Cuba’s amazing hidden gems

From its beautiful beaches to its vibrant culture, colonial architecture, natural landscapes, hospitable locals, excellent health care and affordability, Cuba continues to be one of the most popular islands in the Caribbean for Canadian travellers.

This year marks the 28th anniversary of Hola Sun Holidays, the Cuba specialist, bringing Canadians to this unique country. Hola Sun partners with more than 1,600 travel agencies across Canada, as well as numerous travel suppliers, to build various packages, offering more than 160 hotels in nine different Cuban destinations year-round.

Most trips to Cuba include a visit to Varadero or Havana. Varadero continues to be Cuba’s No. 1 tourist destination, famous for its white-sand beaches, vibrant nightlife and golf courses. Havana, with its museums, clubs, music, art, theatres and restaurants, is a culture lover’s delight. While many visitors are attracted to the history and culture of Havana, or the white-sand beaches or Varadero, Hola Sun also recommends a visit to some of Cuba’s lesser-known gems:

Santiago de Cuba

In the southeast, the historic city of Santiago de Cuba — backed by the Sierra Maestra Mountains — is considered the most “Caribbean” city in Cuba. It’s also considered Cuba’s cultural capital, with deep Afro-Caribbean influences. Hear traditional Cuban music while strolling past grand cathedrals; sample rum at Cuba’s finest distillers, watch the famous Tropicana cabaret and explore La Gran Piedra, a biosphere reserve.

Cienfuegos and Trinidad

Both Cienfuegos and Trinidad have become popular among Canadians interested in history, architecture and nature. Surrounded by sugar cane, tobacco fields and botanical gardens, Cienfuegos, the “Pearl of the South,” offers plenty for nature-lovers, from trekking up mountains and visiting the El Rocio waterfalls to a catamaran island tour and swimming with dolphins. The most historic city in the area is Trinidad, with its perfectly preserved Spanish colonial architecture. This “outdoor museum” was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, ringed by some of the best beaches on the southern coast of Cuba and backed by the Escambray Mountains with waterfalls and hiking trails.



Holguin is known for the warmth of its people, as well as its lush landscapes. Enjoy the museums, cathedrals and squares in this Spanish-influenced city or explore the province of Holguin, home to 41 beaches, including Esmeralda, Guardalavaca and Playa Pesquero.

 Cayo Guillermo, Cuba

Beach paradise

Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo offer unspoiled beaches and exotic flora and fauna, including a native colony of pink flamingos. Divers and snorkellers can explore the extensive coral reef with its rich interior lagoons or, on land, visit a crocodile farm, ride mopeds and take a jungle tour.

Cayo Largo is recognized for having some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, including Playa Sirena Beach, a wide stretch of white sand fringed by palm trees. This quiet, non-commercial hideaway offers 24 kilometres of unspoiled beaches; its coral reef is teeming with sea life, mysterious caves and sunken ships — a diver’s paradise with more than 30 dive sites.

The island paradise of Cayo Santa Maria offers several kilometres of white-sand beaches and turquoise water and is ideal for water sports.

Beyond the beaches, Hola Sun offers Canadian travellers the opportunity to discover this island in multiple ways, from car rentals to escorted bus tours. It offers a range of city hotels in Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Camaguey and Santiago de Cuba. The tour operator is also launching several promotions with competitive prices and flexible durations, with a free local excursion as part of its all-inclusive packages in select destinations. For more information or to book, contact your travel agent or visit

As originally published by the Toronto Star.

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