There’s lots to see and do just outside of Trinidad, a colourful, cobblestoned, colonial, UNESCO World Heritage town in Cuba’s Santi Spíritus Province. El Nicho and Caburní waterfalls are close by in Parque Natural Topes de Collantes; you can take a slow, steam train ride into the Valle de los Ingenios and look out over the former sugar production centre from Iznaga Tower; you can even visit an island full of iguanas for the day! All of those things were on our radar for our visit to Trinidad (ok, only *I* was into having iguanas swarm me), but we didn’t do any of them! Instead, we opted to spend our time wandering around town and visiting a nearby beach.
If you’re looking for a relaxing few days in a beautiful town, here are a few ideas! (Sidebar, I’ve noticed a theme in a lot of my posts: “this is how to relax in ___”. I really like downtime!)
Pictures of me are taken by Kyla.
- Wander the streets:
Literally just grab your camera and walk around town! This is one of my favourite things to do in any city, including the one I currently live in, and it’s kind of a no-brainer in this super photogenic, easily walkable, pedestrian-friendly town. Stop in at one of the many restaurants or cafes, pop into a bar for a rummy cocktail, or take one to go and hang out in a park or public square.
Day or night, head to the busy stairs/public gathering spot at Casa de la Musica, which seems to be the heart of Trinidad (it’s where you can best feel the pulse, anyway). Lots of people gather here during the day to try to connect to Wi-fi* , some sipping take-away drinks from nearby terrace bars, but the real treat is in the evening. Almost every night, you can enjoy free, live music there, which gets the crowd on their feet showing off their salsa skills! As far as I understand, the Casa de la Musica has two stages: one outdoors, on the terraced stairs, where performers play Afro-Cuban music most nights. This got me moving whenever we passed by, although I really wished I could dance (see #2 below). The actual Casa de la Musica building at the top of the stairs (still open-air – it’s a roofless courtyard) houses salsa lessons and frequent salsa shows, as well as hosting DJs when it turns into a club later at night. Most of the time, the party on the stairs is free to attend, but sometimes they close off the area and charge 1-2 CUC for bigger shows.
There’s an abundance of beautifully-decorated and no doubt high-quality restaurants in Trinidad. We only tried a few of them, but Los Conspiradores, which looks out over the steps of the Casa de la Musica was amazing, and was a perfect, romantic date night spot .
*We didn’t manage to connect here, but it worked well up behind the Casa de la Musica building, and near the ETECSA building at Plaza Carillo.
- Learn to dance salsa:
We wanted to take a salsa lesson in Cuba and found ourselves in luck in Trinidad: our Airbnb host was a salsa instructor at the Casa de la Musica! He hooked us up with a group intro lesson, which was lots of fun and super basic – ideal for me! It was nice to be able to walk down the stairs afterwards and try out a few of our moves… and then run away as some serious dancers took the floor! The one hour class cost 10 CUC each and the instructor and his assistant were pretty good at attending to each couple in the group (~12 people). The only annoying thing was that he kept having Kyla learn the “girl” parts, even though she was leading, so she’d have to learn the “guy” parts really quickly when we went back to dance together.
- Enjoy your casa:
Hopefully you decide to stay at a casa particular in Trinidad! It’s a good chance to make a connection with a Cuban family (and practice your Spanish), and a really affordable, usually central, option compared to hotels. Our hosts, Yudel and Julia at Casa Mi Salsa, were amazing. Plus, they had an adorable dog who greeted us everyday, and we were able to add on a huge breakfast for 5 CUC each. The best part? A shared rooftop (we always had it to ourselves) where you could see the town, ocean, and mountains. We spent a couple of evenings watching the sunset, beers in hand, and in the mornings we went up to watch the action in the streets below: big coach buses working their way down the narrow, cobblestoned road, kids heading back to school after the winter holidays, other tourists doing yoga on casa rooftops across the street…
- Check out the views from a Trinidad icon:
The Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco (Museo Nacional de Lucha Contra Bandidos) is a former convent-turned-church-turned-jail-turned-museum. The bell tower is an incredible place to look out over Trinidad in all directions. It costs 1 CUC each; if you really want to go, make sure you find out on your first day when it’s open so that you’re not disappointed. We almost missed out and I think it was *technically* closed when we went, but the woman running the place kindly let us go up. The staircase is very narrow in places.
- BEACH! :
Playa Ancon is just down the road! It’s about a 20 minute ride from the town centre, and you can easily catch a shuttle or collectivo taxi from outside the Cubatur office on Maceo at specific times of day (2 CUC pp/each way in a collectivo). It wasn’t the *most* beautiful beach we went to, but to be fair my standards got much higher in Cuba! It was, however, the perfect place to rig up the hammock, do some beach reading/journal writing with a Cristal, [try to take an innocuous little ocean pee while your girlfriend films you with the Go Pro thinking you’re going for a swim], do some amateur acroyoga, or grab a bite at one of the restaurants on the sand.
It’s easy to get attached to the pace, colour, walkability, and abundance of live music in Trinidad! I can’t wait to go back sometime and check out more of the region!
Getting there: we took the Viazul bus from Havana to Trinidad (25 CUC, 6 hours), and a collectivo (shared, 4 passengers) taxi onward to Varadero (25 CUC, 4 hours).
We didn’t reserve transportation ahead of time, which can be hit or miss. We showed up about an hour early for the Viazul bus and got a ticket, but we weren’t so lucky when we tried to book a ticket to Varadero at the Trinidad bus station a day ahead of time. However, at any bus station there are loads of people who arrange collectivo rides. The price was almost the same as a bus ticket, it was much faster, and there were only 4 of us in the car. Plus, our awesome driver bought us snacks en route to Varadero, and blared/sang along with me to Aqua while we drove up to our hotel! After using taxis ($$$), the Viazul bus (long, hard to get tickets), and collectivos taxis (cheap, fast, door-to-door) in Cuba, I’d definitely recommend collectivos as the best option for transportation.