Eastern Cuba self drive vacation

“Hiring your own car and heading out to Cuba’s lesser visited eastern side make this vacation feel extra adventurous. Discover the vibrant history and culture as you go – all at your own pace.”


Havana | Trinidad | Valle de los Ingenios | Escambray Mountains | Sancti Spiritus | Camagüey | Bayamo | Santiago de Cuba | Optional: Sierra Maestra National Park, hike to Comandancia de la Plata, Topes de Collantes National Park, Cienfuegos

Description of Eastern Cuba self drive vacation

While most visitors to Cuba stick to the western end of the island, this eastern Cuba self drive vacation takes you to the less crowded cities and national parks, letting you explore at your own pace, and with an activity level that suits you. Driving your own car here adds to the more adventurous nature of the vacation, and while your accommodation is all pre-booked for you, it’s up to you where you stop along the way, who you chat to and whether the pause at a pretty beach or a photogenic viewpoint.

The country’s rebellious, revolutionary spirit is evident throughout this trip, as is its rich history. Bayamo is home to over half of the significant historic sites in Cuba; the untamed mountains of the Sierra Maestra contain Castro and Guevara’s guerrilla hideout; Santiago is the hub of Afro-Cuban culture; and Sancti Spiritus was one of the original cities founded on the island. Visit art galleries, revolutionary museums and take in a ballet performance or street festival, as you immerse yourself in the culture of this rapidly changing but deeply seductive island.

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Departure information

This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
Vacation type

Tailor made vacation

This trip is run by a company which specialises in only Central and South America vacations. It can be tailormade to create a unique vacation for your individual requirements by travel experts with intimate knowledge of the destination. The length of stay, standard of accommodation and even the itinerary can all be amended and tailored to suit your preferred style of travel and budget. Quality and value are the hallmark of these trips.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Eastern Cuba self drive vacation


Travel and tourism can both benefit and damage the environment, the economy, the social structure, culture and communities in any country. We know how mass tourism, unrestricted hotel building, poorly devised tours and environmentally destructive activities can bring money flooding in and governments have, in a spirit of short termism, been tempted to accept them. But experience teaches us that in the long term this sort of uncontrolled activity can be detrimental to the country's development, and we endeavour to do nothing to encourage it.

Cuba has been on the tourist map for some decades now, and many of the trips offered there are package vacations where visitors stay in fully inclusive hotels, often owned by multinationals. These do provide employment but much of the profit is syphoned off back to the chain’s home country and does not filter down to the community. The buildings are also frequently huge edifices designed without any reference to the natural or urban environment and without demonstrating any attempt to complement the landscape. The popular beach resort of Varadero was for many years virtually off-limits to Cubans, and tourists inhabited a sterilised ghetto. You don’t stay there on this vacation.

The accommodation we have chosen for this vacation for independent-minded travelers is locally run and has plenty of character. The Hotel Rijo we have chosen for you in little known Sancti Spiritus is a classic example of how a rundown building has been converted into a stunning colonial hotel with all its grand original features. Hotel Royalton in Bayamo has similarly been happily restored.

While it is true that car hire is not the most responsible use of natural resources, it gives you the opportunity to travel independently, with a smaller impact on the environment than that which you’d have traveling in a large group.


Standard package vacations suit some tastes but we prefer to encourage you to enjoy a more authentic experience. This is especially valid in the case of Cuba, with its unique and fragile society, nowadays in flux, always in danger of unpredictable transformation. Go now, and you will be able to evaluate close up this extraordinary socio-politico-economic situation your selves. We have no idea how long it will last.

Many companies offering tourist services in Cuba are established in and work out of Havana. Not only are they less familiar with other parts of the islands, they send their guides and transport out from the capital. Our operator has close connections with local communities, and recruit guides and other staff within the towns and regions which you will visit. This has the added advantage of helping in a small way to put a brake on the flight of talent to Havana, means that much needed revenues stay in situ, and breadwinners can stay close to their families. A further beneficial result is that we are able to offer a broader range of excursions and activities outside the capital, which is very innovative.

Eastern Cuba doesn’t benefit from the trappings of tourism in the same way that Havana and the
larger resorts do, so by visiting this historically significant area you are helping to boost the local economy and also to create enough demand to bring about change and transformation in an environmentally positive way .

Driving a hire car you have the opportunity to meet local people and maybe even offer them lifts (hitching is an acceptable mode of travel in Cuba born of necessity). Cubans are friendly and curious, most speaking at least a little English, and interacting with them is most rewarding.

You visit a number of historically significant towns, including UNESCO World heritage site Trinidad, the French-influenced port Cienfuegos, and Camaguey, where you can appreciate the rich textures of Cuban history and modern life. Baracoa is a remote historical town where the surrounding landscape is conducive to walking and hiking. Our guide there is an experienced trekker and naturalist. Thanks to your using of his services he can spend less time nowadays having to supplement his income by taxiing people around on the back of his old motorbike. He will still offer a lift to anybody who needs it though!

We also encourage you to eat in paladares, family run restaurants in private homes. You do not integrate with the family as such but there may be an opportunity to engage in interesting conversation. The revenues are used to reinvest in the property so that the family’s often meagre living standards rise and humble homes can be upgraded, benefitting the town or city as a whole. Happily the standard of cuisine will often be higher than at a formal restaurant.

1 Reviews of Eastern Cuba self drive vacation

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 03 Jul 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Visiting Havana and Trinidad

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Not to have a high expectation of the food. If driving get a good road map or download some maps. I managed to download an App that did actually give me my location which was helpful when getting back into Havana

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Not sure

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Good, I enjoyed the country of Cuba, was a little disappointed in the food, particularly in the hotels where we ate our evening meals. I also though the vacation was expensive for what we got.

Read the operator's response here:

Thanks for your comments. We are pleased you enjoyed your vacation to Cuba and I can reassure you we do aim to reduce the environmental impact and benefit local people as much as possible with all our vacations. Cuba does have distinct political and economic circumstances, though we always try to arrange accommodation in characterful, locally run and restored colonial buildings, as opposed to in the larger foreign owned inclusive properties common in popular coastal resorts.

Similarly, we only ever use locally sourced guides and drivers in each destination as they have a greater knowledge and understanding of their localities as well as in bringing obvious benefits to the local communities where we operate.

Although admittedly Cuban food can be quite bland, the best eating options are in the private family run restaurants (paladares) where the home cooked food is more adventurous and fresher ingredients used. We will try to be clearer and further highlight this in our literature going forward. Thanks again for your feedback.

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