“Walk to the end of this road. When you see a bakery, make a slight left onto a dirt path, and when you get to a building, ask for Benito.” These were our instructions for a DIY tour of a tobacco farm just outside of Viñales, a small town in western Cuba that we were visiting for a few days. It sounded a bit vague, a bit sketchy, and a bit unlikely that we’d find someone on site, but we were game.
Upon arrival by bus that morning, we had stopped into the local tourist office to try and arrange an outing. We wanted to hike, and we wanted to see a tobacco farm and learn how cigars were made. To our dismay, all of the trips were bundles of disparate activities, all crammed into 4-hour excursions that covered many things – none well. Our choices ended up being (a) to take a waterfall/cave/hiking/tobacco farm/horseback riding junket with a group, or (b) to improvise and find a farm and a hike on our own.
At the third agency I visited, I exasperatedly asked the salesman if we could just find a farm and stop by, and to my amazement, he said yes and told me about Benito’s place just outside of town. After a quick lunch, I roped in my skeptical travel mates and we traipsed off to find it.
And it worked! We straggled onto the property just as a small van of visitors was leaving, and impertinently asked if we could have our own tour. We were welcomed graciously and taken around to all of the barns and other buildings involved in growing, drying, and rolling tobacco for cigars.
They charged us nothing and even shared a cigar and a “white coffee” (coffee laced with rum) with us at the end. We tipped them generously, bought some cigars to take home, snapped a few more photos, and went on our merry way after the easiest and most personalized tobacco farm tour we could have hoped for.