The first weekend in Cuba started out with a little bump in the road as the bus broke down on its way to pick us up. Nevertheless once we were on our way the weekend was amazing. Our first stop of the weekend was an ecological reserve called Las Terrazas. Here we were able to stop and see an old coffee plantation that is no longer in working order but once was operation and was owned by someone who emigrated from Haiti and used slaves to do all the work. The views were amazing from the top of the hills of the plantations and at the top there was also an old coffee crushing machine that was man powered that removed the shells of the coffee beans. After this stop we headed to the ecotourism town that is located within this reserve. The town was beautiful to look at and we made a few stops here. They included the house of Polo Montanez who was an international country folk singer who originated from Cuba obviously. We also visited the house and workshop of Lester Campa who is an internationally renowned artist who we met and got to look around his workshop and purchase some of his postcards that he painted. After these house tours we walked further up the hill to see the beautiful Moka hotel that is located at the top within a grove of trees.
After we were done at the ecotourism town we headed off to lunch and for a swim at Bano deal San Juan, which is a natural river with some small cascades, that people go swimming in. The water was amazing and it was a great afternoon spent swimming in the cascades. For dinner we ate at our guesthouse in Pinar Del Rio which gorgeous and the food was delicious. After dinner all of went to the cabaret, which was cool to see the combination of dancing, and singer that was performed. It was a late night but it was well worth it and the beds were very comfortable.
Sunday started out much better than Saturday as we had a wonderful breakfast full of fresh fruits which were delicious. After breakfast we loaded up the bus and headed off to Vinales where we stopped at the Hotel lots Jazmines to see the amazing view of the Valley of Vinales and the mogotes, which are, rounded mountains that are not too tall. From here we headed into town where we had a chance to look around and shop at the artisan market on the street, which was filled with amazing craftsmanship. We also were able to drive past a botanical garden, which was El Jardin Batanico de las, Hermanas Caridad y Carmen Miranda.
From the Valley of Vinales we headed to the Parque Nacional Vinales where we visited 2 different caves. The first was Cueva deal Indio which is a cave where ancient indigenous dwellings occurred with an underground river and tour by boat which we got to do and was pretty cool when we came out of the cave into a wonderful inlet. The underground river leads all the way to ocean and the exit from the mogote was stunning as everything was very lush green.
The second cave was Cueva de San Miguel which is a smaller cave with a bar at the entrance and a functional restaurant and tobacco farm on the other side. At the bar we enjoyed their signature drink, which was a couple different fruit juices with rum, and it was not bad. We were fortunate enough to be given a tour of the tobacco farm and learn about the production processes. The restaurant that is in the inlet of the mogote that we ate at is called Cimarrones restaurant and the food was pretty good and served as a buffet style to your table.