Cienfuegos (pop. 105,000), 340 kilometers east of Havana and 69 kilometers southwest of Santa Clara, lies on the east side of the Bahía de Cienfuegos, a deep, 88-square-kilometer bay with an umbilical entrance. It’s Cuba’s third-largest port and shelters a large fishing and shrimping fleet.
Cienfuegos means “100 fires” and is sometimes written “100 fuegos.” Citizens call their town La Perla del Sur (The Pearl of the South). The city’s appeal lies partly in the French flavor of its colonial hub, with a wide Parisian-style boulevard and elegant colonnades. (Cienfuegos even had its own Chinatown (now long since devoid of Chinese people). Nonetheless, Cienfuegos has neither the grace of Trinidad nor the flair of Havana. Still, there is an ambience that inspired Benny Moré, the celebrated Cuban sonoro, to sing, “Cienfuegos is the city I like best.” Not least, it has a swinging nightlife and tremendous casas particulares.
Getting to Cienfuegos
Note that the Aeropuerto Internacional Jaime Gonzalez (tel. 043/55-2047) was not functioning at last visit.
By Bus: The bus terminal (Calle 49 e/ Av. 56 y 58) is six blocks east of the Prado. Víazul (tel. 043/51-5720) buses serve Cienfuegos daily en route between Havana and Trinidad, departing Havana at 8:15 a.m. and 1 p.m. (CUC21.60) and Trinidad at 7:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. (CUC6.48).
By Train: The train station (Calle 49, e/ Av. 58 y 60, tel. 043/52-5495) is one block north of the bus station. Trains depart Cienfuegos for Havana at 7 a.m. (and 11 p.m. by bus each second day, CUC11) and for Santa Clara at 4:10 a.m. (CUC2.10, second-class only). You can also catch an especial from Havana to Santa Clara and then connect to Cienfuegos, which lies at the end of a branch line off the main Havana–Santiago railroad. Trains depart Havana for Cienfuegos at 7:30 a.m. (and 4 p.m. by bus each second day), and from Santa Clara at 5:20 p.m.
By Sea: Arriving yachters must report for clearance at the Guardía Frontera post on the western shores of the entrance to Bahía de Cienfuegos. Marina Marlin Cienfuegos (Calle 35, e/ 6 y 8, tel. 043/55-1699) has moorings for 30 yachts.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Cuba, 5th Edition