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Posted 27 Sep, 2016 | 9 Comments
Posted in: Cuba, Goat Guides, Travel Blogs

Situated on the Caribbean coast of southern-central Cuba, Cienfuegos is a compelling place to visit. With its colourful facades, wide streets and charming French colonial architecture, it rightfully deserves the Perla de la Sur (Pearl of the South) title.

Founded by the French in 1819, Cienfuegos is one of Cuba’s newest settlements and feels quite different to the rest of the country. So don’t leave this picturesque town off your must see list when planning to travel to Cuba.

Getting to Cienfuegos

The easiest option is to jump on ViAzul bus which criss cross Cuba to provide a decent, reliable transport network. They are generally modern and clean but can have vicious AC so remember to bring a sweater or top.

cienfuegos cuba

From Havana 2 busses leave daily for Trinidad and stop at Cienfuegos half way, the journey takes around 4.5 hours. They can get full up pretty quickly during the high season so buy your tickets in advance. Have your passport ready to show at the ViAzul bus station in Havana (Nuevo Vedado area, Ave26, opposite the Zoo entrance) to buy the tickets a day before travelling.

From Trinidad the trip takes around 1.5 hours. We ended up going via Santa Clara which took around 4 hours because it was Sunday apparently. A little tip here, try avoiding travelling on Sundays in Cuba! The ViAzul Bus Station in Trinidad is located on Gustavo Izquierdo, between Simon Bolivar and Piro Guinart, in the Historic part of Trinidad.

You can try taking the train from Havana, but the trains in Cuba are painfully slow and prone to breakdowns or cancellations. From the information available it seems to take 10.5 hours to travel from Havana to Cienfuegos by train. For up to date information check the excellent seat61.com rail website.

driving in cuba

If driving, beware that some turns aren’t well sign posted and the road can suddenly end, without any warning.

You can also fly to Jaime González Airport in Cienfuegos from Miami, USA but be aware of strict visa restrictions.

You’ll need to have travel insurance in order to travel to Cuba. It’s actually mandatory that all travellers have insurance, and you may or may not be asked to show proof of insurance on arrival. To get a free quote from World Nomads, just enter your details below:

What to see and do in Cienfuegos and Punta Gorda

Explore the centre of Cienfuegos

The Cienfuegos urban historic centre is framed with bountiful amounts of gorgeous French architecture and there’s nothing quite like it anywhere else in the country. We recommend spending a chilled afternoon at least to explore this exquisite UNESCO World Heritage Site (since 2005).

french cienfuegos cuba

Start with checking out the Cienfuegos Boulevard, the longest in Cuba and pay attention to the beautifully painted facades. Spin around in the gorgeous Jose Marti Square and inhale the gracefulness of the historically significant monuments.

palacio ferrer cienfuegos cuba

Spot the one of a kind Arco de los Trabajadores (Arch of Triumph) dedicated to Cuban independence. As you stroll the sunny streets of the city, don’t (not that you will be able to) miss the striking baby blue mansion on the western part of the Parque Marti. It’s the former Palacio Ferrer, designed by the local architect Donato Pablo Carbonell and completed in 1918.

palacio de gobierno cienfuegos cuba

To the south of the park, discover the grandioso Palacio de Gobierno, the Government Palace, hence no admission for general public here.

Visit Teatro Tomas Terry

This charming Italian style theatre on the northern side of Parque Jose Marti is one of three vernacular theatres in Cuba. It was made a National Monument in 1978 and won an Award of Conservation in 2008.

teatro tomas terry cienfuegos cuba

The prices in Cuba are quite reasonable and for just 2 CUC you can wander inside and investigate the grandness of this monumental building and especially the the 950-seat auditorium.

Check out the atmospheric Teatro Cafe Terry sitting between the Teatro Tomás Terry and the Colegio San Lorenzo.

Check out the magnificent Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción Cathedral

Do wander into this marvellous Cienfuegos Cathedral opposite the Martí Park. The building dates back to 1869 and its French stained-glass windows are especially stunning.

cienfuegos cathedral cuba

Discover Punta Gorda

You might wonder what Punta Gorda is. In a nutshell, it’s the upper-end neighbourhood of Cienfuegos. It’s around 3 km away, but easy to reach on foot by following the Malecon sea wall. If you are not up for walking, simply jump into a cab or hale the iconic Bici taxi (a bike taxi).

punta gorda cienfuegos cuba

Situated at the edge of the Bay of Cienfuegos, Punta Gorda is truly gorgeous. We stayed at the end of the peninsula, and absolutely loved it. The place is so peaceful and has an interesting selection or architectural pieces as well as beautiful marina.

Dance at Cienfuegos Club in Punta Gorda

For a full on Cuban disco with flashy neon lights, live music and incredible Salsa moves, pop into the gorgeous Cienfuegos Club. Even if you can’t dance, enjoy the soulful sunset with a cold brew in hand.

cienfuego club punta gorda cuba

Cienfuegos Club might be a sports-bar-like place, but it has some fantastic views across the marina. Check out their lunch, dinner, snack or drink menu.

Enjoy the breeze at Marlin Marina

A beautiful place to chill out for a cup of coffee or even lunch surrounded by crisp white linen, flowers and the sea breeze, if you are prepared to splash out.

marlin marina punta gorda cienfuegos cuba

If you love sea, you can book a boat tour around the bay or arrange a deep-sea fishing trip. Try booking through Cubatur/Cubanacán. You can also find approved tour operators in the nearby Jaguar Hotel.

Read More: Cuba With a Splash of Spain – Experiencing The Unique Side of Cienfuegos

Where to Stay

There are many options in Cienfuegos and Punta Gorda, from simple casas to visas and historic buildings. It all depends on your taste and budget. If you want to experience a unique stay with a local family consider booking a casa particular in Cuba.

Hostal Palacio Azul

Painted in stunning blue, Palacio Azul was built in 1921 to poise Punta Gorda. The eclectic palace is now renovated into a quaint hostel. It offers panoramic views across the marina and only has 7 rooms so make sure to book in advance. The building itself is worth investigating, even if you are not staying there.

hostal palacio azul punta gorda cuba

Villa Lagarto

For a touch of Cuban luxury, stay at Villa Lagarto. Situated at the end of the peninsula, it provides a peaceful stay with beautiful view into Cienfuegos Bay.

The rooms here are small, but clean and cosy. The upper floor has a beautiful terrace with hammocks and rocking Cuban chairs. Just imagine a combination of a rocking chair, delicious Pina Colada and stunning views. The staff here are marvellous and make wonderful cocktails.

villa lagarto cienfuegos cuba

The food here is great too. The restaurant, as we found out during our stay, is one of the top restaurants in town. We enjoyed lovely breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinners here.

Click here to see the latest price of Villa Lagarto on Airbnb

For all accommodation options availble in Cienfuegos, click here to search for casa particulars and guesthouese on Airbnb, and click here to compare prices on Booking.com

Where to Eat and Drink in Cienfuegos

Villa Lagarto

As previously mentioned, head to Villa Lagarto for some food extravaganza. If you want to splash out on lunch, they have a fabulous 7 course menu which includes some wonderfully cooked and presented dishes, with a sinfully sweet banana liquor in between courses.

vila lagarto punta gorda food cuba

Arabic Palacio de Valle

As you know by now, Cienfuegos is anything but like the rest of Cuba and dining options in in the classic neighbourhood of Punta Gorda are not an exception. As you approach the end of Calle 37, you are in for another architectural surprise.

arabic palacio de valle punta gorda cuba

This extraordinary ‘One thousand and one nights’ looking palace was Built by a Spaniard Acisclo del Valle Blanco in 1917 and now houses a luxury restaurant. Pop in for light lunch and visit the terrace for lovely views.

Street snacks along the Malecon

For cheaper eats, walk along the Malecon and you will find little random stalls grilling mini burgers or the Cubans selling bags of popcorn in the evening. Both were very cheap and yummy.

Big Bang Cafeteria

A nice small place on Calle 37, great for lunch or light dinner.

Benny More bar

For a drink and maybe some Salsa moves, pop into the well-known Benny More nightclub.

cuban rum

You should also never ignore the local bars and there are quite a few of them hiding upstairs in random buildings near Jose Marti square in Cienfuegos, just lift your eyes up and don’t be scared to walk in. There are also a number of good rooftop bars in Punta gorda and a nightclub in the Jaguar Hotel.

Want more Cuba? Check out these posts:

The Ultimate Guide to Independent Travel in Cuba

The Cost of Travel in Cuba: A Full Budget Breakdown

 

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Written by

Charlie and Kristina love to travel. They love travel so much that they started their travel blog MapTrotting to help others to work less and travel more with tips, advice and inspiration. During a 2 week trip to Cuba in 2015 they had an honest chat on the beach one night and decided to change their lifestyle to one of travel. They soon realised it wasn’t just the rum talking and made a plan to quit the 9 to 5 and are now location independent. They love to inspire others to get out there and explore our amazing planet.

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9 thoughts on “A Mini Guide to Visiting Cienfuegos, Cuba

  1. Great photos, I took a miss on Cinefuegos when I was in Cuba in January. My parents had been there several years before and hadn’t been too keen so I opted to try a few smaller places instead. Great advice on the Viazul, what extreme headaches were caused by transport in Cuba. If I was more of a planner (and had have known better) I would have booked all my buses in advance from home online. Takes the mystery out of the trip, but those lines at Viazul were killer for my soul.

    1. Thanks Emily, it’s always great to explore new smaller places and Cuba has plenty of them 🙂 Sorry to hear about your bad experience with the transport, we were lucky to get by just fine 🙂

  2. Hi, you mentioned to avoid traveling in Cuba on Sundays? Does that also apply to taking Viazul buses across Cuba? I am thinking of taking a bus from Havana to Trinidad on a sunday but don’t want to get stuck with long delays or routes.

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