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When Christopher Columbus got his first glimpse of the Holguín coastline in 1492, he pronounced it “the most beautiful land human eyes have ever seen.” Spectacular beaches – including the enclaves of Playa Esmeralda, Playa Pesquero and Guardalavaca – make this province along Cuba’s north coast the country’s third most popular tourist destination. Pristine reefs and abundant marine life ensure excellent diving and snorkeling in the warm, clear shallows of the Atlantic. Farther inland, rolling hills and rugged mountains provide a stunning landscape just begging to be explored.

In addition to Holguín’s natural wonders, there are urban adventures waiting for you here too. The provincial capital, Holguín city has a fascinating museum in an old colonial barracks, as well as galleries and commemorative monuments sprinkled around its lively public squares. In fact, the town has so many historic plazas, it has been called ‘the city of parks.’ In Birán, you can visit the farm where Fidel and Raúl Castro grew up; or view the only known gold figurine created by Cuban aboriginals at the Archaeological Museum in Banes. The seaside town Gibara, once the main port on the northeastern coast of Cuba, is a quaintly charming slice of the Spanish Mediterranean.

Local flavour

Ride an antique steam train along the outskirts of the quaint town Rafael Frevre and through the rugged Grupo Maniabón mountains

The north coast of Holguín is famous for its beaches, and rightly so. The region is endowed with remarkably clear waters, white sand and proximity to winding ecological trails. The three most popular enclaves, Playa Esmeralda, Playa Pesquero and Guardalavaca, are sweeping crescents near spectacular dive sites. There is hop-on hop-off bus service to the beaches and the surrounding sights.

Playa Caletones

Enjoy fun in the sun with local families at this inviting beach west of Gibara.

Playa Blanca

Continue west of Playa Pesquero to stunning Playa Blanca. It is widely believed that Christopher Columbus landed near here in 1492. Don’t miss the Parque Nacional Monumento Bariay, featuring a large monument erected in 1992 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the famous explorer’s arrival.

Playa Pesquero

Wriggle your toes in soft, golden sand, take a dip in the ocean, or catch some rays poolside at one of this beach’s four luxury resorts.

Playa Esmeralda

Just 5 km west of Guardalavaca lies sparkling Playa Esmeralda, a crescent-shaped beach surrounded by lagoons, lush greenery and the nearby Bahía Naranjo Nature Park.

Guardalavaca

This exquisite stretch of white sand is Cuba’s third most-popular tourist destination. It’s just an hour’s drive from the city of Holguín, and comprises three enclaves: the upscale Playa Pesquero, Playa Esmeralda, and Guardalavaca. Guardalavaca’s economic resort options and range of family-pleasing activities make it an ideal destination for those traveling with kids.

Warm, clear water, great biodiversity, and exquisite coral formations make for excellent scuba diving and snorkeling. Don’t miss Coral Garden, one of the most outstanding dive sites in the region.

Boating and sailing

The Naranjo Bay Natural Park, where the incredible blue sea is bounded by mangrove thickets and endemic trees, is an ideal place for yachting.

Marina Gaviota Puerto de Vita

This bustling marina is an international entry port, and a great place to book water adventures. Enjoy a leisurely sunset cruise or take a catamaran trip up the protected wildlife park at Cayo Saetia.

Fishing

Marina Gaviota Puerto de Vita

Embark on a deep-sea fishing excursion from here, and get ready to reel in The Big One.

Scuba diving and snorkeling

The Guaradalacava area is 18 km long and has two excellent scuba-diving centres. The seabed is irregular and complex, with high hillocks, caves, and sheer cliffs, descending gently in some places to form terraces covered with gorgonians.

Centre Coral Reef

Book your scuba or snorkel session at this Guardalavaca dive centre.

Eagle Ray Marlin dive center

Look for this Guardalavaca dive centre behind the Disco Club La Rocha.

Holguín’s diverse terrain includes lush pine forests, an alpine microclimate and an island populated by exotic animals. Memorable adventures include skydiving, swimming with the dolphins and beachside horseback rides.

Biking

Moped rentals

Scoot around the vibrant resort community by renting a moped from any hotel in Guardalava.

Excursions

Enjoy a lively dolphin show, venture out on a seafari or explore an island where zebras, antelopes and boars roam free.

Seafari

Take a boat excursion to the best snorkeling, fishing and swimming spots off the coast of Holguín.

Cayo Saetía

Although it’s only 100 km from Holguín city, this 42-sq-km island is a world apart. Connected to the mainland by a bridge, it is noted for its forests, broad prairies and idyllic beaches stretched out beneath striking cliffs along the northwestern coast. But the islet’s main attraction is the population of native and imported animals that roam freely here, including antelopes, zebras, boars and ñandus.

Parque Natural Bahía de Naranjo

This island complex near Guardalavaca boasts an aquarium featuring dolphin and sea lion shows, as well as yacht and seafari trips.

Paracaidismo Guardalavaca

Glide above the pristine Guardalavaca shoreline during a tandem skydiving or Zodiac hang-gliding adventure.

Horseback riding

Hacienda La Mensura (in Parque Nacional La Mensura)

Ride through the aromatic pine forests of this alpine terrain surrounding Sierra del Cristal. Pick up your horse at the Hacienda La Mensura, where you can also watch the antelope play.

Guardalavaca

Stop by the riding centre across from Club Amigo Atlantica to enjoy a canter along the sparkling Guardalavaca beaches.

Holguín’s carefully guarded forests, protecting over 100 different species of endemic plants, present great eco-tourism opportunities. Hike down an eco-archeological trail leading straight to a lighthouse, visit an mountain research centre, or feel dwarfed by Cuba’s highest waterfall.

National parks

Parque Nacional Sierra del Cristal

Cuba’s oldest national park, established in 1930, is home to Holguín’s highest peak, the Pico de Cristal.

Parque Nacional La Mensura

Inhale the rich pine scent in this heavily forested 5,300-hectare park south of Mayari. Stop by the mountain research centre of Pinares de Mayarí (Minari Pinegroves), which was modeled after an Alpine mountain hut. You can also hike to the foot of Cuba’s tallest waterfall, Salto del Guayabo.

Parque Nacional Monumento Bariay

The Parque Nacional Monumento Bariay was erected in 1992 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival at this spot in Holguín. This multi-purpose park also houses an archeological museum, models of huts and a 19th century Spanish fort.

Nature

Natural wonders include the deep pine forests and cool microclimate within the Sierra del Cristal mountain range; Salto del Guayabo, the country’s highest waterfall; and over 100 different species of endemic plants. To the northeast of the city of Holguín, you’ll find the distinctive cluster of mountains known as the Grupo Maniabón.

Salto del Guayabo

Gaze up at Cuba’s highest waterfall, which cascades from its 100-metre perch in the Sierra del Cristal. Take a guided tour through the surrounding forest to see the abundance of native plants that thrive in this alpine microclimate.

Grupo Maniabón

Ride a steam train through this majestic, mogote-lined mountain range northeast of the city of Holguín.

Las Guanas Eco-Archaeological Trail

This winding trail near Playa Esmeralda takes you past 14 endemic plant species and leads to a spectacular bluff with a picturesque lighthouse.

Holguín is a culturally rich province with lots to experience and enjoy. Tour the the coastal town of Gibara, home of the international Low-Budget Film Festival. Take a ride on an old-fashioned steam train. Visit the birthplace of Fidel and Raúl Castro. And explore the many places of interest in and around the plazas of Holguín city.

Architecture

The city of Holguín has its fair share of architectural gems, including the historic Catedral de San Isidoro.

Catedral de San Isidoro

This building was erected in 1720, making it one of the city’s oldest buildings. It is best known for its distinctive towers.

Plaza de la Revolución

You can pay your respects to Cuban heroes at this commemorative square, featuring an array of monuments dedicated to the heroes of Cuba’s struggle for independence. Stop by General Calixto García’s tomb.

Galleries

Centro Provincial de Artes Plásticas

An exciting opportunity to see many contemporary works on display.

Museums

You’ll find great museums all across the province, from the city of Holguín to the town of Banes, and even just off the beach in the Guardalavaca region.

Galería Holguín

Features local artists and their work, monthly.

Museo Indocubano Baní

This museum in the town of Banes arguably houses one of Cuba’s best collections of artifacts. One of the museum’s biggest draws is the golden fertility idol discovered near the town.

Museo Chorro de Maíta

Explore one of the Guardalavaca area’s almost-100 archeological sites. This museum encompasses the remnants of a 16th century village and cemetery.

Museo de Historia Provincial

See why this neo-classical building on the northern side of Holguín’s bustling Parque Calixto García has been designated as a national monument. The former Spanish army barracks were built over 1860-1868, and now house a museum featuring the Hacha de Holguín, an axe-head from the 1400s that bears a striking resemblance to a man’s head, as one of its most esteemed exhibits.

Sports

The citizens of Holguín love their sports. Whether you take in a baseball game or a boxing match here, the competition is world-class.

Combinado Deportivo Henry García Suárez

Watch an intense boxing match at this world-class training facility, where three Olympic medalists have honed their skills. If you feel like sparring, you can book a non-contact session here.

Estadio General Calixto García

Catch the Holguín Perros, one of Cuba’s top baseball teams, facing off against their rivals at this local stadium. Don’t miss the small sports museum on-site.

Theaters

Widely known and recognized in Cuba and overseas, the Rodrigo Prats Lyrical Theatre of Holguin has made a name of itself with a magnificent cast, techniques and a repertoire of operas, operettas and Spanish musicals among other productions on different stages. The Eddy Suñol, Theatre has also hosted the Condanza dance company, one of Cuba’s finest of its kind, dealing with classical, folkloric and modern ballet.

Likewise, AlasBuenas Children’s Theatrical Group has stood out with the presentation of literary works, while la Campana Folkloric Company stands for African-Cuban, countryside and popular roots of Holguin’s culture. Holguin’s Chamber Dance Company also shines in the limelight. This is recently created group that was put together on the basis of Cuba’s celebrated ballet dancer Alicia Alonso.

Pry the kids away from the beach toys and take them on a fun-filled steam train ride through the Grupo Maniabón mountains, or bring them to an aquarium where they can see a real live dolphin show each day.

Parque Natural Bahía de Naranjo

The young ones will love this fun island complex near Guardalavaca, which boasts an aquarium featuring live dolphin and sea lion shows.

Steam train ride

Take the kids on an antique steam train ride and traverse along the outskirts of the quaint town Rafael Frevre and through the rugged Grupo Maniabón mountains.

Get a taste of Holguín’s history as you explore the city’s winding streets. Go shopping at an historic market, or people-watch as you dine along one of Holguín’s busy strips.

Nightclubs and Bars

Nightclubs include Casa de la Trova El Guayabero located at Maceo Martí and Frexes, La Rueda at Guardalavaca Beach, and the Mona Lisa located at Mercado No 1 Martires and Maximo Gomez.

Restaurants and Cafes

Taberna Pancho

Dine at this busy restaurant located near Holguín’s Hotel Pernik. It offers a budget-friendly menu with an array of options.

Shopping

Plaza de la Marqueta

This historic shopping plaza in Holguín is situated on the ruins of a former market. It is now home to modern shops, including a Casa del Tabaco.

Friendly Holguín locals like to have a good time. Join them in May for an eclectic art festival, or come in August to experience their take on Carnaval.

Carnaval

See how Holguín does Carnaval during the third week of August. Expect lots of dancing in the streets and concerts al fresco.

Romerías de Mayo

Take in the music, poetry, paintings and many exhibitions during the weeklong art festival, which includes a pilgrimage to the top of the Loma de la Cruz, during the first week of May in Holguín. Don’t miss the national rap competition.