Parque Nacional Vinales offers some of the finest & most accessible hiking trails in Cuba – hire a guide, trek on horseback or simply go it alone on your own two feet.
According to Lonely Planet, we took the official Coco Solo & Palmarito Mogotes trail, which covers Valle del Silencio & Mural de la Prehistoria.
We didn’t see anybody else hiking independently, without a guide, but no-one stopped us either. As far as we know, it’s completely ok to head out on your own.
You can plan your hikes with Maps.ME, which shows several trails around Parque Nacional Vinales at the town itself. We recommend navigating with the app but here is the rough route that we followed – it should actually be pretty detailed, I tried to remember as much as I could but I could’ve missed a few turns, especially in the heat of the sun.
This hike took us 6 hours. It’s a flat & easy walk. There are definitely a few shortcuts you could take, again plan with Maps.Me or with locals in town beforehand.
As soon as the sun rises, Vinales gets hot. Take sunscreen & water as you take in the wonderful limestone countryside and feel the sweat & burn – good luck!
Coco Solo & Palmarito Mogotes Hike
From the main road (Salvador Cisneros), head south on Adela Azcuy towards Hotel La Ermita. When you see the sign on your right, take the small path heading down, just next to the sign along the fence:
Continue straight until you reach barbed wire fencing & a wooden gate – go through this gate:
Walk straight ahead until you reach the next gate:
Keep going straight ahead until you reach an intersection & turn right. Keep walking straight ahead, with the karst mountains on your left.
This is a scenic stretch with a few scattered oxen & houses amidst a lovely backdrop.
You can see the whole town of Vinales, overlooked by the towering mountains.
Keep walking straight ahead, through a small village of very colourful & neat houses:
At the intersection, turn right on the paved road & continue straight until you see a sign for an olive finca (farmhouse) on the right – on the left, you’ll see this sign pointing towards Valle del Silencio:
Take a left here & continue down into the valley. This is where you’ll start seeing some tourists on foot or horses with guides – suckers. The karst mountains should then appear straight ahead.
At the intersection, there’s a sign pointing to a mirador on your right – head this way. You could check out the mirador & come back, because you then need to enter this gate:
Go through the gate, continue straight ahead on the path, veering slightly to the right, until you come to a barbed wire fence, with this group of pine trees (?!) on the other side:
Follow the path straight until you come to your next barbed wire fence, this time with a lake on the other side:
Walk straight ahead & cross your next barbed wire fence – you should’ve had plenty of practice by now, but this is how you do it:
You may see some oxen – don’t make linger too long or make eye contact, this front ox charged at me but fortunately he was on a short leash:
Continue straight until you reach a red dirt road, then take a right:
Walk ahead & then along a little muddy river. You’ll see a tiny bridge – cross it or go around it.
Continue along the path, with mountains & palm trees on your left. You’ll reach a fork in the road – don’t turn right but go through the trees with the barbed wire fencing:
Walk along the path, which will gradually lead uphill to a lookout point. Here, you’ll have amazing views on both sides:
Turn left & go down into the next valley:
There are a number of casas around here, so this is a good point to fill up your water bottle if you’re running low. We asked at the last house on the right & were invited inside. She filled up our bottle twice with beautiful COLD water & we had a little chat with our limited Spanish. She told us about her 10 puppies, 5 cats & 3 chickens.
Here she is, blessed woman with the cold water:
Continue on the way path, which will take you to a small lake. Take a quick left to see some interesting rock formations up close:
Return to the main trail & continue walking until you reach an intersection with the mountains directly ahead. Here, turn right & walk straight for a stretch – you’ll come across some more cool rock formations on your left & red dirt plots on your right.
Also on your right at the end of the road is a big thatched roof:
Turn right here at the intersection. There’ll be a small shop on your left under a big tree, where you can buy pineapples, probably with tourists waiting under the shade.
Keep going straight until you see a blue house on the left. Take a left here:
Continue walking ahead on the red dirt path, you might pass some tourists on. This leads to wide open land, with working farmers and/or oxen:
You continue more or less straight ahead, through tobacco plantations, I think. I’m not a smoker, am I right?
When you spot this big thatched house, take a break & sneak a peek inside:
Take in the aroma – it’s a secadero or tobacco-drying house where tobacco leaves are cured. Apparently the season is from February-May:
At the house, you should continue straight ahead and/or to your left.
You’ll reach a thatched-roof restaurant on your left & this tin shed on your right, marked with an oxen’s skull:
Turn left & go around the restaurant with the solar panels. Then turn right with the mountains on your left. You’ll reach a fork in the road – take the right.
Continue straight ahead. When you see a pink house, turn right, at the right of the house:
Follow the path, go through the barbed wire fencing – here’s a reminder again of how to do it:
At the end of this trail, you’ll finally see the Mural de la Prehistoria straight ahead. You can go right & around to look at it up close, but we turned left on the main road. This thing is ugly, I wouldn’t want to get too close but I took a few zoomed-in shots anyway:
Keep going straight, there’ll be a campground on your left. Go straight ahead until you reach an intersection – this road is Salvador Cisneros. We were offered a ride back into town, so hitching should be pretty easy.
Or to finish how you started, turn left on the main road & after 2 or 3kms walking straight ahead, you’ll be back in the centre of Vinales.
See our post Vinales Budget Travel Guide to help you plan your stay!
And that’s DIY Travel HQ over & out, The End!
*** The Final Word: The best hiking in Cuba, all yours for free! ***
Have you seen limestone karst mountains like this anywhere else in the world?
Super easy DIY travel around city centres
Visited in May 2016