Cienfuegos (founded by a group of French settlers in 1819), is one of the most beautiful cities in Cuba. It has an enveloping sense of tranquility, a large number of mansions with cupolas, several public squares and -the legacy of its French founders- perfectly drawn streets and well-preserved neoclassical architecture. In addition, there are interesting frame structures on Gorda Point (Punta Gorda).
The Bay of Cienfuegos, which is one of the most magnificent bays in the country, is nearly 35 square miles (90 square km) in size and is dotted with picturesque cays. We recommend a boat ride around the bay, where you can sometimes see dolphins leaping from the water.
It is the venue for annual motorboat races and regattas, and cruise ships put in here, as well. There is a marina (at 22 18'N latitude, 80 28'W longitude-for radio communication, turn to HF 7462 or VHF 16) with a modern recreation room; aqua bikes; yachts; catamarans; and equipment for snorkeling, scuba diving and water skiing.
Founded in 1901, Cienfuegos's Botanical garden is one of the oldest in the Americas. Its 90 hectares contain over 2000 species of plants, most of them exotic, including a collection of palm trees which is considered one of the ten best in the world.
Valle Palace, near Jagua Hotel, at the very end of Punta Gorda (which gives you a fabulous view), is a mixture of the Mudejar, Gotic-Roman, Arabian and Indian styles. It has a fancy restaurant.
The city has two cemeteries: reina (founded in 1839), the only one in Cuba that has vertical burial vaults (it also has some beautiful statues), and Tomas Acea, the first garden cemetery in Cuba, which is also noted for its beautiful decorations and sculpture.
At a mile and a quarter (almost 2 km) long, Prado Avenue is the longest street in Cuba; it is flanked by beautiful buildings. Cienfuegos also has several museums (including one on a naval history and the Nuestra Senora de los Angeles de Jagua Polyvalent Museum, which is housed in a fortress dating from the 18th century); the Terry Theater, which is one of the three oldest theaters in Cuba that are still being used; and Villuendas and Marti Parks (the only arch of triumph in Cuba is in the latter).
The city has several good hotels and restaurants offering all kind of food (with the accent on seafood), bars, cabarets, discotheques and other places providing evening entertainment.
Attractions near the city include the Ciego Montero Spa (with excellent medicinal mineral water and accommodations); Martin Infierno Cave (which contains the largest stalagmite in the Americas, around 220 feet, or 67 meters high) and Cuba-Magyar Cave (which is 1542 feet, or 470 meters deep), both of them in the Escambray Mountains; and El Nicho area of the Escambray, which has several waterfalls between 65 and 115 feet (between 20 and 35 meters) high. When visiting any of these waterfalls, treat yourself to a dip in their crystal-clear pools.
Cienfuegos 's coast is famous for its seabed. There are two scuba-diving centers in addition to the one at Rancho Luna Beach: the Faro Luna Scuba-Diving Center, next to the 3-star hotel of the same name, on the road to Rancho Luna, and the Guajimo Scuba Diving Center, at the 3-star villa of the same name, on the road to Trinidad. The offshore area has over 50 diving sites, many species of coral and fish, caves impressive underwater walls, sunken ships and coral formations such as "Notre Dame", which looks like the towers of that Parisian cathedral and is nearly 11 feet (6 meters) high. Stick around, and you'll see turtles, Barracudas (Spyreana barracuda), enormous Jewfish (Epinephelus itajara), Spotted Eagle Rays (Aetobatus narinari) and impressive but harmless Whale Sharks (Rhincodon typus).
Along the road to Trinidad, between the mountains and the sea, in addition to several ecotourism offers, you'll find a number of beaches, some of which have excellent accommodations.