Overview of Bicycling in Cuba, 2000

Santiago de Cuba is the city where we started our bicycling journey in January 2000, where we studied Spanish, and where we spent the most time. This is the cathedral in Parque Cèspedes, the center of the old city.

Cathedral, Santiago de Cuba

bicycling near Santiago de Cuba

During our three weeks in Santiago de Cuba, after morning Spanish lessons, we went riding nearly every day to get in shape. To enjoy biking in the central city, one must develop a taste for diesel fumes, but quiet rural roads are not far away.

Leaving Santiago de Cuba, we traveled west along the south coast to Granma Province. We rode Bike-E semi-recumbents for this trip because they are great for comfortable, leisurely sightseeing.

bicycling south coast, Santiago de Cuba

Sierra Maestra, Cuba

Looking north from the same coast road, we saw the Sierra Maestra -- Cuba's highest mountain range. With these mountains on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other, it was a truly spectacular ride.

Then we climbed over the tail end of the Sierra Maestra to reach Bayamo, a small city of great historical interest, and the capital of Granma Province. It was one of our favorite places, and it is not overrun by tourists.

Bayamo, Cuba

Las Tunas Province, Cuba

Through Las Tunas, Camaguey and Ciego de Avila Provinces, the land was flat or gently rolling -- great for cattle and sugar, but not as beautiful as Granma and Santiago de Cuba provinces. With good tailwinds, it was easy cycling.

After riding over 200 miles through the central plains, we reached Trinidad, on the south coast of Sancti Spiritus province. Trinidad is a very old, well-preserved city that is a United Nations World Heritage Site -- very popular with tourists, and deservedly so.

Trinidad, Cuba

We stayed in and near Trinidad for over a week, and then rode through Cienfuegos and spent another few days at Playa Giron, known in the U.S. as the Bay of Pigs. Today it is a strange combination of beach resort and war museum.

We left the south coast and cycled north and west through Matanzas province. For the most part, the countryside was scenic and gently rolling. We rode our longest day -- 97 miles -- in Matanzas, drawn by the beaches of the north shore.

Bicycling in Matanzas Province, Cuba

Playa Jibacoa, Cuba

Playa Jibacoa was our destination -- a perfect tropical beach. Along Playa Jibaocoa there are upscale resorts, one or two modest hotels, and a number of "campismos," camping resorts with basic bungalows that cater largely to Cubans -- and to poor bicyclists.

Traveling west along the coast, we reached Havana but spent only a single night in the city. We were continuing west to Pinar del Rio, planning to return to Havana for a week at the end of our journey.

Havana, Cuba

Pinar del Rio,  Cuba

We enjoyed nearly every part of Cuba that we visited, but for unspoiled, natural beauty, Pinar del Rio was probably our favorite province. However, Cuba offers a lot more to the traveler than wonderful scenery and glistening beaches.