Compared to other destinations on our Caribbean adventure, Cienfuegos was a bit plain and uneventful (no offence to anyone from there who might stumble upon this post). The center of the town is quite small and apart from the Parque Jose Marti and the rich part of the town, Punta Gorda (we skipped this one) there is not much more to do or see. People usually come here as it is a good starting point for travelling to the Bay of Pigs or Bahía de Cochinos. This was our original plan, but as plans go, it was subject to change.
The casa we booked was cheap, cheapest one during our whole trip and literally 3 minutes away on foot from the station. It was an old colonial house from the beginning of the 20th century, owned by the same family from the beginning. The woman, her son (studies engineering I believe) and his girlfriend have one room set for tourists.
They had this big garden with a massive mango tree and a car (old-timer of course) waiting to be repaired. The ceilings were almost sky-high and there was a patio separating the kitchen and wash room from the rest of the house. The entrance to our room was from the patio as well. The house came with an adorable dachshund named Rintin who made our stay even better. Our hosts were most hospitable and we had long conversations about anything and everything, from politics to marriage (now that I think about it, it’s not such a big leap…). Meeting Cuban people really was the best part of our whole trip ❤
Our first day we spent walking around town. We found a nice little café/art gallery where I saw a Cuban Jason Momoa. I kid you not my ladies (and gents), the man looked exactly like the Hawaiian demigod minus the tattoos. It was very difficult to leave the place. After soaking in the shade and splendour of the greenery of Parque Jose Marti and its surrounding restored colonial buildings, we decided to take the local ferry and go see Castillo de Jagua.
The ferry ride was a lot of fun as the skipper did not care about the waves and just barged head on and we were the only tourists on board. The ferry is mostly used by locals to take them home to surrounding villages that are accessible by boat. The Castillo itself was, in our opinion, a bit pricey for what it was, a fort with bits and pieces of artefacts and history titbits, but still worth a trip, if nothing, then for the views of the coastal villages from the ferry on the way there and of the canal view. The canal connects the Bahía de Cienfuegos with the Caribbean sea which can be seen from top of the Castillo.
When we came back we roamed the streets of Cienfuegos a bit more and found a street market with a few stalls and handmade souvenirs for reasonable prices. As luck would have it, we also ran into the people we met on the bus from Varadero to Trinidad. Our whole trip to Cuba was marked by randomly meeting these three people and having amazing time together; more on them in the Havana section.
Now to go back to the Bay of Pigs mentioned earlier, the three people (from above) went and said it was not really that impressive and not worth the time spent on the road so we decided to spend our last day here by going to the beach and just chilling with litres and litres of rum, preferably in coconuts… With a straw… And a tiny umbrella! In hindsight, we should have gone to the Bay of Pigs. But let’s start from the top…
We took a taxi from Cienfuegos to Playa Rancho Luna. Well, maybe better say got a transport; the driver added a little trailer to his Ural 250 motorcycle and used it to transport people. Definitely one of the most fun rides we had on the island. The husband had an “arms and legs” conversation with the man as he is a biker and was completely smitten by the old bike. If you watch anime, imagine him as a a schoolgirl with throbbing hearts in his eyes.
We got to the beach and walked down it to the hotel as we could sort out snorkelling there. We really wanted to go scuba diving but we never did it before in our life and the guy at the hotel advised to try snorkelling just a bit further away from the beach. The price was ok for an hour so we left our things in his hut and went for it.
It was a lot of fun and, even though we only moved about 50 meters from the beach, there were loads of fish and corals to explore on the reef. It looked stunning and the hour flew by. We got our things and just moved to the bar where we got massive coconuts and the staff added rum to the coconut water. One thing to add; if you ask for more rum more or less anywhere on Cuba, the bartender just passes you the bottle so you can add as much as you like.
We got our coconuts and got our butts under an umbrella on an almost deserted beach, there was only one other party of about 5 on the other end. And this is where my husband got pick pocketed. A woman came, put a small child on his lap and then picked it up, along with his wallet. We had a bit of money in there as we needed money to go back to town and we planned to stay out for dinner before even going back to the room but the main thing were the 2 driving licences that we took as ID (I never take passports with us and after this I will only have photocopies of everything).
Of course, we went to the staff at the bar who were useless and did not want to help as we were not guests of the hotel so we were forced to go to the small police station where the taxi left us. We spent the whole day at the station, then back at the beach with the police. They take crime against tourists seriously and they were very, VERY thorough.
They found the woman as she was still hanging around on that beach and talking to the staff. The police even got a sniffer dog to find the wallet. A SNIFFER DOG! To find one WALLET! Here the police barely bother to take your statement and as for getting anything back, even a camera (like in Croatia) forget about it. When we went back to the beach, there was a whole CSI vibe around it with us showing them where we were and even pointing out our coconuts that were still there under the parasol. We got coffee at the hotel and the manager apologised and then the police got us a taxi to get home. It was about 9 in the evening by then and our day of relaxing at the beach went out the window. We still went out for dinner and for a walk as the next day we were supposed to go to Havana.
The next morning we were taken to the station for the official statement. They found the wallet, of course they did, and our IDs with them. The chief was really friendly and helpful and with my basic Spanish dictionary and mixing with Italian we managed to communicate pretty damn well. How he and the husband managed to talk about different aircraft carriers and fighter planes, I will never know but stories were exchanged and, once again, politics were discussed.
We got two massive mangos and even lunch as the process was taking a bit longer. The lunch was surprisingly good. Considering it was served in a police canteen, it was better than the food in the student canteen in Zagreb! After all was done, we were dropped back at the casa in an old Lada, the usual police car on Cuba, where we picked up our stuff and got on our way to Havana. Our Cienfuegos host called one of her friends there and sorted us a casa for the next 6 nights. We were into the second and last week of our Caribbean adventure… Time really does fly when you’re finally living your dream.
Before I end the post, please enjoy some more photos from this small town with the most eventful two days.