The area of the Bay of Pigs is an extensive low land peninsula consisting of marshy forest and beaches. Though there are a few villages and agricultural activity is going on it is mainly a nature park open for tourism. Historically the Bay of Pigs is known for the failed attack in April 1961 by US sponsored forces against the young Cuban Revolution. The name comes from colonial times when pirates used the area to hunt pigs for food. The remote and uninhabited area had a renowned presence wild pigs or boars that were easily hunted without being caught by the Spanish authorities.
The attraction of this remote and extensive area is for the low forest nature parks where you can hike, observe birds and swim in the many natural ponds. There are a few nice beaches but foremost it is snorkeling and diving that attracts most visitors. On several spots along the bay you can just dive in the water from the shore and be surrounded by reefs, tropical fish and even find sunken ships and planes. It is one of the top spots for diving in Cuba and very easy without the need of a boat. The atmosphere is very low key as there are no big all-inclusive resorts, just a few 3 stars hotels and many locals renting rooms.
The underwater world
In front of the coast of the Bay of Pigs you find impressive coral reefs, many tropical fish and wrecks of ships and planes. The current is here very low so you can just jump in the water from the coastline and discover it all. There are several centers where they have the necessary conditions like Playa Larga, Punta Perdiz, Cueva de los Peces, Playa Giron and Caleta Buena. You can get the equipment for snorkeling or diving and professional personnel is present for assistance. It is one of the top diving spots in Cuba.
The peninsula consists of marshland and low forest. There are several trails that take you through the forest so you can discover it. We recommend the trail near Playa Giron “Enigma de las Rocas” that leads to a hidden cenote or natural pond where you can swim in the cool water.
Some of the marshland are infested with crocodiles, specifically the Cuban caiman. They are quite shy and rarely come out of the water so they are not a real danger to man. In some places there are farms that breed them. It is under scientific protection and the purpose is the meat and skin of the animals. You can visit the 2 farms at Boca de Guama and see these impressive creatures from up close but with the necessary protection.
This is one of the top birds watching spots in Cuba thanks to the extensive parks with several kinds of vegetation that gives a habitat to many kinds of birds. The most famous one is the zunzun or smallest bird in the world of the Colibri family. But there are many stationary and even endemic birds, migratory birds. The Park Laguna Las Salinas is famous for flamingos. On the Treasure Lake you find many water birds. Other places are the Hatiguanico river or at the Bermejas trail and the Park San Thomas. Go with a local guide who can spot the birds in the thick forest.
Route of the Battle of the Bay of Pigs
In April 1961 a group of Cuban exiles, trained by the US government, invaded the Bay of Pigs as it was then a remote area. During 3 days battle was waged on the beaches of Playa Giron and Playa Larga. The Revolutionary forces prevailed and Fidel Castro called it the first victory against American Imperialism on Latin-American soil. In the area you find many monuments reminding the battles. In Playa Giron there is an interesting museum.
Treasure Island Boat Trip
In Boca de Guama you can take a boat trip on the Treasure Lake. In this area in pre-Columbian times an Indian tribe lived peacefully. They supposedly kept a treasure of gold but when the Spanish chased them, they threw it in the lake. The Spanish never found it but called the lake after it. You can do a boat trip on it and it takes you to few islands that have an exposition of how the Indians lived there before the Spanish. There is also a hotel there consisting of wooden bungalows on the water connected by bridges.
Some areas in the Bay of Pigs are great for fishing. As it is a nature park you have to fish under the principle of “catch and throw” so you only catch the fish and then throw it back into the water. Especially the areas of shallow water like at the end of Parque Las Salinas or the mouth of the Hatiguanico river are great. There are professional teams working with the necessary equipment, licenses and boats.
Sleeping in the house of a local
Though some beaches are really nice like Playa Giron and Playa Larga there are no top hotels of international brands operating in the area. No mass all-inclusive hotels at all, only small low-key beach hotels. To fill the gap many locals in the fishermen’s villages of Playa Larga and Playa Giron upgraded their houses a bit and rent rooms to visitors. The quality beats the other hotels in the area and it is a great experience to share life so up-close with the locals. Some houses have direct access to a beach and nothing beats a breakfast with the sea right in front of you.