15 Best Things To Do In Santiago De Cuba

Santiago De Cuba is the second-largest city in Cuba. Let explore things to do over there including Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, Parque De Baconao, and so much more...

Covering an area of 1,023 square kilometers, Santiago De Cuba is the second-largest city in Cuba. The cosmopolitan is home to over ten different communities. The seaport city is the second most important city in Cuba and has a population close to half a million. The city has a rich history and several historical sites to represent the same. With several parks and sights, museums and various points of interest, Santiago De Cuba is a great place to visit both for foreigners and locals. But what really should take you to this city? Here is a list of 15 things to do in Santiago De Cuba.

1. Visit the Parque De Baconao

Parque De Baconao
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This place gives you a feeling that you are in the middle of prehistory. It has life-size sculptures of ancient creatures well spread on the hills. Kids will find this super interesting. For adults, this is a perfect opportunity to unleash the childhood in you! Another unique feature of this park is it joins a mountain, forest, and an ocean. If you visit this park at the right time, you may witness the rare migration of the red crabs as they move from the forest to the ocean to lay eggs. The statues here also depict the archaic interrelations between antiquated humans and extinct creatures. Many argue it is not worth a visit of its own. Well, that argument is for another day. For now, let’s say Parque De Baconao is must visit. As you plan to visit Santiago De Cuba, have this magnificent park in your program of things to do.

2. Experience the peace in Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption
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Peace, history, and great architectural work all in one. The church is a holy place, and you need to get a feeling of closeness to get by visiting this place. It is at the center of Santiago De Cuba, making it convenient and easy to get to from whatever location you are in Santiago. Away from matters spiritual, there is a great Cespedes park view.

Around this church, you will see Old Spanish crafted buildings, homes of tycoons, stores, and great people. The peace, culture, and history surrounding this place are out of this world. It is even impossible to put everything in writing but visiting guarantees you capture of every scene, moment, and culture. Make sure you visit this church for a fantastic experience.

3. Go to Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca

Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca
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A castle on the southern coast of Santiago De Cuba. The place is a 15-minute drive from the city center. It was constructed in the early 1600s by Juan Battista Antonelli to protect the city from raiding pirates. Also, the castle has a long story behind it, but the highlight was UNESCO’s declaration in 1997, making it a World Heritage Site. Further, it was pointed out as the best conserved and most complete Spanish-American Military Architecture. There is so much to learn about this fortress. By going there, you will not only learn but also get to see a lot. Inside the manor, there are canons and across to see, among other features. Outside, there is an excellent view of the bay from the tower. There is just so much history in this place, and that is why you must visit this place. As you schedule your stay in Santiago De Cuba, Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca should not miss in your things to do.

4. Pass by Organoponico Vivero Alamar and learn food crop production

Organoponico Vivero Alamar
Credit flickr

Whether you live to eat or eat to live, it is important to know the source of the food you consume. A few people are interested in agriculture, but this place might change your mind. Passing by this place as a group might turn out to be the fun you never expected. Many of the foods in Santiago De Cuba’s restaurants come from this place.

Make sure you drop by this place and see how things are done. This food crops producer pays better wages compared to an average farmer’s income. It has changed the fortunes of the people living around this place. There is so much to learn from this place as far as agriculture is concerned.

5. Visit Santa Ifigenia Cemetery

Santa Ifigenia Cemetery
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Sounds weird, right? I’m sure you are wondering what’s worth your attention in a cemetery. But, this is not just an ordinary cemetery. It is a store of Cuba’s rich history. In the tombs lay one of Cuba’s greatest. The likes of Jose Marti, Emilio Bacardi, and other Cuban revolutionists sleep in this cemetery in death.

Santa Ifigenia Cemetery has tombs and mausoleums of its freedom fighters including the legendary Fidel Castro. Every half an hour, there is a change of guard. Found in 1868, the historical graveyard is located northwest of Santiago De Cuba. The place is well maintained and made of Spanish architecture.

Whether your stay in Santiago is for a limited timeframe or a while, this place is a must go. The best way to do this is to be accompanied by a local or a guide who understands the history of these tombs, the occupants, and their participation in Cuba’s history.

The view from a distance is also impressive. The well-maintained memory park does not look like a graveyard. Instead, you might mistake it for another well preserved historical site.

I guess by now you understand when I say Santa Ifigenia must be a priority in your list of things to do in Santiago De Cuba.

6. Have lunch/dinner at Restaurant Aurora

You only say you’ve been to a place once you’ve had a taste of the local cuisine. That is why you have to spend some hours at Restaurante Aurora on the first afternoon of your visit to Santiago De Cuba. The restaurant is located on General Portuondo, Moncada y Calvario. Having won the prestigious Certificate of Excellence for three consecutive years since 2016, the eatery offers a wide variety of local dishes.

The service you get here together with ambiance and delicacies is five-star. Enjoy the famous mojitos from here, or you may settle for chicken soup or braised goat soup; I mean there is so much to choose from. Also, present on the menu is a salad, rice, and beans. Generally, they offer Caribbean, Latin, and Cuban dishes. Their prices are also fair and its location strategic. This is a must-have on things to do in Santiago De Cuba.

7. Visit Cespedes Park

Cespedes Park
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This park is just a few meters away from the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption. This makes it possible to kill two birds with one stone. How? You may decide to visit the cathedral and this park in one trip. The park is strategically placed. Many other historical sites and landmarks surround it.

Besides that, it has great architectural and historical features worth looking at. There are also hotels around where you may drop by and eat in case you feel hungry. Also, there are musicians around with friendly people too.

Taking a walk through the square is recommended. Don’t forget to carry your camera along because the place has sites and views which should be captured.   

8. Climb La Gran Piedra (The Big Rock)

La Gran Piedra
Credit wikicommons

This requires you to be in good condition. But, once you get to the top, the view is impressive. In between the close to 400 steps as you ascend, you will feel how the climate changes. It is one of the highest mountains in Cuba. Be sure to wear and carry along the right clothing to be able to deal with any adverse weather changes.

The top is also a great place to take pictures from. Apart from the mountain, there is the restored century coffee plantation. Also, not far from The Big Rock is a botanical garden. The experience is memorable; therefore, as you draft your schedule of things to do in Santiago De Cuba, don’t forget this activity.

9. Trip to El Nicho Waterfalls

El Nicho Waterfalls
Credit flickr

A taxi will cost you a few dollars to this place and a few more for the entrance fee. But the fun you’ll get inside this place overshadows the insignificant costs you’ll incur. Once there, you will a guide to explain all you need to know on your tour. The waterfall is so beautiful to watch and present too is a natural pool where you can swim. You will also have an opportunity to hike through the forest. Apart from the beautiful falls, you will have time to see the beautiful Cuban nature.

10. Visit Diego Velazquez Museum

Before leaving Santiago, make sure you visit the oldest building in the county. This was the first governor of Cuba lived. The museum showcases Cuban furniture and decorative ornamental arts from the 16th century. Once you are here, you will get a feeling of how life in Cuba was like in the 15th century. Reviewed as one of the best by people that have been here before, this is undoubtedly a must input on your list of things to do in Santiago De Cuba.

11. Go to Emilio Bacardi Moreau Museum

Emilio Bacardi Moreau Museum
Credit flickr

You can’t miss out on the art collection in this specialty museum. There are nicely done paintings depicting rich Cuban history. As the name suggests, most of the collections here are of the legendary Emilio Bacardi. The versatility of this museum allows it to have arts for other legends too, for instance, Antonio’s Maceo boots. This museum is a must-do any time you land in Santiago De Cuba.

12.  Visit Palacio de Valle

Palacio de Valle
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Palacio de Valle is located in Punta Gorda. The entrance is free of charge. Imagine spending no cent to see one of Cuba’s most beautiful architectural designs. The interior design is fine, but you will love the exterior more. You may go to the rooftop and have a view of the surroundings. Also at the rooftop is live music and a restaurant. That said the best thing about this place is the beautiful sight and view at the rooftop. There is little to mention but a lot to experience when you visit this place.

13. Sight-seeing at Plaza del Carmen

Plaza del Carmen
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 Religion and history meet culture and architecture here. The sight is worth capturing in pictures. It should not take you a lot of time before you are done. Therefore, you may choose to do one or two more things on the day you visit Plaza del Carmen. It has a fantastic square with cobblestone and tina jones. Also, there are life-sized sculptures of camagueyanos.

14. Pay tribute to the late Cuban revolutionists at Moncada Barracks

things to do in santiago de cuba, Moncada Barracks
Credit flickr

At the entrance, you will be welcomed by bullet holes, proof of the beginning of the revolution. Here, you will learn about the Cuban revolution and the famous Fidel Castro. If revolution is your point of interest, then this is a must, if not then it is more reason why you should visit this place. You will learn this is where most Cuban revolutionists were tortured and killed. It is also here that Fidel was imprisoned before his infamous exile to Mexico.

The Moncada barracks is now a school in honor of Fidel’s wishes. There is so much to learn here. In fact, in your list of things to do in Santiago De Cuba make sure this activity is among the first if not the first.

15. Bed and breakfast at Casa Nivia Melendez

Perfect location, excellent service, and value for money this is a great place to stay. Their prices are considerable, and they offer local dishes. The colonial but beautiful house is located in the city center, making it an ideal place to tour more places without the worry of getting back late.

See Also: 15 Best Things To Do In Camaguey, Cuba

Conclusion

Santiago De Cuba has a lot of history to learn about. Besides that, there are so many architectural buildings whose photos I’m sure you won’t mind them landing in your gallery. The sights and landmarks make it even more fun. Finally, the local cuisines and culture make it the perfect destination whether your stay will be short-lived or for a while. Therefore, as you create your list of things to do in Santiago De Cuba, make sure you include all the activities above.

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