There are many reasons to choose Cuban biking vacations. From the bike friendly attitude to the warm welcomes and the stunning beaches to the varied landscape this country has a lot to offer. Read this guide to Cuba cycling holidays to find out more.
Cuba only opened its doors to tourism in the 1990s and is one of those countries to visit before it is ruined by mass tourism. Hopefully this will never happen, but since the US removed travel restrictions in 2015 the number of American visitors to Cuba has increased from 63,000 in 2010 to 630,000 in 2018. Fortunately, this is still relatively small numbers, and Cuba still retains its charm. So visit now!
Cycling in Cuba is one of the best ways to get to grips with the island. It will take you away from the all-inclusive holiday resorts and bright lights of Havana. Cycling will introduce you to the rolling lowlands, Caribbean coastlines, colonial towns, historic heartlands and patchwork plantations of real Cuba. There are mountains too, with the Sierra Maestra reaching almost 2000m offering challenging cycling.
Cuba cycling holidays provide the perfect opportunity to understand the warm hearted Cubans and to get under the skin of their infectious culture. Heart felt hellos, or holas, will come your way as you cycle through rural villages and hands will wave out of windows of the old American cars that drive past.
Music comes as part of the package when visiting Cuba. Salsa beats, folk songs and classical guitar music waft out of bars and bedroom windows. You can expect musical evening entertainment, even in the smallest settlements.
Staying with the locals is part of the tourist culture here. Families with spare bedrooms are licensed by the Cuban authorities to provide B&B style accommodation. It is a great way to stop en-route and experience Cuban home cooking and authentic, everyday life.
Cuban food is a tasty mix of Spanish, African, and other Caribbean cuisines. Expect fresh ingredients, good portions and low prices. The most typical Cuban food is the comida criolla, a dish including either seafood or meat, a salad, fried plantains and rice with beans. The paladares (privately owned restaurants) tend to be better and cheaper than State owned eateries.
Cuba’s relationship with bikes goes back a few decades. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the 1991 oil crash left the island with little choice but to reduce their dependence on cars. They made half a million bikes and imported more than a million from China. Private car ownership was extremely rare, and although it’s more common now the two-wheel legacy lives on.
This means Cubans have an ingrained respect for cyclists. Many Cubans still travel by bike today, leaving the roads relatively traffic-free. And motorists still remember when they travelled by bike meaning they give you plenty of room.
Bike lanes and safe places to park are common features in Cuba and much of the country is flat, with decent-enough road surfaces. All of which are good reasons to choose Cuban biking vacations. Furthermore, the tropical climate in Cuba is moderated by north-easterly trade winds that blow year round. So any time of year is good to get on your bike here.
Havana is the entry point for most visitors. Spend a few days soaking up the crumbling colonial buildings, addictive salsa beats and potent Havana rum in Cuba’s capital – it’s got to be done! Then peddle out of the city towards forested limestone hills, sprawling tobacco fields and picture-postcard beaches.
There are stacks of options for Cuban biking vacations. The 175km road from Santiago de Cuba to Marea del Portillo, Sancti Spiritus to Cienfuegos route and the Pinar del Rio province (north of Havana), are all favourites amongst cyclists.
Others prefer to plan their cycle routes around particular attractions. The ‘Valley of the Sugar Mills’ is a top destination for many, it is a former hub for sugar production, where old colonial homes crumble in the countryside.
Trinidad, one of Cuba’s most beautiful colonial towns, is another key destination. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is famed for its red-tiled roofs, ornate balconies and cobblestone streets. Cycling there from Havana takes you passed Parque Escaleras de Jaruco, Parque Nacional Ciénaga de Zapata, Bay of Pigs, Bahía de Cienfuegos and Gran parque natural Topes de Collantes.
If you want your Cuba cycling holidays to be mainly flat and within reach of beaches then head out from Havana along the north coast to Varadero. Along the way there are many beautiful beaches to visit and campgrounds to stay in plus the towns of Santa Cruz del Norte and Matanzas to explore. Book some accommodation in Varadero and stay for a few days at this excellent beach resort where you can dive and kitesurf.
Getting to Cuba usually means flying into Havana. This article was written during the Covid 19 crisis so please check the latest Cuban travel info at the FCO website. The situation with Covid is changing daily so it is worth knowing your rights regarding delays and flight cancellation compensation too.
For all Cuba cycling holidays you’re going to need a bike! And unless you’re planning a multi-week island tour, you’re probably better off hiring one in Cuba. Bear in mind it’s easy to find places to make minor repairs to your bike and fix punctures. But if you’re bringing your own fancy road-bike or mountain bike from home, you’ll struggle to get spare parts.
You don’t have to cycle in Cuba independently. There are plenty of international tour operators offering Cuba cycling holidays where you join a small group. But consider booking with a Cuban company instead, the trips are similar but cost less with more money going to the local economy.
Cuba really is one of those places to visit sooner rather than later. And with everything from one day jaunts to month-long adventures, the opportunities for cycling in Cuba are immense. Routes criss-cross the country, making Cuba’s well-known attractions and its hidden treasures, easily accessible by bike.
Some cyclists even choose to tackle the full length of the island and cycle across Cuba. But if you’re restricted on time, to see the more of the island choose a Cuban biking holiday with vehicle support. These tours offer the best of both worlds, allowing you to cover larger distances by bus while getting into the saddle for the most memorable sections.