Discovering The Magic Of Trinidad: Cuba’s Colorful Colonial City

Trinidad Cuba

Exploring Trinidad, Cuba

Trinidad, Cuba

Trinidad is Cuba’s best preserved colonial city, a unique mix of 1850’s architecture & 1950’s cars that feels frozen in time. Check out some of my favorite things to do in Trinidad.

Trinidad was one of the first Cuban towns founded by the Spanish, and it quickly grew wealthy from the production of sugar cane, cattle, and tobacco due to the importation of African slaves.

The town’s wealth funded extravagant palaces, large plazas, and colorful colonial homes for rich plantation owners.

Much of this colonial architecture remains, making it one of the best preserved historic towns in North America, and it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Trinidad has become one of the most popular Cuban cities for travelers to visit.

You can walk cobblestoned streets, listen to live music in the plaza, cool off with fresh sugar cane juice, hop into a horse-drawn carriage, chat with locals, or visit fascinating colonial museums spread about town.

Streets of Trinidad

Vintage Taxi in Trinidad

Things To Do In Trinidad

Anna and I spent two days exploring Trinidad with our friends Hannah & Adam from Getting Stamped. Honestly it didn’t feel like we were in town long enough, there’s a lot to see, and Trinidad is bigger than I thought.

It’s certainly a tourist town though — but even with other travelers around, Trinidad doesn’t lose its charm.

Trinidad is a place where new mixes with old to create a jumble of sights, sounds, and smells.

The city has a great laid-back Cuban vibe — I highly recommend getting away from the main square to explore, losing yourself on the fascinating back streets & alleys.

Plaza Mayor, Trinidad Cuba

Church of the Holy Trinity

Hang Out In Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor is the heart of Trinidad, a large plaza comprised of raised gardens, walkways, and cobblestoned streets. Historic buildings from the 18th & 19th centuries still surround the plaza.

Many are painted in pastel colors, topped with red terracotta roofs.

The plaza was built back when the region was rich from sugar plantation wealth. Yet you’ll still find the same churches and mansions previously owned by sugar barons — restored and transformed into museums.

Grab a seat on one of the cast-iron benches, enjoy the gardens, and listen to salsa music emanating from the buildings nearby. However because it’s the main tourist area, be wary of local touts trying to sell you stuff.

Trinidad Church Tower Cuba

Convento de San Francisco de Asis

Trinidad Bell Tower

View From the Bell Tower

Climb The Bell Tower

You’ll notice Convento de San Francisco right away, as you can see the bright yellow bell tower from most parts of town. It’s the most prominent landmark, and a popular postcard photo.

A former convent, it’s now a museum with artifacts from the revolution.

The climb up to the top of the tower is worth the view, and the museum is interesting too. They have some armored vehicles and stuff from the United States invasion.

Trinidad Municipal Museum

Palacio Cantero (Municipal Museum)

Visit Historical Museums

The Museo de Arquitectura is located in a 18th century mansion formerly owned by Sanchez Iznaga. Inside you’ll get a glimpse of what these large homes looked like, as well as a 19th-century style bathroom.

Palacio Cantero is another former mansion, now the Municipal Museum. The main attraction is magnificent views of the city offered by its tower.

Palacio Brunet was once the home of the wealthy sugar baron Conde de Brunet, today it houses Museo Romantico, showcasing luxurious items belonging to the family. Like a 1.5 ton marble bathtub!

Sugar cane juice in Trinidad

Fresh Guarapo Frio (sugar cane juice)

Trinidad Cuba Restaurants

Local Cuban Food

Sample The Cuban Food

Cuban food often gets a bad rap. While I didn’t mind it so much, it’s definitely not as spicy & flavorful as Mexican cuisine. Lots of rice, beans, yuca, and meat on the bland side.

You can buy basic meals at restaurants in Trinidad for between $5-10.

While you might not write home about the food, Cuba excels in coffee, rum drinks, and sugar cane juice. Make sure to visit the La Canchánchara mansion for their special cocktail made of rum, honey, lemon, and water.

Ancon Beach near Trinidad

Relaxing on Cuban Beaches

Playa Ancon Beach

Playa Ancon is a beautiful white-sand beach only 6 miles away from Trinidad. For only $5-10 CUC you can catch a vintage taxi and spend the afternoon there.

For the more adventurous, rent a bicycle pedal over on your own, which takes about an hour. Cuba’s beaches aren’t very crowded, and the turquoise water is crystal clear.

Grab an icy cocktail and get some sun, or if you’re a scuba diver, there’s a dive shop at Playa Ancon from Marina Blanca, directly across the road from Hotel Ancon.

Meeting locals in Trinidad Cuba

Making New Friends

Trinidad Local Neighborhood

Exploring Trinidad’s Neighborhoods

Wander The Streets

Trinidad has an older “city center” area around Plaza Mayor where most of the historic buildings and attractions are located. It’s a pedestrian walking area, no cars are allowed. Most tourists tend to stick around Plaza Mayor.

But taking a long walk down some of Trinidad’s side streets until you get completely lost is one of my favorite things to do. You’ll get a glimpse of what life in Trinidad truly looks like.

Locals often gather on doorsteps and street curbs, hiding from the relentless sun. You may see games of dominoes, deep conversations, bird cages hanging from porches. Don’t be afraid to say hello — and ask some questions too. Most people will be happy to chat!

Casa de Musica Trinidad

Sunset From Casa de Musica

Dance To Traditional Music

Every night around 7pm locals and tourists alike will dance salsa at the open-air Casa de Musica. Order a cocktail and sit down to watch from the wide stone staircase as the sun sets, soaking up the atmosphere.

The steps are one of Trinidad’s few public wifi hotspots, so you’ll see plenty of people on their smartphones for a quick Facebook or Instagram fix.

Music is a big part of Cuban life, especially in Trinidad. Musicians set up on street corners, public parks, or inside restaurants. There’s even a cool nightclub called Disco Ayala that set inside a natural cave!

Trinidad Cuba Horseback Riding

Riding Horses in Trinidad

Go Horseback Riding

When Anna and I wanted to go horseback riding, we just asked the first guy we came across. “No problem!” he said. His friend owns horses and can take us into the mountains for a few hours.

Cuban cowboys were frequently riding their horses down Trinidad’s streets, so we knew it wouldn’t be difficult.

Jesus, our guide, led us out of town past Cuban tobacco farms and up into the dry hills behind Trinidad. We made our way through a forest, eventually arriving at a swimming hole to cool off from the day’s heat.

Topes de Collantes Nature Park

Hiking to Vegas Grandes Waterfall

Topes De Collantes National Park

The Sierra del Escambray mountains are Cuba’s 2nd largest mountain range. It was here some CIA sponsored anti-Castro “bandits” hid in the mountains and fought to try and take back the new socialist government.

The Escambrays are home to Topes De Collantes National Park, a beautiful nature reserve where you can go hiking, horseback riding, visit numerous waterfalls, or relax with a scenic picnic.

The drive into the mountains is pretty steep, but we still managed with our rental car. After stopping at the visitor’s center, we hiked to a stunning blue waterfall & swimming hole called Vegas Grandes. The hike took 2 hours round trip.

Valle De Los Ingenios Trinidad

Rural Cuban Farm Home

Valle De Los Ingenios

Trinidad was one of the most prosperous cities in Cuba due to enormous sugar production in the nearby Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills) which still has some working sugar mills/fields.

The region once housed 50 sugar mills and 30,000 slaves to work the fields. During the 18th and 19th centuries this valley was the sugar producing capital of the world.

Don’t miss the Manaca Iznaga Plantation if you visit the valley, where you can see the remains of the plantation’s main house, a huge tower, and the old slave quarters. You can even ride a classic steam train into the valley from Trinidad.

Trinidad taxi by horse

Horse-Cart Taxi in Trinidad

How To Get There

Trinidad is located in South Central Cuba, a 5 hour drive from Havana by car. With our rental car we took a longer route through Playa Giron, a nice way to break up the trip and go scuba diving at the famous Bay Of Pigs.

By bus it’s a 7 hour trip from Havana, and costs $25 USD/CUC. The Viazul Bus terminal in Havana is located at the corner of Avenida 26 and Avenida Zoologico. You often have to buy tickets at the station one day in advance.

You can rent your own vintage 1950’s taxi (with driver) for about $100-$120 per day, or share a taxi with other travelers and split the cost. Just keep in mind these old cars break down from time to time.

Streets of Trinidad

Cobblestoned Streets & Old Cars

Trinidad Donkey Man

Trinidad’s Famous Donkey Man…

Tips For Visiting Trinidad

Because Trinidad is part of Cuba’s tourist trail, you won’t be able to escape the Jineteros, or hustlers. While they aren’t nearly as bad as they are in Havana, they’re around.

Everyone and their grandmother is trying to sell you something. Taxi rides, cigars, casa particulares, bicycles for rent, or they want to show you a great restaurant their cousin owns.

Don’t lose your cool. Be nice, but firm, and say no thanks. You really can’t blame them for trying — Cubans don’t have many options for earning extra money — their government salary is about $30 per MONTH.

Independent travel in Cuba is raw, challenging, and refreshing, but the hustlers can be annoying sometimes too.

Casa Particular Trinidad Cuba

Hostal Vidal (Casa Particular)

Where To Stay In Trinidad

We based ourselves in Trinidad Cuba for 2 nights, and had a wonderful trip. If you’re wondering where to stay in Trinidad here’s my advice:

Budget Accommodation

Hostal Vidal – Excellent casa particular (homestay) run by a very nice Cuban family. Comfortable beds, good breakfast, and AC.

$35 CUC per night, located in front of the bus station.

Fancy Accommodation

Iberostar Grand Hotel – If you’re not quite ready for a local homestay, Trinidad also has a really nice hotel called the Iberostar.

Check prices on: HotelsCombined.com

Cuba’s Colonial City

Trinidad is one city you shouldn’t miss traveling in Cuba. While the island gets 2-3 million tourists per year, most don’t leave Havana, and there’s so much more to see in this fascinating country.

The mix of colonial architecture, historical significance, laid-back local vibes, vintage cars, horse-drawn carts, and scenic mountains nearby made Trinidad one of my favorite places to visit in Cuba. ★

Traveling To Cuba Soon?

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance here.

Bonus Video! 10 Days In Cuba


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More Information

Location: Trinidad, Cuba
Useful Notes: Trinidad is full of casas particulares, there are over 350 of them. It seems everyone in the whole town has a room to rent. Remember to ask to see the room first, and try to negotiate on price a bit. Breakfast is often extra.
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Cuba
Suggested Reading: The Other Side Of Paradise

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Things to do in Trinidad, Cuba. More at ExpertVagabond.com
Things to do in Trinidad, Cuba. More at ExpertVagabond.com

Have any questions about visiting Trinidad? Are you interested in traveling to Cuba? Drop me a message in the comments below!

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30 Comments

  1. It’s an excellent city with a lot of memories. You fabulous photos made me remember about this cute city. Colorful houses and cars. Photos looking great!

  2. My grandmother has roots to Trindad and as of next year I actually plan to dig more into my family tree. This article gave me a great feel for what to expect when I do visit. Thanks for the article. I hope to share similar experiences on my blog. Safe travels!

  3. Great post! Very nice places to visit, I am planning to go in that place to relax and enjoy the nature. I will save money for it together with my family.

  4. Thank you for this blog and such useful info! We are planning to go in August of this year. Our plans weren’t including Trinidad, but now….we just might have to add a couple of days to our vacation as it’s two extra days just for the travel to and fro. Do you think the Cuban vibe is now more authentic in Trinidad vs Havana? We were going to stay in Havana for three nights, but perhaps two is enough if we venture to Trinidad?

  5. What stunning photos – you’ve really captured the vibrance and flavour of Cuba in your photographs and with your words. It seems like you’ve had an incredible time; and its amazing that you soaked up so much local culture too!

  6. How is it communicating there? my Spanish is.. well.. not good to say the least. My husband and I are going in june with our 2 year old daughter. we cant wait!

  7. It seems like you’re being transported back in time when you’re in Cuba. I hope it doesn’t lose its authentic charm for future travelers.

  8. What an outstanding spot … more Americans should take advantage of the cultural tourism provision between the Cuban government and the USA and see places like Trinidad!

  9. Wow, the photos really remind me of Granada, Nicaragua. I guess that makes sense though since they’ve both got the same Spanish influence. Most people I know tend to just to the all-inclusive Cuban beach vacation but independent travel would definitely be more my speed.

  10. There’s so much to do in Trinidad! I love how your photos show how beautiful, vibrant, and colorful Trinidad is. A couple of things I’d definitely want to do when I do visit there is to check out the Cuban food, go horseback riding, and visit that beautiful waterfall! I really do appreciate your tips. It’s very useful info!

  11. Can’t believe I missed Trinidad when I went to Cuba a couple of years ago. I love colorful cities like that, looks so beautiful!
    Your photos are stunning as always :)

  12. Great photos, we were in Trinidad 7 years ago and it was the highlight of our stay in Cuba. Like you,we took the Viazul bus from Havana and stayed in a Casa Particular (from the looks of the top photo, just a few blocks over from where you were).
    We didn’t encounter any touts in Trinidad (but lots in Havana) but again, that was 7 years ago. Hope they’re not multiplying…

    Frank (bbqboy)

  13. Great article. I was in Trinidad this a few months ago and loved it. It is the most photogenic city I have ever been to. I have a few similar shots to you :) For anyone heading to Cuba a fun game to play in Plaza Major is “count the the Lonely Planet guidebooks”. When I was there it seemed like every second person who walked by was holding a Lonely Planet guidebook (myself included). I have never been somewhere with so many other travelers. I thought it was great; very easy to meet people. Finally, if you are a bit of a photo nut go on the self-guided Lonely Planet photography tour (it is in their Cuba guidebook) during the “golden hours”. You will meet lots of traveling photographers this way and you can swap photo locations and tips. It’s tons of fun.

  14. I am loving the architecture. Cuba is definitely going to be one of my next trips. My husband is an old car kinda guy and now I know he’ll love it too.

    1. He’ll be in heaven then! I loved seeing all those old cars too. It’s amazing how Cubans are able to keep them alive with 500,000+ miles on them. But I guess they have no other choice…

  15. Loving these photos of Trinidad! It really looks a lot like Antigua Guatemala with all those colonial buildings. I need to visit Cuba soon…