Adventure Group Tours

Driving in Cuba • 2-Week Road Trip » 2900 km

Driving in Cuba
Driving in Cuba

After staying more than a week in Havana with my friends, I decided to jump off the capital and begin to seriously explore the island on a memorable road trip in Cuba.

Since public transportation to smaller villages in Cuba is a bit unreliable, the best way to know the country, without a doubt, is to have your own wheels. This way you can travel freely and go wherever and whenever you want.

Following an intense hour in Havana searching for the best car rental prices, I found out that all companies have the same prices as they were all state-owned. The that I took to visit Cuba, there were no private rent-a-car companies.

I decided to go with CUBACAR. After dealing with the rent a car Cuba agreement and rental terms & conditions, Mr. Carlos León from the car hire company office quickly explained to me a few things to consider while driving in Cuba.

Basically, taking into account natural common sense all drivers should have and road security rules around the world, there are a few tricks to know while driving Cuban roads. I made a clockwise road trip around the island, and during two weeks I slept in different guesthouses called Casas Particulares.

Map of driving in Cuba

Cuba self drive detailed itinerary

  • Havana
  • Varadero
  • Sagua la Grande
  • Santa Clara
  • Remédios
  • Caibarién
  • Cayo Santa María
  • Morón
  • Laguna de Leche
  • Cayo Coco
  • Santa Lucía
  • Manati
  • Guardalavaca
  • Banes
  • Baracoa
  • Guantánamo
  • Santiago de Cuba
  • El Cobre
  • Contramaestre
  • Bayamo
  • Las Tunas
  • Camaguey
  • Ciego de Ávila
  • Venezuela
  • Sancti Spíritus
  • Trinidad
  • Trinidad
  • Playa Ancón
  • Cienfuegos
  • Piñar del Rio
  • Viñales
  • Cayo Jutías

Road Trip Cuba Highlights

It’s hard to decide which are the most fantastic places and put them on a list. There is so much beauty all around that it can’t really be measured. But, I tried to organize the highlights and give you my Cuba top best places.

The capital of Cuba, the city of Havana

Havana Cathedral in Plaza De Armas
Havana Cathedral in Plaza De Armas

Havana is a very nice city, mixing tropical vibes with colonial Spanish architecture. Havana’s old town is very pretty and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Fantastic laid back city of Trinidad

Boys playing soccer on the streets of Trinidad
Boys playing soccer on the streets of Trinidad

Trinidad city was founded in December 23, 1514, by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar. Its original name is Villa De la Santisima Trinidad.

Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca

Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca Fortress
Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca Fortress

Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca is a spectacular fortress with fantastic views over the bay. This sixteenth-century Spanish fortress is one of the UNESCO Sites In Cuba.

Baracoa on the Eastern tip of the island

Baracoa upper view
Baracoa upper view from the hill

Baracoa is the oldest Spanish settlement in Cuba and was its first capital. This was where Christopher Columbus first landed when he arrived in Cuba.

Bayamo main square

Square with the Parochial Church San Salvador in Bayamo
Square with the Parochial Church San Salvador in Bayamo

Bayamo is a town with a beautiful historical center. Bayamo was the second of the seven cities founded by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, who established it in November 5, 1513.

Che Guevara Mausoleum

Che Guevara Mausoleum in Santa Clara
Che Guevara Mausoleum in Santa Clara

Santa Clara is a small town with a few points of interest. Its most famous site is the Che Guevara Mausoleum.

Old American Cars

Old American Car in Trinidad
Old American Car in Trinidad

Cuban roads are full of well preserved Classic American Cars from the 40s and 50s.

Viñales National Park

Sunset over Viñales village
Sunset over Viñales village

Viñales is a very nice place west of Havana. Viñales is a UNESCO World Heritage site that has a natural park, several caves, rocky mountains and jungle.

Fresh, cheap fruit

Pineapple Fruit stall
Pineapple Fruit stall

On the side of the road around the country there are stalls selling fruit and natural fresh juice.

Cuban Beaches

Cayo Jutias in Bahía de Santa Lucía is a beach in the northern part of the island of Cuba. White sand beaches and crystal clear water.

Playa de Ancon is a beach on the Caribbean Sea, a few kilometers south of the city of Trinidad. Playa de Ancon is famous for its beauty and tranquility. It has plenty of palm trees, white-sand beaches, and crystal clear water.

Before you hit the road

What to know before you hit the road - Cuba with car rental
What to know before you hit the road – Cuba with car rental
  1. I really had no major problems with the Havana car rental, everything regarding mechanics was working fine.
  2. The only issue I had was the tires, which were terrible. I had to buy one tire, and the money was given back to me by the company Cubacar when I got back to Havana. So, do check your rent-a-car tires before you actually take it. Bald tires are those that are so worn down that they have almost no thread, which makes the car extremely dangerous to drive as the tires can actually blow up.
  3. Roads in Cuba are very safe since drivers are very conscious. There are really no crazy drivers like in other Latin American countries.
  4. Major roads are in good asphalt conditions, but as soon as you drive into the countryside, roads do change, and you should expect many potholes due to poor road maintenance.
  5. On the highway from Santa Clara to Havana, there were no road signs;
  6. Prepare yourself to practice your Spanish to ask for directions. Since there are no road signs, you will have to stop the car and ask for directions.
  7. You should decide to explore more rural regions of Cuba and drive on countryside roads to discover a different and even more relaxed country. These roads are represented in yellow on the map.
  8. Always be attentive on the road. There are always people crossing everywhere and lots of bicycles.
  9. There are always lots of animals such as horses, cows, dogs and all kinds of farm animals. There are even vultures flying over the roads to eat dead animals. Sometimes they stay on the road eating while you get closer to the car.
  10. Also crucial is that, after sunset, people return home after working on the farms. So, expect no road illumination and hundreds of people everywhere. Drive slowly and safely.
  11. There are places where the road simply disappears like the road from Moa to Baracoa – Yes, NO road at all.
  12. Road traffic police can usually be found before and after urban areas.
  13. Do not exceed the maximum speed limit as the police will definitely get you.
  14. If by any reason you’re stopped by the Cuban police, do not be rude and show deep respect. Your behavior will reflect their behavior. If you look suspicious – they will look suspicious. If you are friendly – they will be friendly. If you smile – they will smile. Be nice, say a loud and happy HOLA! Or BUENOS DIAS and you’ll be okay.
  15. Some roads are really in bad conditions. So if you decide to drive faster, you have to be aware that you may have to brake quickly because of big holes on the road.
  16. Never drive without a spare tire. If you use it, always fix the bad one as soon as possible.
  17. I always avoided hotels. I always stayed in Cuban “Casas particulares.” These are ordinary family houses with one or two spare bedrooms to rent. Breakfasts are excellent, and you get the chance of directly interacting with Cuban people.
  18. Get some music! Buy a Compay Segundo tape or CD to drive while listening to the best Cuban music.
  19. Every day, thousands of people wait for a ride back home from village to village. You’ll probably want to take some of them with you. Cuban people are jubilant and communicative – so you’ll probably have a lot of fun.
  20. In Cuba there is almost no criminal activity, which makes the country a relatively safe destination (apart from some dodgy big city neighborhoods like Old Havana or in Santiago de Cuba).
  21. Take into consideration possible fuel shortages in some towns and villages. Always have your tank full of fuel.
  22. OK, you can always go a little bit faster than the road speed limit…
  23. Stop on the side of the road wherever you see stalls selling fruit and natural juice. Try them out. This is one of the best things that Cuba has to offer.
  24. Cuba and its tropical climate can be tricky. So, a beautiful sunny morning can become a tremendous ugly stormy afternoon with a dark sky and colossal rainfall. Beware of aquaplaning on the road.
  25. I filled up the car tank with fuel 9 times, in the following locations: Havana, Santa Clara, Cayo Coco, Manati, Moa, Santiago de Cuba, Sancti Spiritus, Pinar del Rio and Bahia Honda (where I added just $5 CUC to drive to Havana and deliver the car back to the car rental company).
  26. In almost 4000km / 2500mi of driving I had 3 flat tires.

The car I rented

Hyundai Athos - Rent-a-car Cuba
Hyundai Athos – Rent-a-car Cuba