Whilst Havana gains all the plaudits for its lively nightlife, and Trinidad hogs the headlines when it comes to architecture and colonial history, Santiago de Cuba is the real beating heart of the country. The city is the most African of Cuba's main destinations; this is reflected in the diversity of the music (much more than merely salsa) and in the presence of the Santeria religion, a mixture of Catholicism and African religions devised by sugar plantation slaves.
The city lives and breathes music and you won't be able to sit still for more than five minutes before you are being serenaded by a bunch of Buena Vista Social Club lookalikes. Santiago de Cuba is a pleasant blend of the modern and the traditional, and there are a wider than usual range of shops in the city, which is handy for the independent traveler. The main square is flanked by the Cathedral, the oldest house in Cuba, a couple of Colonial hotels with excellent bars, and the town hall. It is also full of cigar salesmen, wandering musicians, taxi drivers, and touts of all sorts! It's a great city in which to wander and take in Cuban life, watch the old men playing dominoes, go for a ride in a fifties Chevrolet, watch a baseball game, drink a Cuba Libre or a Bucanero beer, and absorb the ebb and flow of Cuban life.
You may find the style of hostels in Santiago de Cuba (and the rest of the country as a whole) a little different from elsewhere around the world; here, beds are provided in private homes. The casas (as they are known) provide a real chance to see how local people live and will provide breakfast and, often will offer other meals that may be of a higher quality than some of the state restaurants. They are really good resources to find out about the local area and can often make recommendations for similar establishments in other towns making them a really useful resource.
Hi, I'm Howellsey,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Santiago de Cuba hostels. Welcome.