Free Excursions

Free Excursions

TURNAT 2019

You can see and experience it all, the city, the ocean, the beautiful countryside, and the mountains in the beautiful country of Cuba. My coworkers from Hola Sun Holidays and I had the privilege of participating in “Turnat.”

Turnat promotes Cuba’s nature tourism by offering informative tour guides as well as outdoor activities that explore Cuba’s diverse agriculture and unique landscapes. Our group set off to explore the beautiful cities of Cienfuegos, Playa Giron, and Trinidad. We also visited the beautiful Escambray mountain range in Topes De Collantes national park and explored many other scenic sites.

We had a few days of free time prior to the opening ceremonies of Turnat. We were given the opportunity to visit several hotel properties within the city of Cienfuegos. One of my favorite hotels we stayed at was called “Casa Verde” (the Green House.) The building resembles a Victorian building, with a hint of Spanish colonial charm. The outside of the hotel is painted in a rich, dark emerald green, and the rooms are painted a lighter green. The view of the hotel is complimented with a private terrace overlooking the bay, and you can also see the mountains in the background! The hotel has beautiful detailing from the floors to the ceiling which provides an atmosphere of luxury, and charm. The hotel only has a few rooms which is ideal for clients looking for a quieter environment.

The city of Cienfuegos itself is very beautiful and is not too large or overcrowded. The streets are full of various markets, vendors and restaurants. Our group visited two hotels within the city- Melia San Carlos & Hotel La Union. Melia San Carlos is a modern and elegant hotel. In the upper level of the hotel is a beautiful restaurant with stunning views of the city and the bay. With the windows open in the restaurant, there is a gentle breeze that flows through the room. Next, we visited La Union hotel. La Union was founded in 1869, and was restored in 2000. The authentic historic charm of the hotel is still apparent and very noticeable to this day. There is also a beautiful pool, and a breathtaking rooftop dining area, which showcases an incredible view of the entire city. These two hotels are ideal for clients looking to explore the city of Cienfuegos.

After our stay in Cienfuegos, we departed for Playa Giron. After enjoying a delicious breakfast, we departed for two trails; Trail Bermejas, and Trail Enigma De Las Rocas. The trails were a great way to observe many different birds, examine many different lush plants, and other vegetation. Trail Enigma De Las Rocas, was the most challenging, as the trail became very narrow with many rocks, and inclines. Near the end of the trail, to our surprise, there were several swimming holes with inviting and clear turquoise water. Overall, the trails were a great experience that can push one’s endurance and ability to explore new heights.

As we walked along the trails, I was eager to see if we would come across any birds, or any other creatures that might make an appearance along our hike. I was comforted by the fact that there was no need to worry about any dangerous insects or animals. Luckily in Cuba, there are hardly any animal/insect species that are considered dangerous. I was surprised to see that slowly creeping along the ground, were tiny, black, red and orange crabs; and quite a few of them! The crabs move so gracefully, and are also a little shy. The crabs would quickly try and escape our gaze, as we tried to take pictures, and they would hide under a rock or anything that would provide them with some shelter.

In the region of Guama, there is a crocodile farm, and a series of small, very miniature islands connected by small bridges, which anyone could walk on. Within the small islands is a recreation of an indigenous village. To get to the village, the mode of transportation was a speed boat! I enjoyed being on the speedboat, because the heat seemed to disappear for the few minutes while sitting on a boat. Just don’t forget to hold onto your hat!

One of our next destinations was the city of Trinidad. Trinidad is located in the province of “Sancti Spiritus”. We walked along the cobble stone streets, and observed many historical churches and buildings. There are many vibrant, colorful buildings nestled along the street which adds a burst of energy. You can’t help but find yourself admiring the buildings, not only for their exquisite colors, but also for the architecture.

The food offered was fantastic, and some of our menu items included freshly cooked meats, cheeses, salads and rice. One of my favorite places that we had stopped for lunch was called, “Hacienda Guachinango”, located in the Valle De Los Ingenios near Trinidad. The hacienda has a beautiful Spanish colonial charm; it felt as though you were going back in time as you walked through the rooms. Vivid paint colors along the walls such as rich deep blues, alongside warm, bright yellow and orange tones, catch your eye. There was a lovely local band that played music for us with their various instruments, and sang for us while we dined. The property itself was absolutely spectacular.

Before we set out for the mountains, we were treated to some entertainment- “The Korimakao Cultural Show”. The Korimakao Cultural Project is located in Cienaga de Zapata, Cuba. This program showcases the talent of many Cuban locals ranging from various ages. The singing, dancing and acting was outstanding. I would highly recommend this show.

Another destination we stayed at was a hotel called Los Helechos. The hotel is tucked away in the mountains, within Topes De Collantes National Park. The hotel is modest, yet has all the amenities one could need. The hotel is conveniently located within a short driving distance from many scenic trails. The hotel is also approximately 20 kilometers from the beautiful historic city of Trinidad. The location of the hotel is secluded and private for those who looking to go away to a quiet location. There were also several communities with Cuban locals always greeting you along the mountainside. The scenery and somewhat cooler temperatures make it an ideal location to live.

On our last day, we visited a chocolate and coffee farm. Our guide was extremely informative as he was explaining to us the process of how a small cacao bean can be transformed into a decadent treat loved and eaten by so many around the globe. At the end of our tour, we were able to bring back some freshly prepared chocolate!  Does it get any better than that?!

Overall, Turnat was an amazing, very interactive, and a great learning experience. I feel honored and privileged that I was able to participate in all the activities and events. Thank you to all of the tour guides, and everyone that made Turnat possible!

I’ll be back Cuba! See you soon!

-Rachel Shaw.

Staff of Hola Sun