Pico Turquino--Cuba, Part 1 (2014)

Pico Turquino--Cuba, Part 1 (2014)

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 19.98987°N / 76.8361°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jun 4, 2014
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Summer


viva fidel


This report is divided into 3 parts, reflecting the two weeks spent in Cuba (Pico Turquino, Las Cuevas to Santiago de Cuba, and La Gran Piedra). This report and pictures was given to me by a guy from Canada who I met in Mexico. I promised to keep his identity anonymous, so if you have any questions, please ask me and I’ll forward your questions to him to send back to me.


Havana Airport Arrival: 2 Tips:
1.Don’t declare gifts coming in. The customs (aduana) are looking to scam money from you. If asked, say everything is for you own personal use, or think of a good cover. With the US or CAN currency they scam, which is useless to them, they forward it to the money exchangers on the other end where people are departing and wanting to exchange their Cuban CUC back to US or CAN. The money exchanger will give you 1-for-1 exchange and not give you a receipt. This way, they can pocket the CUC and get rid of the US or CAN without proof.
2.When you exchange your US or CAN with the money exchange after customs, ask for small denomination bills or 1CUC coins in case you need to tip. They don’t give you the national peso which is on par for tipping.

Took a 25CUC taxi to the Viazul bus terminal. Buses (Gua-guas) going to Bayamo leave at 8am, 3pm, 10pm. I missed the 3pm so I waited for the 10pm. Make sure you check in 1 hour before departure. I prefer the late buses as there seems to be extra space on these. Having 2 seats on the long 10 hour bus ride to Bayamo allowed me to stretch and move a bit while napping. Also, the 10pm bus is 2 hours shorter than the others because it doesn’t run through daily traffic. Plus, it’s easier to sleep/nap on an overnight ride than during the day.
Bus tips: Bring sweat pants and a hoodie, ear plugs, and toilet paper. Don’t lose the baggage claim ticket you are given at the terminal for anything you want stowed in the bus compartment.


Arrive at Bayamo bus terminal about 10am. Lots of vendors-cafeteria, bathroom. You will be approached and asked if you want a taxi. Tell them, “Maybe”. You need a dependable car and fast driver to go to Santo Domingo. Ask for a driver who will drive fast, 20-25cuc. It’s not 2 hours to Santo Domingo. We got there in 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Santo Domingo: 2 main places to stay, Villa Santo Domingo Hotel or Casa Santo Domingo. Busy season is from December20 to March 31, Slow season is from April 1 to December 20. It seems as though everyone has a place to rent, though, so don’t worry, someone will take your money for a room to rent.

Villa Santo Domingo
Casa Santo Domingo
PriceBusy season-50single/65double
Slow season-38s/50d
25/30 w/breakfast
15/20 w/breakfast
SettingClean, modern, western type layoutRain forest, quiet, private
Mealsexpensive, basic
inexpensive, home-cooked
Internet access2 PCs, 3cuc for 30 minutes in tour lobbyWalk to hotel and use it the same

I stayed at the casa for price and ambiance. The owner and his son are familiar with the surroundings and hikes. Their meals were awesome as well. Only one other couple here besides me. Nice and quiet.

When you arrive, drive past the hotel on the left until you come to a fork in the road. To the right, you’ll see a gate where is the park entrance and guides; to the left the road continues down a bit and dead-ends. From here, go to the river edge and you can see the Casa Santo Domingo hostel across the river. It’s a low flowing river and you can cross it on large stepping stones. 

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NOTE: In 2012, the municipal governments of Granma and Santiago de Cuba decided to create a tour company to package all hikes to Pico Turquino, and of course, to get more money. You cannot hike Pico Turquino by yourself any more. You have to arrange a guide and the hike through Eco-Tour, the agency so named. The agency rep, Heidi, is located at the hotel in the Eco-Tour lobby. She’s there daily. If not there, ask someone for her—she lives 4 houses down and will come and set you up. I recommend speaking to the guides first so you know there is one available. I didn't like this set up. It's better for the local governments (the workers don't get more), but worse for hikers like me who don't need to pay someone to "walk them up and down a trail."

You pay Heidi with CUC—no credit cards or US/CAN. Here are the prices for the hikes:

Comandancia Hike—33cuc

S.D.to Pico Turquino Hike (1 night at Aguda de Juaquin), to Pico and descend to S.D.—68cuc

S.D.to Pico Turquino Hike (1 night at Aguda de Juaquin), to Pico and descend for 1night at La Plata, and descend to S.D.—90cuc

Horse backriding—5cuc/hour

Hikes include: Park entrance, Taxi from hotel to Alto de Naranja, Guide, taxi from Alto de Naranja back to hotel, and boxed lunch at hotel on return. (Don’t go during a holiday or there may not be a guide or taxi available). Heidi will issue you 4 separate tickets to be handed to the appropriate people when asked(taxi driver, park entrance, guide, lunch at hotel).


Comandancia Hike—From Alto de Naranja where hike starts: 6K round-trip. Easy

0—1.5K:easy path, see Medina house where you pay 5cuc if you want to take pictures of Castro’s hiding places.

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1.5—3K:4 different thatched bungalows to see with historical objects and pictures. Castro’s headquarters. Ask guide if you can continue to see Radio Rebelde. He may not take you there, so try to bribe him. It’s about 400meters uphill from Castro’s hideout.

Castro's Place

Radio Rebelde

On return, stop at Medina’s house for a coffee, then back to Alto de Naranja for taxi back to hotel. Arranged Pico Tuquino hike with Heidi.


Pico Turquino Hike—From Alto de Naranja to Aguada de Juaquin (Overnight) to Pico Turquino: 13K. Medium-Difficult.

I wanted to hike and spend 2 nights up there and then descend to Las Cuevas (to the other side), so Heidi booked me the 68cuc hike and told me to arrange payment for the other side with the guide who would meet me at the peak. NOTE: Since Pico Turquino is shared between the 2 provinces, payment for hiking is split in half. Any hiking from the peak on down to Las Cuevas is paid to the guides on that side. They are informed ahead of time of your hiking and will meet you at the peak after you ascend.

Late start (10:15am) due to Father’s Day--Guide and taxi driver reluctant to show up. For that reason, don't come here on a holiday.

0—1K:Easy, pass the turn off to go to La Plata.

1—2K:Stair-stepping hike begins, railings in some parts for balance. AT 1.5 there is a shady rest stop.

2—3K:Steeper climb. Hike is stair-stepping. At 2.8 another rest stop available.

3—4K:Hiking up, stair-stepping. At 3.2 another rest stop available. At 3.4, trail flattens and descends.




2 peaks to cross


4—5K:Up and down, bit difficult, shady and muddy. Available rest stop at 5.0

5—6K:At 5.2, Lora de Liones—good views, no shade

6—7K:Difficult part. Steep stair-stepping. Alto de Loma rest stop

7—8K:Flattens, muddy. At 8.0, you reach the base camp Aguada de Juaquin where you will overnight. They will not let you sleep on or near the peak. They invent reasons, but the real reason is they don't really care to be up there and would rather get the hike done with as fast as they can. Sleeping out in the exposed weather is foreign to these guys, Sad.

aguada de juaquin

dorm room at juaquin

From Alto de Narnaja to Aguada de Juaquin took 4 hours with full backpack and water.

Once here, select a bed form the dorm room. There are 3 bunk-beds and 2 single beds.There are no screens on the windows, so bring mosquito covers. There is freshwater to stock up on. There are 3 shower stalls—but no running water. You use a bucket and a cup to bathe with. There are 3 toilets, but no running water and no toilet paper. You flush your shit with a bucket of water. There are no sinks. There is a clothes line. You have 2 meals included in your hike price you already paid to Heidi—1 dinner this night and 1 breakfast before you takeoff the following morning. The food was okay. I was the only one here. Night was cool but not cold. I slept with the dorm room open for the fresh air.Sleeping bag or layers will do.


Woke at 3:00am, had breakfast, and started to hike. My objective was to capture the sunrise on video. Need headlamp.

early am hike


8—9K: Very difficult part. Trail rises sharply stair-stepping. At 8.8 trail eases for a bit for a rest stop. 9.0 is right after the rest stop.

9—10K:Trail rises and you are on Pico Regina and then Pico Tarquin, but you have no idea because the trees and vegetation surround you. Begin steep descent through Paso de los Monos. Lots of tree roots and rocks to step through.

10—11K:Up and down. Muddy and slippery.

11—12K:At 11.5, there is an open area for pictures. Good view. We decided to stay here and take video of the sunrise. Got a good clip and pictures. From 11.5 to 12K,very difficult hike, steep stair stepping.

12—13K:Trail still ascends but not as bad, levels a bit. At about 13K, you reach Pico Turquino. There are no views from this peak—you’re surrounded by trees and vegetation. But if you make it up early, you will have sun and a clear sky. Flat area with some rocks to rest on. Monument of Marti to look at. Duration from Aguada de Juaquin camp to Pico Turquino—3 hours will fully loaded backpack and water. 2 hours without.

pico turquino

We rested for about 30 minutes before the next guide from the Las Cuevas side came up and met us. I told him I wanted to spend a night at Pico Cuba campismo, but he told me it was permanently closed. I couldn’t believe it! That camp has the best 360 degree view of the entire range and sea. I was pissed off also because the guide, like I said, wouldn't even bargin with me to stay the night--they just want to get back down to there homes. . . .assholes.

NOTE-1: My first guide told me of another route to Pico Turquino that would have to be planned on the sleeve. Start from Bayamo and take taxi to Buey Arriba. At Buey Arriba, find a guide, and hike across the range (there is a rough trail) for 2-3 days, pass El Umvero, Altos del Cojo, Campo El Cujo, and meet up at Aguada Juaquin camp. No cabins or facilities to sleep in until Aguada de Juquin, so you’re roughing it. Total estimated time: 4 days. This is what I plan to do next time back so I can get my time's worth of hiking.

NOTE-2: He was not exactly open about why they closed it, but I later figured out that the guides did not want to spend the night so far up, and preferred to spend in at a lower camp (La Majugua) to get home quicker and easier to resupply there since it’s close to Las Cuevas. There is no reason to stay at La Majugua since it’s too close to Las Cuevas (4K) and too far from Pico Turquino. If you want to climb Pico Turquino from the south side, just do it in one day and return to Las Cuevas, or overnight it on the other side at Aguada de Juaquin and descend to Santo Domingo the next day).  If you hike, put some verbal pressure on your guide and tell them to reopen Campismo Cuba.

camismo cuba--permanatly closed

Since Pico Cuba campismo is closed, I decided to forgo the extra night at La Majugua (La Dump) and hike down to Las Cuevas. I told the guide I would pay him/tip him 15cuc and nothing else since I did not consider this a "trip". He agreed, so we started off. The hike down on the south side is not marked with kilometer markers like the north side, so my notes reflect what my guide told me. From Pico down to Cam La Majugua, you walk down one, long staircase without leveling off. For me, this seemed quite boring, except for a few stops for views. A few views of the Caribbean Sea and that’s all. If I had a choice to go up and back, I would prefer to hike the Santo Domingo side.

At 4K, we stopped at camp La Majugua. This place sinks for an overnight spot. There is no view of anything, pigs and chickens run through your eating area (no tables or chairs), and the place looked unkempt, probably because no one stays there. The meal was measly--the first cheap one I had in Cuba. Tell your guide this place is a stupid place to overnight since it's only 4K from the coast.

camismo majuagua--a dump

descending to las cuevas

4K—Arrive at Las Cuevas: The trail surprisingly widened and leveled off, yet sloped downward and became very slippery, even in the dry weather. I had to fight all the way down from slipping on the hard clay soil and the gravel-scree. The level of the trail did not allow ease with a heavy backpack. I think if you did not have a backpack, it would be easier. Also, from this part I spotted a lot of wildlife. Nothing poisonous in Cuba (scarce scorpions), but did see 2 snakes (4ft black racer and a few garter-looking ones. Many lizards and butterflies.

last 3K of train to las cuevas


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Jow - Jul 7, 2014 2:23 pm - Voted 10/10


Nice trip report very informative you should attach to the pico turquino page so that people can find it when needed. I plan on doing this hike someday as well.

hiker08 - Jul 9, 2014 6:40 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Cool

Thanks Jow. Appreciate it. Yes, you're right. I'll look to do it. Hope you make it there someday.

Viewing: 1-2 of 2



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