day continue your trip to Vinales, just two hours from Las Terrazas.
It is in a valley in the Rosario Mountains and consists of some
of the loveliest and most unusual scenery in Cuba. Great for hiking,
horseback riding, cycling, and caving. While there, you might choose
to drive to Cayo Jutias, an offshore island connected to the mainland
by a 2 km long causeway. There are no hotels or villages there,
just an open air restaurant, restroom and change rooms. Plus a long
beautiful beach where you can snorkle.
(when you get tired of the peacefullness in Vinales) drive back
to Havana, entering the city not on the Pinar Havana freeway, but
on the Mariel Havana freeway, which follows the coast, as the Mariel
freeway will run into Avenida 5 which will take you through the
Almendres River tunnel and right onto the Malecon.
In short, you won't need road signs, which do not exist anyway,
just be sure the ocean is always there on your left, and you'll
easily find your way into Havana Vedado, Centro Habana, or Habana
Vieja, wherever you want to stay. But be aware this road is not
that great in condition, so take your time that day. With a car
you're better off picking a hotel or casa in Vedado, where there's
a chance of finding parking for the rental car. But for the real
Havana experience Centro Habana or Habana Vieja is a more exciting
area to stay.
because you've got a rental car and be economic, don't stay in Havana
more than one night. Next morning head for the Bahia de Cochinos
(Bay of Pigs) for snorkelling and diving if you like. It's about
a 3 hour drive from Havana.
There are many nice little cove beaches along the east shore of
the bay, and also along the open-ocean beach that runs east from
Playa Giron. In Playa Giron, for lodging, you will find both Hotel
Playa Giron, with cottages facing the beach and open ocean, and
also, in the village 1 km away, lots of licenced casas.
you've done all the snorkelling/beaching you want there in the Bay
of Pigs area (which is within the Zapata Swamp National Park), and
visited and maybe eaten some crocodiles at the crocodile farm cafetaria,
then you would likely want to drive on to Trinidad, which is another
15 km from Trinidad is the long Playa Ancon, it's more dived out
than the Bay of Pigs, and very convenient to Trinidad. Or you can
stay on the waterfront, in either one of the three big hotels, or
else in a licenced casa in the village of La Boca.
you've done with Trinidad, you might want to drive over the Escambray
Mountains (for the scenery) to Santa Clara, and back to Havana on
the freeway from there (Trinidad - Santa Clara takes about 2 hours,
but maybe 2 more if you want to stop in Topes de Collantes for a
hike in the cloud forest. Santa Clara to Havana takes about 3 hours.
However you schedule that drive back, just be sure you are back
in the city before dark, because driving Cuba's highways after dark
is not recommended. Lots of slow traffic, even on the freeway (slow
traffic in the Cuban context meaning, bicycles, horse-drawn conveyances,
tractors, etc), and most of it will not have lights. Also many pedestrians,
most of them hitching. Picking up hitchhikers in Cuba is recommended,
as they can be a great help in providing directions in a country
where signage is sparce to non existant. (Although the exits I've
mentioned, to Sorora/Las Terrazas and also to Playa Giron/Bahia
de Cochinos are both well-marked). When taking hitchhikers put away
all your belongings since in a poor country ... don't give the Cuban
the opportunity to steel something from you.
many days you stay in each place only needs to depend on how long
it holds your interest (and how much time you have). I have recommended
going first to rural and small town areas where it's easiest to
get a hang of how things work than in a city like Havana. But you
will want to at least touch down in Havana early in your trip, so
you will have an idea of how much time you want to take for the
city at the end of your trip. Another advantage of leaving it to
the end of your trip is that you can drop off your rental car when
you get there, as it will be economic and more convenient to get
around the city by taxi. Unless, of course, you want to keep the
car for getting Playa Jibacoa, which is about an hour's drive east
of Havana. Varadero, Cuba's number 1 tourist destination, is a little
further, like two hours from Havana, and has beautiful beaches to
interesting links for traveling around Cuba: