Using Santiago de Cuba as your base, it’s easy to visit the parks, beaches and cultural attractions of the surrounding area.
Public transport is limited, so you may find organizing private transport, or going on a tour, a better option - particularly if you want to visit several attractions in one day.
Heading southeast is easiest. Public buses go to Santiago’s local beach, Siboney, where there are a handful of B&Bs and restaurants.
A bit further east is the standout La Gran Piedra, soaring 1,200 m above sea level. This monumental outcrop is reached by climbing 459 steps.
At the summit, the panoramic views of the Caribbean are rewarding.
Nature lovers can sleep at the post-Hurricane Sandy restored Hotel Gran Piedra up in the clouds.
From here, walk to the French coffee plantation ruins. French planters fleeing the 1791 slave revolt in Haiti settled here in eastern Cuba.
At Museo La Isabelica, now part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the preserved landowners’ house and the coffee-drying beds can still be seen.
Close to La Gran Piedra is the pretty botanical garden, Jardín Ave de Paraíso, in the grounds of the former La Siberia coffee plantation.
Heading further east into Bacanao Park, there’s little to recommend – there’s a weird collection of open-air museums, but no decent trekking opportunities, or great beaches.
If you plan on heading southwest from Santiago, you’ll need your own transport or a private taxi.
For wild adventure, hit the coastal road west to Chivirico. There are a couple of beaches scattered along the coast, and a handful of new B&Bs, and hotels.
The most attractive of the hotel is the Brisas Los Galeones, perched on a coastal hilltop, and larger sister hotel Brisas Sierra Mar.
Along this coast are wrecked boats, such as the Cristóbal Colón, from the Spanish-Cuban-American War which can be dived through the hotel dive center operations.
This coastal road snakes all away along the base of the Sierra Maestra, 185 km west to Pilón.
It’s the wildest and most remote road in Cuba; the road rises and falls between the sheer raw edges of the mountains and the wild seas of the Caribbean.
Drivers and bikers should plan ahead and ask about rock falls and other obstructions.
El Cobre basilica commemorates Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, the patron saint of Cuba.
The picturesque, triple-domed church is also where Ernest Hemingway brought his Nobel Prize for Literature, and where Popes have prayed on their visits to Cuba.
The trek to the monument of the Runaway Slave (El Cimmarón) is worth it for the views of the chemically bright blue reservoir below.
El Cobre can be reached by public bus, or tour.
Further east, nestled in the mountains, the self-billed eco hotel El Saltón offers walking, thermal baths and horse riding.
History fans should make tracks to Birán. At just over 90 km north of Santiago, Fidel Castro’s birthplace is a fair way but a visit to his father’s sprawling farm helps understand from whence Cuba’s Revolution leader came.
Now a fascinating museum, the graves of Castro’s parents are in the grounds.
Outdoor adventures in Eastern Cuba are aplenty. Here’s how to climb Cuba’s highest peak, dive among shipwrecks, and find the best waterfalls.
Swap the photogenic streetscapes of Havana for tiki bars and palm-fringed shorelines with our local insider’s favorite day trips.
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