Cueva del Indio

by Female Abroad

When looking into things to in Vinales, the Cueva del Indio came up as a must do attraction. After watching videos on YouTube I was hooked. Not sure why but I take to exploring caves (or underground) like a fish takes to water, I just have an urge to do it so this was right up my alley. Until I did it and found out it wasn't worth it. There are lots of other caves you can explore (and some cave bars) so skip this tourist trap.

Note: we hired a private guide for this day trip who was also our guide on this activity

Pulling off the main road, we jumped out of the car and walked around a restaurant before going down a set of stairs to a hut where women sell tickets for this cave. Prices during our visit were 5 CUC per person but guides get in for free. Handing over the money, the woman tried to shoo a chicken out of the hut before handing us two tickets that we had to keep on us or else we wouldn't get on the boat.

Tickets in hand we headed down the path where our guide stopped us to point out a traditional indian hut. Turns out that when the first explorers to this area entered the cave, on the other side they found traditional huts like the one set up here plus a bunch of other archeological finds. They removed all of these from the site though and put them into the Museo Paleontológico as well as the Viñales Municipal Museum. As soon as she said that I started having doubts about what we were about to experience.

We started climbing a set of stairs to see an older gentleman playing guitar while singing and selling his CD's at the top. Our guide turned around with a "see? this is real Cuba; music everywhere!" before entering the cave. Since we were there during the wet season the cave was dripping. She told us that we should have come in November or December as it would be very dry not wet and humid but we came at a good time because during that time the line is also out the cave and down the stairs. I started to get more excited because it sounds like this is an extremely popular attraction so it must be good.

The cave walk was lit and very direct (only one way to go) with a low roof in some parts and one very tight spot where our guide told us that she had a heavier set gentleman about a month ago that could not fit through it. He ended up turning around and having to wait for the group in the parking lot (no refunds were given!) so if you are a larger person don't expect to be able to fit. I'm 5'9" and a size 14/16 in pants and I fit through without any issues besides having to bend over but if you are over 6 feet, XXL+, or claustrophobic then you might have some issues in this one small spot.

It was shortly after this squeeze that we met up with the line waiting to get onto the one boat that runs the river. This is where we learned about how tough it is for Cuban's to leave the country to travel as well as that our guide loves what she does as she gets to practice her English, meet new people, learn about where they come from, and make extra money as she is in school for her master's degree in psychology. This helped kill the 15 - 20 minutes that we were waiting for to get onto the boat.

Just before getting in the boat, our guide let us know that the boats they use are the same ones that many Cubans used when they fled to the USA so when a boat leaves, the person loading it will wave and say "¡Adiós! No gastes todo tu dinero" (Bye! Don't spend all your money) as a joke that points to this history.

The little boat about 15 people (although some were not happy to sit in the middle) plus the captain. As soon as everyone was seated we were off, into the cave. We went along the river for a bit before we came to a bend and the captain said "No puede ir, no hay luz" before turning around. At this time, our guide whispered to us "he says he cannot go that way because there is no light". While heading back to the loading dock he would point a green laser and shout out a word like "Remo!" (Oar!) and our guide would translate ("that rock looks like an oar") before he'd shout something else out "Pescado!" ("that rock looks like a fish"). As we approached the loading point that is when we got the "¡Adiós! No gastes todo tu dinero" and a waive from the crowd who understood what he was saying.

Instead of docking, we turned and continued down the river towards the exit while he kept pointing the lazer and yelling out rock formations as our guide would translate; "Cara!", "that rock looks like a face". It wasn't long before we exited out of the cave and were off the boat. The entire boat ride lasted no more than 8 minutes including docking and loading.

Off the boat, I was expecting the fire breathers and huts set up like the Indians would have had them as well as a working little village that I saw on YouTube. I'm not sure how old the videos were that I watched but we were met by a couple people selling Pina colada's for the bar, another stand selling handicrafts, another stand selling cane juice, a guy doing face painting, and the parking lot. What a let down.

As we were pulling out of the parking lot and headed back down the road to our next stop, our guide pointed out a cave that was a bar as well as a couple other caves you can explore and said that the Indian Cave was the most popular out of all of them because it was longer. I don't know about you but I think checking out a bar in a cave would be very interesting.