We can tell you a lot of things about transportation in Cuba – and we will be doing just that in the next couple of weeks – but there is no denying one simple truth: Cuba was made for cycling.
The roads are peaceful and quiet: you won’t find crazy traffic or nervous car drivers rushing to get to places here. Cubans drive old cars but mostly… they don’t drive!
Larger towns, such as Havana and Santiago de Cuba see their fair share of traffic but that is nothing compared to what cyclist from Europe or the US have to put up with.
Guess what? Cubans Have Decent Roads!
For cycling intents and purposes, roads may be thought of as virtually abandoned but the celebration doesn’t end there! They also boast an additional benefit of not being too shabby at all. Personally, I expected them to be way worse on my first trip over. Considering what we get served about Cuba on a daily basis, I envisioned dirt roads and potholes the size of elephants.
Most roads are paved, some are asphalted, and all are traversable with a bike so there is nothing to worry about on that front.
Of course, if you’re planning on visiting every village on the island, you can expect to hit upon some dirt roads along the way. Even these aren’t as bad as some I’ve seen cycling through a number of European countries.
Also, you won’t be extremely challenged, terrain-wise. Most roads are flat, especially on the coastline so if you are a cycling rookie you might want to plan your routes accordingly.
The southeast part of the island is a bit more demanding and you will find the island’s highest peak, Pico Turquino, there. Unless you’re planning on conquering it on a bike you can expect mostly flat plains and an occasional hill here and there.
Experienced cyclers will probably enjoy some light obstacles in the form of steeper hills since riding from town to town can be rather uneventful as far as challenging yourself goes.
However, always care a spare inner tube with you and prepared to deal with a flat tire occasionally – not so much on the road, but in the towns themselves. Charming historical towns are paved with cobbled stone and tire pinching a somewhat regular occurrence.
To Rent or Not To Rent, Ah That Is the Question
If you’re planning to land in Cuba and look for a bike to rent for the duration of your stay, you might be surprised. It’s quite difficult to find someone who’d be willing to rent it for such a long period of time.
Biking tours are always an option, though. A handful of companies offer organized group tours so if that’s your cup of tea, it’s definitely an option.
If you don’t want to commit to such an adventure but still want an opportunity to explore the island on a bike, consider renting from locals on a daily basis. The bikes themselves might be beaten down a bit, but they are still in a decent enough condition to be taken on a day-long spin along the coast or in the countryside.
However, if your heart is really set on exploring Cuba on your own and with your own bike, be prepared to do some legwork beforehand. Make sure that your airline company charges reasonable prices for bikes or better yet, they don’t charge at all. Some companies will carry it for free as it qualifies as baggage. Not all, though, so it’s always better to check in advance of booking.
Also, you might want to consider bringing a foldable bike – this will save you a lot of hassle. Sometimes it’s not possible or convenient to get where you want to go with a bike and you will have to take a bus or a taxi. A foldable bike will definitely be easier to lug around.
A great thing about bringing your bike is that, if you can part with it, it will be gladly received by locals. Good, quality bikes are in high demand since locals have to commute – and as I mentioned, cars are few and far in between. An organization called Bicycles Crossing Borders is doing great work on that front, educating the local cyclers on how to repair bikes and donating gear and equipment on a regular basis.
Climate, Weather, and the All-Important Views
…that are absolutely breathtaking. Seriously, on one side you will have beautiful sandy beaches, palm trees, and rolling waves. On the other side; picturesque little towns and villages, fields of sugar cane and cloud-covered mountain tops in the distance. Getting overtaken by a regular old cowboy on horseback is absolutely amazing!
The weather is great all year-round on Cuba. You might want to avoid going there during hurricane season if you’re planning to be riding a bike. July through November is when hurricanes are most common, but a hurricane is rarely an event for Cubans. The only reason to avoid these months is the fact that a storm can mess up your itinerary.
Cuba’s Most Popular Cycling Routes
Of course, you will want to see as much of Cuba as you can, but it’s highly unlikely that you will be doing that during a single visit, especially if you’re cycling for the entire stay. That’s why I’ve decided to share my favorite routes with you.
The Western Route
This one focuses most on Havana and the surrounding areas. Take a few days exploring Havana on a bike and then head out to Viñales Valley to enjoy the gorgeous views of the tobacco fields. Make sure to spend a day or more at Soroa, a tiny settlement in the nearby mountain resort and marvel at the pristine nature and an array of weird-looking but still amazing orchids
Tour of Central Cuba
If you have a week or so that you want to spend on a bike then exploring Havana and some central towns is a smart idea. Start at Havana and make your way down to the southeast. You will pass through the Topes de Collantes National Park on your way to Playa Giron and Trinidad.
For the extremely adventurous, I recommend biking clear across the island. Your starting point should be Santiago de Cuba, island’s second largest city. Gaze at the cloud-covered mountain tops of Pico Turquino at the beginning of your journey and take stops at small historical towns while you head towards Havana. Depending on how much progress you make every day, it’s going to take anywhere between 15 to 20 days to complete this tour – closer to 15 if you commit to cycling 50 miles every day.
So there you have it! Pack up and head over to Cuba to feel the wind rushing past you and the sun warming your face while you cycle away your worries.
And yeah, don’t forget your bike!