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Cienfuegos is a charming waterfront city situated on the bay of the same name. Its picturesque nautical setting has earned it the title, “the Pearl of the South,” a description that has endured for centuries.

Diving enthusiasts rave about the reefs along the coastline, where a formation of coral columns known as Notre Dame provides an undersea maze to explore. The region’s calm waters are also ideal for sailing, boating and kayaking.

The unique culture in Cienfuegos is attributed its ancestry as a French enclave. City highlights include an architecturally noteworthy group of buildings that were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. Be sure to stop by the stunning Cultural Centre, a palatial home that now hosts after-school activities like dance and music for local students.

Castillo de Jagua, an imposing fortress built to protect Cienfuegos from menacing pirates, is widely recognized as one of Cuba’s most important military structures.

Legend has it the castle is haunted by ‘the Lady in Blue,’ a ghost in a blue brocade gown.

Local flavour

The legendary Benny Moré, one of the most famous Cuban musicians, grew up in nearby Santa Isabel de las Lajas. You can visit his birthplace, now a museum where the Cabildo de Congos organizes traditional festivals every year.

The serene Cienfuegos coastline, dotted with immaculate coral reefs, provides sun and sand along with plenty of opportunities for diving, sailing and even swimming with the dolphins.

Playa Rancho Luna

Located just 18 km south of Cienfuegos, this beach resort hosts the Faro Luna Diving Centre, two hotels and a local Delfinario, a dolphin park where you can swim alongside the gentle marine mammals.

Cienfuegos is famous for its stunning coral reefs and calm waters. Take advantage of its nautical location, either above or below sea level, by diving, fishing or simply going on a cruise.

Boating and sailing

Club Cienfuegos

Book a kayak excursion or windsurfing session here.

Marlin Marina Cienfuegos

Book a deep-sea fishing trip or a leisurely bay cruise at this marina located just a few blocks north of Hotel Jagua.

Explore Cienfuegos from a charming horse-drawn carriage, or book a day trip to the majestic El Nicho waterfall, located between Cienfuegos and Trinidad. The picturesque cascade, surrounded by lush vegetation, is an extension of the Topes de Collantes Natural Park in the neighbouring province of Sancti Spíritus.

Excursions

Horse-Carriage Tour

Climb aboard a charming horse-drawn carriage for a relaxing tour of Cienfuegos.

Cubanacán

This local company organizes guided adventures, including a three-hour tour called “Along the Paths of Orishas” or a day-long excursion to the majestic El Nicho waterfall, in the Escambray Mountains.

Explore an expansive collection of tropical trees from around the world, or stand next to the world’s tallest stalagmite. These are just a few of the natural wonders that beckon from Cienfuegos.

Nature

Cueva Martín Infierno

See the world’s tallest stalagmite, which stands 67 metres high, inside this cave located in the Valle de Yaganabo, 56 km east of Cienfuegos.

Jardín Botánico de Cienfuegos (Cienfuegos Botanical Garden)

You could easily spend a day in this 94-hectare botanical garden that holds 2,000 species of plants. It was established in 1901 by sugar baron Edwin F. Atkins, who originally planned to use the land to study sugarcane, but instead filled it with exotic tropical trees from around the world.

There’s plenty to look at around the city’s bustling Parque José Marti, including historic casas and Cuba’s only commemorative arch. Or take a short ferry ride to see the Castillos de Jagua, the fortress that’s widely regarded as one of the country’s most important military structures. If you’re in the mood for a game, you can cheer on the local baseball team, The Shrimpers.

Architecture

Teatro Tomás Terry

This beautiful theatre located on the north side of Parque José Martí is a wonderful example of Creole architecture. It was erected in 1869 in honour of Tomás Terry, a Venezuelan industrialist.

Malecón

No visit to Cienfuegos is complete without a drive along the Malecón, the seaside road that offers panoramic views of the city’s sparkling coastline and vibrant nightlife.

National monuments

Cienfuegos is home to 11 sites that have been declared national monuments, including the old Reina Cemetery.

Castillo de Jagua

Located a short ferry ride away from Cienfuegos, this 18th century fortress is widely regarded as one of Cuba’s most important military structures. It still has a working drawbridge and now houses a small museum… as well as its own ghost, the notorious ‘Lady in Blue.’

Palacio de Valle

Wander through an ornate palace, built in 1917 by Alcisclo Valle Blanco, a Spaniard from Asturias.

Catedral de la Purísima Concepción

Also framing Parque José Marti is this neoclassical cathedral. It was built in 1869, and boasts striking French stained glass windows and prominent twin towers.

Casa del Fundador

This former home of Cienfuegos founder Don Louis D’Clouet is located on the southeastern corner of Parque José Marti. The city’s oldest building has since been converted into a souvenir shop.

Casa de la Cultura Benjamin Duarte

Soak up the panoramic views from atop this building on the western side of Parque José Martí. The distinctive domed rooftop cupola has a staircase visitors can climb.

Arco de Triunfo

Cienfuego has been called ‘the Paris of Cuba’ so it is only fitting that the city has its own ‘Arc de Triomphe’ – the only one in Cuba. Located in the Parque José Martí, the arch is dedicated to Cuban independence.

Museums

Museo Histórico Naval Nacional

Take in some local history at this museum located inside of the former headquarters of the Distrito Naval del Sur (1950).

Theaters

Teatro Tomás Terry

This beautiful theater located on the north side of Parque José Martí is a wonderful example of Creole architecture. It was erected in 1869 in honor of Tomás Terry, a Venezuelan industrialist.

After a cosy carriage-ride through the city, head to the family-friendly Delfinario, where your kids can watch the trained dolphins, and take a swim with them too.

Delfinario

This dolphin park located at Rancho Luna features daily dolphin shows, and even offers visitors a chance to swim alongside the friendly marine creatures.

Admire the elegant Cienfuegos architecture while you shop, dine or even take a dip with the dolphins. The city is proud to be the birthplace of famed Cuban singer Benny Moré. You can celebrate his music with the locals during a vibrant festival held every other September.

Restaurants and Cafes

La Verja Restaurant

Dine in the former residence of the Fernández Cavada y Howart family, marine painters of great importance in the nineteenth century.

Teatro Café Tomás

At this bustling café located across from Parque José Marti, people-watching is always on the menu.

Palacio de Valle

Enjoy a wide selection of seafood at this eclectically decorated restaurant.

Shopping

El Bulevar

If you’re looking to shop, head to El Bulevar, the primary shopping stretch in Cienfuegos.

Benny Moré International Music Festival

Come and celebrate the gifted Cuban singer during this festival that occurs every other September (in odd-numbered years).

Carnaval

During the first week of April, the locals observe the landing of Antonio Maceo at Duaba on April 1, 1895 along the Malecón.