Visitors to the Jardines Del Rey islands of Cayo Las Brujas, Cayo Ensenachos and Cayo Santa Maria often wish to visit some authentic Cuban cities. Caibarien is the first city on Cubas mainland after crossing the causeway and at approximately 48km from the islands it’s become a popular daytrip in both directions. Whether it be visitors to Caibarien wishing to visit the Jardines del Rey islands or those staying on the aforementioned islands who are taking a day out to the mainland.
Caibarien is a relatively small town with a population of 38,000 found right at the start of the pedraplen causeway between Cuba’s mainland and the three Jardines del Rey Islands mentioned above. Since the city is just 48km from these Jardines del Rey islands it’s a popular day-trip and excursion destination in both directions.
Predominantly a maritime fishing town it is also the main port for the province of Villa Clara. The town of Caibarien at the gateway to the Jardines del Rey Islands, was founded in 1832 from a map designed by Estratón Bauza. In 1878 the town already had stores, churches, schools and newspapers. Caibarien, despite being a small city it has its own Caibarien Airport (ICAO) and provides for some distinctive 19th century colonial architecture.
Also known as “La Villa Blanca” (The White Town) Caibarien residents say this nickname is due to the city’s pure white sands and impressive beaches. Famous for its “Parrandas” Carnival festivities, similar to those which take place in the the neighboring town of Remedios located 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) west of the city.
Most of Caibarien´s buildings have fine wooden porches with a distinctly French influence, and some are pretty grand properties. Life movies slowly in the city with a fair number of horses in town, either with single riders or carts. The sidewalks are ornate affairs made of large stone slabs set in concrete.
Caibarien is a sleepy town almost devoid of tourism, meaning visitors can stroll around without the incessant calls from street hustlers more common in place like Havana. The focal point of the city is the Malecón which is lined with abundant warehouses originally used during the 19th century for storing sugar cane, most of which are being renovated to accommodate a new fishing zone in the east with a new road, coconut palms and several cool bars and cafés where visitors can sit and admire the view. Being the gateway city to the Jardines del Rey Islands has made the city very popular over the past decade.
The Caibarien town center features a large square common in many colonial cities in Cuba, with its church dating back to 1850 and the impressive neoclassical Lyceo built in 1926, where the Museo Municipal de Caibarién María Escobar Laredo, can be found on the second floor. You’ll find permanent and temporary exhibitions, including the furniture previously owned by María Escobar Laredo, who was one of the founders for the city.
The spectacular gazebo in the middle of the main plaza was built in 1915, the largest in Cuba and famous for its excellent acoustics. If you’re in-town you can see some concerts by local bands on Thursday and Sunday nights. Also on the plaza is a store called London City, which was, during the first decade of the 20th century, a custom-made tailor’s store.
Naturally, most of the local culture is influenced by slavery and African traditions as Caibarien was a major city in the slavery days. Much like Remedios, Caibarién also has its colorful carnivals called parrandas. Caibarien is the place to be on Christmas Eve when a non-religious celebration is held, first held in 1892 it is said to have begun with the banging of a drum by a 110 year old former slave called Juan de Jimagua. People from the city then followed him plus many other conga players around the town, a tradition still popular today.
Visitors to Caibarien should make a point to visit Cayo Conuco, a small island located 7 kilometers (4 miles) from Caibarien which is joined to the mainland by a stone causeway, the island is a weekend retreat for beach goers from the local community and can be quite fun. Cayo Conuco is biosphere reserve with lots of flora and fauna, and a campsite. Popular buildings to see are the ruins of a former cholera hospital, erected by the slaves in the 19th century to quarantine victims of the devastating disease and the main port garrison. Being at the entrance to the causeway to the Jardines del Rey Islands has given Caibarien some chic and investment in its Malecon boardwalk has really made the town sparkle.