Located on Cuba's southern coast, Cienfuegos is another colonial gem whose historic city center is UNESCO World Heritage Site. Often called the Pearl of the South (la perla del sur), Cienfuegos was founded in 1819 on a spectacular bay and still retains a touch of the spirit of the French who first settled in this Spanish territory. As it was settled late for Cuba, the orderly layout of the city with wide streets and prominence of public spaces reflects the prevailing attitudes of urbanism and the Spanish Enlightenment. Some notable Neo-Classical architectural examples not to be missed include the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the Tomas Terry Theater and the historic Union Hotel.
This waterfront city still has a relaxed feel, with horse-drawn carriages serving as a common form of transportation along the Paseo del Prado – Cuba’s longest street. Outside the historic center on the Punta Gorda peninsula, you’ll find an abundance of homes that are reminiscent of 1950s suburban south Florida.
The Botanical Gardens, founded in the early 20th century by visiting American botanists, are little-visited but still impressive with over 2,000 species of tropical plants. The Cienfuegos marina is the departure point for many guided catamaran excursions that we can arrange to the southern keys near Cayo Largo, for those with more time – you can even swim with dolphins in the bay!
Cienfuegos makes for a lovely overnight, or a stop en route for a lunch of fresh seafood and a walk around the historic center before continuing on to Trinidad.
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