Cienfuegos, also named the pearl of the South, is the smallest province in Cuba, but the third as importance.
The small town is centered on the main square, Jose Marti, where there are the most beautiful examples of architecture of the city, also included in UNESCO.
The Southern Pearl was inhabited by Native Americans when it was discovered by Columbus in 1494. Later, the city was built by French immigrants from Bordeaux and Louisiana. It was originally called the Fernandina in honor of King Ferdinand VII of Spain and local Native American chief. Today it is named after Captain Jose Cienfuegos.
The city is very intuitive and it is easy to walk around without getting lost. It is small and quiet but you don’t have much to do except walking around.
The most pleasant street is Paseo de Prado. Here you see families sitting on porches listening to the radio or playing cards and children playing in the street. It is interesting to see that there is no concept of privacy. The houses extend on the sidewalk.
We arrived in Cienfuegos in the evening, and then walk a little bit through the harbor.
We found a city that is much quiet than Havana or Trinidad and much cleaner. I dont know why i was so impressed about this city, but I noticed that I wasn’t the only one impressed by it.
How to get in Cienfuegos
You can reach the city in several ways by bus, taxi, rented car or a tour organized by a travel agency that was our case.
Bus – the national carrier is called Viazul and has daily buses to major cities in Cuba. But I advise you to book your ticket directly from the bus stop one day in advance. Seats are booked quickly.
Havana – Cienfuegos (20.00 EUR / CUC) – 7:00 am, 10:45 am, 2:15 p.m. (5.10 h)
Vinales – Cienfuegos (30.61 EUR / CUC) – 6:45 am (7.45 h)
Trinidad and Cienfuegos (5.75 EUR / CUC) – 7:00 am, 8:15 am, 3:00 pm, 4:00 pm (1.40 h)
These are the most important routes, but for more information you can check the site of Viazul.
Taxi – there are many taxis that go between cities. A one-way trip between Trinidad and Cienfuegos cost between 35-45 Euro and takes an average of 1.15 hours. If the group is bigger than it might be worth the effort. And if you could rent a classic car you will have an unforgettable experience. Not to mention the cars are more comfortable than buses.
Rented car – if you manage to rent a car. I understand that it is quite difficult to rent a car because are aren’t enough. We haven’t succeeded. It is the perfect solution if you travel in a group and the budget is not a problem because there are many things to discover in Cuba.
One can rent a car with 75 Euro /day, add insurance for 15 Euro, and a 150 Euro deposit.
4 Things you have to do in Cienfuegos
- Sit on a bench in the main square
Here you can find the most beautiful examples of city architecture and this is the meeting place of residents.
- Old Town Hall. This building is a copy of the Capitol in Havana and this is the home of the Government Council.
- Catedral de la Purisima Concepcion. It took 30 years for the city’s cathedral to be built.
- Tomas Terry Theater
This man was a poor refugee who became a sugar lord and later he became mayor of the city. He wanted that after his death an Italian style theater to be built, a desire fulfilled by his son.
- College San Lorenzo
Another Neoclassical building by Nicolas Jacinto, an academician who valued education for everyone.
- Walk the Malecon
A walk along the Malecon where you can admire colorful wooden houses. You can also admire the Palace Valle. An unique building in Gothic architecture with Arabic influences.
- El Nicho
25 km from Cienfuegos you can find the protected area of the El Nicho waterfall. Here you can swim in two natural waterfalls and also do tracking. The tour can be done in half a day.
- Laguna Guanaroca
Laguna Guanaroca is about 15 min drive from Cienfuegos. Here you can enjoy water activities and you can admire flamingos and pelicans.
Jagua Castle is situated at the entrance to the port Jagua Cienfuegos bay. The fortress was built by King Philip V of Spain to protect the bay from pirates. And later it was used as a resting place for settlers heading to the city.