November 2000 (via Mexico) to Havana
We rode East and then returned to Havana
Airport to Old City
The best way is to ask directions since it’s not always obvious which way to go. Out of the airport, cross over Independencia Avenue on the first road right (north) toward the city. Basically we followed the train tracks in. It’s busy and a little hilly but wide. More and more congested as you go but okay for an urban bike ride. We took different ways four different times. In Havana, riding along the Malecon is recommended. Many minor streets are bumpy, broken, but quiet.
Havana to Matanzas
Via the Via Blanca (for better way, see later route Matanzas to Havana and go backwards.) Not a great trip. Winds always out of the east. Bikes can’t go to the other side of the bay via the tunnel so take the “cyclobus” which you get behind the Capitolio near Dragones street. Off on the east side of the bay. Via Blanca, four lanes with a bike lane. Light traffic, dull scenery even along the sea. It’s possible to ride on some side roads near the resorts. After resorts, through limestone rocks, mangrove swamps and oil wells. There's a climb as the road turns south. Views of Varadero beach. More traffic into Matanzas.
Matanzas to Australia
Across the river then right toward Union de Reyes on a minor road (41Ks). Two lanes quiet. Climb up to a plateau through sugar cane and agriculture. Then to Pedro Betancourt 31Ks. Right on a gradual descent to Australia just past the junction with the National Autopista. Not a pretty ride.
Australia to Playa Giron
Flat with swamp on both sides. 30Ks to Playa Larga. Nothing special. Light traffic. Then 35Ks to Playa Giron. Boring.
Playa Giron to Cienfuegos
Flat and not very interesting at first. Then through sugar cane and crops. 47Ks to Yaguaramas. Then 48Ks to Cienfuegos. A broad boulevard into town. It’s an interesting town. Be sure to ride out on the narrow peninsula to Punta Gorda
Cienfuegas to Trinidad
Some minor hills with mountains in the background. Ranch country with real cowboys. Finally it’s interesting and scenic. It flattens out along the coast. Many long beaches. Cobblestone streets in Trinidad. Nice city..
Trinidad to Sancti Spiritus
(Initially we were going to go straight to Santa Clara but other bikers said the road was narrow, steep, and terrible. The route from Manicaragua to Santa Clara is reputed to be “one of the most scenic drives in Cuba". So to Sancti Spiritus. Into the strong wind, away from the coast up a pretty valley with sugar cane fields. Going north, the wind is from the side but when heading east, the wind is tough. Rolling hills, quiet on a good road. Sancti Spiritus was confusing but we finally found the Centro. Inland, it’s hotter at night.
Sancti Spiritus to Remedios
Traffic out of town and some hills. 22Ks to Cabaigan then another 5Ks to the junction with the Autopista. After this, there is much less traffic on the Carretera Central to Placetas 25Ks. North (right) to Remedios 34Ks on a quiet road.
Remedios to Santa Clara
(There is a direct route to Santa Clara (45Ks) which we wanted to take but we had to go back to Sancti Spiritus). Back to Placetas 34Ks then west on the Carretera Central to Santa Clara 30Ks. Nothing special.
Santa Clara to Matanzas
Tail winds help on a long ride. No traffic. Long stretches of sugar cane fields, flat. Small towns along the way. We took a taxi (a 1947 Oldsmobile which is big enough for our two bikes and us) for 20Ks between two towns so that we could make the distance to Matanzas. Hot and sunny but an enjoyable short rainfall refreshed us. Dull but fast.
Maranzas to Havana
A better way back to Havana. Out of town on Calzada de Esteban not on the Via Blanca. Climb out of town. Then toward Madruga (32Ks). Then 21Ks to Autopista junction. 12Ks to San Jose. 24Ks to the Havana outskirts. The early ride is beautiful, then you finish through all of Havana so it’s a lot of urban riding. It is a tradeoff.
Our 2nd trip through Canada to Havana and back in November 2001. We rode to the west of Havana.
Havana to Hemingway Marina
Great ride out on the Malecon. Wide, light traffic and often a bike lane (or a wide sidewalk) along the sea. A rainy day so we were cut short. In Miramar you can ride on 1st or 3rd Avenues. They are quieter.
Hemingway Marina to Bahia Hondo
Continue on coast road. Four lanes and flat. Very light traffic. In Muriel, there’s a huge cement factory. Poor scenery even along the coast. The two lane coast road has small hills and ridges with views of small mountains and palm trees in the distance. Also through sugarcane fields. Into Bahia Hondo.
Bahia Hondo to Vinales
The coast road is called Circuito Norte. The land turns deep rust red. The scenery improves. Through La Palma (there’s food here). 10Ks west of La Palma is the junction for Vinales. Beautiful limestone formations looming over tobacco fields. Mostly flat and quiet. Great riding. The sleepy town of Vinales is one of the most charming in all Cuba.
Vinales to Pinar del Rio
62Ks (through Pons)
Great ride. Red earth and limestone cliffs. 32Ks to Pons, then 9Ks to Cabeza. Long steady 7K climb out of Cabeza. The direct way from Vinales to Pinar del Rio is only 25Ks.
Pinar del Rio to San Cristoble
The roads are busy around Pinar which is a big city. There are a few side streets to take but once on the central highway in town it’s busy. Out of town it’s quieter. We had to detour into San Diego de la Banos because the bridge was flooded. Into the wind. Actually into San Diego de la Banos was a better, quieter, more interesting way and only 10Ks further. The Carretera Central is rather dull. No “real” hotel or casa particular in San Diego de la Banos but we stayed in a “love motel” (illegal, uncomfortable and weird.)
San Cristoble to Havana
Good road. The central highway, mostly flat, boring, more and more traffic but manageable. A long way through outskirts of Havana.
Havana to Pinar del Rio (2nd time. We repeated the trip with a few minor changes. See below)
A second time on the same route. To Bahia Hondo then to Vinales. From Vinales to Pinar del Rio through Pons. Returning we overnighted in San Diego de las Banos, then Soroa which is 8Ks off the Carretera Central.
Soroa to Havana
90Ks through Terrazas
Continue on to Terrazas (it’s 1K off road), then toward the Autopista but take the back road to left to Guanajay. Good ride on a ridge with views of palms, fields and ocean. Also cowboy country. No signs but people are helpful. After Guanajay, take the Carretera Central which runs along the railroad and then into Havana.