The legendary Hershey Train in Cuba runs 3 times a day from Havana to Matanzas – find out what to expect onboard, along with the Hershey Train schedule, prices & more!

History of the Hershey Train

The Hershey train was built in 1921 by Milton S Hershey (1857-1945) to transport sugar & workers from his operations in Havana to Matanzas.

After the revolution, the Hershey factory was nationalized & renamed Central Camilo Cienfuegos after Cuba’s rebel commander.

The train remains Cuba’s only electric railway – as do the same tracks, carriages, stations & signals, frozen in time, ala 1959.

Still running 3 times a day along a 90km route, the Hershey train connects the big cities with the surrounding rural communities, otherwise forgotten by Castro’s transport planning.

The Hershey Train has long been glorified by Havana day-trippers seeking an authentic Cuban experience – is it worth the trip or have we all been taken for a ride? Besides, there are many things to do & places to visit in Cuba.

Let us here at DIY Travel HQ give you the rail truth & nothing but the truth… including the Hershey Train schedule & more!

Hershey Train Crossing & Rail Tracks

Like everything else, the train signs haven’t changed since 1959

Hershey Train Journey

If the Hershey train is an insight into everyday local life, Cuban’s sure are boring!

From the moment you step onboard, nothing really happens:

  • You choose a seat
  • The inspector checks your ticket

All that’s left for you to do is kick back, enjoy the countryside & people-watch. This is some of my favourite kind of travel but on the Hershey Train, both were lacklustre.

The scenery is unchangingly uninteresting, just flat land with palm trees & the odd livestock grazing.

The landscape was nicer on the road from Hershey to Matanzas, with greener & wider fields of tall swaying palms.

Palm Tree Views on Hershey Train

Banana tree fields appear as soon as the Hershey Train leaves Havana

As for the locals, they just don’t really interact – with you or each other. People were only talking to those they were travelling with.

Unlike on Asian trains, there weren’t any snack vendors onboard or at any of the many stops, which usually makes a journey livelier. People weren’t eating or sharing food with you, though in Cuba food is for survival, not social interaction.

The train itself is functional & nothing more, though the metal seats were not uncomfortable. Oh & you should take the Hershey Train schedule with a grain of salt…

Metal seats on Hershey Train

Metal seats on the Hershey Train were surprisingly not uncomfortable

It’s definitely no bullet train – slow for the most part but when it’s not halting at every house or hut, it can surprisingly pick up speed.

And rock around a fair bit. I stood up & walked around at some of these times, if not emotionally, then just to physically feel some kind of energy onboard.

Which is also why I liked the loud horns that sounded fairly regularly, every time a horse, cattle or goat wandered on or close to the tracks.

Conductors Station on Hershey Train

Conductors Station

Sure, for tourists, a ride on the Hershey Train can be somewhat of a novelty, and even a fun local experience if you have some eventful characters & circumstances onboard.

But perhaps the authenticity lies in the fact that nothing interesting happens – for the locals, the Hershey Train is simply a form of transport in Cuba, a way of getting from point A to B.

If you’re feeling as bored as the Cubans look onboard, that’s as real as it gets.

Passenger on board Hershey Train

Toot Toot! All aboard the Hershey Train where nothing much happens!

Old Hershey Chocolate Factory

Just as it did in its heyday, the massive Hershey Chocolate factory dominates this one-time prosperous sugar town.

Before the revolution, it stood as a success symbol of American capitalism in the Cuban fields but today, it’s a sad remnant of the heyday of the sugar industry.

Two huge smoke stacks loom over the disaster area.

The entire factory operations have been left to abandon & decay.

Dilapidated Hershey Chocolate Factory Building

One of the rusted buildings from the abandoned Chocolate Factory

You’re free to walk around the wreckage but be mindful of your environment.

For the most part, you just need to watch the broken glass on the ground but the buildings – or what remains of them – look like they could come crashing down at any moment.

Many parts have also been fenced off as being too dangerous.

Danger Sign around Hershey Factory

You can walk around most of the factory but some areas are fenced off & marked “Danger”

While the Hershey Train still runs between Havana & Matanzas, the other tracks, locomotives & station houses around the town lie in the open fields as deserted museum pieces.

Abandoned trains in Central Camilo Cienfuegos

Trains & tracks left abandoned in the old Hershey town, Central Camilo Cienfuegos

I can’t helping feeling sorry for the Hershey’s – sure they built an empire around Cuba’s sugar but they also brought in a lot of jobs & built infrastructure for the locals.

In an instant, everything was taken away from them & they were driven out of the country.

It must be heartbreaking for the Hershey’s to see everything they created become so recklessly neglected, without having any say in the matter.

The factory has corroded & rusted to such an extent that it’s hard to believe the factory was still operating until 2002.

Smoke stacks over Hershey Factory

Smokestacks over the Hershey Chocolate Factory

The town & populace have somehow survived but judging by the number of peso stores around & people sitting around doing nothing, it’s not doing so well.

How can you progress with such a colossal, corroded steel corpse in your backyard?

Whatever side you’re on, it’s a hard place to visit without seeing it as striking example of the failure of Castro’s regime.

Smoke stacks over Hershey Factory

The ghost of the Hershey Factory looms over the town of Central Camilo Cienfuegos

Jardines de Hershey

These gardens were also part of Hershey’s Cuban kingdom. They’re located about 1.5km north from the train station.

We’re not sure if there’s an official admission fee to get in.

The parking man at the entrance charges 3 CUC, and that’s even without a car – he’s open to negotiation…

There are a couple of restaurants inside the gardens so perhaps if you say you’re going in to eat, you can get away with not paying.

Jardines de Hershey

Jardines de Hershey, 1.5km north of the station – may be worth a visit if you have time to kill

Hershey Train Schedule

From Old Havana, take the 5 minute ferry across to Casa Blanca train station on the other side of the harbor.

It costs 0.40 pesos or pay 1 peso for 2 people.

As soon as you exit the ferry terminal, you’ll see the train station immediately on your left.

Casa Blanca Hershey Train Station Havana

Catch the Hershey Train from Casa Blanca Station in Havana

Most tourists travel between Havana & Matanzas but you can stop anywhere along the way.

Here is the Hershey Train schedule from Havana, with the most common destinations & their prices:

  • Guanabo – $0.75 CUC, 25km
  • Hershey – $1.40 CUC, 46km
  • Jibacoa – $1.65 CUC, 54km
  • Canasi – $1.95 CUC, 65km
  • Matanzas – $2.80 CUC, 90km

Cubans pay the same prices, but in pesos – so around 25x less. Check out our comprehensive guide to Cuba’s dual currency system for more information.

This is the Hershey Train schedule between Havana & Matanzas:

Hershey Train Schedule Havana Matanzas

Hershey Train Schedule between Havana & Matanzas

Things to Know About the Hershey Train Schedule & More

The only reasonable train you can take from Havana is the 12:20pm. If it’s on time, you’ll arrive in Hershey around 2pm.

From there, the next train back to Havana or onwards to Matanzas departs around 6pm.

The train is notoriously slow & often delayed but on a good day, you can get there in less than 2 hours.

We made it in 1 hour & 40 minutes but it’s common for it to take 5 hours or more.

Hershey Train Carriages at Central Camilo Cienfuegos

Trains at Central Camilo Cienfuegos station – the middle train is just for display

This gives you 4 hours at Hershey, which is more than enough time. So take your time exploring the town slowly:

  • Stop at one of the peso stores for a pizza or pan
  • Stop regularly at more peso stores for refresco, jugo or sugar cane juice
  • Strike up conversations with local people
  • Walk to the Jardines de Hershey – treat yourself to a sit-down restaurant meal

Because you have 4 hours to essentially look at the rusted vestiges of 1 old factory (the gardens are a side note), it’s not too tiring to walk around with your bags.

Use the Hershey train as a form of transport from point A (Havana) to point B (Matanzas), like the locals would do, and not just as a tourist day trip.

Alternatively, just jump onboard for a quick look before the train departs in Havana at 12:20pm.

Then visit the other, more interesting, attractions on this side of the harbour: Cristo Rey & the forts around Casablanca.

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The legendary Hershey Train has long been glorified by Havana day-trippers seeking an authentic Cuban experience – is it worth the trip or have we all been taken for a ride? We review the classic rail journey from Havana to Matanzas: find out schedules, prices & what to see & do in the abandoned town of the old Hershey Factory.

*** The Final Word – Check the Hershey Train schedule & jump onboard if you’re a train/history buff or simply want to get to Matanzas ***

What classic train journeys have you been on?

3 Shovels

Accessible DIY travel to more distant locations via multiple connections or longer forms of public transport

Visited in May 2016