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An often-overlooked gem of the oriente, the city of Holguín provides an authentic insight into life in provincial Cuba. Known as the ‘City of Parks’, Holguín’s ample green spaces are the perfect spot for people-watching, gossiping and playing chess - often to the sounds of wandering troubadours. Just an hour away from Holguín are the white sands, verdant hills and kaleidoscopic coral reefs of Guardalavaca, a stretch of coast that was declared by Christopher Columbus as “the most beautiful land that human eyes have ever seen”.

Things to Do

Holguín is one of Cuba’s most important eco-tourist destinations with a breath-taking landscape of jungle, coastline and rugged mountains. Founded in 1523, Holguín also boasts a rich cultural heritage evidenced in its museums and fine colonial architecture.

Cuba’s fourth largest city is renowned for its Loma de La Cruz, a 261m hill bearing a wooden cross at its peak. Accessible by road as well as a 458-step climb, the Loma offers a mesmerising 360-degree panorama of the city and its distinctively symmetrical streets. Holguin is made up of a series of interconnected parks, colonial squares and national monuments.

The city in itself can easily be explored by foot. Visitors will be able to admire its charming plazas, including Plaza Calixto García (home to the Museum of Provincial History), Plaza Julio Grave de Peralta (home to the Catedral de San Isidoro, a beautiful 18th century church), together with the Plaza de la Marqueta and Plaza de las Flores. The recently renovated Teatro Suñol is an art-deco delight for architecture fanatics.

Among the most interesting places to visit in the province is Gibara, the ‘White Village’. Dubbed by The Guardian as ‘Cuba’s best-kept secret’, this isolated fishing village is filled with charming colonial plazas and is the annual host of the Festival Internacional de Cine Pobre (International Low Budget Film Festival). One of the most popular indie film events in all of Latin America, the festival draws international audiences to Gibara each April.

Gibara is also worth the visit for its colonial architecture, which earned the entire city National Monument status. Great news came last year when the Ministry of Tourism announced a development plan including a full restoration of Gibara’s historical centre (dating from the 19th century), updating the village’s marina and building boutique hotels out of the ruins of iconic colonial buildings.

A tropical jungle key located just off Holguin’s Nipe Bay, Cayo Saetía is a nature-lover’s paradise. Venture into the lush greenery to catch a glimpse of its protected wildlife, including antelopes, buffalos, deer, wild boars, ostriches and zebras, all of which roam freely throughout the reserve.

The province of Holguin is home to over 40 different beaches. Esmeralda, Pesquero and Guardalavaca are the most popular but it’s possible to live your desert island fantasy in off-the-beaten-track Playa Yuraguanal. Below the surface of the glittering Caribbean Sea, the coastal province possesses the world’s second largest coral reef, offering a myriad of spectacular diving spots.

The Parque Natural Bahía de Naranjo is a fantastic option for those who enjoy water activities. This floating tourist complex includes natural pools, a restaurant, a bar and a fun-packed dolphin centre, where visitors can swim alongside these playful creatures for an unforgettable experience.

Where to Stay

Most travellers opt to stay at one of the beach resorts dotted along Holguin’s coastline. Among the top-ranked are Playa Pesquero Resort, Suite & Spa, the adults-only Paradisus Río de Oro and Sol Río de Luna y Mares. These all-inclusive resorts are kitted out with bars, restaurants, swimming pools, specialised restaurants and plenty of other facilities to ensure a comfortable stay.

The town of Gibara plays host to a number of boutique hotels, located 45 minutes away from Holguín city and about an hour from Guardalavaca. Among our favourites is Hotel Caballeriza, an elegant five-star choice located in the city’s historical centre.

Where to Eat

Most all-inclusive resorts offer a choice of buffet and á la carte restaurants. However, if you want to diversify your dining experience, there are a number of good restaurant options in Guardalavaca and Holguín city.

Boasting excellent seafood and top-rated reviews, La Maison restaurant sits right next to the beach resorts of Guardalavaca. In Holguín city, don’t miss the experience of dinning at the 1910 Restaurant & Bar. It’s a small venue with eclectic decor from the 1920’s. We recommend making reservations in advance.

Nightlife

At night, the streets of Holguín pulsate with an upbeat energy. Stroll around the boulevard or head to one of the city’s trendy local bars for some head-spinning Cuban cocktails and exceptional live music. The Casa de la Música is highly recommended by our travel consultants and guarantees an unforgettable night that’ll have you thinking you’re on the set of Dirty Dancing 2. El Nocturno is also a sizzling spot for those seeking night-time adventures. Located on the outskirts of Holguín city, it’s worth pre-booking for the live shows on offer at this Tropicana-style cabaret.

All-inclusive resorts have entertainment programmes and nightclubs that will keep you busy from morning to night. However, if you fancy a more authentic experience partying with locals, then head out to a city nightclub, bar or street party and enjoy a free dance lesson with an ‘holguinero’.

How Long to Stay

Holguín combines city and beach charms within the same territory, allowing for an enjoyable Self-Drive Holiday at your own pace. Our Cuba specialists recommend an average of five nights in Holguín, giving you plenty of time to get to know the city and its surrounding areas, as well as to relax and unwind on one of the provinces stellar beaches. If you’re planning to go beyond Holguin, then we recommend organising a Multi-Centre Holiday, adding Havana, Viñales or Trinidad, and Varadero into the mix.

Suggested Itineraries

For first-time visitors to Cuba, we recommend a multi-centre trip including at least Havana and Trinidad before heading to Holguín. This base itinerary can be tailored to your specifications by one of our specialists to match your interests, time, and budget.

Our Activity Holidays offer fantastic options including Holguin, such as the Road to Revolution Trekking Tour. Take a look at our self-drive holidays or private escorted tours for more inspiration.

Getting There

The Frank Pais International Airport (HOG) in Holguin is a small airport serving the beach resorts of the northern coastal area. Flights from Havana take around 90 minutes while those from Varadero take less than an hour. Holguín is connected with the Central Highway via Bayamo, 463 mi (745 km) from Havana.

Holguín Events

Romerías de Mayo (First Week of May)
Every May, the city of Holguin transforms into the Capital of Young Art, celebrating both national and international culture with dances, performances, exhibitions and concerts held in the city’s public spaces. The festival’s motto, “there is no today without yesterday”, celebrates the collision of tradition with modernity. Colour, music and dance abound on the streets during this dazzling event. One of the most anticipated events during the festival is the parade to the Loma de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross), where people of all ages carry the enormous Axe of Holguin, a historical symbol of the city.

North Atlantic Dance Competition and Vladimir Malakhov Grand Prix (September)
Sponsored by the distinguished ballet dancer and director, Vladimir Malakhov, together with the Cuban contemporary dance company, Codanza, this annual dance competition seeks to inspire young Latin American dancers by offering scholarship prizes. Starting out as a dance contest, the event has gone on to become a beautiful dance festival that is definitely worth experiencing.

Festival of Ibero-American Culture (October)
The Casa de la Cultura Iberoamericana hosts an annual event aimed at reviving and promoting Cuba’s hispanic roots. During the festival, Holguin’s parks and streets play host to numerous workshops, live concerts, exhibitions, popular celebrations and fairs. Founded in 1993 on the quintennary of Columbus’ arrival to Cuba, the festival celebrates the ‘Meeting of the Two Worlds’.