Representative Route Description

      The following is an excerpt, though without map and photos, from Bicycling Cuba. It describes and gives directions for one of our favorite short loop rides, starting in Cienfuegos. All the other routes in the book are presented in a similar format with comparable levels of detail.

Cienfuegos — Pasacaballo Loop (39 kilometers)

      This 39-kilometer loop ride from Cienfuegos makes a great warm-up before starting on the Central Cuba tour. It can easily be done in a single day, but you may wish to stop for a night or two at the beach. The route features a botanical garden, good swimming beaches, a Spanish fort, and two boat rides. You start from the heart of the city, but in just seven kilometers you will be in quiet countryside, with views of the Sierra del Escambray in the distance. There are some challenging hills, but grand scenery and a swim in the Caribbean more than repay your efforts.
      The route leads first to El Jardín de Los Botánicos, once run by Harvard University and still loosely associated with it. This garden features over 1400 species of trees, and $2.50 per person for the guided tour is well worthwhile.
      The ride continues over a roller-coaster road to the best beaches in this part of Cuba. You can spend time swimming and then ride a few kilometers to Pasacaballo, where for $1 a small boat will take you across the narrow entrance of Bahía de Cienfuegos to Castillo de Jagua, a 17th century fort. Another small, peso ferry runs regularly from the castillo back to the city.
      If you wish to spend a night or two by the sea, there is a good selection of casas particulares in the area of Faro de Luna, a lighthouse on the coast, and three tourist hotels as well.

      One good possibility for food along this ride is a picnic on the beach. It is easy to stock up in Cienfuegos — possibly a bocadito from the agromercado north of Parque Martí. Cold drinks to go with a picnic are available at Villa Rancho Luna, on the public beach. Alternatively, you could buy lunch at either of the hotels along the beach — Hotel Playa Rancho Luna, and Hotel Faro Luna. Near the end of the ride, lunch is available at Hotel Pasacaballo or, better, at Casa del Pescador, a seafood restaurant on the bay. However, absolutely the finest meals around are at Finca las Coloradas — see below.

      If you are not pressed for time, consider stopping for a night or two at Finca Las Coloradas, just 100 meters past the Faro Luna lighthouse. English-speaking José Pinero is both a kindly host and an excellent chef. His establishment is something between a casa particular and a small, comfortable inn, directly overlooking the sea. The exact location is in the directions. If Finca Las Coloradas is full, accommodation is also available at several casas particulares along the lane to the Hotel Faro Luna, and at the three tourist hotels mentioned in the directions — Playa Rancho Luna, Faro Luna, and Hotel Pasacaballo.

Route Directions

0.0  Start at Prado and Avenida 54. Ride north on Prado, away from Punta Gorda.

0.2  Pass a sign for Havana, straight ahead.

0.4  Turn right following a sign to Trinidad, on Avenida 62. There is a Baptist temple on the left just before this turn.

0.6  Turn left immediately after passing a small park. Then in just one block bear right onto Avenida 64. Its name will change to Calzada Real de Dolores. It is a busy four-lane road with speed bumps for a center divider.

3.5  Continue straight across another busy, four-lane road. There is a blinker light here, and signs for Rancho Luna and Trinidad to the right, Havana to the left, and Cumanayagua straight ahead. (The cross road here is the Circunvalación.)

4.8  Continue straight, passing a right turn to the airport.

6.0  Pass a sign for Caonao. As you ride through this small town, the road will curve sharply to the right, then to the left, and will narrow considerably.

7.0  There is a large fruit and vegetable farm on the left with extensive shade houses. You will soon have a glimpse of the Sierra del Escambray ahead. From here on, the ride will become increasingly hilly, though not difficult until after El Jardín de Los Botánicos.

15.3  Continue straight through a crossroad; to the left you can see the Karl Marx Cement Factory.

15.4  Bear right at a fork; there is a Cupet gas station at this fork and a small convenience store for a cold drink. This road will climb, with increasingly scenic views of the mountains to the left.

17.4  Reach the clearly-marked entrance on the left to the Jardín de Los Botánicos de Cienfuegos.
A guided tour of the garden typically takes an hour, two at the most. As you leave the garden, turn left, continuing along the road on which you arrived. You will ride through high, scenic country, with cane on the left, rolling fields and cattle to the right.

19.8  Turn right onto an unsigned paved road. On the left is one of the most scenic bus shelters imaginable. The road you will now be on is like a roller coaster, with some difficult climbs, but also grand views and exhilarating downhills toward the Bahía de Cienfuegos far below.

27.5  Continue straight, passing a right to Cienfuegos.

27.7  Pass a service station on the right with cold drinks available.

28.2  Bear left onto a major road. (Back in Cienfuegos, this road is Avenida 5 de Septiembre.)

28.6  Cross a bridge, immediately followed on the left by a small restaurant serving criollo meals and seafood.

32.0  Note a signed road to the left that goes to Playa Rancho Luna. (There is an all-inclusive hotel at the end of this road catering to German and Canadian package tourists. We do not find it appealing, but it was being renovated, and non-guests can use the good beach.)

32.8  Turn right at the bottom of a marvelous hill with views of the sea and mountains below. (The left follows the shore to Playa Rancho Luna.)

33.0  Pass the entrance on the left to Villa Rancho Luna, a bar on the pleasant public beach. Sun chairs and umbrellas are available for rent.

      Just 60 meters past Villa Rancho Luna and also on the left is the entrance to Faro Rancho Luna. This small Cubanacán resort is named for a lighthouse that is a little farther down the coast. The all-inclusive hotel here is reputed be better than the one at Playa Rancho Luna. Along the lane into Hotel Faro Rancho Luna, there are at least four small casas particulares renting rooms and serving meals.

35.3  Pass the lighthouse from which the hotel gets its name, Faro Rancho Luna, on the left. There are two casas particulares on the right immediately after the lighthouse. The second, Finca Las Coloradas, is more like a tiny inn, and we recommend it highly.

38.7  Turn left down a dirt lane to the shore for a boat to Castillo Jagua. This turn is directly opposite a driveway on the right leading up to the Hotel Pasacaballo.

      If you continue straight past the boat landing and the Hotel Pasacaballo, you will reach the end of the road in another 1.5 kilometers. Here, the seafood restaurant, Casa del Pescador, sits at the very end of the point.

      To return to Cienfuegos, first take the boat from Pasacaballo to Castillo de Jagua. This should cost a dollar or two. Don't try for a boat all the way back to Cienfuegos; it would be expensive if you could find one. Once you get to Castillo de Jagua, just across the narrow entrance to the bay, you can wait for another small, public ferry that will take you 10 kilometers back to Cienfuegos for a peso or two.

     Note: A hurricane swept across central Cuba in late 2001 just after we rode this Pasacaballo loop. In early 2002 a correspondent told us that the restaurant, Casa del Pescador, was closed. More importantly for completing the ride, he said it was impossible to get a boat at Pasacaballo.
     It is likely that when you ride this loop, everything will be back to normal. However, if there is still no boat available, it is not difficult to ride back to Cienfuegos. We have done it, and it takes just over an hour because you do not have to return via the botanical gardens. Here are all the directions you need:

  • Backtrack along the coast, and just after Villa Rancho Luna, bear left up the hill. In less than five kilometers you will see the road to the right on which you rode from El Jardín de los Botánicos. Do not take it, however. Continue straight, and you will soon pass a service station on the right. You will be on Avenida 5 de Septiembre.
  • In another 10 kilometers, in the busy outskirts of Cienfuegos, notice a huge Grecian-style building on the left, the entrance to the Cemetery Tomás Acea. About two kilometers past the cemetery, you will come to a T at Calle 45.
  • For the Punta Gorda area, turn left at the T. Then take the next right, and in four blocks you will reach a T on the Malecón. Punta Gorda is to the left.
  • For the Parque Martí area, turn right at the T and take the next left; it is four blocks to the Pracdo.