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Iberostar Grand Trinidad view from my room

Cuba Calls with Culture, Architecture, and Luxurious Warmth

What do you mean you are in Trinidad? Aren’t you supposed to be in Cuba?

Prior to my visit, I, like many of my friends, had no idea there was a Trinidad in Cuba — which explains the questions I received and the curiosity I felt when I arrived. It was a surprise, and a magnificent one, to get to know Trinidad, the historical jewel located in Cuba’s central province of Sancti Spíritus, and understand how distinct it is from the better-known island nation that shares the same name.

Nestled between white sandy beaches and the lush, jungle-covered Escambray Mountains, Trinidad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that will transport you back in time. Founded in 1514 by the Spanish conqueror Diego Velázquez, it is one of the original seven villages of Cuba. With influences of its pre-revolutionary past, buildings are heavily influenced by its Spanish, French, and Italian neoclassical and colonial architecture. As one of the best-preserved colonial cities in the Caribbean, Trinidad carries a palpable sense of history and culture.

IBerostar Grand TRINIDAD FACHADA cuba

Iberostar Grand Trinidad is a fully renovated luxury property that features seductive views from guest rooms of the historic city (top photo). Not surprisingly, Trinidad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Michelle Hopkins photos for VacayNetwork.com)

Blue skies shone on me as I strolled along streets paved in cobblestones; ones that served as ballast for European ships back in the 16th and 17th centuries. My knowledgeable guide, Rosamy Fuentes, took me on a discovery tour of the city’s history going through slave trade, the splendour of the sugar industry, and the fights for independence.

I captured photo after photo of bright buildings with high doors and windows, vintage cars, statues of prominent figures such as Fidel Castro, craft markets and small shops selling local goods, handmade artwork, and cigars. Then, it was off to the center of Old Trinidad  to check out the the Plaza Mayor, where the prosperous built their mansions. Bordered by spectacular buildings, such as the Parish Church of the Holy Trinity and the Cantero Palace, the square is a noticeable reminder of its era of opulence.

The highlight was a visit to the Museo de Historia Municipal. Housed in the impressive Palace Cantero, it is set around a central courtyard and contains artifacts that will connect visitors to the area’s past glory. Although I’m claustrophobic, there was no way I was going to miss the 17th-century tower. Climbing up the steepest, most narrow staircase I have ever seen, I was rewarded with jaw dropping 360-degree views of the city, the hills on one side, and the sea in the distance.

views from atop Museo de Historia Municipal, Trinidad Michelle hopkins (1)

Heavenly views of the Trinidad area can be enjoyed from atop Cuba’s Museo de Historia Municipal. (Michelle Hopkins photo for VacayNetwork.com)

I was equally enchanted by my home for the night: the Iberostar Grand Trinidad. Located directly on the bustling Plaza Carrillo at the end of Parque Cespedes, the hotel is in a hot spot of the beautiful city. The grand dame began its life as a theatre, then was leased to the Royal Bank of Canada, before opening its doors in 1925 as Hotel Canada and remained under that name until the 1960s. Iberostar took over operations in 2005, and after an expensive renovation morphed it into the Iberostar Grand Trinidad. The iconic building is steeped in history and elegance, and the modernity of completely redone spaces honor its legacy for enduring sophistication.

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Within the walls on my exquisite suite, complete with its bespoke artwork, comfy bed with crisp white duvet, and pops of color, was the piece de resistance  — a private terrace that overlooked the Plaza Carrillo (think of the terraces in New Orleans’ French Quarter with wooden white shutters). As you might imagine, it was the perfect spot to enjoy my morning coffee.

After a day of meandering Trinidad, taking in its gardens and pre-revolutionary roots, I returned to the hotel’s posh restaurant, the Guaicanicu. The décor and the plush seating were as equally impressive as the cuisine. The executive chef hails from Brazil and his gastronomy celebrates the vibrant flavors of authentic Cuban specialties and international cuisine.

After dinner, I headed back into old town to the Casa de la Musica outdoor grandstand for an unforgettable night of pulsating beats influenced by Cuba’s West African and European heritage. Like many in the crowd around me, I swayed in my seat to the hypnotic Latin rhythms.

Iberostar’s Immaculate Cuba Experiences


Iberostar Selection Holguin has an outrageous number of pools for guests to enjoy. (Photo courtesy of Iberostar Selection Holguin)

The Grand Trinidad is only one of the outstanding Iberostar properties I experienced. My first stop on the island was at the adults-only Iberostar Selection Holguin on Pesquero Beach. From my spacious suite’s cozy bed, I gazed at the sweeping view of the pool area and the palm trees that swayed in the night.

The resort on the northeastern coast of Cuba sits among breathtaking natural beauty — a tropical paradise that offered relaxation and adventure. With direct access to the beach, the property is steps from the crystal-clear waters that took my breath away each morning as I walked the shoreline before indulging in Cuba’s excellent strong coffee. Avid divers and snorkelers will be rewarded for basing their stay at the property because Holguin is home to Guardalavaca Beach, which is just nine miles (15 kilometers) away and features one of the world’s largest coral reefs.

I wasn’t up for such a challenge, instead choosing to spend my day lounging under the sun. Then I dined at Sake, one of the resort’s many a la carte restaurants, where I enjoyed genuine Teppanyaki cuisine, cooked tableside.

After Holguin, I was guided through swatches of mountainous forests and small towns that dotted the landscape on both sides of the road. In the van, I noticed a certain rhythm to the traffic: Every mode of transport on the road could be seen — from bikes with more than one person, to horse-drawn carts to motorcycles with sidecars, to the vintage 1950’s American automobiles that have become an iconic symbol of the country.

It was a pleasant way to see more of Cuba before arriving at the captivating Iberostar Selection Esmeralda in Cayo Cruz.

Iberostar Cayo Cruz coral level suites

The Coral Level suites at Iberostar Selection Esmeralda are an exceptional way to enjoy your stay in Cayo Cruz. (Michelle Hopkins photo for VacayNetwork.com)

The resort was already fantastic to my mind, then I was upgraded to the Coral Level. My dreamy end-unit luxury suite opened up to my own slice of heaven — lounge chairs and a shared swim-up pool with panoramic views of the verdant grounds.

I also discovered wooden boardwalks — which invited me to connect with nature, sea, and the island’s lush botanical charms. At night, the resort came alive with lights projected onto the palm trees and vegetation. I also took the time to listen to music as I sipped on a specialty cocktail at the reception’s outdoor piano bar and lounge. A perfect way to end an equally perfect day was to meander my way throughout the property for an evening walk.

The final stop during my stay was the Iberostar Selection Enchenachos. Nestled on the tip of a lush and remote island in the Cayo Santa Maria region, the sprawling resort is tucked away on one of the most gorgeous stretches of the picturesque Ensenachos beach. It offers the perfect combination of swaying palm trees, mesmerizing turquoise waters, and two white sandy beaches.

Cayo Iberostar Ensenachos walkway to beach Michelle Hopkins

The beach is never far away from Iberostar Selection Ensenachos. (Michelle Hopkins photo for VacayNetwork.com)

Another fact I wasn’t aware of about Cuba, the region is renowned for being home to some of the softest and whitest of sand beaches in the world. Yearning to be closer to the long Caribbean beach, with its green and blue waters — so transparent that you can see the bottom of the sea and coral reefs — I joined a catamaran sailing. It was the idyllic way to experience the sea. The sailing was overwhelmingly tranquil as the boat skimmed gently along the water. I felt at once exhilarated and peaceful, soaking in the vistas. Following the trip, I lounged on the beach under a palapa with a good read.

Both mornings, I woke up early and walked 90 minutes along the beach. Afterwards, I strolled back through the resort’s sprawling grounds and found my place among its outdoor dining facilities to sit back for breakfast. My favorite lunch spot (very popular so get there early), was the seaside beach hut and bar. The food was okay, but you really go for the spectacular locale.

My getaway took on a whole new level of bliss when I went for a pampering massage treatment, before a leisurely swim in the spa’s scenic pool. One thing is certain, Iberostar Cuba Hotels & Resorts offers enough relaxation, culture, and pleasant experiences that it’s enough on its own to warrant adding the Pearl of the Antilles to your destination wish list.


Properties: A Spanish chain, Iberostar has operated in Cuba for three decades and features 18 four- and five-star properties spread throughout the island. With the exception of the Grand Trinidad, the properties I visited are all-inclusives.

Nightly rates at Iberostar Grand Trinidad start at $390 USD ($533 CAD) for a double bed room stay. At  Iberostar Selection Holguin, nightly rates start at $205 USD ($277 CAD) in a double room; at Iberostar Selection Esmeralda, the rates for a Coral Junior Suite start from $280 USD ($378 CAD) per night, and a garden suite at Iberostar Selection Enchenachos starts from $235 USD ($316 CAD) per night.

For more trip-planning ideas, visit the website of Cuba’s tourism board.

Disclosure: VacayNetwork.com Writer Michelle Hopkins’ trip to Cuba was sponsored by Iberostar Cuba Hotels & Resorts. Neither that business nor any other organization reviewed the article before it was published.