El Nicho Natural Park, Cuba. Photo: Commissioned/Daniel Wildey
4.9
| 14 reviews

Hike and Kayak in Cuba

7 nights
Moderate

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

What's Included?

Activities & Certified Guides

All itinerary activities with expert, local, English-speaking guides

All accommodation

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

Meals

7 breakfasts, 6 lunches and 7 dinners

Transfers

Airport transfers and everything in between

Equipment

All kayaking and safety equipment, plus camping gear

Small Like-minded Groups

Solo-friendly by design, join our small n’ sociable groups of up to 14 like-minded, active and outdoorsy people
From

excluding flights

What's it like?

4.9
| 14 reviews
Uno mas!
February 2024
Jessica M.
Uno mas!
February 2024
Jessica M.
Uno mas!
February 2024
Jessica M.
Uno mas!
February 2024
Jessica M.
Uno mas!
February 2024
Jessica M.
Uno mas!
February 2024
Jessica M.
Uno mas!
February 2024
Jessica M.
Uno mas!
February 2024
Jessica M.
Epic trip! Had a fantastic time with great...
February 2023
Naomi
Epic trip! Had a fantastic time with great...
February 2023
Naomi
Epic trip! Had a fantastic time with great...
February 2023
Naomi
Epic trip! Had a fantastic time with great...
February 2023
Naomi
Epic trip! Had a fantastic time with great...
February 2023
Naomi
This trip far exceeded my expectations! It...
February 2023
Alison
This trip far exceeded my expectations! It...
February 2023
Alison
This trip far exceeded my expectations! It...
February 2023
Alison
This trip far exceeded my expectations! It...
February 2023
Alison
This trip far exceeded my expectations! It...
February 2023
Alison
This trip far surpassed expectations and sh...
January 2023
Sally
This trip far surpassed expectations and sh...
January 2023
Sally
This trip far surpassed expectations and sh...
January 2023
Sally
This trip far surpassed expectations and sh...
January 2023
Sally
This is a truly fantastic adventure, and I...
December 2022
Anthony
This was a great trip and gave a good insig...
December 2022
Gemma
This was a great trip and gave a good insig...
December 2022
Gemma
This was a great trip and gave a good insig...
December 2022
Gemma
This was a great trip and gave a good insig...
December 2022
Gemma
This was a great trip and gave a good insig...
December 2022
Gemma
Once in a lifetime...
September 2022
Richard
Once in a lifetime...
September 2022
Richard

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

Key Information

Day 1

Welcome to Cuba!

Havana, Cuba. Photo: Commissioned/Daniel Wildey

Catch your first glimpse of Hemingway’s much-loved Havana as your host meets you at the airport and transfers you to the heart of the Old Town - La Habana Vieja. Settle into your casa particular and go for a stroll around the colourful streets. In the evening 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

Salinas de Brito, Cuba. Photo: Commissioned/Daniel Wildey

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

El Nicho Natural Park, Cuba. Commissioned/Daniel Wildey

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

Los Helechos waterfall, Cuba. Photo: iStock-1134822034

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. Towards 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

Trinidad, Cuba. Photo: GettyImages-478045124

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 fascinating city of Trinidad.

Day 7

Cuba's cultural side

Trinidad, Cuba. Photo: Commissioned/Daniel Wildey

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 with 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

Adiós, Cuba

Havana, Cuba. Photo: CanStock-csp65526936

One last bit of adventuring to do on a walk through Havana's captivating Old Town – depending on your flight departure time – before transferring you back to Havana Airport in time for your onward flight.

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, plenty of tropical fruit and maybe even lobster. It can be difficult to grab a sandwich in Cuba, so your guide will often arrange a sit-down lunch. It is a good idea to bring along some of your favourite snack bars for some protein and energy on the adventure, as this type of snack food is scarce in Cuba.

Food shortages are a reality for local residents and small businesses, and whilst you certainly won't be going hungry, it is useful to know that Cuban cuisine is typically based on a small number of ingredients, prepared lovingly and to deliciously high standards. You'll find that rice forms the base of most meals with sides of root vegetables and beans.

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. Beware, they are free-poured and might be stronger than the ones you get at home!

What is the accommodation like?

Garden of a casa particulares in Cuba
Casas Particulares

You'll spend four nights of the trip staying in casas particulares – the quintessential way to see the real Cuba, while getting a good night's 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. These Cuban homes offer simple facilities, a warm welcome and clean rooms. There will be air conditioning and you’ll be spoilt at breakfast in the mornings.

Beds set up in a ranchon, Rio Negro, Cuba
Rio Negro

Enjoy a scenic nighttime experience, bedding down for an open-air night on the shore of Rio Negro, sheltered by traditional thatched palm leaf huts. Mattresses, sheets and blankets are provided.

Hotel Hanabanilla, Cuba.
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.

This trip has been rated as Moderate

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 good 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.

What will I need to carry?

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.

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!

The Area

map

Logistics

Starts

Jose Marti Airport, Havana (Terminal 3)

Any time on Day 1

Ends

Jose Marti Airport, Havana (Terminal 3)

Any time on Day 8

Transfers

Your host will meet you on arrival at José Martí International Airport in Havana at Terminal 3 (into which 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.

Enjoy 12.5% Off Outdoor Gear

In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 12.5% discount 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 and 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 repellent
  • 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
*Requests for optional extras can be made after booking on your “My Bookings” page

Cuba visa (can be sold to British & European passport holders resident in the UK)

Payable Before Departure

Cuba visa (can be sold to British & European passport holders resident in the UK)

Per Person

Taxi between Havana airport and accommodation - each way (3-5 people)

Payable Before Departure

Taxi between Havana airport and accommodation - each way (3-5 people)

Taxi between Havana airport and accommodation - each way (up to 2 people)

Payable Before Departure

Taxi between Havana airport and accommodation - each way (up to 2 people)

Jessica M.(February 2024)
Uno mas!
Uno mas!
Uno mas!
Uno mas!
Uno mas!
Uno mas!
Uno mas!
Uno mas!
Uno mas!

What a beautiful country and an amazing experience! Our guide Rey and bus driver Carlos were both fantastic, they were beyond helpful and were a great laugh too. The activities were a great level for beginners who are still looking for a bit of a challenge and adventure. Highlights were the many waterfall swim stops on the hikes and seeing flamingoes in the wild! Food was basic but tasty and there was plenty of it. If you’re thinking of booking - just do it. Be open minded to the amazing culture of Cuba and bring your sense of adventure. Make sure you try a Canchanchara cocktail.

Lucy A.(January 2024)
There were only 2 of

There were only 2 of us on this trip which was a shame as we missed a group dynamic but the guide Arley, driver Abdil & kayak guys were all great fun & so helpful. It would be impossible to arrange anything close to this itinerary yourself. It was so well organised & action packed. Whenever you finished an activity the bus was waiting for you.

rebecca w.(January 2024)
Awesome tour

Ray was the best Cuban tour guide he took care of all of us. Mixed abilities in the group which was accommodated, sleeping under the stars, kayaking and hiking - very adventurous but great fun. Would highly recommend.

Karen(July 2023)

I can definitely recommend this trip, but be prepared for lots of mosquitoes on the island hike and a couple of very steep areas of hiking in El Nicho. The pace could have been a little slower to enjoy the beautiful water falls and swimming holes a little longer. The tour bus felt like a luxury for our group of 7, but might feel a bit cramped for a full group of 14. Our group members and tour guide were super fun and positive, so all in all, it was a definite good experience.

Naomi(February 2023)
Epic trip! Had a fantastic time with great...
Epic trip! Had a fantastic time with great...
Epic trip! Had a fantastic time with great...
Epic trip! Had a fantastic time with great...
Epic trip! Had a fantastic time with great...

Epic trip! Had a fantastic time with great people. Laz, our guide, was brilliant. Just wish it was longer! Beautiful scenery, amazing activities, good food.

Saskia(February 2023)

Had a wonderful time. Great group and great guides. Really enjoyed the kayaking and there were some beautiful outdoor swims. All very well organised, had our own air conditioned bus that took us everywhere and we managed to cover a lot of Cuba in a short time. The hikes I would call more walks in terms of length but they were pretty steep and it was very hot so you probably would not want anything too much longer. Had a lovely outdoor lunch at the end of the main hike which was a nice touch.

Alison(February 2023)
This trip far exceeded my expectations! It...
This trip far exceeded my expectations! It...
This trip far exceeded my expectations! It...
This trip far exceeded my expectations! It...
This trip far exceeded my expectations! It...

This trip far exceeded my expectations! It felt like we were off the regular tourist route for the trip and often were experiencing the natural scenery of Cuba all by ourselves. What truly made the experience great was the people on my trip and the fantastic tour leader!

Sally(January 2023)
This trip far surpassed expectations and sh...
This trip far surpassed expectations and sh...
This trip far surpassed expectations and sh...
This trip far surpassed expectations and sh...

This trip far surpassed expectations and showed me so much of the natura