Is Trinidad Worth Visiting?
Is Trinidad Worth Visiting?
Before we went to Cuba, we had heard mixed reviews of Trinidad. Yes, it’s beautiful and the pictures will attest to that. However…is it really worth the visit when there are other “more authentic” cities that beg to be visited?
Trinidad lies a couple hours south of Havana on the glittering Caribbean coastline. Most people (including me before I went) recognize this city for its beautiful but crumbling yellow bell tower that graces the cityscape, but there is truly much more hidden in the streets of Trinidad.
The colonial city just renovated much of their historic city square in preparation for their 500 year anniversary in 2014, which means everything is looking fantastic! The city takes pride in its beauty, and the citizens of this city definitely know they live in one of most beautiful areas of Cuba. The old colonial square reeks of old Cuban wealth with ornate buildings, garden terraces, and cobblestone roads.
I wouldn’t feel right without telling you that Trinidad is by far one of the more touristy places we have been, especially in Cuba. The once colonial houses near the center of town now have all been converted to glamourous casas, high end restaurants, or shops selling Cuban trinkets. There are countless street markets here that sell all sorts of tourist knick-knacks, including cigars and rum. If you’ve ever been to a cruise ship port, it definitely has that feel to it.
If you can get past that, and look to the beauty and history that Trinidad possesses, you will be transported back in time. And while the tourism touts can be a bit tacky, there is an authenticity in the city if you know where to look. Don’t be surprised to see a fisherman selling his catch of the day in the main square, oblivious to the tourists using Wi-Fi on the church steps.
As we were wandering the streets being plied by the many touts offering expensive excursions, we opted instead to pay the $1CUC per person to get into the old bell tower. Skip the museum because it’s not that great, but walk up to the bell tower and take in the view of Trinidad sprawling below you. The clay tiles on the roofs, in combination with the views of the mountains and seas are enough to make you fall in love right then and there.
Walk past the Plaza Mayor to get lost in the barrios where the actual people live. This is where the true magic lies. Once out of the city center and the tourist district, normal life for the Cuban people resumes. Find women gossiping on their door stoops, men playfully bantering, and little brothers getting picked on by their older siblings. Everyone’s door is open, sticking true to the Cuban mentality of community.
Another fabulous reason to visit Trinidad is the glittering Caribbean beaches that are 14KM from city center. Rent a bike if you’re up for a sweaty ride, or take a taxi and relax on Playa Ancon. The beach is a tad dirty, but the water is beautiful and feels fantastic.
We did witness quite a number of scams happening on Playa Ancon. With this beach being the major beach that tourists frequent, there seemed to be a group of 3 or 4 men that knew they could rip people off pretty easily. Don’t pay for a beach chair unless you absolutely know the person you are talking to works for the hotel. Even at that, I would go into the actual hotel to pay for a chair rather than give my money to a random guy on the beach. Also do NOT pay ridiculous prices for the coconuts or pizzas they are selling. Be aware, and don’t encourage that type of swindling.
If you’re feeling like Playa Ancon was a tad bit too resort like for you, head to La Boca 4KM away. We came here on a Saturday and this place was a party. There were people selling pizzas for the normal price of 10 CUN (which is about 40 cents), pina coladas for 5CUN, and all sorts of rum drinks for the equivalent of less than 50 cents USD.
EVERYONE here was turning up. Walking around with rum bottles, hitting on all the hunnies, and in general just having a great time. We found the one sit down restaurant in the whole town, and while it was decent…I would just stick to the street food found on any corner. The beach was trashed and rocky, but La Boca is still well worth a visit. There are cute little casas quite literally on the Caribbean seafront in La Boca if you choose to stay, but we chose to head back to Trinidad.
We drove through the Valle de los Ingenios on our way into Trinidad, and were amazed at how beautiful this place was. We didn’t know much (or anything) about Cuban landscape before traveling through the country, and we were taken by surprise. The Valle de los Ingenios is old sugar plantation land, and this Valle still has the sugar mill ruins to prove it.
While the history is fascinating, the views are stunning. The rolling green hills used as pastures for cattle give way to jagged blue mountains in the back. It’s easy to forget you’re on an island in the middle of the tropical Caribbean while driving through this countryside.
If nightlife is what you’re after, head over to Casa del Musica on Plaza Mayor. Every night the stairs that are empty during the day turn into a giant salsa party, with elderly Cuban couples stealing the show. There’s usually a range of skills, so don’t be shy if you want to test out your dancing. It seemed as if young Cuban men were more than willing to take a gringa up there for a twirl! Cover here was $1CUC per person.
There’s seriously countless places around Plaza Mayor to hang out in if you’re looking for something to do either during the day or late night. The prices in the restaurants can be a little steep, but no where we found charged more than $2CUC per beer. While everyone offers them, pizzas can range in quality and price, so beware of paying that $4CUC (or more) for a pizza. However, at night a lot of places around the main square will sell drinks for $1.50CUC, which is a great deal.
We splurged one night on a rooftop terrace sunset meal at Obbaiala Restaurante. Still with drinks, two meals that included soups and starters, and a gorgeous view of the sun setting over Plaza Mayor, we were under $25CUC. There was also a funny pug running around at your feet, which made it all the better. I would highly recommend this place to any one in Trinidad.
Other than that, we found fantastic places at Bar Cuba Libre, an old Spanish slave jail turned into a restaurant, La Casa del Cerveza, an old theater that collapsed in 1902 that is now a beer garden. Giroud, a funky café with old TVs as chairs and shipping pallets turned tables. There was a place called Restaurant San Jose that quite literally ALWAYS had a line around the corner, but we didn’t stop and wait to try ourselves.
Trinidad is a gorgeous city, full of old charm and a well-kept colonial atmosphere. While we do wish it was toned down a little and had less overt tourism on every corner, it is still a city worth visiting on a trip to Cuba. Even with the over-the-top tourism industry, the romantic views of the mountains over the colonial streets are hard to beat. It’s just one of those places that you have to visit, you’re glad you did, but you also can’t wait to leave.
Let us know what you think below! Would you visit Trinidad while on a tour of Cuba?