Cienfuegos is another place (like Camaguey) where I wish I had spent less time. I only had two full days and two nights there, but I feel like you can easily see the top sights in just a few hours (maybe as a day trip from Trinidad).
I rolled into Cienfuegos at about 10 AM on New Year’s Day and things were pretty quiet. My casa particular host greeted me at the bus station with a sign. Even though his house was only three blocks away he still offered to carry my backpack for me. Upon arrival at his house, his mother made me some fabulously strong Cuban coffee to enjoy while she filled out her guestbook with my information. They gave me a card with a handy map of the surrounding area printed on the back. This casa ended up being one of the best parts of my stay in Cienfuegos just because I enjoyed talking with the owner about her experience growing up in Cuba.
After chugging down some delicious coffee and chatting a bit and getting cleaned up I wandered into the center. There were a few shops open, but nothing really interesting so I started looking for some lunch.
Polynesia Restaurant was open so I broke my rule about avoiding places directly on the main square and ate lunch there. They had a limited menu and the food was flavorless and extremely small portions so even though it was a set menu of shrimp, rice, lettuce, tomato, and “dessert” of coconut marmalade on cheddar cheese it was not worth the 10CUC because there were only a couple of bites of each thing.
Since I was already on the edge of the main square I headed into the Museo Provencial. I loved seeing all of the French Colonial architectural details. They had gorgeous stained glass windows and lovely woodwork on display. There were a few painting and sculptures but nothing that really caught my interest. I just came out of the museum wanting to own my own colonial house!
From there I wandered to the next corner where I was able to enjoy the architectural details of the blue and white Ferrer Palace… from the outside. It was closed on Jan. 1..
Next, I cut through the park to see Teatro Tomas Terry. It is an attractive theater still in use today. You can go inside and see the frescoed walls and ceilings and just imagine what it was like in its prime (before the holes in the ceiling were there!).
The Purisima Concepcion Church was also closed when I was there, but it is a pretty cheerful looking church from the outside.
After wandering around a bit more and using the wi-fi at the main square, I headed back to my casa to rest and clean up for dinner. I should have forgone the cleanup time because it took me about an hour and a half to find a restaurant that was open. I ended up having Ropa Vieja from Bang Bang Café. The food was good, but my mojito was weak and the service was terrible.
Sadly the Club Benny More was dead when I passed by with only a couple of people inside. Despite returning the next night, neither “El Benny” (as it is also known) nor Café Teatro Terry had salsa going on. New Year’s is not a good day to party in Cienfuegos!
Two places I tried to go the next day were the waterfall called El Nicho. The photos looked nice but there were no tours for that day since they needed to be booked ahead of time and the day before was a holiday. The tour was 35CUC and I heard quite a few people speak highly of it.
I also tried to organize a trip to the Castillo el Jagua but because you can only get there by ferry I didn’t feel like the 1PM-3PM timeframe would be enough for me since I missed the 10 AM ferry. I think this happens to a lot of people from what I’ve heard! So, if you like puttering around castles, be sure to wake up early enough to make it to the dock in time for that first ferry!
Instead of waterfalls and castles, I took a long walk down the Malecon. There is a park at the opposite end of the Malecon (toward Punta Gorda) and this is where I found the best wi-fi in Cienfuegos. I spent about an hour getting caught up online at this park because it was the best wi-fi that I’d had in quite a while.
From there I wandered over to the nearby sculpture garden and down to the fabulously ornate Palacio del Valle for a few pictures.
My feet are starting to hurt after remembering all of the 25,000+ and 27,000+ steps I took those days while I wandered around Cienfuegos! Remember to bring your walking shoes!