Pinar del Rio Province is green and red. Verdant green countryside, and contrasting rust red soil. Tourist are attracted to the simple country life, tobacco growing and scuba diving at the far tip.
What: Amazing landscapes of red soil tobacco farms, strangely shaped mountains, coral reefs at far end
Why Go: True rural Cuban life, visit tobacco farms, caves, scuba diving
Where: the far western tip of Cuba
Pinar del Rio is the far western province of Cuba. Even though the city of Pinar del Rio is the capital of the province, and has a population of nearly 200,000, it is not the main draw of the province. The big draw here is the countryside itself. This is the world's premier tobacco growing area. 70% of Cuba's tobacco crop comes from here.
The rural bucolic countryside of tobacco farms is attractive in itself, but the postcard-like surroundings are dazzling. Bright red plowed farms are in contrast to the brilliant green hillsides. Add to this a mountain back drop and you have stunning visuals. Valle de Vinales (Vinales Valley) is the picturesque valley that epitomizes the area. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The limestone mountains are perfect for spelunking. Lots of caves dot the area, like Cueva de los Portales. This is the spectacular cave that Che Guevara used as his command center during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. It is 11 miles west of Parque la Guira.
Pinar del Rio also has some of the best diving in Cuba, with over 30 dive sites. Cayo Levisa, two miles offshore, accessible by boat, has huge amounts of black coral. The village of Maria La Gorda has sandy beaches, a dive shack and at least one hotel. There is not much else around it, but divers love it.
Vinales Valley is the center of attraction for the area. It is a 50 square mile depression in the surrounding mountains. A depression formed by a giant collapsed cave system. Drive over hilly farm roads and look down at tobacco farms dotting the area. Big haystack-shaped mountains called mogotes look over the valley. Stay in small local hotels or take advantage of the local casas de particulares (private homes) that rent rooms.
See my Interactive Cuba Map at the bottom of the page Cuba Destinations.