La Union Hotel is one of Cuba's provincial gems, located just one block from the main plaza in the heart of downtown. The thoughtful remodel of this three-story neoclassical 19th-century hotel exudes elegant yesteryear airs thanks to its antiques and quality antique reproductions.
The swimming pool comes as a pleasant surprise, especially on hot summer days. It's built into a ground floor courtyard with faux-Romanesque elements such as classical statuary. And the hotel's Restaurant 1869 is undisputably the city's finest; the menu is unusually inventive for Cuba, although some dishes fall flat on their face. Bring a wrap or jacket, however, to fend off the Arctic air-conditioning. The bar here is cozier than most of Cuba's provincial hotels. A gym has just enough equipment to guarantee an all-round work out. A small spa offers massage and beauty treatments. There's a small business center with Internet access. Plus there's secure parking across the road, adjoining a car rental office. And a foreigners-only pharmacy in the hotel could prove handy in case of a medical need.
All 39 rooms, 11 junior suites, and two suites are arrayed around an atrium courtyard with tinkling fountain. The period decor is a romantic throwback in time, and the new two-tone ceramic floors and modern bathrooms bring the hotel into the 21st century. The amenities are as to be expected, including air conditioning, satellite TVs, radios, telephones, small refrigerators, and in-room safes. And bathrooms here, clad floor to ceiling in modern tiles, even have bidets and travertine countertops.
Cienfuegos is a delightful and interesting city with a history largely different to that of the rest of the country.
It is a pleasant city which, because of its role as an important port, both domestically and internationally, has a slightly more cosmopolitan feel about it than most other areas in the south. The streets are straight and wide with the Paseo del Prado, which dissects the city and extends out to the peninsula's end, being the most important street. The street extends south through the Punta Gorda area and north along th bay, there are some excellent views to be had from here, especially at sunset when the bay takes on a quiet and brooding appearance.
If you visit Cienfuegos don't forget to see: Parque Jose Marti, on the eastern side of it is the impressive Catedral de la Purisima Concepcion, which was built in 1870. Also overlooking the park is the Provincial Government Palace, a grand building with great columns and marble floors. Due west of the park stands the Casa de la Cultura.
Teatro Tomas Terry, situated on the north side of the Parque Jose Marti, is a beautiful and impressive structure whose facade is topped by three multi-coloured mosaic murals. Museo Historico, which contains local military memorabilia that once belonged to those who took part in the various struggles for independence and freedom.
Palacio del Valle, on the Punta Gorda, this Moorish style country house was bought by Alejandro Suero Balbin. Its fading pink colours fail to diminish the overall grandeur of the building which contains some excellent furnishings and porcelains.
The botanical gardens is perhaps the most famed botanical garden in the country, housing over 2,000 tropical and sub-tropical plants. Among the impressive collection of plant species are more than 200 types of palm trees of araceae, there is also a collection of different types of palm trees indigenous to Cuba.
Playa Rancho Luna, situated 20km east of the city, is still very quiet and secluded.
The Castle of Our Lady of the Angels of Jagua, situated 22km from Cienfuegos city, was originally used by the Spanish as a small fort to keep out smugglers who used to enter Jagua Bay to obtain fresh water and food from the locals. It is now a much more subtantial structure following the Spaniards' decision to develop it to defend the city from the more forceful threat offered by the English navy during the war between Spain and England.
Considered the Cuban architectural jewel of the 19th century, Cienfuegos is outstanding for the perfect design of its streets and for the refinement and good taste of the buildings in the historic center of the city, which has been declared a national monument. When visiting, stop by the Casa del Fundador (Founder’s House); Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción (Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception) Cathedral; Tomás Terry Theater; Ferrer Palace; and José Martí Park, which contains the only arch of triumph in Cuba.
Other attractions include the Prado Promenade, Valle Palace, Museums of Naval and Provincial History, Reina (Queen’s) Cemetery and Jai-Alai Courts.
Farther out from the center of the city, tour the Nuestra Señora de los Angeles de Jagua (Jagua for short) Fortress, Tomás Acea Cemetery and the Botanical Gardens.
In addition to these cultural and historic attractions, Cienfuegos has excellent facilities for scuba diving and other water sports, nature tourism and thermal baths.