We recently were invited on a FAM trip by Hola Sun Vacations to experience what there is to offer on the east side of Cuba. After only having been to Varadero a few times in the past with day trips to Havana, we were very impressed by Holguín and its surrounding areas. It was a whole new world with lush greenery and nature and lively friendly locals. In this series of blogs, we’re going to take you through our amazing journey of discovering a unique area in Cuba! If you’re planning a trip to Cuba, we highly recommend using Hola Sun Vacations.
We were lucky to explore Cuba’s second-largest city, Santiago de Cuba. It was about 3 hour drive from Holguin. The city is known for its rich history and cultural diversity, with attractions such as Castillo de Morro and Plaza Antonio Maceo Grajales. Additionally, it has a vibrant music and dance scene, with a variety of clubs and bars offering live performances. The city is a great destination for those interested in exploring the history and culture of Cuba. We recommend a 1-2 night stay.
Castillo de Morro
Castillo de Morro, also known as San Pedro de la Roca, is a fortress located in Santiago de Cuba. It was built in the 17th century to protect the city from pirate attacks and other threats. The castle is situated on a rocky outcropping overlooking the harbor, and it is made up of a series of walls, bastions, and turrets. The fortress is considered one of the most important and well-preserved castles in the Americas, and it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visitors can take guided tours of the fortification and learn about its history. Today, the castle is also used as a museum, displaying artifacts from the fortress’s long history. We were able to climb to the rooftop to see breathtaking panoramic views of the coast. It’s definitely worth a visit if you want to get great photos.
Galleria Rene Valdez
A small art gallery with many different forms of art, such as paintings, sculptures, and even media. They have a great cafe at the back of the building with rooftop seating. It is a great place to check out and support local artists. Items are also available to purchase.
Plaza Antionio Maceo Grajales
In this large square, there is an immense monument and statue representing the independence of Cuba. There are 23 machetes emerging from the ground representing March 23, 1878, when it was the start of the fight for independence. Antonio Maceo on horseback is one of the most impressive statues. It’s a great safe spot for a quick stop and photos.
La Bodeguita del Medio
We had the most fanstastic time at La Bodeguita del Medio. The walls were covered with notes by people who visited. We even put our own stamp! They had a great live band playing while we ate dinner. The night stayed very lively with the great staff. It was a great example of Santiago de Cuba’s music and nightlife.
Located right next to the Castillo de Morro, the restaurant also gave incredible views of the coastline. The staff was great and the food was good. They saved the seat where Paul McCartney sat when he visited and made it into a monument. It’s a great spot to grab lunch while enjoying the views.
Hotel Imperial is located in a historical building in the heart of the historical district. We enjoyed a night stay in their high-ceiling, spacious rooms which had windows facing the lively city streets. We had a nice time people-watching the busy streets down below. We were impressed by the large rooms in a city center hotel as the norm is usually the opposite.
The hotel welcomed us with amazing live performances. We were able to witness the pure talent of their locals.
Their lobby bar had great staff who made delicious mojitos. They also had an amazing rooftop bar and restaurant and we enjoyed a night show as well as our breakfast the next morning. Beautiful panoramic views both day and night.
Melia Santiago de Cuba
A fully loaded resort right in the center of a large city. Melia Santiago de Cuba is truly one of a kind. We were lucky to tour the grounds to find out all that it had to offer. Most bedrooms had incredible views of the city skyline. It looked super clean and modern.
On their highest floor, there was a disco lounge with panoramic views of the whole city. It was definitely the highlight of this amazing accommodation! But we couldn’t forget to mention the entertainment. There were groups of extremely talented dancers and musicians representing the culture of Santiago de Cuba. They played an amazing show. It felt like a mini carnival!
The hotel has 3 outdoor pools and 5 restaurants. One restaurant was super impressive called Santiago Cafe. It was an indoor recreation of the colonial streets of Santiago de Cuba, with lots of seating and the main dance floor.
Santiago de Cuba was definitely very different than Havana. With large fortresses with sweeping views of Cuba’s south coast and lively entertainment in local restaurants and hotels, it was definitely a fun time. It’s definitely worth a visit from Holguin if you’re looking for some excitement and history.