Holguin is just as beautiful as it was when Christopher Colombus landed there in 1492, with its stunning white sand beaches, colonial architecture, and resorts. Most tourists flying into Holguin's Frank País Airport have transportation arranged through their travel agent; however, consider a good cheap car rental through Skyscanner.
Arrival in Holguin
Contrary to popular belief, all the rental cars are relatively new international brands, not 1950s American automobiles. It may help to know how to drive a stick shift. Book in advance — demand exceeds supply. The car rental companies at the former military airport are Cubacar, Rex, Havanautos, and Via Rent-a-Car Transgaviota. Prices vary and insurance is mandatory. Car rental offices are in the Arrivals hall or outside parking.
Driving in Holguin
GPS devices are illegal, so a map is required. The best (albeit hard to find) map is Guia de Carreteras; ask around at the airport, the rental car office, or purchase online. The airport is 8 miles southwest of Holguin.
Road conditions are unpredictable but not impassable. In the rural areas, roads are used for everything except driving a car, and signs are non-existent. Rental cars have a red background plate, identifying the driver as a tourist. Night driving is not recommended. Knowledge of Spanish is extremely helpful.
Rental cars typically use 94 octane fuel, which is not available everywhere. Most cars will do fine with 90 octane fuel. Credit cards are scarce; most gas stations are cash-only.
Parking is easy to find, and the locals will be glad to help for a modest tip ̶ guides recommend one Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC).
Hitchhiking is common, especially outside Havana. When asking locals for directions, it is expected that a ride will be offered in return.
What to See and Do in Holguin
Tourists who book with Skyscanner have Holguin as their playground. Swim with the rescued dolphins at the Dolphinarium in Cayo Naranja, where visitors can enjoy a dolphin show, a sea-lion show, and a lobster lunch.
Drive up Loma de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross), which rises 856 feet above sea level and prominently features a cross believed to protect city residents from natural disasters, plague, and witchcraft.
Visit Alejandro de Humboldt National Park, which the UN designated a World Heritage Site in 2001. Named after the German scientist Alexander von Humboldt, who visited the island in the early 1800s, the park stretches almost 275 square miles.
Guardalavaca is a 45-minute drive away. The former pirate hangout is home to several craft vendor markets, where shoppers can find anything from sundresses to clocks shaped like rum bottles. It is recommended that shoppers buy what they like when they find it as vendors change daily!
After an unforgettable time in Cuba draws to a close, there are a few things to know. First, make sure to have the first half of the tourist card, or face a lengthy and difficult replacement process. The departure tax is included in the price of the trip. Finally, Americans should know the current travel laws to Cuba or risk a hefty fine from the Department of the Treasury.