As you’ve probably heard me mention before, information on tourist activities in Cuba was really hard to come by before my trip. Especially for anything outside of Havana. The Lonely Planet guidebook has a blurb about hiking to a waterfall in Parque el Cubano, part of Topes de Collantes National Park, but aside from that brief mention, I can’t find anything else to tell me about this hike. I know I want to do it though.
It is possible to walk to the park from town, and the path is more direct if you do. But it adds on about 4k in each direction, making for a full day of hiking. Plus, it’s so hot out that walking any further than I have to right now just seems like too much. I’m such a wuss, I know. So we negotiate with a cab to drive us out and pick us up when we’re done.
The cost to enter is 10CUC ($10) and you’re given a ticket receipt. Make sure to keep that ticket safe as you’ll need it later, something which is not explained to us when we purchased it.
The trail is mostly flat, but does have a few ups and downs. While none of it is hard, it is very hot and humid.
We pass several potential swimming holes, and I resist the urge to jump in each one. The water looks so cool and inviting though! But we press on to the waterfall.
The sign below says to approach with caution and silence so you can appreciate the wonderful world of wasps. Ummmm, seriously? I am NOT a fan of wasps. Totally cool with bees, they pollinate my plants. But wasps can f*ck right off. Thankfully, none are flying around, though their nests are kind of creepy looking.
We move on quickly, just in case the swarms return.
About three quarters of the way in, we come across what looks like somebody’s home. The sign says Peasant Hut, though I’m not sure why. All I can find on the internet is that it might be a place where you can live like a Cuban peasant for a short time, to get an understanding of their way of life.
This bird is a great lizard cuckoo. Is that a great name or what?
For the majority of the hike, we’re following a river. We have to cross it a few times, hopping from rock to rock. The water is shallow, so I’m not worried about falling in. I plan to get completely wet by the end of the day anyway.
Because I constantly stop to take photos, it takes us about an hour and a half to get to the waterfall. This is where we’re asked to present the ticket we purchased at the entrance. Thank goodness we kept it.
We haven’t seen a single other person on the trail, so I’m surprised by how many people are here. All tourists from the States and Europe.
I scramble around, taking pictures before I get in, but I don’t dillydally. That beautiful turquoise water is calling my name.
Since there are so many people here, Maggie and I take turns going for a swim while the other watches all the stuff.
Behind the waterfall is a cave you can swim in. I don’t venture far, because I’m not that daring, but I do swim far enough to see the backside of the falls.
After we take turns swimming to the falls, we hang out together near our stuff, enjoying the cool water. I could stay here all day.
Unfortunately we don’t have all day. We have to get back to Trinidad to meet one of Maggie’s friends for dinner. The hike out only take about 45 minutes, much quicker than the way in. This time we hike with a parade of other people.
Back at the entrance, we eat a buffet lunch in the restaurant, then play a few games of backgammon while we wait for our taxi driver to come back. Maggie beats me every time. In fact, I don’t win a single round the entire trip! I guess I’m just that bad.
After an hour of waiting, it’s clear our taxi isn’t coming back for us. Good thing we only paid him half. Luckily there are a few drivers waiting at the entrance and we’re able to get one of them to drive us back to town.
So is the hike worth it? I say yes! It’s not physically challenging and the cool water at the end is a delightful reward. If you don’t want to swim with dozens of other tourists, you could hike to the waterfall, take some pictures, then head back and swim in one of the pools along the trail. But the highlight really is the waterfall itself. Go early to avoid the midday heat, and unless you’re really adventurous, take a taxi. It’s the perfect half day tour.