For those of you who have been following my Cuba series, will know that I was looking forward to Trinidad more than any other place. A five-hour Viazul bus ride took me there from friendly Santa Clara and Trinidad disappointed and satisfied me in equal measure. There is no doubt that Trinidad Cuba is a stunningly beautiful preserved colonial city. Blessed with gorgeous pastel coloured mansions, nearby blond beaches, and fishing villages, Trinidad had a lot to offer. This attracted a huge number of tourists, second only to Havana and it came with its share of problems too. One such major downside of Trinidad was the aggressive hassling, one met as a tourist at every step.
The luxurious marble and gilt casas of Trinidad Cuba
Serious hustling started the moment I got off the bus and it took a lot of effort to shake off the aggressive jinteros (touts). I avoided them completely, dragging my bag up and down the cobbled lanes of Trinidad Cuba, checking one casa after another. Trinidad being the home to some of the most beautiful houses in Cuba, the casas were all drop dead gorgeous. Complete with smooth glassy floors, leafy green courtyards, polished wooden rocking chairs, and glittering crystal chandeliers, accommodation in Trinidad came at a hefty price that burnt holes in my backpacking budget. The casa owners too were extremely pushy and hiked up the rates to such phenomenal prices, that it took a lot of bargaining to bring them down to something affordable. Thus my casa hunt in Trinidad took me all over the city and apart from the discomfort of lugging my bag over uneven cobbled lanes, it was a beautiful walk through the historic heart of a breathtaking city.
Trinidad Cuba is a rainbow coloured city
Bright coral colours bloomed in rows and turned Trinidad Cuba into a veritable garden of lovely painted buildings. Egg yolk yellow, baby blue, lime green, saffron orange etc splashed pleasing shades and lacy window curtains fluttered merrily. Red tiled roofs and a photogenic old cathedral completed the picture and the sky was of the softest shade of blue. Huge clouds built castles in the air and Trinidadians went about their daily chores at a relaxed leisurely pace. The severe hustling made me avoid the friendly locals, something which I hated doing and some of them were genuinely nice. Finally, on the outer periphery of the heritage area of Plaza Mayor, I found myself a good bargain and stayed put in my chandelier decorated room until dusk.
Eat at local paladares in Trinidad Cuba to understand the national cuisine
Trinidad Cuba was very warm as well and the afternoon sun was relentlessly harsh. My hosts, who were not very pleasant people, thankfully left me alone and I rested in my room in peace, listening to strains of music floating in from the neighbourhood. My casa was conveniently located near the lovely Museo de Romantico and was perfect for snoozing away after tucking into large Cuban lunches. Food continued disappointing me, although Trinidad boasted of some of the best paladares (restaurants) in Cuba. Like the rest of all things Cuban, innovation played a huge part in their national cuisine and the clever feisty people churned out meals from nearly everything available to them. From steaks made from orange rinds to breadfruit curries, Cuban cuisine was a shining example of the country’s tough survival spirit.
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Hustling, aggressive touts, overcharging and other annoyances of Trinidad
Too many unpleasant stories of Trinidad paladares recycling leftover food (scraped off plates) were in circulation which made me I stick to my casa for all my needs. Although pricey, the meals were massive and for 5 CUC, I received huge portions of bean soup (a meal in itself), rice with beans, prawns in onion and tomato sauce, salad, guava juice and a bowl of ice cream. Although the meals left much to be desired in regards to taste, my Trinidad casa contained some of my most favourite things in Cuba. For e.g I loved sleeping under my very own antique crystal chandelier, sitting on the coziest polished mahogany rocking chair, and tinkering on the household grand baby piano, whenever free. Such heritage comforts came at a price and Trinidad Cuba burnt a hefty hole in my pocket.
Hone your bargaining skills to survive Trinidad Cuba
In spite of all my reservations against the city, I cannot deny that Trinidad was a photographer’s delight. I enjoyed walking around the little town, taking in its gorgeous colours, and sampling tamarind juice (jugo de tamarindo), locally made hamburgers and wobbly pastries sold from bicycles. Trinidad was teeming with art and from quirky crafts shops, galleries filled with paintings, ladies selling beautiful crochet and embroidered dresses, handmade beaded belts and dolls, the city center was crammed with things to splurge on. However, they all required lots of money (due to outrageously inflated prices) and nail sharp bargaining skills, both of which were not my forte. Though bargaining existed everywhere in Cuba, in Trinidad I learned to haggle for everything including bus tickets (bargain hard for Viazul under hold baggage charges or you, will be scalped off 10 CUC), street cocktails, taxi fares etc. Thus, while Trinidad was not too unpleasant, I found my favourite spot in La Boca and it made up my most pleasant memories of Sancti Spiritus province.
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Head over to La Boca to take a break from the harsh Trinidad Cuba
On a bright Trinidad day, just before leaving the pretty town to go deeper down south, I decided to explore the region’s picturesque countryside. A short Cubanacan bus ride took me to the Playa (beach in Spanish) Ancon and I watched in wonder at Cuba’s rich hinterland. The purple Sierra del Escambray loomed in the horizon and mangrove forests on both sides of the road were a birder’s paradise. The famed platinum blonde sandy beach, however, was quite disappointing and the coarse sandy beach was strewn with seaweed. Though I have been to much nicer beaches in Asia and Africa it was a refreshing change to simply relax in the sun, unhassled. The taxi ride back to Trinidad was nicer as my friendly cabbie made lots of photo stops and took me to a local restaurant in La Boca where only Cubans went for delicious seafood lunches.
Discover the joy pure Cuba at La Boca
It was an open restaurant with rustic tables set under big flowering trees and the turquoise blue ocean lapped at our feet. The food was deliciously fresh, and the prices were for a change, quoted in pesos. I loved the charming fishing village of La Boca and spent a few hours on the promenade enjoying its flower-filled coastal charm. Rows of blooming Gulmohar trees made a vivid strip of red along the beach and families picnicked in their shade. It was a nice way to end my Trinidad Cuba stay and I left the gorgeous city with lukewarm feelings. On my last day, heavy rain lashed the heritage-rich city and I spent my time indoors, playing the piano, before heading towards the gentle Holguin province.
Trinidad Cuba Travel Tip
La Boca has quite a few good eating options, which are cheaper and better than Playa Ancon. The Saturday Nights at Casa De La Musica in Trinidad Cuba are great for some salsa, rhumba, mojitos and meeting other travelers and locals. Shopping is way too overpriced in Trinidad but skillful bargaining will ensure better rates. Trinidad does have some really good studios offering excellent small sculptures, paintings etc for sale and they make great souvenirs. Look out for chargeable drinks especially juices offered as welcome drinks or silently added along with your dinner at your casa and paladares. Casa owners in Trinidad love this sneaky trick and quite a bit of unexpected CUCs pop up in the final calculation. Confirm, reconfirm before drinking and keep a note of your consumables at your casa. Rented bicycles mostly come with narrow saddles and hard pedals which can be very uncomfortable if exploring outside Trinidad and it makes sense to check the condition (test ride) before renting or you will end up too sore to enjoy salsa nights at Casa De La Musica.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE