TOP CITIES IN CUBA: WHY TRINIDAD MAKES THE CUT
By the time we arrived in Trinidad, Ryan and I knew exactly what we’d do once we got off the bus. We’d make a dart for the nearest cafe to escape the handful of locals who forcefully make their way in front of your face claiming that they have the best house (or ‘casa particulares') for you to stay during your visit. Cubans are relentless in all that they do (which I find especially admirable in how creative they are with making things work with what little supplies or resources they have had in the past). They are especially persistent in winning tourists over. However, this time, Ryan and I managed to sneak out the back of the station and scoot into the nearest ice cream shop away from all the chaos. I ordered a chocolate ice cream and kept an eye on our bags while Ryan went on a search for the perfect casa particular for us to stay in during our visit.
[Side note]: It’s very common for tourists to stay with local families in their homes during their travels throughout Cuba. We stayed in casas particulares during our entire stay in Cuba and loved it. We mostly stuck to the $20 - $25 CUC price range for rooms, which was perfect to split between the two of us. Most houses included our own room, bathroom, AC unit (which was a lifesaver during the month of June), and a refrigerator. The families also included breakfast in the morning for $5 CUC if you prefer.
This time, it didn’t take us long to figure out where we’d stay in Trinidad. Ryan stumbled upon a beautiful two story casa with intricate design on the exterior + three different terraces around the house. When I met the couple who owned the house, Nelson and Rosaria, I knew Ryan had picked a winner. They were both so sweet and Nelson was so helpful in all of his recommendations for us + his English was excellent! We had barely met anyone who spoke fluent English so this was an added bonus. It made things so much easier in planning our adventures while in Trinidad. Rosaria made the most delicious breakfasts each morning including eggs, sweet bread, ham & cheese, a variety of fruits, a whole pitcher of freshly squeezed mango, pineapple and/or guava juice, + coffee and milk. We would sit outside on the terraza (terrace) each morning enjoying our breakfast while conversing with Nelson about daily Cuban life. Some of our most favorite memories of Cuba were our interactions with the locals that we stayed with. We felt a real connection to the culture and the people as we got to stay with all the different families and see life from their perspectives during our visits.
[Side note]: Here is a link to Nelson and Rosaria's place on Airbnb. Give them a shout if you're looking for somewhere to stay in Trinidad! https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/15218350?location=Trinidad%2C%20Sancti%20Spiritus%2C%20Cuba&s=d3bEw5hC
FAVORITE CITY GEMS + NIGHTTIME FUN
1. Casa de Musica (music)
In the center of the town square, we found the gem, Casa de Musica. All the tourists gather in the middle of the town sipping their pina coladas, mojitos or cerberzas (Cristal or Bucanero - the local beers found throughout Cuba) and listen to live musicians on the platform up above the stairs. We had such a blast people-watching and admiring the smooth dance moves the locals performed while reeling in tourists for a quick dance. Make sure to get there before 7pm if you don’t want to pay an entrance fee to get in. Otherwise, it’s 1 CUC for tourists (which isn’t a bad cover either way). Word on the street is that it goes until 3am if you are up for a true night out on the town.
2. Carnaval (Cuban culture)
Our third night in Trinidad, Nelson filled us in about Carnaval that was happening over three nights. He informed us that there was live music and Cubans from all over the city came to experience three nights full of celebration. Ryan and I immediately jumped at the opportunity to be able to dance and listen to live music with all of the Trinidadians. We made sure to live like the locals did! Of course, that included buying ourselves a few Bucaneros (local beers) and situating ourselves amongst the entire city dancing to the Cuban beats and soaking up every bit of positive and lively energy from these incredible people. After an hour or so of dancing, we came across a street full of food vendors without a tourist in sight. Ryan got a plate full of rice and a variety of meats for practically pennies and I was content with some fried plantains (which we were able to pay for both in all local peso currency - making it the cheapest dinner date of the trip!) We strolled the streets for a bit and went back to dancing in the main part of town until the early morning.
2. El Rin Tin (food/music/bar)
We absolutely loved the vibes at El Rin Tin! We spotted this place as we were strolling the streets looking for somewhere to eat. The smiley doorman invited us in and we couldn’t refuse his genuine excitement for us to join the fiesta. We were not let down as we climbed the stairs to the terrace overlooking the entire city in the distance. The space up top wasn’t abundant, but it was filled to capacity with people sipping their cocktails and enjoying the live music that filled the atmosphere. Ryan and I ordered El Chancharon, which is the official cocktail of Trinidad. It consisted of lemon, honey and rum, and came in small ceramic glasses. This was by far my favorite drink of the whole trip! We loved this place so much that we came back another day for breakfast. It was just as beautiful in the morning time and the food was on point!