Nestled in the eastern part of Cuba, away from the main tourist hubs of Havana and Varadero, lies Holguín. The city is known for its rich history, vibrant culture, and untouched natural beauty. From historical landmarks to pristine beaches, Holguin offers visitors a diverse range of experiences, making it an ideal destination for those seeking an authentic Cuban adventure.
Not far from Holguín is Guardalavaca, a tropical paradise renowned for its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and laid-back atmosphere. This coastal gem has become a sought-after destination for travellers seeking complete relaxation.
I was fortunate enough to spend a day and night in Holguin and Guardalavaca. This is what i discovered:
Holguín boasts a wealth of historical sites that weave a captivating tapestry of the city’s past.
The Plaza de la Marqueta, the city’s main square, stands as a testament to colonial architecture, with its charming layout surrounded by well-preserved buildings.
The San Isidoro Cathedral, dating back to the 18th century, adds to the city’s architectural allure.
Loma de La Cruz
For panoramic views of the city, day or night, and a touch of local folklore, the Hill of the Cross (Loma de la Cruz) is a must-visit. A climb to the summit reveals a large cross overlooking Holguín, offering breathtaking vistas of the surrounding landscapes.
Legend has it that the cross was erected to protect the city from natural disasters, making this site not only a scenic viewpoint but also a place of cultural significance.
At the top is a restaurant and a place to get refreshments while looking out across the city skyline!
Pinares de Mayarí and El Salto Waterfall
Holguín is surrounded by natural wonders so ideal for those looking to go hiking and exploring. In Pinares de Mayarí, there are hiking and birdwatching options while the Turquino National Park is home to El Salto del Guayabo, Cuba’s tallest waterfall.
Carnivals & Festivals
To get a true understanding of the atmosphere and culture of Holguin why not plan your visit during one of the traditional carnivals or festivals? August is a great time to catch one with several exciting parades, traditional music, and energetic dance performances on the streets as part of Holguín’s Annual Carnival.
The coastal town of Guardalavaca is about an hour’s drive from Holguín. Guardalavaca boasts some of the most breathtaking beaches in Cuba, with powdery white sands and turquoise waters. It is also a popular choice for sunbathing, water sports, and strolls along the shoreline.
Two of the best-known beaches in the vicinity, are Playa Esmeralda and Pesquero where you can relax in the sun or enjoy the crystal clear waters. For water sports there are catamaran rides, kayaking, boat trips and so much more, Guardalavaca provides a variety of water activities for adventure seekers
The vibrant marine life around Guardalavaca attracts diving and snorkeling enthusiasts while the Bahía de Naranjo Nature Park is a protected area near Guardalavaca and home to diverse flora and fauna. It offers opportunities for hiking, bird watching, and simply for those looking to enjoy the natural surroundings.
Experience the warmth of Cuban hospitality by engaging with the local community in Guardalavaca. Explore nearby villages, savor traditional cuisine, and immerse yourself in the authentic Cuban way of life. For ancient history head to the nearby Chorro de Maita Museum or to get a greater understanding of the sea life there is the Cayo Naranjo Aquarium.
Banes – The Birthplace of Bacardi
For a taste of culture, visit Banes, a town close to Holguín. Emilio Bacardí, the man behind the well-known Bacardi rum, was born in Banes. To learn more take a visit to the Museo Bacardí which provides information on the history of the Bacardi family as well as the technique of producing rum. The technique for drinking rum is down to you!
Where To Stay Near Holguin
I was fortunate enough to spend one night at the Gran Muthu Almirante Beach Hotel in Guardalavaca. This 5-star hotel offers great service and is in an enviable location on the beach. For families and sports enthusiasts it is a great choice.
Final Thoughts on Holguin
Holguín is a popular hidden gem in Cuba. From its historical sites, immaculate beaches at Guardalavaca, and cultural events – the city has much to offer those looking for a genuine and authentic experience.
I particularly enjoyed Guardalavaca with its glorious beach and high-quality hotel. I would recommend a stop here on any tour of Cuba!