The countdown to midnight on New Year’s Eve, while dancing with my new Cuban friend Ismael, is something I will never forget. This was one of my favorite nights in Cuba, and I was very happy to be spending it in Trinidad. Not only was it a fabulous place to spend New Year’s Eve, this UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also an excellent tourist destination.
Wandering around Trinidad’s colonial streets and checking out the old colonial was one of my favorite things to do. With museums, churches, and other remarkable landmarks, this town is a must-see location in Cuba!
Top 10 Things to Do in Trinidad
- Playa Ancon– Many people rent bikes and ride for an hour to get to this great beach. You can easily spend a day there drinking mojitos on the sand under a thatched roof hut. I combined a trip to Playa Ancon with a day trip to the Valle de los Ingenios and only spent a couple of hours at the beach (to enjoy the awesome sunset) since I knew I would get plenty of beach time in Varadero. People say that you can snorkel here, but when I tried to rent some gear they didn’t have any available.
2. A day trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Valle de los Ingenios (I will have to make a separate post about this next week because it lasted a full day). Trinidad prospered for many years as a center of the sugar trade, using slave labor to profit rake in the profits. You can visit old sugar plantations and climb to the top of 45 meter tall the Manaca Iznaga tower where they used to watch for runaway slaves. A day trip to the valle is not to be missed.
3. Museo Nacional de Lucha Contra Bandidos is a cool place to see a display of photographs, documents, and equipment associated with the counter-revolutionary forces or ‘bandits’ of 1959 and the problems and battles that ensued. After perusing the museum, sightseers can escape the violence depicted in the museum by climbing to the top of the bell tower, which affords beautiful views over the city.Another highlight is the (free)
4. Another highlight is the (free) Galeria de Arte, which contains an art school and offers paintings for sale to the public. Contemporary Cuban art dominates the collection. It offers a great vantage point of Plaza Mayor and it was fun to people watch on the balcony of the Galeria for a little while.
5. Casa de la Musica– there is live music for much of the day and definitely ALL night EVERY night. If you are looking for great music and even a show or two you have to go here. Just be sure to show up early if you want to get a spot to sit. If you are like me and want to dance, it is probably best if you sit as close as possible to the band (right at the edge of the dance space- it is not a proper dance floor by any stretch of the imagination). Try to look nice, but where comfortable shoes if you plan on dancing because the stone floor is very uneven and heels would be nearly impossible to dance in here.
6. Dance with the locals at the Casa de la Trova. While the music and shows are arguably better at Casa de la Musica, for the same price, and just half a block away, you can enjoy a more local feel at the Casa de la Trova. The dance floor here is much better than at Casa de la Musica, and so are the dancers. At Casa de la Musica it is packed full of white tourists who sway or hop around drunkenly on the dance floor, whereas Casa de la Trova was filled with Cuban people willing to talk, dance, and share a bottle of rum with you. This was my favorite spot by far!
7. Day trip to Salto de Caburni– my friend said that the visit to this waterfall was his favorite thing to do in Trinidad, but when I was there at the end of December I was told that there was hardly any water so it probably wasn’t worth my while. Since I grew up with gorgeous waterfalls all over Oregon, I felt like I could skip it, but I met many tourists later in my trip who said they still had a good time.
8. Take private salsa lessons! While you can pay through your nose to take lessons at Casa de la Musica, I preferred the in-home lessons that I was able to arrange through the Casa de la Cultura. I had about four hours of private classes with Rosa and her husband Carlos (two teachers for the price of one!) in their house. I mostly worked with Rosa on ladies styling and then she would have me practice using it while dancing with her husband. I loved these classes and was very happy to pay the 10CUC an hour that she requested.
9. Learn about the local religion of Santeria at Santeria Israel. When I visited one afternoon nobody was available to show me around, but I was able to take a few pictures of their altar.
10. Buy souvenirs at the Mercado de Artesania in the streets of Trinidad. It starts in front of the Casa de la Trova and spreads into the surrounding streets. Bargain freely with the friendly vendors and find necklaces, handmade shoes, embroidery and artwork here.
Where to Eat
Casa de May (booked through Airbnb): My favorite place to eat in this town was at my casa particular. The owner’s nephew is a chef and he would prepare my dinner every night.
Another place I loved was Wakey Wakey Shakey Shakey where they have set meals at really affordable prices. I think I ate here two or three times because I enjoyed the live music at night, the owner who speaks perfect English, and the food which was pretty good.
I have a friend who hired a private taxi to take her to Trinidad from Havana. I think she said that she paid 80CUC (but that was a couple of years ago so it is most likely more expensive now). I booked my bus tickets online for nearly my entire Cuba trip by going to the Viazul website. Super-fast, efficient, and the best way to ensure that you have a ticket… just be sure to book your tickets about three weeks in advance if you are traveling during high season and at least a day in advance any other time of year.