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Published: August 13th 2013
After a night in Cienfuegos, I arrived in Trinidad (an hour and a half away -- take a taxi or Transtur, not Viazul, to make it even shorter) hoping expecting to find a town that warrants its effusive descriptions in travel books. While I had heard some negative things from other travelers about how touristy the town is, I'd also heard that it's a can't-miss colonial town frozen in time. Sadly, in the end, I have to go with the former of the opinions: I was disappointed.
I immediately found the perfectly polished city center to be disingenuous. Everything is perfectly manicured and restored, even more than inplaces like Granada, Nicaragua and Antigua, Guatemala. What bothered me the most about the main square is that unlike in Granada and Antigua, there are really no locals there -- it seems entirely for the hordes of tourists. People aren't going about their daily lives in the backdrop, as they are in Havana. It didn't help that our ridiculous guidebooks (the Michelin guidebook -- ironically titled "Like a Local") stressed that the UNESCO World Heritage site went out of its way to restrict hotels, implying that the city has maintained
its purity, which isn't at all the case. There is a wonderful venue -- another Casa de la Musica -- on a staircase above the main square that has live music in the nights, but when you look around at the audience, there isn't a single local there.
Still, we found an excellent bar there, and the streets were pretty empty and charming. It's worth a visit for a night, but don't expect it to be a favorite destination unless this is your scene. Stay with Maria Esther Perez; Francisco Cadahia (Gracia) #224 % Lino Perez y Colon; telef 3528.
TOPES DE COLLANTES
Cubatour organizes excursions to this must-see rainforest, but none of the options include a proper trek. The trip that we chose, to Caburni Falls, ended up being nothing more than a nature walk, bookmarked by trips to and from in a safari truck (open air dump-like truck with seats-- pretty fun). There were some interesting plants in the area and the swimming in a water hole under a waterfall was very good, but the whole trip didn't live up to the pretty expensive price tag. We also stopped at a coffee house, a cave,
Topes de Collantes
The shoreline is in the background as well.
and a few vistas, but it all seemed pretty forced. The area is beautiful and absolutely deserves more exploration. There are ways to organize multi-day treks, and there are comfortable hotels to stay in along the way, but we never really found out how to organize these. You could probably show up and find a guide or a good map if it isn't in the high season, and it would be a good adventure. The trails we were on were well maintained, and we regretted that we only got to walk 3km on them.
Another possibility is to go to the parks by taxi, do your exploring, and then continue on to Santa Clara. The park is about halfway between Santa Clara and Trinidad, and even though the roads are very steep at times, it's easy to get over the pass and to the next city. We ended up going to Havana the same way, via taxi, and we got to pass through some towns liberated by Che. Buses stick to the main roads and don't go over the mountains.
It's easy and cheap to get to the beach from Trinidad, though make sure you
inquire about the bus hours. The water is fine, though there is a lot of algae unless you take a boat out to the reef. The sand is fine and the beach is fine for running, but we went on a Saturday and it was extremely crowded. Unless you really need a rest and a day at the beach, I'd concentrate on beaches in other parts of the country.
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