Cienfuegos town on the southern coast of Cuba, also called La Perla del Sud (The Pearl of the South) is unique in Cuba because of its French heritage!
It is a different and quite “young” city established in 1819 by settlers from Louisiana and France and soon became a melting pot of cultural influences.
Cienfuegos Is A UNESCO World Heritage Site!
Cienfuegos is truly unique in Cuban history, architecture, and city planning, as it has a more French architectural style.
It’s so special for Cuba that in 2005, the historical center of Cienfuegos was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites that deserves protection!
You might want to spend a few days and nights here or just stop by on a day tour.
Map of Cienfuegos
What To Do In Cienfuegos Cuba?
Cienfuegos is not a very big Cuban city, and it does not have the long colonial heritage that other cities like Trinidad and Havana have – but it is unique in Cuban cultural and architectural history due to its origin!
Find out what is special about Cienfuegos here and all the things you should put on your list for your visit.
Cienfuegos on the southern coast of Cuba, also called The Pearl of the South, is unique in Cuban history.
It is the only city in Cuba founded by French settlers, although still under the Spanish crown in the early 19th Century.
Starting with the statue of Benny Moré, this walking tour of Cienfuegos will take you strolling along the Paseo del Prado and Avenida San Fernando and stop at the Artisan Market and Hotel La Unión rooftop!
Then you’ll head over to José Martí Park in the heart of the historic center to learn about the founding of Cienfuegos and admire landmarks like the Government Palace, the Tomás Terry Theater, and the cathedral.
These are all great examples of the city’s colonial architectural heritage, which is why the city is on the UNESCO World Heritage List!
After visiting the Benny Moré Cultural Center, you’ll finish the tour of Cienfuegos at the Muelle Real, a pier where you can relax with a traditional Cuban drink and enjoy the view!
A tour of El Nicho waterfall gets you a few extra perks as well, not just the waterfalls!
Start your day heading for the Escambray mountains, tucked away between Sancti Spíritus, Villa Clara, and Cienfuegos provinces.
In the lush rainforest, you’ll encounter the delightful contrast of heat from the city against the invigorating temperature of its tropical jungle. This is also Cuba’s coldest microclimate!
You will explore the amazing San Martín Infierno Cave and its towering stalactite and see Hanabanilla’s majestic natural dam from a bird’s eye view.
Then you arrive at the breathtaking El Nicho Waterfalls – with their enticing turquoise pools that are certain to make your heart skip a beat.
The three waterfalls are La Cristal, Los Tres Deseos’ numerous cascades, and Poceta de Los Enamorados – an enchanting oasis to swim or even do a thrilling zip line adventure!
3. Stroll Across The Malecon
Each coastal town in Cuba has a Malecon – a waterfront where people can enjoy a walk in the late afternoon once the heat of the day is replaced by the pleasant marine breeze.
Cienfuegos’ Malecon is a good place to spot locals walking and, at times, even exercising at the end of the day or on their way to Punta Gorda (more about this below).
4. Punta Gorda
One of the really nice attractions to experience in Cienfuegos is Punta Gorda!
Located at the end of the scenic Malecon boardwalk, it is the perfect spot for a leisurely stroll and breathtaking views of the bay, especially at sunset!
You can walk there from the center of Cienfuegos or hail a bici taxi if the heat or distance is a bit much for you (3 km).
Admire the architectural beauty of this 19th-century neighborhood out here; this upper-class part of Cienfuegos is packed with gorgeous villas and beautifully kept buildings.
Once you are in the actual Punta Gorda, take a dip in the Caribbean sea, or head over to scenic Camila’s restaurant for a sunset drink or dinner.
5. Visit The Botanical Garden
Established a century ago, this unique institution is the oldest of its kind in Cuba and gives visitors an opportunity to observe meticulously maintained plants from all corners of the world!
Its lush greenery envelopes The Pearl Of The South’s entire garden; experts have proclaimed that its palm collection is regarded as one of the most comprehensive collections on the planet!
Amidst a thousand species, from the lively Ceiba tree to an array of stunning Caribbean flora, lies Cienfuegos’ majestic botanical park.
This immersive landscape holds an abundance of trees and fruit-bearing plants as well as its own area for conservation.
In recognition of these remarkable features, the National Monument has declared it their official monument!
6. Parque Jose Marti
Another must-see attraction in Cienfuegos is Parque Jose Marti, a tranquil city park with shaded park benches, trees, and flowers surrounded by houses in the typical architectural style of Cienfuegos.
Visitors can admire the architecture of this 19th-century area, as well as explore various monuments honoring Cuban heroes.
The Parque José Martí is home to a number of historical monuments, including the Monumento a la Bandera and the iconic Teatro Tomas Terry.
If your Spanish is strong enough, you might enjoy a play!
While there, be sure to check out the popular Cienfuegos Museum of Natural History, which is home to an array of unique and interesting specimens from all over the world!
After a day of sightseeing, grab a bite at one of the many restaurants and bars nearby for some tasty Cuban cuisine.
7. Stop By Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción Cathedral
On one of the sides of Jose Marti Park, you also find the Cienfuegos Cathedral, which dates back to 1869.
One of the particular features of this cathedral is its French stained-glass windows which were created especially for this religious building.
8. Visit Teatro Tomas Terry
The Teatro Tomas Terry is another must-see attraction in Cienfuegos. This stunning 19th-century theater was built to honor the Cuban freedom fighter Tomás Terry.
Today, it still stands as a symbol of his contributions to the country’s independence and serves as an important cultural center for the community.
Catch a show while you’re in town, or take a guided tour of the theater to learn more about its history and architecture.
9. Climb The Tower Of Palacio Ferrer
Flaunting its magnificence, the remnants of Cienfuegos’ grand architecture are still evident – thanks to Don José Ferrer and other local sugar barons.
The “palace” erected by him in the early 1900s is now undergoing full restoration.
However, visitors can climb up a winding staircase into his corner tower with its blue-tiled mosaic for a breathtaking view of Parque José Martí.
This 19th-century palace today serves as a museum honoring Ferrer’s contributions to the country!
10. Take A Day Trip To Sierra del Escambray National Park
Located close to Cienfuegos is the stunning Sierra del Escambray National Park; you can take a day trip here from Cienfuegos!
This protected area covers more than 253,000 hectares of lush tropical forests and is home to a variety of wildlife.
Take an exciting trek through its rugged terrain, or explore some of the nearby caves for a unique experience.
Be sure to also take some time to admire the stunning views from the park’s many lookout points.
11. Palacio De Valle
The Palacio De Valle is a must-see attraction in Cienfuegos. This stunning 19th-century palace was built by the Cuban aristocrat Don Francisco Javier de Borbón y Vallé.
The palace serves as both a museum and an event venue today, an impressive example of neoclassical design.
Take some time to explore its stunning gardens and admire the grand architecture of the building.
Inside, visitors can explore a variety of artifacts and displays, including a collection of Cuban art and sculpture.
12. Visit The Bay Of Pigs
It is possible to make a day trip to the Bay of Pigs and the infamous Playa Giron from Cienfuegos.
The drive from Cienfuegos to Playa Giron is just over one hour, and there you can visit the museum of the failed US invasion in 1961 and learn about this incident from the Cuban perspective!
You can also stop by the Cueva de Pesces, which is only a few kilometers away from Playa Giron along the shores of the long Bay of Pigs, or Bahia de Cochinos in Spanish.
FAQ’s Cienfuegos Cuba!
Is Cienfuegos Worth Visiting?
Cienfuegos is unique for being a very young Cuban city in contrast to the colonial heritage you find in neighboring Trinidad, as it is founded as late as 1819 and is well worth a visit.
It is also different because it has a strong French influence.
Cienfuegos was founded by French settlers from the start, although under the Spanish crown, which was the colonial ruler at the time.
The area is home to some incredible natural sights, and Cienfuegos Bay and Punta Gorda are popular spots for water sports.
As it is close to the infamous Bay of Pigs and Playa Giron, you can take day trips from Cienfuegos to these historically important places!
Getting A Visa For Cuba
You can do this from an online provider like East Tourist Card from the Cuban embassy in your country.
Your airline might also offer or sell Cuban tourist cards. Check with your airline if they have that service.
What Is Cienfuegos Cuba Known For?
Cienfuegos Cuba is known for being the only city in Cuba that was not founded by the Spanish – but by the French! (Although still under the Spanish crown).
How To Get To Cienfuegos?
You can fly to Cuba is Abel Santamaría Airport, which is the airport in Santa Clara, Cuba 84 km from the center of Cienfuegos, Cuba.
You can also fly to Varadero Airport or Jose Marti Airport in Havana.
From Havana or Varadero, you can take a taxi collectivo (shared taxi) or taxi privado (normal private taxi) to Cienfuegos.
You can also take the Viazul bus from Havana, a journey of just over 5 hours that costs $16 online.
Cienfuegos Cuba Hotels & Casas
There are some good hotels in Cienfuegos and a variety of casa particulares for rent.
Check out some of the top-rated Cienfuegos casa particulares to get an idea of what you can expect!
Wrap-Up What To Do In Cienfuegos Cuba
The laid-back atmosphere and stunning natural beauty of Cienfuegos and the area around the city on the southern shores of Cuba have drawn visitors from around the world.
For anyone with a bit of interest in history, a tour of Cienfuegos will be well worth your time.
You can easily spend a day or two in Cienfuegos without getting bored!
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