If you’ve never heard much about Holguin, Cuba, you’re probably not alone. While the province of Holguin is one of Cuba’s largest provinces and the capital city of Holguin is the fourth-largest city in Cuba, it doesn’t have nearly the name recognition with travelers of destinations like Varadero or Trinidad. However, it’s truly one of Cuba’s most precious hidden gems.
As locals, we’ve had the pleasure of getting to know the province and capital city of Holguin inside out – José’s entire extended family is from Holguin, after all! This is our ultimate list of things to do in Holguin, including the very best ways to spend a few hours in the capital city of Holguin and the best things to do around the province that you won’t want to miss.
This post contains affiliate links that may reward me monetarily or otherwise when you use them to make qualifying purchases – at no cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, please read our disclosure policy.
Best Things To Do in Holguin
Christopher Columbus wrote this in his diaries when he first laid eyes on Holguin, Cuba: “This is the most beautiful land that human eyes have ever seen.” It doesn’t take long for most travelers to Holguin to see why this is a pretty fair assessment of this gorgeous corner of Cuba.
Looking for a quick few things to do in Holguin that will fill your itinerary and give you the most incredible experience in this stunning part of Cuba? These are our top recommendations for the best things to do in both the city and province of Holguin:
- Visit the Beaches of Holguin
- Hike to the Salto de Guayabo
- Climb the Loma de la Cruz
Of course, visiting the beaches in Holguin is at the top of our list – these divine shores at Guardalavaca and beyond are some of the best beaches in Cuba, and home to some of the country’s most impressive resorts.
However, you won’t want to skip the city of Holguin’s historic center and stunning Loma de la Cruz viewpoint. Similarly, don’t miss the chance to explore the rich, tropical landscapes across the province and hide stunning waterfalls, little-trodden hiking trails, and endemic flora and fauna.
Things To Do in Holguin
1. Visit Holguin’s Most Beautiful Beaches
Despite Holguin’s lack of name recognition, it’s actually one of the areas of Cuba that attracts the most international visitors. Why? It boasts what are hands-down some of the most stunning beaches in all of Cuba, if not the entire Caribbean. You can’t visit Holguin properly without stopping at one of these shores.
Playa Pesquero and Playa Esmeralda are some of the most gorgeous beaches in Holguin, both postcard-perfect white sand shores rimmed with resorts, where visitors flock from around the world to enjoy a relaxing beach vacation. Spending even a day or two at one of these beaches will be an unforgettable experience.
Alternatively, head to Guardalavaca for a true beach town experience, complete with smaller and more affordable casa particular accommodations and plenty of local places to eat and drink. The sands here are just as legendary.
2. Hike to the Salto de Guayabo
Hidden within the lush forests of Holguin’s rich La Mensura-Pilotos Natural Park is Salto de Guayabo, considered one of Cuba’s highest and most impressive waterfalls. Surrounded by jungle and with a swimming hole at the bottom for refreshing dips, it’s a beautiful destination that makes for one of the best things to do in Holguin.
The hike to reach Salto de Guayabo from the parking area is relatively easy – less than 0.75 of a mile (1.2 km) on a mostly flat surface – making it a doable excursion for most visitors. Small group excursions and private tours depart from Holguin’s capital city and the resort areas of Guardalavaca and are a great day trip option for travelers.
3. Climb the Loma de la Cruz
Perched high above the city of Holguin – 458 steps above the city, to be exact – the Loma de la Cruz viewpoint is indisputably the most beautiful viewpoint over the city and surrounding countryside. Conquering the ascent’s steps makes the view feel well-earned, though it’s now possible to reach the top by taxi as well.
Even during the cooler months of Cuba’s “winter,” the hike becomes prohibitively hot during the afternoon hours when the sun is hottest. Add it to your itinerary first thing in the day for the most enjoyable experience. A small restaurant and cafe at the top makes for the perfect respite after the hike.
Read More: Holguin, Cuba: Ultimate Traveler’s Guide
Cuba requires that all travelers have proof of a comprehensive travel insurance policy in order to enter the country. Check out our guide to travel insurance for Cuba for more details. We recommend these brands for Cuba travel insurance:
4. Explore Holguin’s Old Town
A small but charming old town makes the heart of Holguin worth a few hours of time on your Cuba itinerary before you race off to the region’s beaches. While it may not be as extensive and grand as Old Havana or historic Trinidad, its collection of historic churches, grand government buildings, and pretty plazas – with barely a tourist in sight – makes a visit a unique and memorable experience.
The city is most well known for its series of historic plazas, which run north-south along the main thoroughfare of Calle Maceo, making it an easy route for a self-guided walking tour. Start at the smaller Parque Jose Martí with its wall of revolutionary heroes before heading north to Parque de las Flores, the most important Parque Calixto Garcia.
Cut across Parque Calixto Garcia from Maceo to the pedestrian-only Bulevar for a nice stroll several blocks until you reach Parque San José with its impressive cathedral – it’s one of the must-visit areas of town.
5. Take a Day Trip to Gibara
The seaside village of Gibara, located on Holguin’s stunning northwestern coastline, is better known as La Villa Blanca – the White Village – for its charm and history. There’s some debate about whether it was the Bay of Gibara or the nearby Bay of Bariay that inspired Christopher Columbus’ famous words about the incomparable beauty of Cuba. Regardless, travelers will find the stunning area of Gibara a gem.
Today, visitors can explore the town’s historic fort and charming old town and take in gorgeous ocean views from its scenic viewpoint. Gibara is also famous for its international film festival, which draws directors, actors, and cinephiles from across Cuba and the rest of Latin America every year.
Just over an hour from Guardalavaca and even closer to the Holguin resorts located on Playa Blanca, it’s a perfect – and popular – day trip for those looking to escape the resort.
6. Visit the Casa de la Trova
Holguin’s Parque Calixto Garcia is home to the Casa de la Trova, a live music venue that is one of the best places to visit in Holguin for a night out. Salsa, son, and other rhythms spill from the venue and attract a crowd, and beer and cocktails keep them around for a good time.
While the real party doesn’t tend to get started until a little later, it’s a fun place to enjoy after dinner while experiencing some of Cuba’s classic sounds. There’s a small entrance fee – just a few pesos as of the last time we visited – but it’s well worth it for the good time.
7. Take a Free Walking Tour of Holguin
Is there anything better than getting something for free? Civitatis offers free walking tours of Holguin that every visitor should sign up for; they’re one of the best things to do in Holguin to get to know the city from the eyes of a local.
- Free Walking Tour of Old Havana
- Free Walking Tour of Viñales, Cuba
- Free Walking Tour of Trinidad, Cuba
- Free Walking Tour of Cienfuegos, Cuba
8. Stay in a Casa Particular
The province of Holguin is home to some of Cuba’s most impressive resorts, from new, modern resorts hidden away on the remote Ramón de Antilla peninsula to long-time favorites in the beach town of Guardalavaca.
However, one of the best ways to experience the heart of Holguin’s capital is by staying in one of the city’s many casa particular guest houses. These are the best casa particular guest houses in Holguin:
Choosing to stay in one of the many casa particular guest houses in Holguin will offer so much more closeness to the real, local experience than you could ever find at one of Holguin’s resorts. If you can, we recommend choosing to stay in a casa particular at least one night of your stay in Cuba!
9. Start a Trek to Pico Turquino
Venture outside Holguin and embark on the trek to the summit of Cuba’s highest mountain peek: Pico Turquino. Located in the Sierra Maestra mountain range along Cuba’s southern coast, this gorgeous mountain offers one of the best hikes in Cuba and even offers ocean views.
Pico Turquino can be approached via Santiago de Cuba on the eastern side of the park or via Holguin to its north.
There’s a major benefit to starting the trek to Pico Turquino via Holguin: entering the northern side of the park allows visitors to stop at Comandancia de la Plata on their way to the summit. This hidden spot in the mountains was once the jungle camp of Fidel Castro and his band of revolutionaries; visitors today can still visit their field hospital, radio station, and makeshift cabins in what is an incredible way to feel Cuba’s history first hand.
Read More: 5 Best Places for Hiking in Cuba
Don’t think about traveling to Cuba without a good VPN (Virtual Private Network). Using a VPN while connecting to the internet is an easy way to keep your personal information safe from hackers and trackers. We’ve used NordVPN for years and couldn’t recommend it more – it’s a must for safety online, especially in Cuba.
10. Visit Cayo Saetia
You’ll have no problem finding stunning beaches in Holguin – it’s home to some of the best beaches in Cuba, after all! – but you’ll be hard-pressed to find more beautiful beaches than those in Cayo Saetia.
Located on the far eastern side of the province, Cayo Saetia is a tiny cay set just off the coast, home to beautiful and mostly untouched beaches, plus much more. The island is also a unique wildlife refuge where visitors can spot everything from zebras and antelope to water buffalo, boar, and deer. Why? This formerly private government game reserve was once the holiday destination of Fidel Castro and family.
Visit for a bonafide wildlife photographic safari, or join one of the catamaran rides around the island’s pristine coastline to discover white sand beaches and hidden snorkeling spots – it’s one of the best things to do in Holguin.
11. Visit Cuba’s Eastern National Parks
Holguin is home to some of Cuba’s most revered natural areas and parks, making it an important area for adventurous travelers looking for everything from renowned hiking excursions to wildlife encounters. These are the region’s two national parks, which are just a few of the natural preserves worth a visit in the area:
Sierra Cristal National Park
The original national park in Cuba was established almost 100 years ago and is still one of the best places to visit in Cuba for hiking, nature, and incredible views. The park is home to the Sierra Cristal, the tallest mountain range in Cuba after the legendary Sierra Maestra range in southeastern Cuba, as well as numerous hiking trails, hidden waterfalls, and more.
You can find organized day trips to Sierra Cristal National Park from the resort area in Guardalavaca and the center of the city of Holguin.
La Mensura-Pilotos National Park
La Mensura-Pilotos National Park is best known as home to the beautiful Salto de Guayabo waterfall, but it’s also a haven for naturalists who know it to be home to countless endemic species and some of Cuba’s richest biodiversity. Nearby Birán is home to the ancestral lands of the Castro family.
12. Visit El Chorro de Maita
Holguin has long been known as one of the most important areas of Cuba to learn about the history of the indigenous Taino people who once inhabited the island before their near-total extermination by the Spanish. There are few places in Cuba as important to this history as El Chorro de Maita.
El Chorro de Maita is home to an important archeological site where structures, artifacts, and an indigenous burial ground have been unearthed. Across the main road from the site, a small museum and “Aldea Taina” village reconstruct important elements of history and host reenactments of Taino dances and ceremonies for visitors.
Located just twenty minutes from Guardalavaca and the most famous beach resorts in the area, El Chorro de Maita is a quick and popular half-day excursion for resort-goers looking to explore a bit of the area and escape the resort for a bit. Check with resort staff about organized half-day excursions, though taxi transportation is another affordable way to visit this nearby site.
Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Home to Havana and Explorers Away. She is a serial expat and traveler, having visited 40+ countries and counting. Carley has written for publications like Travel + Leisure, MSN, Associated Press, Weather Channel, Wealth of Geeks, and more. Find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.