After a few noisy and busy days in capitol Havanna, a calm and beautiful Trinidad in the mid-south coast of Cuba is a perfect place for getaway. Some 300 kilometers from Havanna, located on coast in the province of Sancti Spiritu, Trinidad is a popular place to visit for a day or two. Trinidad attracts tourists for its beauty but also study possibilities.
A beautiful town center, a breathtaking beach near by and a mountain range just outside of the city with multiple day trip destinations makes Trinidad an interesting place to stay for even a longer period. The town center with cobble stone streets and pastel colour colonial style buildings and an old bell tower at the Municipal museum of history which was used as an alarm bell to the people, offers a variety of things to do – or just stroll along the cobble-stone streets. The old bell tower and the museum is worth a visit – offering breath-taking views at sunset (entrance fee 3 CUC/ approx. 3 euros). One interesting feature of the town is the shallow construction of the houses. There are no taller than two-story buildings, except churches.
Images: local state-owned mercado, local library & a very common sight on the little cobblestone streets in Trinidad town center. Horses are used commonly for transportation and labor.
Trinidad is a tranquil little town of about 70 000 inhabitants, but with lots of tourists. Foreign crowds spread nicely around the town so you won’t be bothered too much of the masses (which all gather around the main square Plaza Mayor at night). You still get to experience the real Cuba. City center is a neat, well maintained and beautiful town center – no wonder why it is a UNESCO world heritage site since 1988. Trinidad has a long history dating back to 1514, when it was established under the name Villa de la Santisima Tridinad and is still one of the best-preserved colonial city in the Caribbean. Sugar trade has been the major source of income for the area for long, nowadays tobacco processing. Tourism plays a big part in the municipal economy.
How to get there
There are several options to reach Trinidad. Cuba has several airports for domestic flights, one of which is in Trinidad. So flying from Havanna is one of the fastest alternatives. Another is to take a train to close by city of Cienfuegos and a bus or a taxi from there in a one-hour drive. Trains are said to be a bit uncertain with their schedules and actually running.
A bus, a collective taxi (colectivo) or a private taxi are all often used means of transportation between Havanna and Trinidad, or other cities. Cuban offers a couple of options for buslines – a national bus for Cubans and another for foreigners (Viazul). You may want to book your ticket well in advance since they are quite busy especially on peak seasons. Oneway ticket with Viazul from Havanna to Cuba was 25 CUC per person (approx. 25 euros in Jan 2017). These airconditioned buses are said to be ok, decent but also some have had poor experience.
We took a colectivo from Havanna to Trinidad, arranged for us by the tour agent at our hotel. At least all of the biggest hotels have their own tour agents that help you with day trips, tours or transportation. An old Ford, which looked like it will not survive the trip, took us to Trinidad with five other foreign passangers in about 5 hours. A long drive; however, a cool way to see the countryside. The driver picked us from our hotel at agreed time and dropped us off at our booked casa in Trinidad. The cost for us three together was 105 CUC. On the way back we had a private taxi that took us directly to the airport with almost the same cost.
One more option (as hitch hiking is really not recommended, yet seen) is to rent a car to drive around by yourself. Rents can be quite high due to all additional costs (eg insurance), so even if advertized at a cost of around 60 to 70 CUC per day, the real cost will be around 100 CUC per day. And you can’t rent those adorable old American classics to drive yourself – or at least not easy of cheap. But you can rent an old mobile with a driver… One of the most memorable experiences for us in Havanna was to get to drive around in an old classic convertible!
Casa particulaires & paladars
There are some 400 casa particulaires – or private hostels and homestays- in Trinidad. It is a common way to stay in a private home, pay a little fee for a room and a little extra for meals. Homestay in a private casa is something we highly recommend – whether travelling solo, with a partner or a friend or even with kids. Fees vary, but for example we paid 35 CUC (the same in euros) for a family of three for one night. Including sheets, towels and a private bathroom.
We all really enjoyed the feeling of a home-like living between staying in hotels. You get to communicate with your hosts and often with other guest residents. During our 4-night stay we had wonderdul discussions with a lady from Japan and a couple from Montenegro. We tried to talk with our host couple often, but had it a bit difficult since they only spoke Spanish and we really don’t. Only a little.Paladars are private restaurants, but run really as businesses – they are not private homes that serve meals. Still, in paladars you find authentic Cuban and creole cuisine, most often live Cuban music and a big staff to serve you. In Trinidad several of the paladars have roof-top terraces to eat at, witness an amazing sunset in the horizon and enjoy a warm night outside.
Taking it easy at Playa Ancon
The Ancon beach in the Ancon peninsula, about 10 kilometres from the town center was one of the first resort areas established in Cuba just after the 1959 revolution. Today there are only two resorts and the several kilometres long white-sand beach is open to everyone all the way. It is very calm and an excellent beach for kids too. The beach offers shades for free and chairs for a little charge. Despite the many tourists in town, the beach was not too crowded even during a weekend in early January.
Near by bay areas are popular for diving and snorkeling as there is a coral reef not too far from the beach. There’s a restaurant and two bars on the beach for meals and snacks. A little downside to this beautiful beach was a quite obvious selling of sexual services by teenage girls and their “manager”. It was not too much of a problem, but still sad and a bit annoying.A taxi from the town center costs about 8-10 CUC and you can arrange the same driver to pick you up a few hours later. Another option is to take a shuttle bus at the Cubatur corner for 5 CUC per person. The shuttle bus runs every 30 mins on day time to Playa Ancon and other destinations nearby. Trinidad also has another beach – a river front beach called El Bajo, which is a popular beach for the locals. But who would want to miss that long white beach?
Easy living, less expensive
As almost a total opposite from a noisy and big Havanna, Trinidad was a quiet escape still offering a lot to see and to do. Among just admiring the historic town center or the white beautiful beach nearby, there are several easy daytrips to close by cities (eg. Cienfuego or Sancti Spiritus) – or activities such as horseback riding to beautiful cascades in the nearby mountains, as well as diving and snorkeling tours. Tours and trips can be easily arranged as there are tour agents along with the goverment owned Cubatur in town.
Another option is to enjoy the town as an escape from all action – and enjoy easy living doing much of nothing. In Trinidad and around this can be less expensive too than in other cities – you can easily have a quite a low budget for a day in Trinidad and still experience authentic Cuban culture in historic surroundings. Go now, before it all changes…