at long last i’m back with cuba, part two! so sorry for the delayed post, but there were so many photos to edit, it took me a while to get through them all — and as you can tell, i still had a hard time sharing just a few. cuba has got to be one of the most picturesque places you could ever visit, and it’s hard to put your camera down. if you haven’t seen my post on my trip with coast to costa to havana, it’s right here, and now we’re traveling on to Cienfuegos near the historical bay of pigs — a beautiful beach on the island’s southern shore, and then to the charming city of trinidad — one of best preserved colonial towns in central cuba. we’re also visiting the lush, gorgeous national park that is Viñales valley, and the quaint, idyllic farming community there.
our tour group with coast to costa hit the road from havana en route to Trinidad, but on the way we stopped in Cienfuegos on the Caribbean coast of south central Cuba. we stopped in at a paladar — private homes in cuba where residents cook a family style meal for you, which is not only a culinary treat, it also enables cuban citizens to earn money through private enterprise. coast to costa took us to a dreamy paladar smack dab on the bay of pigs — we immediately jumped from our vans and into our bathing suits and right into the ocean for the most delicious swim. fidel, our host even brought mojitos to us as we stood knee-deep in the warm waters of the bay of pigs. he followed that up with the most delicious seafood lunch served seaside in his beautiful home overlooking the bay. after filling our bellies we swam and napped on the beach for a bit and then headed on to trinidad — one very lazy, but memorable day at the beach.
we arrived in Trinidad at nightfall and checked into the dreamy three-storied casa particular (private homestays in Cuba, somewhat like an airbnb) just above, complete with a courtyard fountain and rooftop terrace. we got settled and went on a rambling walk through the cobblestone streets of Trinidad (where comfy shoes are imperative!) to the escalinata (staircase) above Plaza Mayor and sipped a cocktail that is as hard for me to pronounce as it is delicious — The canchánchara, a yummy concoction containing cuban rum, honey, lime and topped with a dash of soda water. divine! we woke to a beautiful breakfast served on our casa particular terrace and then spent the day roaming and shopping the colorful streets of Trinidad. the food in the Trinidad cafes we tried weren’t anything worth sharing specifically, but dining and yummy cocktails with our coast to costa travel mates made up for slow service and just meh food — we were so completely surrounded by charm and great company that i honestly don’t think any of us really minded much.
The next day we visited a beach called Playa Ancóna, but we heard technically as Americans, you can allegedly get in trouble for visiting the beach. we had no such trouble and were greeted by a gentleman who offered beach chairs for a few cucs and grabbed beach towels from a cute little palm frond hut. it’s a picturesque little beach near a hotel with soviet block architecture and a distinctly russian vibe. there’s a snack bar with somewhat limited snacks, but it’s all quite delightful, nonetheless. to finish off a lovely day, on the way back to trinidad proper we stopped at an amazing pottery studio called El Alfarero Casa Chichi, run by the Santander family for six generations — it’s a great place to stop for a few locally made cuban souvenirs.
after a few tranquil days in trinidad, it was time to return to home base and we headed back on the road to havana. but not without a wonderful stop for surprise mojitos in Cienfuegos at a cute beach cabana called punta gorda — a must stop for the best mojito i’ve ever tasted and pretty views of the coastline.
after a day back in havana, we got back on the road for a short drive and a day trip to the Viñales valley, about a three-hour drive from havana on the highway and then a winding, but really scenic drive up and into the valley — so well worth the drive. we made for the prettiest rest stop ever, above the beautiful pastel pink Hotel Los Jazmines and then met our team of horses for a ride along a lush green trail to a tobacco drying farm where we learned how to roll cuban cigars — such an authentic and unique adventure! i was slighting intimadated to get onto a horse after many, many years, but they were gentle if not a little meandering, but knew the way so it was all perfectly safe and so much fun.
from the tabacco drying house, we rode the horses to the tiny blue house in the photo just below where our kind hosts madly squeezed sugar cane juice in something akin to vintage wringer washing machine. they then mixed up yet another divine cuban cocktail for us — they hollowed a freshly picked grapefruit, added a dash of honey, then the sugar cane juice and topped it off with cuban rum. the more you squeezed the grapefruit, the more grapefruit juice was released for the freshest drink i’ve ever imbibed.
after a horseback ride back up the valley trail, we headed towards our last stop — a late lunch at the incredible organic farm and Viñales restaurant Finca Agroecologica El Paraiso. if you should ever have the unforgettable pleasure of visiting the Viñales valley this is a must-visit, not only for the delicious homemade, family style meal, but for a tour of the inspiring organic farm and one of the best sunsets i’ve ever waited for. and that was our last stop before heading back to havana. if you’d like to find out more about traveling to cuba, check out my havana post, and hop over to coast to costa’s site to find out about their upcoming trips. i can’t say enough wonderful things about their tours and would highly recommend going with a guide while cuba is still rather new for americans and pretty much uncharted territory. they’ll take you on an adventure you’ll never forget, and make you feel safe and well-cared for along the way!