Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Since its rocky beginnings as Spanish conquistador Diego Velazquez’s fifth founded village (it had to be rebuilt completely due to fires only a year after its establishment), Santiago de Cuba has grown to be a thriving seaport and the country’s second largest city.
Situated along a beautiful bay connected to the Caribbean Sea, Santiago de Cuba is a place with a vibrant culture. Music and dance are particular staples of the city; it is the birthplace of numerous famous Cuban musicians.
Santiago de Cuba’s fun atmosphere and fascinating sites attract cruise vessels from a number of leading companies, such as Voyages of Discovery and Hapag Lloyd.
Cruise ships make port at the Bahia de Santiago de Cuba, which is located at the bottom of town. The port’s position makes it easy for disembarking passengers to walk into the city.
As there aren’t any port facilities, it’s best to head straight into town. A Cadeca (government currency exchange facility) is located across the road from the port, so you might like to utilise this service before venturing into Santiago de Cuba.
How to Get Around
To truly experience this location, it’s best to explore on foot – especially as the city’s streets are typically busy with traffic. The city is fairly large and hilly though; if you get a bit tired or want to reach some more distant attractions, you’ll be glad taxis are so readily available.
There are many old buses trundling around as well, and you might like to take advantage of these. As they are typically crowded, pay special attention to your belongings.
Travel times from the port:
It is a 9 minute journey to Casa de Diego Velazquez
It is a 10 minute journey to Parque Cespedes
It is a 13 minute journey to Museo Del Ron.
It is a 2 minute journey to Casa de Diego Velazquez
It is a 4 minute journey to Museo Del Ron
It is a 1 hour and 18 minute journey to Parque Baconao.
Weather – With a tropical savanna climate, Santiago de Cuba is one of the country’s sunniest and warmest cities; daytime temperatures can easily reach the high 20s and low 30s (degrees Celsius) throughout the year, especially in the hot, humid season from May to October. The months between November and April are slightly cooler, less humid, and experience less rainfall.
Currency – The main currency used in Cuba is the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). The Cuban Peso (CUP) is also legal tender throughout the country, but it is rare that visitors will use this secondary currency. The CUC comes in 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 peso notes. The coins you might come across include the 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 centavo coins, as well as the 1 and 5 peso coins. Few places will accept credit cards, so it’s essential to exchange some cash if you plan on spending any money in Santiago.
Time Zone – From November to February, Santiago runs on Cuba Standard Time, 5 hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UCT). For the rest of the year, the city switches to Cuba Daylight Time, which is 1 hour closer to UCT.
Casa de Diego Velazquez – This mansion/museum transports visitors back into colonial times. Its collection of furniture, ceramics, porcelain, and other items all have roots in French, Spanish, Cuban and British history. Elaborate decorations and beautiful designs hint at the vast wealth that the house’s former residents enjoyed. A guided tour is the best way to enjoy the Spanish conquistador’s prior home if you don’t understand Spanish.
Museo del Ron – A quainter yet just as intriguing version of the museum in Cuba’s capital, Santiago’s Museo del Ron gives travellers a taste of Cuban’s rum industry – both figuratively and literally! When you’ve finished admiring the old machinery and catching up on the history of rum in Cuba, head to the bar below for a firsthand experience of the country’s most iconic beverage (or another delicious drink of your choice).
Parque Cespedes – Located just outside Casa de Diego Velazquez is this park/plaza, which is popular amongst visitors and locals alike. Explore the surrounding attractions and streets, enjoy a relaxing drink in the sunshine, and be enchanted by the lively music and mood of the area. Parque Cespedes is home to a grand cathedral and a museum filled with religious artworks and musical relics.
Parque Baconao – Wacky yet wonderful, the Parque Baconao is a favourite for many tourists to Santiago de Cuba. While its UNESCO listing is earned by its living inhabitants (including rare bats and almost 2,000 endemic plant species), the 800-square-kilometre park is also home to a fantastic outdoor car museum and a herd of concrete dinosaur sculptures that are built to size and provide countless photo opportunities.