Cuba is approx 600 miles long so we were in for a long journey, hence the large blog. Grab a drink and we hope you enjoy our trip thru Cuba. See also Habana and Santiago de Cuba on separate blogs.
We had lots of amazing sunsets
The south eastern coast of Cuba is approx 200 miles long and has huge cliff faces and towering mountain ranges with small towns hidden behind reefs and mangroves, but very few places to stop by boat along the coast.
SE mountain range is very steep & rocky
South Eastern Coast
Our sail from Santiago de Cuba (see separate blog) took us along the coastline firstly to Chivrico a small fishing town. The Santiago port captain told us that there was no Guarda Frontera here and that we could anchor but were not to go ashore. On arrival the people in the lagoon waved out and were very friendly but soon after 3 army officers arrived and sat watching us from various positions around the lagoon. Ok we’ll stay on our boats! Wonder why we couldn’t go ashore?
Chivrico – a great anchorage in a lagoon behind the reef
Marea Del Portillo also on the coast was a small village where the locals are either farmers, fishermen or work for one of the 2 local hotels catering to Canadian, German and Spanish tourists. As we walked the streets to see the small town and hotel complex, 2km down the road we were passed by horse and carts working and transporting people about the area. We had many offers of fruit and vege along the way and so traded so we had fresh food to go on to the Cays. Even had a couple of men row out to the boat at 8pm with more fruit for trade. Money is not wanted rather clothing, soap, cigarettes or rum. There is a lot of poverty in these rural towns so you can’t blame these people for trying to trade what little they have for something a little better.
In the rural areas the soil is ploughed with an Oxen team
Jardines de La Reina ( Queens Gardens)
As you round the corner at Cabo Cruz you then enter the Jardines de La Reina, which is approx 150 miles long, 50 miles south of the mainland and made up of hundreds of mangrove and small cays.
A small Cay surrounded by reefs with the mainland in the background
We entered at Cayo Anclitas to do some exploring of the area. The Palapa Tortuga floating hotel; a Joint Venture with Italy sits up the mangroves near the Lagoon and caters to tourists for diving and fishing expeditions. It’s been in operation for 20yrs so obviously a success. The staff were awesome as they were on shift change and allowed us to come aboard for a few drinks and meet the local crocodiles, which come out from the mangroves for dinner. Eeek. We’re not swimming here!
Do you want to swim when these guys are floating around in the mangroves?
- Shrimp boats
local fishermen who traded with us, 4 men sleep in this small boat
We thought Jardine de la Reina was a marine reserve where commercial fishermen were restricted. Obviously not, as a fleet of huge shrimp boats and the mother ship come into a Cay to clean out their nets.
The local fishermen, who had fresh shrimp and lobster were also keen to trade with us. Rum for lobster seemed to be a popular request.
Of course all the way along the coast and between the Cayos Brett tried his luck fishing. The lines definitely caught their fair share of barracuda and then finally, he caught a small blackfin tuna so we enjoyed sashimi over a beautiful sunset.
The sunsets down here are great and yes lots of green flashes.
The Cays in the Jardines are pretty isolated which is nice as there are some sandy beaches to enjoy with no one about. As we got closer to the mainland there were a couple of Cays that had restaurants and bars where charter fleets from Trinidad would bring their guests to visit the “remote” island, so the tourists were told.
Enjoying Cayo Blancos beach, waiting for the tourists to leave so we had the restaurant to ourselves
At the various Cayos in the Jardines de La Reina the boys went hunting for lobster and the day before my birthday did not disappoint, bringing back lots for Jen to work her magic. We had heard that the lobster are walking along the ground and easy pickings but not something we witnessed. If only!
boys looking very happy
Jen once again outdid herself cooking up a great birthday feast for us. While celebrating my birthday on Our Rose a pigeon decided to join us and settled in for the party in Jens cilantro pots, staying 2 nights. He knows a good thing when he sees it.
“Cilantro” who dropped in for my birthday dinner
Trinidad de Cuba
We docked at the end of the dock at Marlin Marina Trinidad on a Saturday so of course had to go into town to see Casa de Música an outdoor amphitheater area where there is music and salsa dancing. Great place to people watch. Trinidad is a popular tourist destination with old cobblestone streets, lots of private homes ( Casa particulars) to stay at and private restaurants (paladars).
Seismic Wave & Our Rose docked at Marina Casilda, Trinidad
Casa de Música has a good mix of tourists and locals out enjoying the music
Traveling inland from Trinidad
Once you get away from the towns it’s like you have been transported back in time. Very few Cuban people have cars so rely on the public transport system, which always seems busy with people waiting on the side of the roads. Transportation can be anything…..
A canopy for shade is not typical but I’m sure appreciated as its hot here
In a truck, a little tight for our liking
Very typical in the countryside
Old cars are everywhere
We drove thru plenty of agricultural towns where we saw horse / Ox and carts out working. The Ox looks a lot more healthy and sturdy to be going up some of these hills vs the horse that’s for sure.
El Nicho is a waterfall up in the mountains approx 2 hrs from Trinidad, where we walked 1.5km up trails into the mountains, went for a swim in the natural pools and saw some amazing views at the top.
natural pools at bottom of falls
El Nicho falls so lush all about
stairs on hike cut out of the side of the hill
The natural pools above the falls even had lifeguards there
The views at the top overlooking the valley where we started
Spotted a hummingbird nesting on our walk
A very simple outdoor kitchen at the private restaurant below the El Nicho falls where they went into their vege garden to get some of the the food we had.
Yes the meat and fruit hanging in the kitchen
There are a lot of signs on buildings in towns and on the main roads thru out Cuba promoting the revolution and of course the faces that supported the cause in Cuba. A reminder to everyone in Cuba obviously.
Patrotism or die
We made a 4 hr road trip to Habana from Trinidad as it was easy with having secure marina access and we had found a great driver in Trinidad, Rafel (ph 534-19410) who took us everywhere, even Habana. See Habana blog.
- Vince was so surprised that we stopped by his hotel to celebrate his birthday.
There are a number of all inclusive hotels near the Trinidad marina. Every day people came down to the docks to go out fishing or on the catamarans to the cays close. We met Vince a Canadian and his sons who had been fishing and learnt that Vince was having his birthday by himself the following week, so we all stopped in to the CostaSur hotel to surprise him.
The staff brought a birthday cake down to the beach for Vince to enjoy, with us
Great natural pool at the beach at CostaSur Hotel that Brett couldn’t resist going in
Cayos thru to Isla de la Juventude;160nm
From Trinidad we headed to Cayos de Dios, a series of rocky islands on the way to Cayo Largo, with reefs all about so were great to go exploring in the crystal clear waters around each of the Cays.
dolphins riding our bow wave in the very clear blue waters on our way to Cayos de Dios
Rocket ship lighthouse on Cayo Guano del Este stands impressively begging you to go ashore to see it and meet the staff who work there
from the top of the lighthouse looking out to the reef we had snorkeled
Huge anchor we found while snorkeling near the lighthouse
Some of the lobster caught snorkeling on the reefs; 6.3 & 3.5 lbs
Cayo Largo is a main stopping point for most boats on the south coast as its a Port of entry. Up till now we had not really seen very many boats sailing in the waters but once you got here this changed; including charterers. The cays in the area all have white sandy beaches and crystal clear water so are nice.
Cayo Largo is a tourist only island with a number of all inclusive hotels for all the tourists. We wandered around the small township based near the marina and airport and were surprised to find a medical clinic, bank, rum and cigar store, turtle farm and disco-tech of all things. Flights from Canada come here for all you Canucks.
loved the Cigar store at Cayo Largo, which had all sorts of other goodies in it.
There are lots of cays close by and the marina has alot of boats to get people to the reefs and Cays. Playa Sirena off Cayo Largo, we enjoyed a great buffet lunch at the restaurant and relaxed under the palapas on the beach.
They even had dolphins at Playa Sirena
Cayo Rico also has a restaurant where people are brought by catamaran from Largo to enjoy the beach and have lunch. The local Jutías wait for food.
A Jutías, the size of a cat. We saw many of these on various Cays in Cuba
Further down the chain of Cays we arrived at Cayo Cantilles to see the African monkeys but alas only saw 1 from a distance high in the tree. Orry one of the four staff from the station took us to the lagoon so we could see the pink flamingos. The men here work on a rotation of 30 days on and 30 days off and they feed the African monkeys that were put on the island for research and clean the rubbish off the local beaches. No wonder the beaches in Cuba are so clean. We ended up with a pile of lobster after trading some cans of food, Spanish DVDs and rope.
station head quarters for 4 men
some of the flamingos we saw
Lobster traded for all sorts
Jen & Richard were heading to The Caymans after Cayo Cantilles so we enjoyed our last night together playing cards over a few rums and perhaps had a few too many. Had been a blast yet again.
of course we had to celebrate an early birthday for Richard
balancing on the screecher bow sprit after a lot of rum
Brett & I continued on to Cayo Campos in search of Monkeys and monkeys we saw. The staff from the Biological Research Centre call the monkeys and they suddenly appear out of the trees along the beach running towards the station house, for food of course. These guys were not shy that’s for sure.
We were told that these are Vietnamese Monkeys
We had a great anchorage just off the station headquarters
Ever seen a starfish up close? Spotted on our walk on the beach at Campos
Isla de la Juventude
We decided to transit the north coast of the island thru a very narrow channel, with sticks identifying the channel, with the hope of going to Nueva Gerona the main town on the island. We knew that the marina was on the south coast but heard that they allowed foreign boats to dock on the ferry dock. We called in to the Capitanía when coming up the river and got the response of “no possible, no possible”. Hmmm oh well let’s go see if its full. It was empty and after docking and meeting with the Guarda frontera we were reminded that this was not a marina and asked why we had stopped here. You need a reason! Basically we were given 24hrs to do our business. Nice clean town with very friendly locals and lots to see.
Calle 39th the main walkway thru town was so clean with marble stones
Church in town surrounded by marble chairs everywhere, as marble is produced on the island
Playing the drums behind the Music school
Public transport – a Camel
the boys favorite for dinner, Ice cream was only .15c a bargain
We stumbled on an outdoor evening concert that had a great turnout and was interesting to watch
Even managed to take a taxi to Prison Modelo in Chacón where Fidel & Raul Castro amongst others were taken in 1953, as political prisoners after being arrested in Santiago de Cuba after the unsuccessful attack on the Moncada Barracks (see Santiago de Cuba blog). It was really interesting going thru the prison and seeing the hospital where the political prisoners were kept with photos explaining the history. The prison cells in the main prison were small and housed 2 men and had a toilet, not somewhere we would want to be.
the main prison had 4 buildings holding approx 1000 prisoners per building
guards entered the central tower thru underground tunnels
We were escorted by four very playful dolphins for 6 miles playing in the green waters leading to Cayos de San Felipe. We entered a small channel again marked with sticks thru to the south side of Cayo Sijú, which was so beautiful. We thought we had found our little piece of heaven when suddenly 3 men rowed up beside us and invited us to the Casa.
Our buddies leading the way
Lazaro, Roberto and Hutijo rowed out to see us at Cayo Sijú
The Casa was really nice compared to the other Cayos we had been to
Cayo Siju is a National Park for Turtles so we walked along the beach where they nest and sat on the deck speaking in Spanglish overlooking the nice views. These guys work a rotation of 10 days on and 10 days off, perfect and do not see very many sailing boats at all. Not surprising as there’s no record of the station in any books we have seen. They were so hospitable.
Lazaro climbing the coconut tree for fresh coco for us
Roberto with Ron and coco, yum
Iguanas – The other residents here and trust me there were ALOT more!
We walked away with 5 fish, after unfortunately refusing lobster as we can’t have it in our freezer for entering Mexico or we’ll be fined
The people of Cuba
We met so many great Cubans, who have a great attitude to life. Tranquillo (Relax) is there motto. Everyone we met was so friendly and generous.
Pedro & Rosa from Santiago de Cuba put on a lovely dinner for us at the local bar
Orlando the Trinidad marina security guard would come down to fish beside our boats and entertain us
These guys work for the Trinidad marina taking tourists fishing every day and joked with us every day
The staff at Cayo Cantilles who gave us lots and lots of lobster
Cuba is an interesting place with very friendly people with an amazing attitude to life but you can see that life here is very tough for them. There is a mixed attitude about what America will bring and what changes will come if the doors are opened. Will be interesting to watch Cuba.
Well we have arrived in Isla Mujeres, Mexico and finally have internet again. No 1 job is to find Brett a chiropractor and sort his back out.