Cienfuegos and The Bay of Pigs – Blues and Cocktails

It was time to leave Havana, and my anxiety levels were growing from minute to minute, thinking that I’ll have to go without my luggage. At breakfast I met a group of Germans that just returned from a yachting trip around Cuba. Hearing about my story, they’ve put together all their leftover toiletries and gave them to me, including sun screen and repellent, which were a blessing in the hot weather that followed.


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I kept looking on the window, hoping until the last minute. Then, after a few more things happening that morning, I simply cracked down and burst into tears. I was alone in that beautiful living room of the casa, sitting on a chair, crying my heart out. My whole bag for the trip had in it a skirt and a Tshirt, plus my winter coat. And it made me even more upset thinking how this time I actually packed everything I needed, all my nicest t-shirts, even my favorite dress. And how bloody AlItalia lost everything and they couldn’t care less about my ruined holiday.

I managed to miss the group brief and joined them right at the end, before leaving. I was lucky that they were very supportive and even before getting into the bus, Aino from Finland gave me a bag with clothes to wear for the following days. As soon as I got my seat in the back of the bus, Lakshmi also offered to help, and instantly I started to feel a bit better.

The drive towards The Bay of Pigs was very long but it gave us time to get to know each other a little bit. It was funny when Kris came to present herself to me, even if we had met before, at the dinner from the evening before. But on this day I actually looked human, managing in the morning to wash my hair with shampoo and conditioner, after 4 days! So I understood the confusion.


Our first stop of the day was The Bay of Pigs, the place where the CIA’s trained military troops failed to invade Cuba, in 1961. The invasion was launched from Guatemala and had the purpose to stop Fidel Castro’s increasing communist government. The battle lasted for three days and the invading troops were defeated and captured by the Cuban Revolutionary Army Forces, led by Castro. A year later, most of the prisoners were released and sent back to America, in return for US$53 million in food and medicine.


Today, in the idyllic bay, nothing reminds of the past and it’s hard to imagine that not so long ago, that stunning blue water was a battle scene. It was my first encounter with the Caribbean blue and oh my, what a sight! The water was so clear that I could see the tropical fish swimming among corals and stones. As soon as our bus stopped, a man came with a baby crocodile in his hands. He would charge 1CUC for a picture. I am totally against animal exploitation especially for tourist purposes, so I said no and walked away. Cuban crocodiles are small but very aggressive. The crocodile he was holding in his hands was very calm and his mouth was tied with a rubber band. It must have been given some sort of drug to make it so calm. This species of crocodile is also critically endangered!

An alley through the woods was leading towards a small paradise. An eye of clear water, surrounded by rocks and lush trees. I couldn’t get over watching those fish, seeing them so clear, like there was no water at all. I would have loved to jump in and swim with them but my bathing suit was who knows in which country.


On the other side of the road, the Caribbean sea was also inviting me to take a dip in that stunning, warm, water.

Our next stop was Giron, where the museum of Bay of Pigs is. That’s where we had lunch and also found out that there are 3 options in Cuba: ham, cheese, or ham and cheese. So I had a ham and cheese pizza which was actually delicious.


We headed back to the bus and spend the next couple of hours heading towards Cienfuegos, the town of Benny More, a famous Cuban singer. We arrived there soon after sunset and drove straight to Punta Gorda, across the bay, where the Palacio de Valle is and where we would begin our evening with a cocktail. The Palace stands out as its architecture is far from similar with the one of the city. The Palace is build in a Spanish Moorish style, with Gothic and Baroque influences and it has been erected in 1917 by a Spanish millionaire.


Β I was very looking forward to my first Cuban cocktail. I know Mojito and Cuba Libre are the most common Cuban cocktails but I am a fan of Pina Colada, so this is what I ordered. It was delicious and very strong, compared to the European Pina Coladas. Cubans don’t joke when it comes to Rom, they put a lot of it in their cocktails. And for around 3CUC a cocktail, you can have as many as you can. πŸ™‚


We were on the rooftop of the Palace and while we were admiring the last colors of the sunset, near us, a band was playing Cuban songs. It was wonderful, a great place to relax after a long day!

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Traveler. Dreamer. Cat lover. Wondering around the world with my backpack and my camera. Contributing to make the world a better place.


  1. I’m so sorry for your luggage , to my dad happened similar thing, in the end they found it, but most of the stuff inside were destroyed. But that aside I hope you could enjoy in nature , cause i did, watching your photos!

  2. It’s amazing how beautiful The Bay of Pigs looks now, being a place of battle not too long ago. Similar to where the nuclear bomb happened many years ago, where not one human can go to, yet drones manage to take stunning photographs of it. Cuba has many places of battle but still manages to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I’m sorry you weren’t able to get your first Cuban cocktail, but think of it this way… you have an excuse to go back.

  3. Your trip looked absolutely breathtaking. I’m so sorry your luggage was lost. This happened to me once on a trip to Hawaii, but luckily they were able to get it to me two days later. It’s so wonderful to hear the generosity of others willing to give you their own belongings. I love hearing such wonderful acts of kindness!

  4. Lovely photographs, specially the contrast the wartanks make with the colourful flowers and rainbow. Thanks for sharing a little about the history of the places y9u visited.

  5. I am sorry to hear about your luggage. Nonetheless, I am still glad that you were able to relax during your trip, and meet new friends who are so kind and helpful! I really enjoy long bus rides, especially with new found friends. You get to know more about the people in the place and as well as the culture. The Bay of Pigs looks really interesting and it’s nice to know that a place where so much history has happened can turn into a great area for tourists.

  6. I love reading about your trip! It is killing me that you didn’t have your luggage but that is when people’s true colors come out to help! The water was so blue and there was a great history lesson in there, too!

  7. Beautiful photos! Cuba has been on my to-visit list for ages and each picture ensures me it’s really worth it to visit it. I haven’t seen crystal clear water for such a long time, I envy you! Anyway, that’s truly a lovely post so thanks for sharing! πŸ™‚

  8. SO sorry about your luggage loss. It’s an awful thing to happen. It looks so beautiful there but I know it wasn’t as an enjoyable as it could’ve been for you. So annoying. Hope the trip improved!

  9. sorry about losing your luggage, that would suck! happened to a friend of mine for her wedding trip… BUT those are beautiful pictures, what an amazing view, and an amazing place to visit!

  10. Sorry to read about your luggage, I can’t imagine how I would have moved forward. It’s heartwarming to see that there are caring people in this world, I’m glad you got some help. Otherwise, the photos look amazing!

  11. It’s amazing to see that there are still people so open and willing to help others such as that group of germans. Losing your baggage must have been an awful experience, but also judging by the pictures, you still managed to have a great time. I love Pina colada πŸ™‚

  12. This is somewhere I would really love to visit. It looks like you had a good time besides loosing your luggage πŸ™
    Lovely pictures.

  13. Now that the US and Cuba have opened relations, Americans are starting to go to Cuba. The pictures show how colorful it is and it seems to offer a lot to see and do. The water is so clear, I would to go diving there, especially at the Bay of Pigs beach. Might find some interesting artifacts. If the government would let you keep them?

  14. Oh no! I can just imagine how sad I would be if I don’t have my suitcase with me while traveling… But at the same time, it looks like you had an incredible time, even without your nice T-shirts πŸ™‚ It’s more important!

  15. Despite the luggage issue, it looks as though you guys had a fab time. I can’t get over the blue seas and the fabulous architecture. So glad Cuba is opening up again.

  16. What a terrible experience to have all of your luggage go missing. I can only imagine how distraught you must have been. Such a damper to have on an otherwise beautiful vacation. You were very fortunate to meet such kind and giving strangers who were willing to help you out a little with what you needed.

  17. It’s such an akward feeling when your lugguage go missing πŸ™ Cuba is an interesting place – never been there, though, but there’s something fascinating there.

  18. I felt so sorry for you at the beginning reading about your lost luggage! But at least you were in a beautiful place with people who really helped you out. Especially liked the rainbow pic πŸ™‚

  19. I would break down in tears too if I lost all my belonging, but I’m glad to see that there is still good in this world and I hope you enjoyed yourself none the less. The Bay of Pigs looks absolutely stunning.

  20. I have really enjoyed your posts about Cuba! I love the beautiful picture of the Palace! Yum my favorite drink is a Pina Colada! I can almost imagine sitting in the Caribbean on the beach sipping one! The water is so clear! I love that you could see all the fish! It is incredible!

  21. The few things I know about Cuba, it includes the infamous invasion at the Bay of Pigs where history tells us someone in the US government decided to stray away from the plan (due to Soviet countermoves, of course). The result, deaths of CIA trained militia who were to overthrow Fidel Castro. Yes, most were released, but it was more a political decision (saving own asses).

    Now, fast forward to today. It’s hard to imagine the horrors of the time when you look at the beauty of the beach, isn’t it?

  22. It’s a real dream of mine to get to Cuba soon! I’m sure I’ll feel like I’ve arrived when I’ve had that first Cuban cocktail too – I think I’d go for the pina colada as well!

  23. Ugh! Lost luggage stinks! I would have been in big trouble without my sunscreen! Sounds like you had some kind friends to help you make the most of it. If it makes you feel any better, I was supposed to be in Cuba a month ago and had to cancel the entire trip for a family situation! The Bay of Pigs does look so clear and inviting. Good work on avoiding the crocodile exploitation!

  24. Sorry to hear about AlItalia losing your baggage. I travelled with them twice and I was quite satisfied so it depends on the luck, I guess.

    What wonderful places the Bay of Pigs and Cienfuegos are! I love all your photos and if I had been you, I would have jumped without a bathing suit πŸ˜› He-he.

    I imagined cocktails even cheaper in Cuba but if the rum was aplenty, hehe.. 3 CUC are like 3 USD, aren’t they? What was the size of the cocktail?

  25. Amazing pictures… looks unreal! Some of my friends have visited Cuba and parts of the Caribbean and they totally recommend it..!


  26. I’m so sorry for your luggage. It must be such a diffucult experience. The bay of pigs is really beautiful. We also have islands here in the Philippines that used to be a war zone, but now they are really beautiful. i envy your Cuban experience.

  27. I was never aware that the place is so beautiful! I’m really sorry your luggage was lost. I love the beautiful photos. Especially liked this crystal clear water pic – I love it! It looks unreal ! Happy Sunday!

  28. Now with travel sanctions easing for US citizens I hope to visit Cuba soon. It’s just lovely reading thru your post and seeing these amazing pics.. Bay of Pigs looks so cool. I am so glad that Mojito is a common cocktail there as I am sure to try that out while there πŸ™‚

  29. I’m sorry your luggage was lost – I’ve had it happen to me and it is the worse feeling in the world! But it looks like you had an amazing time – you’re photos are incredible – and I love the sunset shot from the palace at the end – just magical!

  30. I cannot even imagine how we would go about holidaying with our luggage being missed. That’s terrible, Thank God we have never experienced it yet. The water being so clear that you can actually see the fish swimming thats really awesome and the palace architecture looks stunning.

  31. I’m sorry to hear about you luggage. Geez, that must have been a major bummer but I’m glad that you still managed to enjoy your trip. The last time I lost my stuff on a trip, I went home. I cried and cried more when my friends were giving me money, toothpaste, etc. I didn’t like the feeling.

    On a lighter note, you got me wanting to go to Bay of Pigs. I dunno much about Cuba and admittedly I am a little scared to go there but seeing your photos and learning about how they take their drinks seriously, this place is definitely going to be in my list of places to visit in this lifetime.

  32. I dont know what will I do if my luggage will be lost in a trip πŸ™ I love how you made the finale! Watching the sunset with some songs πŸ™‚ I adore sunsets! Hopefully I can witness one in Cuba someday!

  33. So sorry to hear about your luggage. That’s really one way to spoil a vacation. Glad you still enjoyed your stay there. And yes, I hate seeing animals being exploited. Loved the photos of the beach!

  34. The underwater photos are amazing! Must have been so nice to be able to see in such clear waters. The crocodile story is so sad. I remember we used to have a lot of these people when I was a kid and they would offer to take picture of you with a snake, crocodile etc. We even had people making bears dance for money. Terrible! But I think people are starting to care more now and there are a lot less situations like this though still too many.

  35. Oh no! That is awful about your luggage! How sweet was everyone pulling together to make sure you had what you needed?

    I am grateful you didn’t have a photo with the crocodile. I know how pushy those people can be. Sometimes they put the animals on you before you even notice! It’s a disgusting trade.

  36. Your right it really does not look like a war could have ever taken place there. The underwater shots are incredible and the fish are so colourful and exquisite.

  37. What an exciting trip ! I all meanings , bad and good . Getting rid of your luggage must be a nightmare ,especially when ‘we girls’ pack the nicest stuff to wear on holiday. But on the other hand , how nice were these guys you met ! How lovely to share their stuff with you to help you out .At least you could finally enjoy the Cuban feeling and the lovely atmosphere . I know some Cubans , they are such nice welcoming people ! Loved your photos !

  38. My husband and I were stuck in the Denver airport with no luggage for two days. It was horrible. The airline put us up in a hotel, but after a shower we had to put our dirty clothes back on. You got some amazing photos.

  39. I’m sorry about your luggage. Good thing some people helped you out. I can’t imagine how I would react if it happened to me – probably just breakdown πŸ™ Btw, your photos are amazing. I particularly like the one with the rainbow. I’ve never been to Cuba but I really hope to travel the world someday πŸ™‚

  40. I am sorry to hear that your luggage got lost because these things are really annoying and awful! But good part is you go to enjoy so many places! Just take it in a positive way that Everything happens for one’s own good! πŸ™‚

  41. I simply love reading travel posts as I get to learn a lot about the place, somehow the culture, and the food or even thw drinks. Wish I could visit Cuba as well and have a taste of their mojito or even the pina colada.

  42. It might have really sucked to lose your belongings, but looking at the bright side, you were able to meet wonderful people who are willing to help. It really brings back my faith in humanity when I hear stories like this.

    Anyway, the Bay of Pigs sure looks beautiful. And wow, the water is so clear! Kudos to you for not submitting to animal tourism. I wish people would stop abusing animals to gain money.

  43. That luggage disaster must have been a real bummer for you during this trip. On brighter side, thank God you didn’t lose your camera too. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to get a glimpse of those wonderful places you’ve been to. I certainly enjoyed the sunset view from the rooftop.

  44. Very unfortunate that you have lost your luggage, I couldn’t imagine how frustrating that would be. Pina colada’s are defiantly a holiday drink, I always have one in hand when I’m on vacation. Pictures are beautiful, the water is so blue too! Maybe it will soften the blow of losing your luggage.

  45. Oh, I feel so sorry for you. Everything you had in those bags was probably your most favourite..but on the other hand, you got to see Bay of Pigs so I think it`s still a win! And I`m sooo jealous! πŸ™‚

  46. It was touching to know that other tourists helped out to make your holiday more comfortable despite of that lost baggage. Likewise, I would love to dig a little more about the battle at the bay of bigs– I find it a little interesting, and thanks for sharing this πŸ™‚

  47. Hi Joanna,

    I am glad that losing your luggage didn’t ruin your trip. I love the photos and your experience sounds fantastic! I would really love to taste Cuban cocktails and see how different they are from other countries. I had a similar experience in Chicago, when I tried to eat Greek Gyros and when I visited Greece, it is like tasting a completely different dish!


  48. That sounds like an amazing day! I like rum so I would definitely want the Cuba Libre. But what a sad story about the crocodile! I’m glad you refused to get your picture taken. Your posts are really making me want to go to Cuba!

  49. What a humbling experience to visit a place so historical. It’s incredible to see just how beautiful it is, but still be aware of what took place there.

  50. For Thanksgiving 2016, I went to Cienfuegos for 5 nights on my own. I had a great time! I stayed in a Casa Populare right across the street from Hotel Jaqua. I went to the hotel to swim (I was white and well dressed, so nobody questioned whether I was a guest) every day. My host made me the most fabulous breakfasts and taught me how to make ropa vieja. I was there when Fidel Castro died which was a strange experience as an American. I want to go back. My favorite thing was going to Parque Nico about an hour and a half away to see the amazing waterfalls and swim in the ice cold water.

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