Welcome to the colorful UNESCO World Heritage Site of Trinidad, Cuba! If you’re planning visit, here’s what you expect what to do, where to eat, and more.
Trinidad was such a fun way to spend our last few days in Cuba (minus our last night in Havana). In just two and a half days, we strolled, we danced, we ate, we shopped, and we even cooked! The town is located in the central province of Sancti Spíritus and honestly feels like stepping back in history. Full of winding cobblestone streets, you’ll find the architecture has remained unchanged for at least a century. Besides the old sugar baron mansions that are now museums, the town is full of 1-2 story homes in various colorful hues.
If Havana feels like a capital city and Viñales feels like a serene, mountain escape, Trinidad feels like an ongoing party. During the day, many of these buildings are full of art galleries, restaurants, bars, shops, and more, and once night hits, you can always find the sound of live music coming from somewhere. The sun is hot; the nights are cool, and I can see why Trinidad is one of Cuba’s most popular places to visit.
Below is all you need to know if you’re planning your own trip!
Disclosure: My tour with Cuban Adventures was gifted. However, I paid for everything else out of pocket and all opinions are my own. They kindly gave me a discount code should you want to book a tour as well; just use SAM01 to get 5% off.
Quick Cuba Travel Tips
- For Americans: Can Americans visit Cuba? Yes! If you click that link, I have a whole post explaining the process.
- Getting in: Chances are you’re arriving at Jose Martí in Havana. My tour arranged my transfer into the city, but if you need to, you should be able to find a taxi outside the airport.
- Stay in Touch: Order a tourism SIM card ahead of time on the ETECSA website and pick it up at the airport. Otherwise, you may find ETECSA stores themselves are out of these SIM cards.
- Where to Book Activities: Rely on your casa owner or tour guide to help you plan activities. My Cuban Adventures guide, Yummet, was a rockstar at figuring out where to go and what to do.
- Getting Around: Walking! Every city and town we visited, we just walked. Bring comfortables shoes – I had my Hokas with insoles and Birkenstocks. You especially want something sturdy in Trinidad – those cobblestones will destroy anything too flimsy!
A Brief History of Trinidad, Cuba
While Trinidad was “founded” back in 1514 by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, it’s the sugar mills of the late 1700s – 1800s that made the town what is today.
Fleeing the Haitian Revolution, many French colonists settled in Sancti Spíritus and eventually opened up sugar plantations in nearby Valle de los Ingenios. According to UNESCO, this area at its peak in 1827 had over 50 sugar mills and 11,000 enslaved persons.
Following the wars of independence, Trinidad, with all its colorful Spanish colonial architecture, seemingly froze in time until tourism in the 1950s brought it renewed attention.
All the Best Things to Do in Trinidad, Cuba
Figure out where Plaza Mayor is
As you might guess from the name, Plaza Mayor is the center point for Trinidad. Figure out how to get here from your casa, and you’ll never be lost again. All the buildings in here once belonged to the rich sugar plantation owners and are now museums or restaurants.
Wander the colorful, cobblestone streets
Once you know where Plaza Mayor is, my best recommendation is to just wander around. Trinidad is one of the places you want to get a little lost in because there’s so much to see. As I mentioned in the opening, the architecture here is quite unique. Most buildings, if not all, have red terracotta roofs and rarely go above a single story. Walls are splashed in pastel hues of blue, pink, green, and yellow, and windows have barrotes (wooden columns) instead of glass to allow air flow.
Check out the Museums
Admittedly, I did not do this while in Trinidad, but if I had an extra day, I would’ve liked to! Like I said, many of the old mansions in and around Plaza Mayor were turned into museums, so in just a few blocks, you’ve got:
- Museo Histórico – housed in the former Palacio Cantero. Mix of historical exhibits and has a cool view overlooking Trinidad.
- Museo Romántico – full of antiques from the old sugar barons; in the former Palacio Brunet
- Galería de Arte Universal Benito Ortiz – Once known as Palacio Ortiz, this gallery has various exhibits on Trinitarian art.
- Museo de Arquitectura Colonial – Has exhibits that trace Trinidad’s history and development.
- Museo de Arqueología – mix of exhibits showcasing pre-Colombus Cuba.
- Museo Nacional de la Lucha Contra Bandidos – Located in the former Convento de San Francisco; this one focuses on Cuba’s revolutionary history. It also has panoramic views from its bell tower.
Do a cooking class
One of the things my friend, Millette, wanted to do while we were in Cuba was do a cooking class. We really only had time for it in Trinidad, and I decided to tag along last minute because I was curious how some of my new favorite dishes were made.
Our guide, Yummet, led us to Hostal Milagros Trinidad, where we spent the morning helping prepare an absolute feast of a lunch with Milagros and her daughter-in-law, Lisandra. And when I say we helped, I mean we attempted to help and mostly watched while practicing our Spanish with them, Lisandra’s daughters, and then her husband when he made a surprise visit home.
Get your salsa on
I mean, we had to! After taking a basic salsa lesson in Viñales, I was more than eager to try out some moves when we had more time and energy in Trinidad. We wound up going to La Rincón de Salsa because it seemed the most lively, but Casa de Música is also supposed to be good. If you want a little adventure, Disco Ayala is well known for literally being in a cave, but we didn’t make it over to see if it was worth the hype.
Catch the sunset at Playa Ancón
When it comes to beaches, the closest one to Trinidad is Playa Ancón, and it’s about 20 minutes away! Even if you don’t want to spend all day here, I’d still make it over for the sunset. We managed to get a peak of one before it started raining, and the beach itself is lovely. Pay for one of the seats and umbrellas, and enjoy the water. You can also get some drinks from the bar. I got a virgin piña colada and a few of us got some coco locos.
Take half a day to visit Valle de los Ingenios
No trip to Trinidad would be complete without visiting the incredible Valle de Los Ingenios (often translated to the Valley of the Sugar Mills). The 100 square mile valley refers to three connected valleys: San Luis, Santa Rosa, and Meyer, and is less than a 10-20 minute drive from the city. Back in the day there were over 50 sugar mills with over 30,000 enslaved people working them.
Today you can visit the former plantation of Manaca Iznaga, which has been transformed into various houses, a restaurant, and general tourist spot. The big thing to do is to climb the 147ft (45m) Torre de Manaca Iznaga which offers some really stunning panoramic views of the valley. (I think you can guess what it would’ve been used for during the height of sugar production.)
Where to Eat and Drink in Trinidad
Restaurante La Esquina 373
As soon as we arrived to Trinidad, we had lunch at this beautiful spot. Restaurant La Esquina 373 offers up a ton of traditional Cuban options and has a nice, airy design. I got croquetas, some sort of meat dish (I want to say say it was ropa vieja or something similar, but I remember it had a unique name), and some creme brulee and cafe bombon for dessert. YUM. Honestly would’ve gone back if I had an extra day.
Bar Cafe Restaurante Giroud J&J
Millette and I stopped into Giroud for a little pre-dinner snack and some wi-fi. It’s a nice little spot and does have a normal menu if you want actual food!
Restaurante San Jose
Restaurante San Jose is one of the fancier places we ate in Trinidad as seen in portion size and price. They have a ton of options including pastas and pizzas if you want a break from Cuban food. It’s a nice spot, but I think I preferred La Esquina or Conspiradores a bit more. Millette and I split some croquetas, and then I’m pretty sure I got either ropa vieja or vaca frita, and finished off with some torrejas. Funnily enough, the Brit on our tour managed to get a version of fish and chips here!
Bonus: If you eat here, you get a free ticket to Casa de Música.
Our final night in Trinidad, we ate at Los Conspiradores. It’s located in this cheerful yellow house covered in bougainvillea and right next to Casa de Música. We had a little balcony to ourselves, and it was the perfect way to end our time here. The food was delicious and tied with La Esquina for my favorite restaurant in town. (My favorite meal has to go to Milagros and our cooking class because nothing beats a homemade dinner!) I got tostones rellenos with ropa vieja and frituras de malanga, drunk chicken as my main, and a really delicious flan to finish.
Also, I swear I read somewhere that the restaurant got its name because it used to be where revolutionaries met. However, I can’t figure out where I read it, so I might’ve just made that up in my head. If you know, feel free to tell me, so I know I’m not crazy!
Taberna La CanchÁnchara
La canchanchara is one of the many cocktails that were created in Cuba, and apparently it all started at this tavern in Trinidad. The drink is made with rum, honey, lemon juice, and lime, and served in these little clay cups with ice. They only serve canchanchara here, so enjoy it with some live music! (They do offer it without the rum, and it’s still quite tasty).
Just adding Bar Frío because it was near our casa and had free wifi, which we both needed to check in with family. Most casas should have free wifi in Trinidad, but ours didn’t for some reason. It’s a fun tint bar that’s, as the name suggests, kept quite cold.
Markets and Shopping in Trinidad
Arts & Craft Market
We only saw this in passing somewhere near Plaza Mayor, but it’s an open air market that operates daily and is full of different goods and souvenirs.
Yudit Vidal Faife
One of the most interesting people we met was Yudit Vidal Faife! We visited her home to check out all her art and learn more about her story from both her and her wife. She’s gone through different styles but some of her most unique pieces are the ones where she mixes in embroidery and crochet into her paintings. I bought myself a little painting she’d done, but someday I want one of her massive crochet designs! (I first need the money and the space lol).
Another really cool artist to check out is Yami Martinez. Her work often features moka pots and, to me a non-art person, there’s something surreal about them. She has a big collection on the first floor of Los Conspiradores, and one of the girls in our group picked up a few to take home for her friends. This is another one I’d have loved to buy if I had enough cash on hand and space in my suitcase!
Any crochet or embroidery
If you plan to buy any crochet or embroidery, you’ll want to do it in Trinidad. Apparently if you buy it elsewhere in Cuba, it’s all just imported from here. There are lots of different stores, and I wound up buying a crochet dress from one of them. (Unfortunately, a lot of the embroidered tops did not fit!)
Valle de los Ingenios Market
When you visit Torre de Manaza Iznaga in the Valle de los Ingenios, you’ll also find a huge market for crochet and embroidered goods. It’s a lot of gorgeous tablecloths and table runners with some tops and dresses mixed in. Honestly, I’m coming back here for when it comes time to decorate as the embroidery is stunning! I did pick up some smaller things for my mom and a huge table cloth I think I can get turned into a really cute top.
This market is also a good place to bring out your donations especially tylenol as this is the community that would need it the most. I will say it can get really overwhelming because everyone is eager to sell or receive some sort of donation, and they can be really in your face about it. If you speak Spanish or have a guide with you, just ask them to give you some space or else you’ll be too overwhelmed to want to do anything. This worked for us somewhat.
Also, it goes without saying, do not bargain or haggle; it’s extremely distasteful and disrespectful!
Where to Stay in Trinidad
As I’ve said in many posts now; Americans are not allowed to stay in any government-owned hotel. You can see them all specifically listed here under Sancti Spíritus. Our casas were taken care of by our tour, but I’d also contact Milagros or her son to see if their casas have availability as well. Otherwise, check out Hotels.com to find a place stay.
More Travel Tips for Trinidad, Cuba
Getting to Trinidad
If you’re coming from Havana, Trinidad is roughly 4 hours by car. Of course, I was on a tour, so transportation was taken care of, but if you’re going to DIY it, I believe a Viazul bus is your best bet.
WiFi in Trinidad
As I mentioned, Trinidad is one of the towns in Cuba that actually has a lot of wifi offerings – even more than Havana. Most restaurants had it, and most casas offer it as well! Otherwise, you’ll want the ETECAS wifi cards which last an hour and tend to work in public areas like Plaza Mayor.
Safety in Trinidad
Trinidad like the rest of Cuba feels pretty safe. Because it’s so touristed, I’d say your biggest safety concern is pickpocketing, but even then I’d say I was more concerned for my things in places like Paris or Barcelona than in Trinidad.
As always, be smart and look like you know where you’re going. Just in general keep our wits about you as you would anywhere else. If men try to be creepy, pop into the closest restaurant or bar and ask for help, but you should be okay.
FAQ for Trinidad, Cuba
Trinidad is known for its role in the sugar industry back in the late 1700s- mid 1800s. Nearby Valle de Ingenios was home to 50+ sugar mills.
Absolutely! It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site for a reason. It has such a unique history to central Cuba and looks and feels different to other popular spots like Havana, Viñales, and Cienfuegos.
At least 2 days! You could easily fill up a week though if you wanted to explore the surrounding areas more.
It’s roughly 4 hours from Havana if you were driving straight through. However, I recommend stopping through Santa Clara to at least see the Che Guevara museum on your way there or back.
And there you have it! A complete guide to the colorful, charming Trinidad, Cuba. If you have any questions or further recommendations, just comment below!
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