Discovered by Christopher Columbus 530 years ago, Holguin is one of the most beautiful regions of Cuba. The beautiful beaches and historical monuments that make up the Cuban culture have attracted tourists to the area for many years. Holguin is well-known for its rugged terrain, mountainous areas, and green spaces; these characteristics have given the city the name of ‘city of parks’ in Cuba. The beautiful towns and cities of this region are known for their historic churches and fascinating museums. Add to that, the stunning beaches of the area as well as glorious natural and green areas in the interior. This area is also home to a renowned gastronomic scene. You can find the perfect balance between the wild nature of the forest and the Caribbean coast – so come on in and find the best things to do in Holguin, Cuba.
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Holguin, Cuba offers many activities that will let you learn about the country’s culture and have lots of fun. Holguin is a city that is often overlooked, because of its distance from Havana, but one you should consider visiting when traveling to Cuba. It is known for its architectural harmony, beautiful white coral sandy beaches, and turquoise waters. You will also find a variety of natural parks that enhance the city.
The Best 16 Things to Do in Holguin
The combination of incredible natural parks and stunning beaches makes this area stand out and makes tourists fall in love. You will find so much to do in this city, from the mountains and the sea. Here are some of the best things you can do in Holguin, Cuba.
In recent years Holguin has made great strides in improving its tourist infrastructure. There are many options for excursions that you can choose from when you visit this fantastic region. One of the best ways to enjoy this stunning region is by joining a walking tour. This fascinating tour takes you through Cuba’s third most populous province.
Walking tours are an excellent way for you to experience the best of Holguin and make sure you don’t miss a thing. These tours provide a unique and authentic connection to Holguin’s culture, history, and natural beauty. If you plan to visit Holguin and would like to join one of these incredible walking tours, you can book a place here.
2. Go to the San Isidro Cathedral in Holguin Cuba
The cathedral’s high bell tower attracts the attention of locals and tourists, making it impossible to miss this beautiful building. Its construction began in 1720. There was an earlier small church on the site where the first Mass was held in honor of the founding. In 1979, the San Isidro cathedral was finally completed and dedicated. The cathedral has seen many changes over the years, but the Moorish-inspired ceilings that are the most stunning have remained unchanged. You will be able to observe its impressive architecture and design once you enter. It has a high cultural value and is full of details that will make you want to explore its cool interior for a while. It radiates a feeling of peace and tranquility.
3. Climb to Loma de La Cruz
All Holguin visitors should visit La Loma de la Cruz for its spectacular views and heart-stopping climb. The wooden cross that dominates the area is the reason for the name. A Franciscan friar set it up 232 years ago to end the dry spells. You can drive or use any other transportation to get there, but we really recommend walking. The 458 steps are what gives life to the Loma De La Cruz.
However, we don’t recommend that you climb the 458 steps during the middle of the day!. Have someone hold your hand – or at least help you up the steps and book a tour to explore the Loma de La Cruz and explain the history. Book a walking tour of Holguin here and enjoy this incredible experience.
4. Stay at a Casa Particular in Holguin
If you haven’t pre-booked your Holguin accommodation – which we highly recommend – you will find Casa Particular owners waiting for you at the Viazul Bus station, brandishing photos of their homes, inviting you to stay. Casa Particulars offer a unique way to see Cuba from a local perspective. Casa Particulars are a type of bed & breakfast or guest house that rents rooms to travelers who want to live in a private home, close to the country’s authentic neighborhoods and people. We have stayed in many casas throughout Cuba and we think they make the best type of accommodation in Cuba.
Our recommended Casa’s to stay at in Holguin are as follows:
Hostal Refugio de Reyes: This family of biologists has been in the house for more than 35 years and you’ll find all the rooms that they rent are independent of the main house, have their own terraces, and are surrounded by gardens. It’s a gloriously relaxing place that’s just 7 minutes walk from downtown Holguin. There’s a double and two triple rooms here. Check rates and book now!
Daniel and Marcia provide accommodation at the Rock Hostel – it’s a fabulous location with two rooms for rent. Each has a private bathroom with hot and cold water, A/C, a TV, and a fridge. One room is an apartment that contains a kitchen too! There are two outdoor terraces here perfect for sunbathing and relaxing. Check rates for Holguin casa particulars like this and book now.
For more information on staying in Casa Particulars and how it works, see our guide to Casa Particulars here.
5. Go to the Casa de la Trova in Holguin – the House of Music!
This is one of the most famous and popular music houses on the whole island. Visitors and locals alike enjoy the rich, melodious sounds of Cuban music and have a great time. If you’re in Holguin, make sure to stop by Casa de la Trova El Guayabero to enjoy a live serenade featuring amazing musicians, dancing couples, and the beat of a timeless Danzon.
6. Go to Holguin’s Beaches!
Holguin beaches share the same characteristics of white sand crystal clear waters as other provinces in the West of Cuba. The coasts of Holguin are unique because they are often found among other rocky compounds, making them unique. For sun-lovers and beach lovers, Holguin offers paradise-like beaches such as Playa Esmeralda, or Playa Guardalavaca, where a variety of water activities are available. There’s more on Cuba’s Best beaches here.
There are many beautiful beaches at Holguin, but we recommend these three:
1 – Playa Esmeralda
This incredible beach is located just a little more than 5 km west of Guardalavaca and features clear, warm, intensely green waters. This little paradise is surrounded by steep hillsides and various vegetal plants that add charm to the spot. This beach is rightly ranked as one of the top ten beaches in the Caribbean. It is a popular choice for holidaymakers because it has 900m of soft, white sandy beach and clear blue-green water.
2- Playa Guardalavaca
The shell-shaped beach is a favorite of locals. The virgin white sand makes it the perfect place to sunbathe. The main town is just a short walk away, and the local market is right on the beach. You can find a lot of locally made crafts and arts, such as pottery and leather, at the market. There are also a few bars and cafes in Guardalavaca where you can enjoy your day and drink some delicious Cuban cocktails.
Guardalavca is the main tourist resort some 72 km to the northeast from Holguin, but it’s still lovely and homely. The name means “keep the cow safe” – thought to pay homage to a pirating past from marauding buccaneers who used to come here for refuge. There are a couple of swish hotel complexes here but it’s still a glorious beach!
3 – Pesquero Beach
Many tourists and Caribbean lovers consider this one to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Cuba. You can do many other activities at Pesquero Beach than just swimming in the turquoise waters and playing volleyball.
7. Go to the Museum of El Chorro de Maíta
The El Chorro de Maita Museum is a small but informative museum that is open to tourists visiting Holguin’s beaches, and it allows you to spend a few hours learning more about the Cuban past. You will find old photographs and archeological pieces here. You can also see an exhibit about how the deceased were buried in earlier times. The Tahina Village is only 50 meters away from the museum and some sculptures here tell the story of the social life of the area’s tribes.
8. Visit a Park in Holguin, Cuba
Holguin has been blessed with beautiful places and incredible natural wealth, so if you plan to go to Holguin, visiting some of its amazing natural parks is one of those things we recommend the most. You cannot miss this opportunity to get in touch with mother nature! Some of the Parks that we recommend you don’t miss:
Peralta Park, Holguin:
Many people also refer to this Park as Parque de las Flores. This is the central plaza in the capital of Holguin province, in the eastern part of Cuba. Here, you will find the Catedral de San Isidoro, one of the city’s most important buildings. Although the park was initially designed in 1720, it wasn’t until 1790 that it became the heart of the city’s most important political or social events.
San Jose Park, Holguin:
The park is also known as Parque Infantil by locals. Surrounded by vegetation, this park is quiet, making it a great place to take in the freshness and shade of the city, and it’s also surrounded by interesting architecture that you must see when walking through the city.
Calixto Garcia Park, Holguin:
Designed more than 300 years ago by Gregorio Franci, Calixto Garcia Park is a magnificent, monumental square located in the middle of the city. It is part of Central Park and is considered an expression of Holguin’s identity. It is home to some of the city’s most important buildings, commercial buildings, and theatres. It is also used as a stage for all types of local activities, including fairs festivals.
9. Visit the island of Cayo Saetia
This marvelous cay is located on the northern shore of Holguin province at the largest bay in Cuba (Bay of Nipe). Cayo Saetia was a part of mainland Cuba from 1902-to 1903 until a canal was constructed to facilitate shipping and trade. The forests and grasslands make up a unique landscape that is highlighted by a variety of flowers and trees, including wild orchids. Mangroves are a source of evergreen vegetation along the southwestern coastline. The cay boasts 12 beaches, many of them bordered by rock cliffs. Here you can enjoy “African”, Jeep style Safaris, Horseback Riding, Non-motorized Water Sports, Snorkeling, Diving, or just relax on its intimate beaches.
Cayo Setia is easily accessible by water, air (helicopter flight from Guardalavaca), and land. A small bridge connects the Cayo and the main island.
10. Go to the Rocazul Biopark from Holguin Cuba
You should make a point to visit the park in the bay of Naranjo while you are in Holguin. It is a beautiful natural park with various faunas and floras that you will find at every corner. This beautiful Natural Park, established 17 years ago, allows you to disconnect from the world and dive into nature. There are eco-guides available that will guide you through the beauty of the area. It is an ideal location for many activities, such as hiking and trekking, wildlife navigation, diving, and more. It’s a great place to feel closer to nature and to help you appreciate the breathtaking landscapes that Cuba offers.
If landscapes and the natural environment are of interest, then you’ll want to take a look at Cuba’s National Parks.
11. Hike to the Guayabo Waterfall from Holguin, Cuba (Salto Guayabo)
Pinares de Mayari is the perfect place to experience an unforgettable and unique activity during your stay in this region. The Salto Guayabo here is a beautiful waterfall that allows you to jump in from two different locations. This waterfall is the main attraction in Mensura National Park.
You can take a trail through the tropical forest, which is home to many orchid and fern species. The lookout gives visitors unparalleled and incredible views of the waterfall. There are also Pozas de Rafael (Rafael pools) where you can take a refreshing dip in the natural pools at the base of the falls.
12. Visit the Bariay Monument
Located in Bariay Cay within the Cristobal Colon Natural Park, The Bariay National Monument Park has great historical value for Holguin because this is the place where Columbus landed on 28 October 1492. It shows visitors a very similar landscape to that Columbus found on his first landing on the island – and he described it as “The most beautiful land that human eyes would have seen”
If you want to experience what Columbus found 530 years ago, then book this incredible tour to Bariay National Monument from Holguin.
13. Visit Finca Mayabe from Holguin Cuba
Every year, many visitors head to Holguin’s Finca Mayabe in south-eastern Holguin. This gem in Eastern Cuba will delight you with its tranquil fields, stunning views of the Mayabe Valley, as well as delicious local dishes. There’s not only the peace and tranquility of the fields but also Cuban cuisine that will allow you to appreciate the traditional Cuban farming lifestyle.
14. Visit the birthplace of Fidel Castro and Raul Castro – Birán.
Fidel Castro’s father was a Spanish-born Cuban farmer and businessman who purchased the Finca Las Manacas plantation in Cuba’s eastern Oriente region and Fidel Castro and Raul Castro were born here. The farm was established as Museo Conjunto Historico De Biran twenty years ago. Its modest name aims to downplay any Castro “personality cult.” If you take a tour here, then a fascinating excursion through this museum takes you to a small town with charming wooden buildings and vast grounds. Fidel’s childhood bed is on display, as well as the graves and remains of his parents. It’s well worth heading here for a little insight into Cuba’s history.
15. Visit Gibara from Holguin, Cuba
Visiting small Cuban colonial towns is a glorious part of visiting Cuba. Located around 33 kilometers from the city of Holguín, you’ll find a small but enchanting town named Gibara. If you really want to experience the vibe of a small colonial town, visiting this place is a must. Gibara features stunning places like the charming fisherman’s village of the same name – better known as La Villa Blanca due to its old defensive walls that protected them in Colonial times. Some of these walls are still standing.
There’s a 19th-century Spanish fort here, a Natural History Museum, and also a cave system to explore. The easiest way to explore Gibara is on a tour from Holguin, and this Gibara tour is a great option.
16. Drink Fabulous Cuban Cocktails in Holguin
Cuban cocktails are so refreshing and full of so many great Cuban ingredients! They’re also very strong. Without a doubt, you’ll have some good cocktails in Cuba, and you’ll have some great cocktails in Holguin. Many people travel to Cuba to see it all. But Holguin is a great place to get a taste of Cuban party culture. Famous bars such as Brisas del Valle, Azul, Danubio, La Malaguena, and Habana Club are great places to have fun and enjoy the best Cuban cocktails.
Want to know more about cocktails in Cuba? Take a look at our guide to Cuban cocktails – including recipes and the history of each one. There are also some great stories! You can find it here.
Where is Holguin
Holguin is located in Cuba’s eastern part, just south of Cayo Largo. It is a popular tourist destination due to its warm temperatures during the winter. It is the third most populous region of Cuba after Santiago de Cuba and Havana. The province of Holguin enjoys a unique geographical location with 350 km of coastline that is dotted with beautiful beaches and bays.
How to Get to Holguin
You can reach Holguin by flying directly or to Havana with a short stopover to arrive at the Frank Pais Garcia Airport, 12 km from the city center. You can also fly to Santiago de Cuba airport, which also has international flights.
Buses to Holguin
Holguin can be reached from most of Cuba by bus. This service is provided for two companies; Viazul and Conectando Cuba. Our guide to the Viazul Bus service is here.
Flights to Holguin
Holguin has an international airport with direct flights to Canada (Toronto and Montreal) and Germany (Frankfurt). There are domestic flights between Havana, Santiago de Cuba, and Holguin; they are operated by Cuban airlines Cubana de Aviacion or Aerogaviota.
ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR EXPLORING CUBA INDEPENDENTLY
These are the resources and booking sites that we use when traveling to Cuba.
Travel and Health Insurance are mandatory for entry to Cuba.
Get a Cuba Travel and Medical Insurance Quote from Visitors Coverage here –
Alternatively, Civitatis Insurance is a great option for the required insurance for Cuba.
You will need a Cuba Tourist Card to enter Cuba – some airlines include these, if yours doesn’t, buy one from EasyTouristCard – now valid for 90 days.
Book your Viazul Bus tickets here
Pre-book and prepay shared & private shuttles here
Book the best FREE Walking Tours in Cuba
Reserve attractions, day trips, and activities in Cuba here
Download and install a VPN BEFORE you travel to Cuba > discount coupon here
Book Accommodation in Cuba’s Casa Particular here
Pack these Items – you’re unlikely to find them in Cuba
A filter water bottle
Travel / Power Adapter
First Aid Kit
Final Words on the Best 16 Things to Do in Holguin
Holguin is one of those gems that Cuba has to offer to the world. The perfect balance between mountains, natural parks, and beautiful beaches makes Holguin one of Cuba’s best places to visit. Stay in a casa particular or an all-inclusive hotel in Guardalavaca, but you must get out and see the real Cuban life by visiting Holguin’s top cultural attractions and unique, beautiful places. Holguin is definitely one of those places one has to visit at least once in life.
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