Pinar del Río
If you’ve ever wondered where the world’s finest cigars start out, it’s in the lovingly cultivated tobacco plantations of Cuba’s westernmost province, Pinar del Río. But those plantations are only part of the area’s magic. With its unusual mogotes (rounded limestone mountains) strung along flat plains, Pinar del Río’s spectacular scenery rivals any in the world. These plains, where Cuban cowboys roam and dreamy villages doze, are ringed by mountain ranges crowned by vast stretches of tropical forests.
Take a factory tour to see how the world’s finest cigars are made, or stop by the brandy plant to discover how the locals make Guayabita del Pinar, a tasty guava liqueur that’s a regional specialty here. Book on a tour to Las Terrazas, a scenic, sustainable resort community ideally situated in the midst of mountain hiking trails leading to waterfalls, mineral springs and historic coffee plantations. Be sure to visit Soroa, home to 750 orchid species and the spectacular El Salto waterfall. Venture out to the wonderfully secluded beaches situated on Pinar del Río’s keys where coral gardens, caves and crystalline waters attract diving enthusiasts.
With one World Heritage Site – the Valle de Viñales – and two biosphere reserves – the Sierra del Rosario and Península de Guanahacabibes – Pinar del Río has more UNESCO-protected land than any other province in Cuba.
Watch workers expertly hand-roll fine cigars at the Francisco Donatién cigar factory. A local specialty is Guayabita del Pinar, an exquisite guava liqueur unique to this area.
Pinar del Río’s blissfully serene beaches offer some of the most spectacular diving in the Caribbean.
Cross a short causeway to reach this ‘undiscovered’ beach, 65 km north of Viñales.
Escape to this tiny island lined with coconut trees and mangroves. Sink your feet into the island’s smooth white sands, or venture into the warm waters to explore the pristine coral reefs.
The sheltered reefs around María la Gorda, on the tip of the Península de Guanahacabibes, are an underwater paradise for scuba divers. In fact, Pinar del Río is endowed with as much natural beauty below sea level as it is above.
Boating and sailing
Book a sailing excursion, a deep-sea fishing trip or just watch the yachts come and go at this busy marina.
Scuba diving and snorkeling
The colourful coral reefs around this tiny island, off the northern coast of the Península de Guanahacabibes, are home to an astonishing array of sealife, including marlin and other game-fish.
María la Gorda
See giant sea turtles, gorgonnese gardens and the largest colony of black coral in the Caribbean off the secluded shores of María la Gorda. Legends of pirates abound, with plenty of evidence to back them up: anchors, old cannons and other treasures lying on the seabed near the coast of tranquil Ensenada de Corrientes.
Cuba’s third largest province was blessed with spectacular natural assets. Hike in the mountains, visit a working tobacco plantation and marvel at the diversity of plant and wildlife in Pinar del Río’s lush biospheres.
Viñales Valley, Sierra de los Organos
Declared a UNESCO World Cultural and Landscape Site in 1999, this valley is also home to a 270-million-year-old fossil, palma corcho (Mycrocycas calocoma).
Explore the famous San Juan y Martinez tobacco fields, and stop by the Finca El Pinar Vegas Robaina tobacco ranch.
Península de Guanahacabibes
Venture out to the western tip of Cuba to gaze at the 170 bird species that call this peninsula home, including Cuba’s national bird, the tocororo.
This sustainable village, on the slopes of the Sierra del Rosario mountain range, is an excellent starting point for hiking excursions past waterfalls, coffee plantations and mineral springs.
Pinar del Río is bursting with ecotourism delights. Hike to the spectacular El Salto waterfall, take a guided tour of Cuba’s largest cave system, book an excursion from Las Terrazas, explore the inside of a mogote, watch as ox-drawn ploughs make their way through the region’s fertile tobacco farms, or see a 270 million-year-old fossil.
Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve
Take a guided hike through the tropical forests in Cuba’s first biosphere reserve, recognized in 1985. Watch out for one of the world’s smallest frogs and the colourful, pocket-sized reptile, the chipojo.
Península de Guanahacabibes Biosphere Reserve
This sprawling reserve covers 121,572 hectares, including the Guanahacabibes National Park. Its diverse vegetation comprises mangroves, marsh grasslands, coastal scrublands and forests. Wildlife includes 40 bird species, as well as an abundance of local jutía and iguanas
Parque Nacional de Viñales
This picturesque valley was named a UNESCO World Cultural and Landscape Site in 1999, thanks to bucolic farms and villages set against the region’s iconic limestone mogotes.
Cueva del Indio
Enjoy a boat ride on the underground river that runs through this huge cavern. It is illuminated, so you can get a good look at the inside of a mogote.
Watch ox-drawn ploughs make their way through the beautiful valleys that grow Cuba’s best tobacco.
Cueva de los Portales
Study the various stalagmites and stalactites in this 100-foot-high cavern, which now houses a museum.
This mountain community of artists and organic farmers is Cuba’s first sustainable village. There are hiking trails to stunning waterfalls, sparkling mineral springs and lush coffee farms. Stay at the Hotel La Moka, which specializes in eco-excursions.
Gran Caverna de San Tomás
Take a guided tour of Cuba’s largest cave system. Spread out over eight levels, the 46-km cave system is home to bats, underground pools and a replica of an ancient mural.
Hike to the spectacular El Salto waterfall, or climb atop Mirador de Venus for panoramic views. Botanical experts have identified 1,000 species of exotic plants here; one hillside garden boasts 750 different types of orchids alone.
Arts and culture
Pinar del Río’s natural beauty undoubtedly inspires the region’s community of local artists. In between ecotours and nature hikes, explore the art studios scattered throughout Las Terrazas or visit a museum inside a cave.
This sustainable village, built some forty years ago on the slopes of the Sierra del Rosario mountains, is home to several art studios and the house where renowned Cuban musician Polo Montañez was born.
Centro Provincial de Artes Plásticas Galería
Browse the comprehensive collection of local art at one of the region’s best galleries.
Fábrica de Bebidas Casa Garay
Take a tour of this brandy factory that was built in 1892. The distinctive Guayabita del Pinar guava brandy is distilled here.
Museo de Ciencias Naturales Sandalio de Noda
See for yourself why some call this the strangest building in Cuba. The mansion was built by a local doctor, Francisco Guasch, and now houses a natural science collection that includes a stuffed baby giraffe.
Cueva de Los Portales
Items once used by revolutionary hero Ernesto Che Guevara are housed in this small museum, located inside a cave.
Estadio Capitán San Luis
Root for the Vegueros, one of the top baseball teams in the Cuban National Series, at this stadium in the city of Pinar del Río.
Teatro José Jacinto Milanés
Take in a show at this recently renovated theatre built in 1845, or enjoy a coffee on its Spanish-style outdoor patio.
Give the kids something to tell their friends back home by taking them on a boat ride through one of Pinar del Río’s famous mogotes.
Cueva del Indio
Explore the inside of a mogote on a boat ride through this huge cavern’s river.
Enjoy an evening of local music while you dine at a charming converted cottage in Pinar del Río.
Restaurants and Cafes
Casa de Don Tomás
Listen to local musicians play traditional Cuban music while you dine at this enchanting restaurant. It is located in the city of Pinar del Río, in a charming cottage built in 1822.
Spas and wellness
There is an abundance of pampering available in spa town San Diego de los Baños.
San Diego de los Baños
Indulge in a therapeutic treatment at one of the modern facilities in this spa town.
Festivals and events
Catch Carnaval festivities in the city of Pinar del Río each July.
Enjoy the floats and street parties during Carnaval each July.