10 Reasons to Visit Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs)

Bay of Pigs - April 2014

Bay of Pigs – April 2014

If you travel to Cuba, the famous Bahia de Cochinos or Bay of Pigs is sure to surprise you. Located about 70 kilometers west of Cienfuegos and 150 kilometers southeast of Havana, this remarkably overlooked treasure features secluded, mostly private and completely isolated beaches, some of the most spectacular coral reefs in the Caribbean and access to the biologically and horticulturally stimulating Zapata Peninsula. A day or two at Bahia de Cochinos will reveal Cuba as not only the largest Caribbean island but its most diverse island, filled with history and natural beauty in an intimate backdrop. The Bahia de Cochinos is one of those unspoiled vistas you always imagined existed but could never find.

1. The Bay of Pigs is 30 kilometers south of Jagüey Grande. Some of the most spectacular coral reefs in the Caribbean border the Zapata Swamp. The reefs at Bahia de Cochinos often seem like they are just a few feet from the white, sandy beaches.

Isla Cochinos

Isla Cochinos

2. The east side of the bay features mangroves that hang over the water before giving way to more swampland on the north and further east. On the north end of the bay sits Playa Larga (Long Beach) and the fishing village of Buena Ventura.

3. Southeast of Playa Larga is Playa Giron (Giron Beach) and the village by the same name. The beach and village bear the name of the notorious French pirate Gilberto Giron (1604) who operated from this base for many years. At Playa Giron, the reefs are filled with an array of marine life and are just yards from the beach, an easy swim to a marine paradise. Large populations of stoplight parrotfish, groupers and porcupine fish swim fluidly amidst the neon-hued tube sponges. In other Caribbean islands, reefs are fished out and polluted, definitely not the case at Bahia de Cochinos.

Playa Giron

Playa Giron

4. The sense of isolation at Bahia de Cochinos is surreal, especially considering it is such an historic landmark. On other Caribbean islands, the shores would be dotted with hotels, the beaches filled with sunbathers, the reefs crowded with snorkelers and the waters overfished and undersupplied. This is not the case at Bahia de Cochinos, where you are more likely to be the sole guest – just one more reason to visit Cuba before floodgates of tourists from the states arrive.

5. On April 17, 1961, Playa Giron and Playa Larga were the two landing sites for CIA backed seaborne forces of Cuban exiles. The battle, known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, was an attempt to overthrow the new Prime Minister Fidel Castro whose Communist agenda included nationalizing American interests on the island. The failed invasion lasted 72 hours and along with other twists and turns led to years of mistrust between the two nations.

Bay of Pigs Today

Bay of Pigs Today

6. The Bahia de Cochinos is off the Gulf of Cazones on Cuba’s southern coast. By 1910, it was part of the Santa Clara Province. In 1961, it was re-designated part of Las Villas Province only to be assigned to Matanzas Province in 1976. The Bahia de Cochinos is sure to see a dramatic rise in interest when the embargo is ended and American tourists flock to Cuba’s shores.

7. At the village of Giron, a well presented museum offers insight into the 72-hour invasion. A downed seaplane is the centerpiece but there are many works of art and much authentic military equipment that give the visitor a good sense of how Bahia de Cochinos played out in mid-April 1961.

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8. Playa Giron is regarded by many as the pearl of the area. The quaint fishing village is remarkably unspoiled but resides on one of the largest wetlands in the world, the Cienaga de Zapata (Zapata Swamp). Unlike other “discovered” waters of the Caribbean, the fishing off Playa Giron remains vibrantly productive. Interested in fishing while in Cuba? Contact Dave or Yordi at Info@travelguidecuba.com to find out how and where to go.

9. Silvio Rodriquez, a noted Cuban folksinger, composed song, entitled Playa Giron, which was dedicated to the fishermen of the village, where the singer worked on a fishing boat from 1969 to 1970. Later, Rodriquez wrote another song entitled Prelude Giron which pertains to the invasion.

Museum Playa Giron

Museum Playa Giron

10 – Cuba has 2,500 miles of coral reefs, nearly one third of all the coral reefs in the Caribbean. At the Bay of Pigs, the reefs rank as one of the best in the region and still offer the occasional sea turtle, manatee and large game fish that populated the Caribbean 100 years ago. Bahia de Cochinos is one of the most pristine settings and reefs in the Caribbean and should be a “can’t miss” destination for nature lovers and divers.

Contact Dave or Yordi at Info@travelguidecuba.com to customize your People to People Cuba tour. Travelguidcuba.com is not a licensed People-to-People tour provider but works closely with licensed providers. Complete Cuba People-to-People tour is licensed (CT-2013-299822-1) by the United States Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to engage, organize and conduct authorized people-to-people travel to Cuba that engages participants in meaningful interactions with individuals in Cuba.

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