While it could do with a good dust, the Museo de Historia Municipal is housed in a grandiose old mansion that’s well worth a stroll. The inner courtyard and surrounding rooms whisper to a colonial past, but are delightfully furnished with today’s communist budgets.
The real reason to visit the museum is to ascend the dodgy wooden stairs to the bell tower. At the top, soak up the best views of Trinidad as the late afternoon sun washes the colourful town in soft pastel hues.
Arrive close to closing time when the light is best for one of the most photogenic things to do in Trinidad.
2 – EXPLORE CRUMBLING BEAUTY AT PLAZA DE SANTA ANA
The church ruins in the Plaza de Santa Ana are a ghost of Cuba’s Spanish past. The crumbling walls of the church in the middle of the small square catch the late afternoon light beautifully.
To really feel part of the Trinidad scene, visit some of the very local bars along the outskirts of the small square. With no-frills restaurants packed with raucous locals, it feels like one of the last square in Trinidad free from tourists.
Take your camera and a tripod and enjoy an under-visited part of town.
3 – NAVIGATE TOWARDS PLAZA MAYOR
One square that’s not reserved for locals in Trinidad is Plaza Mayor. While all visitors naturally navigate towards this bustling central plaza, it’s worth taking your time to inspect the grand buildings just off the square. Many were constructed off the wealth generated from the slave trade, and so, act as a reminder to Cuba’s monumental history.
Stroll past La Casa de los Conspiradores, the former meeting place of the Cuban nationalists and the Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco which houses a museum to counter-revolutionaries who fled to the nearby Escambary Mountains after a run-in with Fidel Castro’s government.
4 – HIT THE BEACH AT PLAYA ANCÓN
Just 12 kilometres from Trinidad, Playa Ancón is one of the best beaches within easy access of the city. As the temperatures have you baking on the rustic cobbled lanes, head to the playa to cool off.
It’s a beautiful beach with a long stretch of soft white sand. Umbrellas and chairs can be hired allowing you to kick back and relax with the tastiest piña colada you could wish for. Lunch at Ranchón Ancón, with feet planted in the sand, is surprisingly good for Cuban food. Their red snapper and salad was cheap, fresh and very tasty.
5 – GRAB A COFFEE OR COCKTAIL IN THE CUBAN WAY
Quirky drinking spaces are very on-trend in Trinidad. From the downright cool to traditional old-school, here are some of our favourite drinking spots in Trinidad that provide fuel from lazy mornings through to boozy evenings.
CAFÉ DON PEPE
There’s a relaxed charm in the leafy courtyard of Café Don Pepe that’s not very common in Cuba, making it a great place to escape the heat of Trinidad. Select from over 40 different coffee drinks – both with and without alcohol – covering a range of combinations only entrepreneurial Cuban’s could come up with. Wake up with their simple breakfast of bread and honey, go to bed on their Kahula Dreams.
CASA DE LA TROVA
Casa de la Trova has that minimalist Cuban charm we grew to love over our time in the country. Abandoning all pretence, it’s the perfect place to watch life unfold on a busy market square while sipping on a cold beer. The only thing they had on the menu during our visit was a ham and cheese sandwich. But, humming along to earthy live music, it was one of our favourite things to do in Trinidad.
Café Fortuna’s off-the-scale quirkiness has tour groups lining up at the door, crestfallen that the diminutive bar is too small to fit them in. Mercifully, this means you can sit in a bathtub decorated with fairy lights, kick your feet up on an old-style TV, and count the foreign currency pinned to every inch of wall and ceiling. Perfect for a quick pre-dinner drink.
6 – COOL OFF UNDER A WATERFALL AT TOPES DE COLLANTES
Topes de Collantes is a nature reserve between Cienfuegos and Trinidad and an ideal spot to connect with the Cuban outdoors. Cool off in stunning waterfalls lined with ferns and hike through beautiful banana plantations.
There are a number of different areas to explore from Trinidad and a couple of different ways to do it, all of which are on our guide to visiting Topes de Collantes. The closest is Parque el Cubano which is just a few kilometres from town and easily accessible by local taxi. A short hike leads to a beautiful waterfall that drops into an idyllic natural swimming spot.
7 – UNCOVER THE SUGAR BUST AT VALLE DE LOS INGENIOS
Unearth Trinidad’s sugar boom and bust with a stroll around the ruins spread throughout Valle de Los Ingenios. There’s the remains of factories, well-preserved colonial homes and grand towers overlooking the countryside. A day trip from Trinidad to Valle de los Ingenios can easily be organised with a local taxi after some quick haggling.
Make sure you stop and take in the vista at Mirador de la Loma del Puerto as well as climb the steps of Manaca Iznaga. But most importantly grab a local guide at the entrance to the once grand sugar mill of San Isidro de los Destiladeros for an informative and quite moving look through Cuba’s turbulent history.
8 – ENJOY SURPRISINGLY GOOD FOOD IN TRINIDAD
While the private restaurant scene in Cuba is new, Trinidad takes the cake with some of the best food in the country. It’s not all Ropa Vieja (old clothes) in Trinidad; local chefs are pushing the boundaries of traditional Cuban cuisine. Here are some of our favourites.
TABERNA LA BOTIJA
Get to Taberna La Botija early to beat the queues and soak up the rustic vibe, excellent live music and good hearty Cuban food. For those who like their food delivered with dramatic flair in a cool environment, this is one of the best things to do in Trinidad. Towering kebabs and huge sharing plates feel like authentic Cuban food that’s a far cry from the bland government restaurants.
By day, Casa Giroud is a relaxed family-friendly pizza joint with a small selection of very good tapas dishes. By night, it transforms into a lively bar with live music and a queue snaking around the corner. Get here early to order a few beers and munch on pizza while you listen to the latest Indie duo from the Cuban music scene.
Vista Gourmet the up-market alternative in Trinidad with great views from their roof terrace – perfect for a clear starry evening. It’s possibly the best food we had in Cuba, but be prepared for slightly patchy, confusing service. But it’s all worth enduring for the views and the fine cuisine pumping out of the downstairs kitchen.
9 – FIND REAL CUBA ON THE BACKSTREETS
Trinidad is a popular tourist destination for a good reason. The colourful colonial architecture and rustic cobbled streets are full of atmosphere and history. But, it’s well worth escaping the main tourist squares and delving into the backstreets.
Here, chatty locals can be found engrossed in important games of dominos sitting out on the street. Rusty Soviet-provided Cuban cars being cared for by patient owners, and kids kick around causing mischief. Exploring away from the main tourist squares is an enjoyable and relaxing thing to do in Trinidad.
The best streets to explore are Calle Amargura up to Plaza de Las Cruces. Stroll along here and discover a vignette of local life unfolding in Cuba’s Trinidad.
10 – DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY AT CASA DE LA MÚSICA
Just off Plaza Mayor, Casa de la Música is an outdoor entertainment venue, taking advantage a prominent sweeping staircase. The evening salsa show attracts a mix of tourists and locals keen to be swayed by one Cuba’s classic venues.
It’s one of the most fun things to do in Trinidad with bands covering a variety of genres aimed at getting people up off their feet. There are several different areas along the staircase including a bar and restaurant, and several dance spaces. Although you can stroll around during the day, at night sections are roped off and require a small cover charge to enter.
WHERE TO STAY IN TRINIDAD, CUBA
Trinidad is a popular tourist destination with plenty of accommodation options. Generally in Cuba, it’s best to stay in a local casa particular where you’ll enjoy the home-styled service of a local host. As Cuba has embraced the private sector and hosts become more and more entrepreneurial, the quality of accommodation has increased.
Here are some of our recommendations for where to stay in Trinidad, Cuba.
With good-sized rooms, high-quality food and friendly service, Cuba Mia is a great budget option in Trinidad. It’s a 12-minute walk to the centre of town and has a shared lounge and private garden.
Casa de la Trinidad is a stylish B&B with modern amenities and colonial charm. The friendly host offers an excellent breakfast in a lovely courtyard and it’s only a couple of minutes’ walk to the centre of town.
Set in a basic but charming casa, enjoy the homely charm and great service at Casa Lili y Carlos. The location is great, and the hosts go out of their way to ensure you have a great stay.
HOW TO GET TO TRINIDAD
Trinidad is 315 kilometres from Havana in the central southern coast of Cuba. The popular Viazul bus runs regular services from Havana which takes 8 hours and costs $25 per person. Alternatively, you can hire a colectivo which will take around 4 hours and cost up to $160.
For information on how to travel around the country, see our article on getting around Cuba.
If you are interested in how we included Trinidad on our visit to Cuba, read all the details in our 2-week Cuba Itinerary.
MAP / THINGS TO DO IN TRINIDAD, CUBA
All the locations in this guide are included on our map so you can hit the ground running in Trinidad. The Internet can be a tricky thing to master in Cuba, so we suggest saving this map while you have wifi. More information about the practicalities of travel are available in our Cuba Travel Tips guide.
MORE CUBA READING
Cuba is a unique place. Years of Soviet-funded political ideology created a strong- if slightly confusing – sense of national identity. Soviet, American, Spanish, Caribbean and African influences fuse together to create a fascinating place to visit. Here is some more of our reading about this fascinating place.
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