Trinidad, Cuba is a vibrant, historic gem that remains one of the most well-preserved colonial towns in all of the Caribbean.
Situated south of Havana, the 315-km journey to Trinidad in the central coast of Cuba is about a 5-hour car ride. This was one of the stops on my 8 Day Tour of Cuba for Women with Cuban Adventures – use the code MILL01 for 5% off any tour with Cuban Adventures. Terracotta-tiled colonial buildings painted in candy colors line the cobblestone streets. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the nearby Valle de los Ingenios (see #3), the Trinidad of today is a charming, albeit haunting, portrait of prosperity built on the back of slaves. In addition to its picturesque streets, Trinidad is home to musicians, artists, romantics, and even its own signature brand of yellow paint.
With only a few days in Trinidad, I didn’t get to adventure into the surrounding mountain range, but I was amazed with how much we got to do and see in the short time we were there. From nature to nightlife, beaches to bed and breakfasts, there’s something for everyone!
1. Enjoy a mug of Canchanchara, the oldest cocktail in Cuba
You may have heard of daquiris, cuba libres, mojitos… but have you ever heard of la canchánchara? Aguardiente (Cuban fire water) or light rum is mixed with honey and freshly squeezed limes. It’s a simple beverage and some say medicinal. This humble recipe was created in Trinidad during the Cuban War of Independence, making it the oldest cocktail in the country. Enjoy this refreshing beverage served in a handless clay mug. You can order the beverage all around the city, but at La Taberna Canchánchara, it’s the only thing on the menu.
Where? La Taberna Canchanchara at 90 C. Real del Jigüe
2. Bask in a beach sunset at Playa Ancón
Playa Ancón is not very well-known among tourists but a favorite of Cubans. Soak up a peaceful beach sunset a short 20-minute drive away. Or ask your casa host if they offer bike rentals as the beach is reachable by cycling. Once there, you can rent a palm-frond cabana or one of the more upscale sunbeds. But the sand is nice enough for you to just perch out on this 4km stretch of sandy beach with a towel. If you want a dinner option, order up some oceanside barbecue and a round of coco locos (fresh coconut spiked with Cuban rum and honey). If time and weather permits, make a day trip out of Playa Ancón.
Pro-tip: You can also rent a catamaran for a couple of hours to take you to nearby reefs that are great for snorkeling. Drinks are included onboard and go for around $10-20 USD per person. Thanks to my friend Yvette for this information.
3. Climb the Manaca Iznaga Tower in Valle de los Ingenios
Twenty minutes east of Trinidad is the Manaca Iznaga Plantation, home to El Torre de Manaca Iznaga. The former slave watchtower is now a panoramic lookout point for those brave enough to scale eight sets of rickety stairs to the top of the 147-foot tower. Note: a small fee is collected if you want to go up the tower. The upkeep of the stairwells is a bit questionable so no one will fault you if you bail. But what awaits at the top of the bell tower is a stunning bird’s-eye-view of Valle de los Ingenios, the valley of the sugar mills. Once the sugar capital of the world in its heyday, nearly 11,000 slaves toiled away as Cuba’s sugar empire flourished.
En route to the tower, you’ll be approached by local artisans peddling the region’s famed embroidered textiles. In all honesty, the embroidery is unlike what you’ll find in the Trinidad’s city center so your time and money is best spent here. Also – if you have donations for locals, this is a good spot to share your wealth!
Pro-tip: No need to venture out of Trinidad’s historic center. For an equally stunning view, you can also climb the Convento de San Francisco de Asis’ Bell Tower. It’s arguably the most notable landmark in the historic center after Plaza Mayor.
4. Purchase Handmade Crochet Goods
Given that I was on a tour of Cuba designed for women and women-led, I have to spotlight the crochet and embroidered handicrafts in Trinidad. Trinidad’s centuries-old needlework is woven into the fabric of Trinidad’s cultural identity. Handmade blouses, table runners, purses, and shawls are some of the items you can purchase. The art form continues to be an avenue for local women to secure financial independence and contribute to their households.
While a number of the tourist shops sell crocheted items, our tour guide Yummet said traditional crochet is always done with white yarn. You can also assess quality based on how delicate or intricate the needlework is. And just because its crochet, don’t expect your grandmother’s doilies. A lot of the crochet and embroidered souvenirs are super modern. There are three outdoor handicraft markets located at:
📍 Pablo Pichs Giron diagonal from Taberna La Canchanchara
📍 On Jesus Menendez and Fernando Hernandez across Casa de La Trova
📍 On Ernesto Valdes between Casa de la Cultura and the Musical Instrument Workshop
Pro-tip: You’ll see a lot of crochet vendors in Trinidad historic center but if you can make it to Valle de los Ingenios, you can get the best deals and most stunning embroidery work.
5. Listen to live salsa music
Trinidad is a celebrated spot for nightlife, most importantly – live music. In every direction, you’ll hear the bouncing beat of salsa with the classic call-and-response of trumpets and drums. That’s because there are no less than 10 live music venues every block! For salsa seekers, this is the scene for you:
📍Every city has a Casa de la Musica but what makes Trinidad’s unique is that their “casa” spills out on the cobblestone stairs that overlook Plaza Mayor.
📍Casa de la Trova is a popular haunt for local crowds and one of the best places to hear traditional Cuban salsa. The entrance fee is minimal and the drinks are well-made.
📍My friends and I ended up at El Rincon de la Salsa where you can listen to Timba, modern Cuban salsa. You can also get a taste of “Rueda de Casino,” fast-paced salsa dancing where dancers are exchanged from partner to partner. One of the salsa band members leads dancers with some jazzy choreography.
Where? Find Casa de La Musica is next to Los Conspiradores Restaurante on 38 C. Cristo and Casa de la Trova at 29 C. Cristo.
A head’s up: Around 6 pm, most establishments will have live entertainment. If there is live music, expect it to be loud and know that the band will collect tips. Make sure to tip out of courtesy.
🍽️ For lunch, grab a seat on the second floor of the airy Restaurante Esquina 373 (373 C. Rosari). They have a large menu with a great selection of specials. Just make sure to ask what is available due to food shortages in the country.
🍽️ Make dinner reservations at the Los Conspiradores Restaurant (38 C. Cristo). The prime seat in the restaurant is the bougainvillea-draped terrace that gives you enough privacy but also allows you to hear music from the second floor and the courtyard.
🎵 If you can stay up until midnight and aren’t claustrophobic, journey to Disco Ayala, a unique clubbing experience since it’s a rave.. in a cave. It’s a sketchy walk so in the dark so go with a buddy. Note: there might be a long line to get inside but once you pay, you’re given unlimited mojitos.
🍃 For nature enthusiast, one of the best hikes in Cuba can be found at Topes de Collantes National Park. And for fans of waterfalls, hit the Salto de Caburni trail that ends at a gorgeous waterfall. This can also be reached by horseback.
🛍️ Looking to bring home your own canchancara mug? Visit Casa del Alfarero (9 C. América) for a pottery demonstration and quality ceramics.
🎵 Salsa is not the only thing on the menu in Trinidad. You can catch a jazz performance while dining at Restaurante Jazz Cafe (361 C. Rosario).
☕ Surprisingly enough, coffee shops were hard to come by in Trinidad but if you need a caffeine fix, Cafe Don Pepe (Piro Guniart, in front of al Museo de Lucha contra Bandidos) is the go-to for an excellent cup of coffee and sandwiches.
🛍️ Visit the studio and home of the eccentric Yudit Vidal Faife ( ), whose whimsical paintings incorporate the local crochet work and feature predominantly female figures. She ships internationally.
🍽️ Feeling peckish? Grab a generous serving of tapas and wifi at Cafe Girourd (Rosario 403 Esquina Media Luna) or the 24-hour tapas spot, Taberna La Botija (Amargura 71-B esq. Boca).
🛐 Get a feel for the Afro-Cuban religion known as Santería at the Santería Temple of Yemayá ( dedicated to the goddess of the sea. She is represented by a black doll dressed in white.
🍹For a sunset view, stop by the rooftop terrace at Paladar El Criollo (Calle Juan Manuel Marquez # 54-A) for cocktails.
Where To Stay in Trinidad
As an American, I can only speak to the guesthouse/private lodging experience due to travel restrictions on government-owned hotels. Learn more about traveling to Cuba as an American here.
But even if I had the option to stay at a hotel, I prefer casa particulares (“casas” for short) as a way to not only support the local people, but also to interact with the culture more authentically. While I didn’t stay at Hostal Milagros Trinidad, I attended a private Cuban cooking class with my friend Sam of There She Goes Again led by local Trinidadian Milagros and her daughter-in-law Lissandra. The cooking class was $35 USD for 2.5 hours of learning how to prepare famous Cuban dishes of our choice, as well as alcoholic drinks and dessert. The spread was generous and pretty heavy for a midday meal. And a bonus: this doubled as a Spanish language exchange where I picked up a ton of vocabulary. Highly, highly recommended!
For a more upscale offering, Hostal Lola is a women-owned boutique casa with spacious rooms, traditional furniture, and a great breakfast spread served in their bright patio. Quirky moka pot sculptures created by artist Yami Martinez are featured all over the property.
Pro-tip: most casas in Trinidad have wi-fi, which is a luxury compared to the rest of the country.
🇨🇺 Looking to book a guided tour around Cuba that supports local business?
Use the code MILL01 to get 5% off all tours booked with Cuban Adventures.