It isn’t just the mouth-watering beaches that make this good-time Cuban city such an enticing place to visit. Lively nightlife, a network of history-rich public plazas and surroundings that prompted Christopher Columbus to declare Cuba “the most beautiful land human eyes have ever seen” all combine to make Holguín one of the most sought-after destinations in the Caribbean.
Soak up the rays
Imagine an infinite stretch of icing sugar sand, mentally add a few palm-leaf sunshades and complete the vision with an expanse of jewel-toned ocean. That should give you a fairly accurate picture of Holguín’s beaches, which are as close to perfect as real life gets. Locals tend to gravitate to Playa Esmeralda – a coral-banked expanse of gently sloping sand with a stellar reputation among snorkelers. Playa Pesquero is busier but just as paradisiacal, while Guardalavaca is a lively resort beach backed by a market and a line-up of vintage taxis.
It might not have the shabby-chic feel of Havana or the revolutionary history of Santiago de Cuba, but Holguín still packs plenty of cultural clout. Any tour of the city should start at the Museo Provincial La Periquera (Calle Freixes 190), a stately old townhouse packed with historical paraphernalia and surrounded by craft shops and galleries. When you’ve looked your fill, stroll on down to the fascinating Familia Cuayo de Organos music studio (Carretera de Gibara 301) to get a taste of the vibrant local music scene before experiencing the best of Cuban live music at the Casa de la Trova (Calle Maceo 174).
Into the wild
Aside from a few resorts clustered around the coast, Holguín’s pristine surroundings are virtually untouched – perfect for hiking, wildlife watching and general exploring. Take a day trip over to Cayo Saetía, an isolated cay that was once a government game reserve and now teems with exotic flora and fauna, or lose yourself in the pine forests of the Pinares de Mayari plateau. If that wasn’t enough to be getting on with, the chance to swim with dolphins off Naranjo Bay makes a holiday to Holguín from Glasgow Airport a true trip of a lifetime.