When you think of Cuba you think of Havana. Balmy nights spent with a Mojito in hand, listening to the smooth sounds of the Buena Vista Social Club watching locals and tourists alike dancing the Salsa until early morning. Beyond the stereotypical image of Cuba is another side to this magical country, found in the mostly untouched colonial cities outside of the capital. To truly understand Cuban culture, you must venture to the other side. Trinidad is one of these otherworldly places. A UNESCO world heritage site, the old town of Trinidad is one of the most picturesque places in the world, distinctly Cuban in both architecture and culture. From the moment you drive into town, donkey carts and 50’s Cadillac’s casually passing you by, you feel as if you have been transported to another world. It’s as though the locals are waiting on their doorsteps for your arrival, a curious yet friendly look upon their faces. The terrace style homes are painted in lively pastels with a rustic colonial appeal and the sounds of traditional Cuban music and modern Reggaeton are resounding through the air, fighting for your attention. It’s a sensory overload and beautiful in every way.
Travelling to Trinidad is easy and affordable. There is an airport however it is not international – so you would have to take your chances on a domestic airline departing from San Jose Airport in Havana OR for a relaxing, picturesque journey we recommend travelling by collective Taxi or Private Car. A taxi will cost around 30 CUC one way, and private car will cost 120 CUC.
If you are looking to save some money we suggest catching your transport from the bus station of Havana, a short 15-minute drive out of the centre. There will be plenty of operators there waiting to secure a client meaning you can barter for the best price. This option will be considerably cheaper than getting one from central Havana. If budget is not a concern, we recommend Taxis in Havana – they can organise a classic car or more comfortable air-conditioned modern car, they speak English well and can help you with your return journey too. The one-way trip from Havana to Trinidad will take around 4 hours, with plenty of local restaurants along the way to stop for a break.
Where to Stay
Two words - Casa Particular. There is no better way to experience Cuba. Staying with locals is good for the soul. Many hosts speak enough English to give you insight into their local culture and to help with recommendations on where to eat, and what you must see and do. Booking your Casa Particular through Airbnb is a great way to ensure you are making the right choice. Be sure to read other travellers reviews, and we recommend searching by Superhosts first.
Most of the Casa Particulars will offer simple and delicious breakfasts quite often served on open rooftop terraces, overlooking the colourful township and landmark bell tower. If hotels are more your style the Iberostar Grand Hotel Trinidad is the most popular, and only choice. Whatever your preference – we recommend choosing accommodation that is in walking distance from the old town and restaurants.
Where to Eat
There is no shortage of great places to eat and drink in Trinidad. Most places have open-air dining with live music and great food. If you are only in Trinidad for 2-3 nights, you must try Restaurante Museo 1514. Just visiting the restaurant is an experience in itself. The interior is literally a museum of fine china and antique furniture, some dating back to the 16th century. The food takes a while to be served as it is all cooked with fresh local produce on a traditional open fire stove top – no electricity or microwaves to be found in this kitchen. The wait for food is no problem, as the cocktails and wine are quick to be served, and to be replenished. The entertainment is almost too much fun. By the time the food is served, you have already danced the night away.
If you haven’t had enough fun – make the hike up the hill to La Cueva (also known as Disco Ayala). Even if you only stay for 5 minutes for a quick beer – it is one of the most insane nightclub venues in the world. The bar and dancefloor are built deep inside a natural cave, bats flying overhead and the music bouncing off the natural acoustics of rock walls. Be warned, wear comfortable shoes. It’s a solid climb to get there.
What to See and Do
If you only have 3 days in Trinidad Cuba, we suggest spending one day exploring the old Spanish Colonial town centre, another visiting the Salto del Caburni waterfalls on horseback, and one day doing nothing much at all by the ocean.
The beach to visit is the beautiful Playa Ancon, only 15 minutes drive from Trinidad town centre. With its white sand beaches and crystal blue waters, it is the perfect place to spend the day drinking cocktails, reading a book and enjoying the sights and sounds of coastal Cuba. There are plenty of bars and restaurants right on the beachfront, serving affordable local meals, and unlike other beach towns in Cuba, the crowd is predominantly local. If you close your eyes and listen to the sounds it feels like you are part of their lively world.