Wednesday morning we woke up and breakfasted at 10AM, getting energized for our car trip to Cienfuegos, Caleta Buena, and Playa Giròn. We got our gear together, packed the car, paid for the Hostal (30 CUC a night inclusive of breakfast, plus 5 CUC for the laundry service we requested), and were on our way. Breakfast this morning at Hostal Cuba had sad faces on the eggs instead of happy faces since we were leaving, Ronaldo told us.
We decided to make for the Bay of Pigs. Not only would the history be interesting, but the fly fishing was also supposed to be good. It took us about 2 hours to get there through coastal back roads and weaving our way through Cienfuegos, the capital of the region.
We had hit Cienfuegos late on Monday night on our drive in and didn’t get to see much – we just saw several pizza parlors and a university, so we just kind of figured it was a university town. There was obviously more to it than that – although we didn’t spend much time, we drove around the seaport district and saw a fancy yacht club with some gorgeous villas. Then we cut down the main commercial drag and it was clean, wide, tree-lined, and with a spacious center divider filled with flowers and greenery. It was fairly quiet for a Wednesday afternoon, and a lot of shops were closed. There seemed to be much more to see in the historical center, and we buzzed by a few old churches and Spanish mission-style buildings.
If you are planning to stay in Cienfuegos, we got a recommendation from our Casa Particular owner in Havana:
We stuck to the water and we wove North along the peninsula and eventually found our way onto the main highway towards Havana (which was again not so easy to find). We knew we had to follow the way to Havana for about 30 km (or at the very least towards Aguada de Pasajeres) and look for certain cross roads along the way taking us directly West and South again once we got to the other side of the channel. Luckily, the signage turned out to be good, at least to the Bay of Pigs – it must have been a popular Cuban tourist site because there were tons of signs (as well as road-side propaganda signage) directing through backwater dirt roads and villages towards Playa Giròn (Bay of Pigs). We noticed that as we got closer to our destination, the gardens and exteriors of the roadside houses improved, perhaps through some government initiative to make sure this well-traveled tourist road to the “Victory” site was a success story of communism.
We made it to Playa Giròn and decided to drive along the beach on the PCH-like coastal road and scope out potential spots to fish and/or stop for lunch. The beaches there were pristine and empty, and we wished we had a few more days.
We stumbled on to a nice looking beach with an enclosed channel area that we thought might make good fishing – the name was Caleta Buena, and it turned out to be extremely bizarre.
At the gate, we were stopped by a guard who wanted 15 CUC per person. We thought this was absurd just to use the beach…but then we started to get the picture. It was one of those all-inclusive resort concepts. All you can eat food, drink, and beach for the whole day.
Since we didn’t have to use the beach, and all we really wanted at this point was lunch (and maybe a mojito), we bargained him down to 13 CUC for both of us.
Lunch ended at 3PM (and it was already 2PM or so), so we grabbed some beer and mojitos (in tiny, tiny glasses) from the separate bar area, and headed to the buffet.
The buffet was an anticipated disappointment, about what you’d expect for an all-inclusive type European-oriented concept resort. The best part was the sauce to the meat, beans and rice, and the shredded, sweetened coconut.
We noodled through the resort concept, and figured out that everyone at the resort was bused in as part of a large tour (duh, the bus was outside). The resort didn’t seem to have any lodging so it was just a day concept. Everyone inside was British or European – no Cubans and no Hispanics. It was cracker city and super fake, and a great lesson in to what we NEVER wanted to do on vacation – visit a place recreated in a way that is exactly like the place we came from. In other words, this place was for people to say they’ve “been” to Cuba without ever actually visiting Cuba. Hell no.