With its somewhat ungrateful name and its infamous history, it is difficult to imagine that the Bay of Pigs could be a little corner of paradise!
Between white sand beaches, coconut palms and natural swimming pools, the Bay of Pigs is far from the preconceived notions that one might have! But it is unfortunately also a region that tourism has, in some places, denatured.
What are the must-see places in the Bay of Pigs? What are the places to avoid? We tell you more!
The history of the Bay of Pigs: chronicle of a failed landing
In 1959, Fidel Castro took power in Cuba and shot Fulgencio Batista, then President, out of the country.
If Cuba and the United States had until then maintained very close relations, they deteriorated very quickly with the arrival of Castro at the head of the state.
The United States does not approve of the policy of expropriation of land of the Castro government.
Worse, Cuba was getting dangerously close to the USSR, the sworn enemy of the Americans.
The United States broke off all diplomatic and commercial relations with the island.
In the early 1960s, the administration of Dwight Eisenhower planned an invasion of Cuba in order to install a pro-American government.
He set up a brigade of 1500 Cuban exiles, “the 2506 assault brigade”, and entrusted its training to the CIA.
But Eisenhower’s protégé, Richard Nixon, lost the 1960 elections to the Democrat John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Kennedy inherited the operation, but he hesitated: the USSR threatened the United States with reprisals in the event of an American landing in Cuba.
To keep up appearances, he decided that the brigade of Cuban exiles would be sent alone to attack the Bay of Pigs, without the support of American troops.
Kennedy counted on a popular uprising that would never take place.
Castro’s counter-intelligence had done its homework and knew that the Americans were planning to invade the Bay of Pigs.
Cuban troops were ready to repel the American invasion.
Cuban exiles landed on April 17, 1961, but were quickly routed.
On April 19, they surrendered to the victorious Castro forces.
If we have piqued your curiosity and you would like to know more about the failed Bay of Pigs invasion attempt, we recommend the book: A Shining Disaster, Fidel Castro, John Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs.
How to Get to the Bay of Pigs
The Bay of Pigs, in Spanish “Bahía de Cochinos”, is located in the Province of Matanzas, on the southern coast of Cuba.
From Havana, a Viazul bus serves Playa Larga and Playa Giron.
Count 13 CUC per person for about 3 hours of travel.
You can also inquire in your casa particular to book a collective cab.
But we recommend that you visit the Bay of Pigs from the colonial city of Cienfuegos.
There you can book a tour with the agencies Cubanacan or Havanatur.
You can also take a private cab.
For 60 CUC you can explore the Cueva de los Peces, Punta Perdiz, Playa Giron, Playa Larga and even Boca de Guama in the north of the Bay of Pigs.
If you are staying in Varadero, it is also possible to take a day trip to the Cienaga de la Zapata, which includes the Bay of Pigs.
We advise you to book your tour in advance.
How to Get around in the Bay of Pigs
Shuttles serve the main points of interest in the Cienaga de la Zapata, the Zapata Marsh, where the Bay of Pigs is located.
For 3 CUC per person per day, you can travel freely between Playa Larga, Playa Giron, Punta Perdiz, the Cueva de los Peces, Caleta Buena and Boca de Guama
What to do in the Bay of Pigs?
The Bay of Pigs is full of paradoxes! Sometimes magical, sometimes grimy, it has also been disfigured in places by large Soviet-style buildings.
Some heavenly spots have nevertheless been relatively well preserved from the crowds!
Playa Larga may be one of the most famous places of interest in the Bay of Pigs, but it is definitely not the one we recommend.
Very touristic, Playa Larga is very popular with foreigners as well as Cubans, who are not very aware of environmental issues.
The beach is therefore very often covered with people and garbage
Lined with large Soviet-style buildings, Playa Giron is unfortunately somewhat disfigured.
But you will find a museum presenting the attempted American landing in the Bay of Pigs from the Cuban point of view.
If the museum is sorely lacking in objectivity (as are all Cuban museums, the Museo de la Revolucion in Havana being at the top of the list), it is fascinating to discover the way Cubans look at this important moment in history.
La Cueva de los Peces
70 meters deep, the Cueva de los Peces is a flooded tectonic fault forming a natural pool about 100 meters from the beach.
It is possible to explore it with a mask and a snorkel, or to go diving.
The beach in front of the cueva is also very nice
If you like snorkeling and diving, we recommend a stop at Punta Perdiz.
For 15 CUC, you will have access to the beach as well as a buffet lunch and unlimited drinks.
On site, you will find a diving center, deck chairs and volleyball courts.
Caleta Buena is a group of natural pools connected to the sea.
As in Punta Perdiz, you will have to pay an entrance fee of 15 CUC which will entitle you to an all-you-can-eat lunch.
Caleta Buena is full of tropical fish that are not shy and are easily approached! On site, you will find a diving club where you can rent equipment or take diving lessons.
For 5 to 20 CUC, you can also get a massage!
Places to Visit Near the Bay of Pigs
Boca de Guama
Boca de Guama is a large tourist complex located at the north of the Bay of Pigs.
If the place lacks a little authenticity, Boca de Guama is still a nice excursion! Do not miss the boat cruise in the middle of the mangrove, in the Laguna del Tesoro.
Capital of the province of the same name, Cienfuegos is one of the most famous colonial cities in Cuba.
Its downtown area, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the bay lined with posh mansions are well worth a visit.