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Guardalavaca is a historic location that features some of the most popular and spectacular beaches in all of Cuba. Many visitors to Guardalavaca and the surrounding beaches believe the water is the bluest and the sand the whitest in all the Caribbean.

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Tourism is relatively new to this area, located outside the beautiful, historic city of Holguín in the Holguin Provence on Cuba’s southeastern coast. Holguin and Guardalavaca are relatively new to the tourist industry. Many of the hotels are first-rate, new and prepared to cater to Canadians, Europeans and US People-to-People excursions.

Hotel in Guardalavaca

Holguin Province is the country’s third most populous province after Havana and Santiago de Cuba. The city is the capital of the province and in 2011 had a population of 346,191. The population of the province presently exceeds 1 million persons.

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For centuries, the region thrived on its prolific agricultural activities. Sugarcane fields, harvesting and manufacturing centers still dominate the economy. However, 25 percent of the province is marked by forests and protects a wide number of wildlife species.

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It is believed that Christopher Columbus first landed in the Americas on October 27, 1492 in what is today Holguin province, near the beach town of Guardalavaca, where a statue commemorates his landing. Columbus promptly remarked that he had discovered, “The most beautiful country human eyes had ever seen.”

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People who visit the area regularly do not disagree with Columbus’ initial reaction. This is a peaceful, healthy area where residents enjoy long life expectancies and where beachgoers thrive. Very few visitors depart these beaches and do not yearn to return.

San José Church

The city offers colonial architecture and several interesting plazas in the traditional Spanish urban plan of the 16th and 17th centuries. Two prominent hotels near Guardalavaca are the Playa Pesquero and Cayo Saeitia. Fortunately, Travelguidecuba’s roaming photographer visited these areas just last week.

Memorial, to Christopher Columbus

Memorial, to Christopher Columbus

The original town was founded in 1545 and named San Isidoro de Holguín after its founder Captain García Holguín, a Spanish military officer. Tourist can fly directly into the Frank País International Airport. A stone’s throw from the beaches are wonderful buildings, libraries, the Casa de La Trova music house, a baseball field and several art galleries. In this area, there is always something to do when on or off the beach.

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The origin of the name Guardalavaca is a controversial and mired in folklore. Literally, Guardalavaca means “Guard the cow.” Locals report that when pirates raided the area in the early 17th century farmers passed this warning from farm to farm. However, historians question this theory and instead presume that Guardalavaca was a mispronunciation for Guardalbanca which means, “Guard the ship.” The Cuban government has attempted to change the name several times but residents have refused.

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The Bahia de Naranjo is just outside Guardalavaca. With its naturally shallow waters, the bay was a favorite landing site for rampaging pirate raiders who plundered the farms and made off with their booty.
Today, the Cuchillos del Toa Biosphere Reserve in the Sierra Cristal National Park and the Alejandro de Humboldt National Park are partially located in Holguin province. These parks are home to some of the island’s many endemic wildlife populations.

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Holguin Province, the city and the surrounding beaches are off the beaten path of most People-to-People tours but if you think you might be interested in a custom tour of these areas, there is plenty to see, do and enjoy. If you choose to arrive at the international airport, you can quickly establish temporary accommodations at a good hotel and be on your way to an unforgettable experience.

Interested in recommendations about customized travel and tour arrangements in Cuba? Please contact Dave or Yordi at Info@travelguidecuba.com for more information about tours to this unforgettable destination. 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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