The charming seaside town of Caibarién, in the Villa Clara province on Cuba’s northern coast, lies far from the island’s tourist trail, yet offers noteworthy attractions, from community art projects and deliciously fresh seafood, to one of Cuba’s most renowned festivals, and the pristine white beaches of “Los Cayos.”
For those seeking insight into authentic Cuban life, this wonderfully offbeat destination merits a visit. In Caibarien, you’ll find fragile crumbling buildings, extra-friendly locals and a way of life seemingly stuck in a bygone era.
Our Vintage Cuba tour explores the laidback and surreal Caibarién. Highlights include:
Architecture, culture and street life
This coastal town’s economy was built around traditional commodities such as sugarcane, tobacco, fruit, and sponge fishing. But these industries have ground to a halt, and many houses, hotels, streets, piers, and sugar mills have fallen into disrepair.
Amid crumbling buildings, horses and carts parade through the streets, and remnants of Caibarién’s former glory abound. Make sure to admire the colonial buildings, including a nineteenth-century church and impressive neoclassical Lyceo, on the main square. Visit the Museo de Agroindustria Azucarero Marcelo Salado, one of the best places to learn about the country’s sugar industry and slave culture. And don’t miss the giant crab statue at the town’s entrance!
Above all, Caibarien represents a way of life virtually untouched by tourism. The Malecón—a colourfully restored, palm-lined sea boulevard—provides the perfect place to slow down and soak in the serene, sleepy atmosphere. Unwind at a café or bar and take a leisurely stroll along the oceanfront.
Caibarién is among the best places to see Cuba’s renowned “parrandas” street parties. Every December, the town erupts in an explosion of fireworks, dance performances and elaborate parades with brightly lit decorative floats. In a tradition that dates back to the eighteenth century, neighborhoods compete to put on the loudest, wildest, and most colorful celebration.
Vibrant community art
Caibarién is home to innovative community art project Por la Costa, established by award-winning local artist Madelin Perez Noa. Supported by UNEAC (the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba), it unites the community around creating art from recycled plastics and materials washed up along the coast—enriching the town’s cultural and artistic life while cleaning up the immediate environment.
In Caibarién, you can visit the town’s gallery and admire the visually striking artworks. You might also meet the artists and organizers to learn about their fundraising efforts toward arts promotion and town restoration.
Some of the friendliest Cubans you’ll meet
Caibarién is often described as “ultra friendly,” making it the perfect place to seek out interactions with the locals, share a smile, exchange stories and learn about Cuban life first-hand.
Citizens will greet you with a friendly nod, genuine curiosity, and perhaps an invitation.
To experience Caibarien as residents do, visit a local restaurant or paladar. The town is deservedly renowned for its crab and other fresh seafood.
Caibarién’s close to other desirable Cuban destinations, including the architectural splendors of Remedios, only seven kilometers away, and the colonial town of Camajuani and its surrounding sugarcane country.
Also within easy reach are “Los Cayos”, including Cayo Santa Maria and Cayo Conuco, home to all-inclusive resorts, biosphere reserves, and spectacular white beaches.
Written by Sian Atkins
Photo credit: Robin Thom