Hidden within the lush mountains of Cuba’s Topes de Collantes Nature Reserve Park, you’ll find the majestic waterfalls of El Nicho. After drooling over photos of this cascading waterfall, El Nicho became very high on my “to do” list in Cuba. These waterfalls are located in the province of Cienfuegos. What was once solely a popular hangout for local Cubans, has begun to gain attention worldwide. And it’s no secret as to why!
A Guide to Hiking El Nicho Waterfalls
El Nicho Waterfalls: General Info
It’s best to visit the falls in the afternoon instead of the morning. Due to the higher elevation and the shading within the mountains, it is quite a bit cooler at the waterfall than it is at the base of the mountain. But with that said, being there first thing in the morning also has its advantages – like having the natural pools to yourself for a bit. It’s a tough call. I went in the afternoon and was fortunate to be one of only a few visitors that day.
El Nicho is an easy hike and I would recommend it for all ages and fitness levels. Just note it might be a bit slippery when it has been raining and the trail is muddy.
If you get hungry, there is a restaurant at the entrance of the trail. Besides the restaurant, however, there are no other facilities at El Nicho.
El Nicho is open from 8am-5pm, and currently the price is 10 CUC for adults.
The two best ways to reach El Nicho is either from the French-spirited town of Cienfuegos or from the intact colonial town of Trinidad. Both are good options, as you can access the falls easily from either direction. They are also both great cities to spend some quality time in as well.
I chose to visit El Nicho as a day trip while staying in Cienfuegos. I hired a taxi for 70 CUC for the day to see both El Nicho and Trinidad (easy to do in one day).
From Cienfuegos, the drive took roughly 1 hour one-way to reach the falls. The road to El Nicho waterfalls is beautiful, but as you climb deeper into the Sierra del Escambray mountains the road is notorious for its windy turns. If carsickness is something you battle, it’s best to bring some ginger pills.
If visiting during the wet season (August to October), traveling to El Nicho can be more difficult due to poor road conditions.
If you are an outdoors lover and avid hiker, El Nicho will feel like less of a hike and more of a leisurely stroll. The 1.5km (less than a mile) one-way nature trail (locally called Reino de las Aguas) has four distinct levels consisting of two natural pools, a cascading waterfall, a cave, and a gorgeous lookout spot.
Shortly after you begin your walk you will see the first cascade and natural pool.
A bit further along the trail you’ll see the beautiful cascade effect from the falls. As you leave the second tier falls and continuing your hike, you’ll see a nice lookout spot of the falls off to the left.
At this point you’ll have to climb a bit to get to the second natural pool. The path is clearly laid out and includes little bridges over some streams and built in steps to keep from sliding when there’s a lot of rainfall.
The second natural pool is the gem of El Nicho! This is where you’ll find people swimming. The water is clean and refreshing, but enter if you dare. No matter what time of year you visit it’s quite chilly. Trust me though, you won’t regret it!
The last level is a beautiful lookout spot over the Sierra del Escambray, or the Escambray Mountains. I could have stayed all day! The lush mountain ranges just stole my heart.
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