Caribbean Tourism

Cuba

Matanzas

Matanzas (pop: 115,000) is a sleepy town with old colonial buildings and a busy, ugly industrial zone. Both the rivers Yumurí and San Juan flow through the city. Most of the old buildings are between the two rivers, with another colonial district, Versalles, to the east of the Río Yumurí. This area was colonized in the 19th century by French refugees from...

Holguín

Holguín, (pop: 250,000) was founded in 1545. It is known as the ‘city of the parks’, four of which, Parque Infantil, Parque Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, the Plaza Central and Parque José Martí, lie between the two main streets: Antonio Maceo and Libertad (Manduley). There is a statue of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes in the park named after him: he is remembered...

Guantánamo

Gúantánamo (pop: 205,000) is the most easterly and most mountainous province on the island. The range of the Montañas de Nipe-Sagua-Baracoa runs through the province, ending in the Atlantic Ocean on the northern coast and the Caribbean Sea to the south. The area is notable for its many endemic species of fauna and flora, and also for the US naval base...

Bayamo

Bayamo is the capital of the province of Granma. It was the second town founded by Diego Velázquez in November 1513 and has been declared a Ciudad Monumento Nacional. However, it was burned to the ground by its own population in 1869 as an act of rebellion against the colonial Spanish; consequently the town has little to offer in the way of colonial...

Baracoa

Close to the most easterly point of the island, Baracoa is an attractive place surrounded by rich, tropical vegetation and the perfect place to come and spend a few relaxing days on the beach. It was the first town founded in 1512 by Diego Velázquez, and for three years it was the capital of Cuba. Up until the 1960s it was really only accessible by sea...

Cárdenas

Cárdenas (pop: 75,000) is usually visited as a day trip from Varadero and is empty of tourists, friendly and a good place to meet Cubans. There is no hustling and no police harassment of Cubans associating with foreigners. The town is 18 km southeast of Varadero on the Bahía de Cárdenas. It was founded in 1828 and attractive, in the traditional 19th century...

The East

The main road along the coast towards Matanzas and Varadero is called the Vía Blanca. There are some scenic parts, but you also drive through quite a lot of industry. The Hershey Railway runs inland from the Casablanca station in eastern Havana, more or less parallel to the Vía Blanca, and is an interesting way to get to Matanzas. This electric line was...

Shopping

Shopaholics should be aware that Cuba is not going to satisfy your urges. There is little to spend your money on without a great deal of effort.

History

Spanish Conquest: Cuba was visited by Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus) during his first voyage to find a westerly route to the Orient on 27 October 1492, and he made another brief stop two years later on his way from Hispaniola to Jamaica. Columbus did not realize it was an island when he landed; he hoped it was Japan. He arrived on the north coast of...

Government & Economy

In 1976 a new constitution was approved by 97.7% of the voters, setting up municipal and provincial assemblies and a National Assembly of People’s Power. The membership of the Assembly is now 595, candidates being nominated by the 169 municipal councils, and elected by direct secret ballot. Similarly elected are members of the 14 provincial assemblies, both...

Golf & Other Sports

Varadero Golf: There is a Canadian-designed golf course on Av Las Américas Km 8.5, upgraded in 1996-98 to 18 holes, par 72. The original nine holes were set out by the Du Ponts around their mansion, built in 1928-30, which is now the Xanadú Club House, and the new ones extend along the Sol Meliá resorts. Golf lessons are offered and there are two putting...

Places to Eat - The Islands

Isla De La Juventud: If you are on a package you will probably take all your meals in hotels. Private restaurants are few and aimed mainly at locals. The best bet is to eat in people’s homes, where you can get an excellent meal for US$5-6, with lobster, rice, beans, fried plantain etc, drinks extra. El Tocororo, opposite the park on Calles 39 y 16. Cuban...

Places to Eat - Zapata Peninsula

On the road to Playa Larga is Rumbos’ La Casa del Mar, bar and grill, open 1000-1800, near here is a place to swim. Ask at the casa particulares, about eating in private homes. Lobster and crocodile on the menu.

Places to Eat - Trinidad

Plaza Mayor, Villena 15, just off Plaza Mayor. Elegant setting with pink tablecloths, lobster US$19, steak and seafood, buffet dinner US$9, open 0830-2400. El Jigüe, Real 69 esq Guinart, T4316. Open 1100-1700 only unless a group comes in and then they open at night, live music, good food and atmosphere, most dishes US$7-8, chicken special US$12, lower...

Places to Eat - Santa Clara

1878 Colonial, Máximo 8, near the Boulevard, T22428. Offers a variety of creole dishes, mainly pork in different styles, bar in the patio. El Marino, Paseo de la Paz y Carretera Central, T5594. Seafood, paellas a speciality. La Carreta, Carretera Central. Creole food in cosy environment. Mandarín, Chinese, Carretera Central beyond bus stations, reservations...