Adventures / Adventure Tapas

Hike and Kayak in Cuba

Paddle and stomp through Cuba's lush green landscapes and wild swim in secret natural pools along the way

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Trip Ref #10436

Adventures / Adventure Tapas

Hike and Kayak in Cuba

Paddle and stomp through Cuba's lush green landscapes and wild swim in secret natural pools along the way

DURATION

7 nights

LOCATION

Cuba

ANNUAL LEAVE

1 week off work

SEASON

Nov-Aug

GROUP SIZE

Up to 14 people

MEETING POINT

Havana Airport

ACCOMMODATION

Casa particular · Hotel · Stilted hut

DIFFICULTY

Moderate

Although no previous kayaking experience is necessary, you will need to have relatively good levels of fitness

Kayak through the Zapata Peninsula and Guamuhaya Mountains, eyes open for iguanas, turtles and crocodiles

Hike the Sendero Reino de las Aguas trail and swim beneath the azure waterfalls of El Nicho Natural Park

Bunk down in casas particulares and grab a taste of cultural Cuba in the colourful streets of Trinidad and Havana

All our reviews are verified

We only invite travellers to leave a review if they have booked this trip with Much Better Adventures.

jenny, November 2022

I would recommend this trip if you like adventure, are a relaxed traveller and love beautiful scenery. I thoroughly enjoyed every day.

Richard, July 2022

Once in a lifetime

Rob, June 2022

Enjoyable trip, lots of great waterfalls and off the tourist trap, but heavily focused on kayaking and less on the local culture. Maybe June wasn’t the best month to go due to potential for hurricanes impacting on wildlife sightings.

Included

Guides

Expert, local, English-speaking guides

Accommodation

4 nights in casas particulares, 2 in a hotel and 1 in a ranchon (a type of thatched hut)

Meals

7 breakfasts, 6 lunches and 7 dinners

Transfers

Airport transfers and everything in between

Equipment

All your kayaking gear

Not Included

Flights to and from the meeting point

Travel insurance

Personal expenses

Tips for your guides

Some meals as described

The Area

map

Logistics

Starts

Jose Marti Airport, Havana. Terminal 3.

Anytime on Day 1

Ends

Jose Marti Airport, Havana. Terminal 3.

Anytime on Day 8

Transfers

Your host will meet you on arrival at José Martí International Airport in Havana at Terminal 3 (where all international flights from Europe and Canada arrive) and transfer you to your casa particular accommodation in the artsy area of Vedado. On Day 8, your host will transfer you back to the airport in time for your onward flight.

If you wish to arrive before the trip start date or stay on longer at the end, your host can arrange private airport transfers and casa particular accommodation in the Vedado district of Havana - see Optional Extras for prices. Your host can also arrange pre and post trip accommodation at a selection of other Havana hotels, and also at beachside locations such as Playa Jibacoa, 1.5 hours east of Havana, and Cayo Levisa, an island 3 hours to the west.

Travel options

There are direct international flights to Havana from various major hubs in Europe.

Day 1

Casa particular · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 2

Casa particular · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 3

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 4

Stilted hut · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 5

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 6 – Day 7

Casa particular · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 8

Departure day

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

What is the food like?

You'll be tucking into rice, black beans, slow-roasted pork and chicken, fresh fish, lobster and plenty of tropical fruit. It can be difficult to find a good sandwich in Cuba, so your guide will often arrange a sit-down lunch in local paladars. If you like, you can bring along some of your favourite snack bars for some protein and energy on the adventure, though this is optional since your host will provide local snacks, fruit and peanuts. Of course, Cuba is the land of the Mojito, Daiquiri and Cuba Libre. You'll find plenty of rum-based drinks all over the country, ranging from 50-150 Cuban Pesos for most cocktails. Beware, they are free-poured and might be stronger than the ones you get at home!

Vegetarians, vegans and other dietary requirements and allergies can be catered for - please just request on your passenger info form. Vegans especially should be prepared for a limited menu, since there are very few vegetarians and vegans in Cuba.

What is the accommodation like?

Casas Particulares

You'll spend 4 nights of the trip staying in casas particulares - the quintessential way to see the real Cuba while getting a good night sleep after a long day of adventuring. See the FAQ section for more insight into staying in a casa particular. The casas are dotted throughout the itinerary, first in Vedado; an artsy and cultural neighbourhood in Havana, then right on the beach in Playa Larga and finally in beautiful Trinidad. In the casas, you'll stay in same-sex, twin-share rooms with a shared bathroom. Cuban homes have simple facilities, a warm welcome and clean rooms. There will be air conditioning and you’ll be spoilt at breakfast in the mornings.

Hanabanilla & Topes de Collantes

At the lakeside spot of Hanabanilla and the surrounding Topes de Collantes area, you'll stay at Hotel Hanabanilla and Hotel Los Helechos in simple twin-share rooms, some with lake view balconies. Hotel Hanabanilla is blessed with an incredible view across to the lake and mountains, and both hotels boast pools if you fancy a swim.

Day 1

Welcome to Cuba!

Catch your first glimpse of Hemingway’s much-loved Havana as your host meets you at the airport and transfers you to the artsy barrio of Vedado. Settle into your casa particular and go for a stroll around the colourful streets. Around 6 pm you'll meet your guide and the rest of the group and head out to a nearby paladar for your first Cuban feast of the trip.

Day 2

Kayaking in Laguna del Tesoro

Kayaking

2-3hrs · 8km

Driving

3hrs

After breakfast, you’ll head off to Boca de Guama, located in the Zapata Peninsula on the Southern Coast of Cuba. Hop on a boat across the Laguna del Tesoro (Treasure Lake) to one of its tiny islands. From here you’ll launch kayaks and explore the canals that cut through the swampland, home to a myriad of colourful birdlife. Paddle back to La Boca, enjoy a picnic lunch before driving on to Playa Larga to your next beachside casa particular and a sunset dinner.

Day 3

Kayaking in Salinas de Brito

Kayaking

5hrs · 9km

Driving

2.5hrs

Drive deeper into the Zapata Peninsula National Park, reaching the southwest side of the Bay of Pigs. Put in at Las Salinas - a protected reserve home to a vast array of wildlife. Paddle across the mangroves (home to flamingos and hummingbirds) and pull up at various cays to see iguanas, turtles and crocodiles in their natural habitat. Head round the coast to a nearby beach for a packed lunch, a swim, and a snorkel (you're now well away from the crocodiles and can enjoy the views from below the surface!) before hopping back in the van to Hanabanilla in the Guamuhaya Mountains. Bunk down in a hotel with spectacular views of Lago Hanabanilla - a beautiful mountain lake.

Day 4

El Nicho Natural Park

Hiking

2-3hrs · 5km

Kayaking

2hrs · 8km

Today you'll explore the beautiful El Nicho Natural Park, a natural wonderland of waterfalls and clear water pools, all set within a protected area of virgin forest hidden amidst the mountains of the Guamuhaya. This is undoubtedly one of Cuba’s true gems. Hike along the Sendero Reino de las Aguas (Kingdom of Waters Trail) stopping to enjoy some of the best swim spots you'll ever find. Back in the kayak, paddle across Hanabanilla Lake with steep mountains rising up from the shoreline until you reach Rio Negro where you'll settle into your Ranchon - a thatched-roof hut for a night out beneath the stars.

Day 5

Hike to more waterfalls and swim spots

Kayaking

2.5hrs · 6km

Hiking

3-4hrs · 12km

Tuck into breakfast and head out for another epic day, kicking off with a paddle to the south side of Hanabanilla Lake, making your way towards the amazing Los Helechos waterfall. You’ll hike along the Cascada de los Helechos trail and grab a swim in the cold clear waters of the waterfall. Continue by kayak, paddling towards Jibacoa before jumping into a jeep to reach the Casa de la Gallega (an old hacienda) in time for lunch. The hike to the Salto de Rocio - a 25m high waterfall, is perfect for a late afternoon dip. This trail is a great place to see Cuban trogons, hummingbirds and woodpeckers. Toward the end of the day you'll be picked up and dropped off at a hotel for a well earned cold beer.

Day 6

Trek to Vegas Grandes and drive to Trinidad

Hiking

4-5hrs · 12km

Driving

45min

Continue your hiking adventures with a trek through forest and scrub areas, deep into the heart of the Escambray Mountains. You'll reach the beautiful waterfall and natural pond at Vegas Grandes - another lovely swimming spot. The trail ends at Julio's farm, where you'll celebrate with a Cuban cocktail and a country lunch before heading to Trinidad to check in to your casa particular. In the afternoon your host will introduce you to the living museum that is Trinidad.

Day 7

Cuba's cultural side

Driving

4hrs

After all the hiking, kayaking and wild swimming escapades it's time to see the cultural side of the island. Today your host will show you around Trinidad on foot. Little has changed in the past 150 years as you'll see while meandering the cobbled streets lined by colonial houses. Enjoy a packed lunch on your afternoon drive back to Havana, with a quick stop in Cienfuegos. Head out for one last evening meal and a cocktail or two in Old Havana to round off the trip in style.

Day 8

Adios Cuba

One last bit of adventuring to do as your host shows you around Havana's food scene - depending on your flight departure time - before transferring you back to Havana Airport in time for your onward flight.

15% Off Outdoor Gear

In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 15% discount on us to use at Cotswold Outdoor, Snow + Rock and Runner's Need.

What's included?

  • All your kayaking gear

What do I need to bring?

BAGS

  • Soft overnight duffel bag or rucksack
  • Daypack (20-30 litres)
  • Drybag for valuables (10-20 litres)

CLOTHES

  • Lightweight waterproof jacket
  • Lightweight waterproof trousers
  • Fleece jacket or similar for the evenings
  • Buff or neckscarf
  • Lightweight trousers/shorts/skirts
  • T-shirts
  • Underwear & socks
  • Swimwear
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunhat
  • Something to sleep in
  • Hiking boots or hybrid running/hiking trainers (worn-in)
  • Sandals

SLEEPING

  • Cotton or silk sleeping bag liner (optional)

OTHER

  • Universal travel plug adapter
  • Power bank or solar charger
  • Passports (and visas)
  • Travel Insurance documents
  • Ear plugs
  • Insect repellant
  • Suncream
  • Personal first-aid kit (inc. blister treatment)
  • Personal items (biodegradable toiletries, sanitary wear etc)
  • Quick-dry towel
  • Alcohol hand-gel
  • Headtorch or torch
  • Reusable water bottle (x1 litre)
  • Biodegradable wet-wipes
  • Energy bars and snacks - read our article on Best Hiking Snacks
  • Water purification tablets/treatment system

Cuba visa

Payable Before Departure

Cuba visa

Per Person

Single room in Vedado casa particular

Payable Before Departure

Single room in Vedado casa particular

Per Night

Twin/double room in Vedado casa particular

Payable Before Departure

Twin/double room in Vedado casa particular

Per Night

Optional private room upgrade

Payable Before Departure

Optional private room upgrade

Havana airport to Vedado casa particular - each way (3-5 people)

Payable Before Departure

Havana airport to Vedado casa particular - each way (3-5 people)

Havana airport to Vedado casa particular - each way (up to 2 people)

Payable Before Departure

Havana airport to Vedado casa particular - each way (up to 2 people)

We've crunched the numbers to work out the total carbon footprint of this trip, and plant enough trees to suck 2x as much back out the atmosphere.

What's the number?
It works out on average at 190kg of CO2 emissions per person, including all local transport, accommodation, food, activities, guides, staff and office operations.

The only thing it doesn’t include right now is flights and travel to the destination. We do make an overall estimate across all our customers separately, but as we don’t book flights, have customers from all corners of the world, and no way of reliably knowing their travel plans, we simply can’t include an individual number in the figure on display here. We’ve got a goal for 2022 to fix that, so that when you book, there is a way to measure and mitigate the carbon emitted by your flight too.

But what does the number mean?
Yep, hard to picture eh? To give you an idea:

  • Driving 1000miles/1609km would be approx. 281kg of CO2 in an average car (or 140.5kg per person if there was 2 of you in it).
  • A return economy class flight London - New York would be approx. 1,619kg (1.66 tonnes) per person.
  • 10 trees in a temperate forest are estimated to remove approx. 250kg of CO2 from the air in a period of 5-10 years.

What are we doing about it?
Our trips are relatively low-carbon by design, and we're working with all our hosts to develop long term carbon reduction plans. For every person booked with us since 2016 we’re planting enough trees to suck at least 2x more carbon out the atmosphere than is emitted by their trips. All native trees, as part of amazing projects that are re-foresting degraded land, tackling the biodiversity crisis and supporting local communities at the same time. We go further than that too, also funding re-wilding projects worldwide to help protect important keystone species from extinction. See the reforestation and re-wilding schemes we support. See our carbon action plan.

Want to know more?
Amazingly, no international travel company has ever publicly published their carbon measurements before, as far as we know. We believe that must change, quickly. So we’re openly sharing the method we used in the hope that other companies will be able to more easily follow suit and build on what we've done so far. You'll find it all here.

You should be happy being on the go all day, and while there are no lung-busting ascents or arm-destroying days of paddling you'll get the most out of this trip by having a decent level of fitness. There are plenty of stops to take in the views, endemic flora and fauna and enjoy the wild swim spots.

You really do not need any kayaking experience. You'll be provided with a single kayak and your guide will give you full instructions plus a safety briefing at the start. You’ll just need reasonable levels of fitness to handle up to 4 hours and 9km of kayaking on the paddle days.

Double kayaks are available upon request but availability is very limited - just let your local host know after booking.

'Casas particulares' are Cuba’s answer to the B&B - a Cuban home that rents out at least one room to guests. They became legal to operate in 1997 and have since become the most popular type of accommodation on the island. You'll experience a real Cuban home as the family usually lives in the property they rent out, giving you a unique insight into the way Cubans live. Staying in a casa particular is by far the best way to do things the Cuban way. Not only does it bring you closer to the real Cuba, it’s also a great way to contribute directly to the local economy. The money you spend in a casa particular stays with the family and gets reinvested in their community, making it the simplest way to practice sustainable tourism in Cuba. Your host family will provide breakfast at each of the casas particulars that you stay at on this trip.

Sure can! Over 50% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

Tips are not included in the trip cost. These are entirely at your discretion but there is an expectation to tip for good service. Your guide will help with advice, however, we suggest the below as a guideline per person:

£5/€6/$6.50 per person per day. Please note that the Cuban Peso is quite unstable as a currency, so your guides would hugely appreciate their tips in a hard currency, particularly Euros which are widely accepted in Cuba. Of course, you are free to tip more or less, and the amount should be reflective of your perception of service and quality.

Your host provides 3 litres of mineral water per person per day. On top of that you'll need to filter your own water since the tap water in Cuba is not safe to drink. The best option here is to bring a water bottle with a built in water filter, although water treatment tablets are also fine. Have a read of our article on the best water filters for adventurers

Cuba is always warm, but certain months are better to visit than others. High season is November to mid-April, with pleasant temperatures in the mid-late twenties celsius, and plenty of clear skies. September and October bring a higher risk of hurricanes in the Caribbean, so we don't offer trips during those months. Temperatures are higher in the low season, particularly July and August with highs of 32°C / 90°F in Western Cuba. April-June is the shoulder season and can be an excellent time to travel, as the weather is pleasant and there are generally fewer visitors. The month of May can be wet, though it’s considered good luck to get wet in the first May showers!

Yes, you can leave any excess luggage at your host's base in Havana.

Nationals of most countries, including the UK, all EU countries, Australia, Canada and US require a visa to enter Cuba. The required tourist visa, known as a tourist card, allows the holder to stay in Cuba for 30 days and is valid for a single entry. You must provide proof of a confirmed return flight and booked accommodation. This tourist card can be renewed for a further 30 days in Cuba. The tourist card is valid for one entry of 30 days within 180 days of issue and can be extended in Cuba for a further 30 days.

So long as you are a UK or European Passport holder resident in the UK, you can buy a visa through the local host that we have partnered up with for this trip. Please see optional extras to add to your booking - the cost is £25 and this includes postage within the UK. Please allow at least 2 weeks before your departure date.

Alternatively, you can obtain a visa from the Cuban Consulate in person or by post. Allow up to four weeks for visa processing.

We recommend checking out the country specific information here and also talking to a travel nurse.

No. You'll need to have a larger bag suitable for all your belongings which will be transported for you, and then a small daysack to carry personal items during each day of hiking.

You can connect to the internet in most of the larger cities and hotels, but expect the connection to be slower and sometimes patchier than at home (best not plan to watch videos or download large files while you are there). We recommend turning off your roaming data when you land, as you can be hit with heavy charges (check with your provider in case). You will be able to access the internet at your hotel either free of charge, or by purchasing a NAUTA Wifi card. You can also buy a local tourist Sim Card (CubacelTur SIM card) at the airport or at offices in the main cities. Unless you have a VPN installed, some US-owned websites will be blocked for you. Your host will be able to help out with more information.

In 2021, Cuba got rid of its dual currency system and is only using the CUP (Cuban Peso) as legal currency. Cuban salaries are paid in CUP, and locals can pay for basic utilities and food with their currency. What previously was the CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso) has now been more or less replaced by the digital MLC (Moneda Libremente Convertible), which basically requires Cubans to have access to foreign currencies from outside of Cuba to purchase any imported goods, toiletries, medication, etc.

What does this mean for your trip to Cuba? Long story short, we suggest you bring cash in Euros and exchange a little amount into the local currency. If you want to use your bank card, make sure to check that it is not US-owned, as you will not be able to use it in Cuba. ATMs are appearing more and more, and you can now use bank cards in government-owned shops, duty-free shops, as well as hotels and restaurants.

Our recommended travel insurance provider is Campbell Irvine.

Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our adventures. Your insurance should include adequate protection for overseas medical treatment, evacuation/repatriation, your baggage and equipment and the specific activities involved on your adventure.

Your insurance policy should also include specific Covid-19 cover, including cancellation and curtailment cover if you, your travel companion or a close relative are diagnosed with Covid-19.

We fully endorse Campbell Irvine as their insurance offers all of the above, so get in touch with them or call on 020 7938 1734 to get your insurance sorted. We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book your adventure, just to cover you for any last minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!

We automatically convert prices from the local currency that a host receives to your chosen currency. We update our exchange rates on a daily basis so this does mean that prices displayed on the site are subject to currency fluctuations, which is why you may see them change over time.

If you wish to change the currency you pay in, head to the bottom of the page.

All of our group adventures are specially designed for adults to enjoy (18+) as we want these adventures to bring together outdoorsy people who are truly like-minded. Children can be accommodated on some private departures.

You're in good company. Our adventures are typically made up of a mix of solo travellers and small groups of two or three friends who simply love adventure, pushing themselves and meeting awesome like-minded people. See here for more info about our lovely bunch of Much Better Adventurers.

Want to book a private trip? Just tap ‘Private Group’ in the dates and prices tab.

Your trip is led by carefully curated local hosts and expert guides. See here for more info about the guides we work with.

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