I’ve lost count of our trips, and we like to head out from the resort on our own instead of on a tour, but last January a friend and I took the Topes y Collantes Tour from Gaviota, also called the “Rambo” Tour ::), one of those horrible translations.
It was overnight from Varadero to Cienfuegos, Trinidad, and up into the Sierra Maestra mountains to see the El Nicho waterfall that they used to have in the Cuban travel commercials on TV. You stay up in the mountains where the air is scented with juniper and eucalyptus at a modest hotel called Los Helechos (the ferns), where our group of 14 and some other tourists made our own entertainment, drinking, chatting and dancing with bus drivers and tour guides to the music from the small local band.
You can either hike from the falls through the forest, or swim down a river with a guide in the water to show you the route. You slither down vines, jump off rocks, and slide down waterfalls along the way. Did Rambo ever do any of those things in his movies?? ??? :
Then we stopped at the Che Monument in Santa Clara on the way home. You get to see a completely different type of Cuba from Varadero, especially in the remote villages up in the mountains, plus Cienfuegos and Trinidad, and go right across the island to the Caribbean side.
It included a couple of meals outdoors up in the mountains, and I got to drive the big Russian truck that goes up the road to the falls. (You definitely could not drive the whole way yourself, but if you get to Los Helechos, you can get a tour from there to El Nicho.) For $125 CUCs including all meals, the hotel, etc, it was fabulous. Very arduous, not for the out of shape or faint of heart as the hike is something like 6 km along some steep paths with long drop-offs at the edge. (The tour people at the hotel will tell you it’s an easy walk, but remember that Cubans are used to walking for miles…)
I never would have signed up for it if I had known how long the hike/swim was, but I made it and it was so much fun. Definitely a unique experience.