Caves abound in this area and are one of the major attractions in and around Viñales. La Cueva del Indio (the Indian's Cave; tel. 48/79-6280) is the most popular cave and it's become a real tourist trap. Located about 5km (3 miles) north of Viñales at Km 33 on the Carretera de Puerto Esperanza, this cave gets its name from the fact that indigenous remains were found here. Only 1km (1/2 mile) or so of the extensive cave system here is open to travelers. A well-lit path leads from the entrance through a few small and narrow galleries to a tiny dock on an underground river. Here, you board a small rowboat powered by an outboard engine for a quick trip of about 180m (591 ft.) up and down this river, before exiting the cave at a dock area crowded with souvenir stands and a little snack bar. The entrance fee is CUC$5, and I don't think it's justified. Moreover, when the buses arrive, the line to get in is long and slow. It is open daily from 8am to 5pm.
Those with an interest in more serious spelunking should head to Las Cuevas de Santo Tomás. With over 45km (28 miles) of connected tunnels, chambers, and galleries, it's the largest explored cave system in Cuba. Some of these chambers and galleries are quite massive, with impressive stalagmite and stalactite formations. Unlike La Cueva del Indio, this cave system has been left in its natural state and you must visit it with headlamps and flashlights. So far, a relatively simple 1km (1/2-mile) section has been opened for guided tours, although more adventurous spelunking tours are in the works. Visits here, including a guide and equipment, cost about CUC$10, and are best booked in advance with the new Centro de Visitantes, located on the highway into Viñales, just beyond the Hotel Los Jazmines (open 8am-5:30pm daily; tel. 48/79-3157). Those with their own transport can pitch up; last departure into the cave is 3pm.
In addition to caving, the limestone mountains and karst formations of Viñales make for excellent rock climbing. Although climbing is still in its infancy as a sport in Cuba, the Viñales Valley is rapidly becoming a mecca for local and visiting climbers. So far, over 300 routes have been identified and climbed in the area. Some carry colorful names, such as "Razor's Edge" and "Friday 13th." A few attest to some of the hazards of the area, such as "Feeding Mosquitoes" and "Poison Oak, Guano, and Spines." For more information, check out www.cubaclimbing.com.
Unless you plan on scaling several mogotes (steep geological formations), most of the hiking here is on gentle, well-groomed trails. There are several popular trails and routes, although you must hire an official guide to hike most of these. One of the most popular hikes is a simple walk through the fincas (farms) of the valley just outside of town. This provides wonderful views of the surrounding mogotes, and allows for encounters with the local farmers and a firsthand view of the tobacco-growing process. More athletic forays into the nearby forests and hills include hikes to and around the valley, hikes up Coco Solo Mogote and el Palmarito, as well as climbs to the summits of several other mogotes. Guided hikes should run you between CUC$6 and CUC$10 per person, depending on the route and length of the hike. Do-it-yourself hikers can wander the dirt roads and byways of the Viñales Valley, but must stay off the marked trails of Viñales National Park. For more information on guides and organized hikes, ask at your hotel, or check with Centro de Visitantes (tel. 48/79-3157; open 8am-5:30pm daily), on the highway into Viñales, just beyond the Hotel Los Jazmines. It offers three options: a sociocultural trail through the valley, a flora-and-fauna trail, and a trip to the Cueva de Santo Tomás with departures at 9:30am and 2:30pm daily, for CUC$6 to CUC$10 per person. The caves were closed in late 2010 due to lighting problems but should have reopened by the time you read this.
There are few well-defined trails for serious mountain biking, although there are plenty of dirt roads you can explore all around. Horseback riding can be arranged through the Hotel La Ermita or in the town's agencies.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.