Santiago de Cuba

Christoper Columbus has been quoted saying that Cuba was the most beautiful islands that he ever sailed into!

This is one of the main reasons we are so excited to visit and explore. But, as American’s we are also allured to and are excited to explore something that is “off limits” to the typical American tourist.

As we sailed along the Southern Coast of Cuba, we are probably experiencing about the same view that Columbus had in the 15th century. There is nothing, not a house, not a resort, not a road….All we have seen are lush green mountains that extend from the sea up into the clouds.

Santiago de Cuba is the first stop on our adventures through Cuba. The city is located on the South Eastern side of the island and features a protected bay that is connected to the Caribbean Sea. This allows for a major sea port and probably why it is the second largest city in Cuba with a population of over 1,000,000 people.

The majestic Castillo del Morro overlooks the harbor entrance and reminded us of the entrance into San Juan, Puerto Rico. Once you enter through the narrow entrance the bay opens up. As we navigated to the marina we dodged local fishermen who were not fishing from boats but from home made personal floats that looked like they were made from truck or tractor tire tubes. They all smiled and waved as we passed by.

The city was established by the Spanish in the year 1515, but has been plundered by French and British forces throughout the years, so the city is rich with Spanish, French, and African cultures. Santiago de Cuba is known for its music and traditional dances. It is where the Salsa (the dance, not the sauce) originated.

We took a taxi into the city to exchange money and on our drive in, I just kept thinking that I felt like I was in an old movie that was reproduced in color. Donkey’s pulling carts of fruits and veggies are sharing the road with 1957 Chevys and old motorcycle with side cars.

Another thing that made us feel like we were in a movie was that everything was perfect! The grass on the side of the road manicured, there was not any site of garbage along the road or in the streets, and we never saw a homeless person or anyone begging for money. This is extremely rare for a Caribbean Island and was a pleasant change that we were not expecting. It’s not that we only stayed in the “touristy” areas either, we walked and ventured outside the zone, as we always do. 🙂

The people of Cuba are so amazing and so welcoming of us, into their country, that I am going to start to write not only about the spots we visit, but also about the people we have met.