White sand, palm trees, coral reef… At first glance, Playa Giron is a Cuban beach like many others.
And yet, it is one of the most famous places in Cuba! Why, you may ask?
Because it is in Playa Giron that one of the most important pages of Cuban history was written.
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Playa Giron in a few words
Playa Giron is located in the province of Matanzas, east of the mythical Bay of Pigs.
The beach was indeed the scene of a key moment of the Cold War.
On April 17, 1961, Cuban exiles (“mercenaries” according to the Castro regime) armed and trained by the CIA landed at Playa Giron in an attempt to overthrow the Castro regime.
But Fidel Castro (who had been informed beforehand of the Americans’ plans) repelled the invasion.
This Cuban victory marks a key moment in the history of the country and the Cold War.
It is also the only (almost) direct confrontation between Cuba and the United States since the independence of the island.
But the attempted American invasion of the Bay of Pigs is not the only bloody event in the history of Playa Giron.
The beach is named after the French pirate Gilbert Giron who was beheaded there in the early 17th century for having attempted to plunder and pillage the area.
How to get to Playa Giron
Playa Giron is located on the southern coast of Cuba, about 80 kilometers west of Cienfuegos.
The Viazul bus does not stop there.
But it does stop at Playa Larga, 35 kilometers north of Playa Giron, from where you can take a cab or the shuttle bus that runs on the Bay of Pigs.
Otherwise, if you don’t plan to spend the night at Playa Giron, you can rent a cab for the day from Cienfuegos.
For about 60 CUC, you can make an excursion to the Cueva de los Peces and Playa Giron, and even go as far as Punta Perdiz.
What to do in Playa Giron?
Let’s just say that Playa Giron, with its spartan, Soviet-style buildings, does not exactly exude charm.
But that doesn’t mean that you should simply banish it from your itinerary.
Because behind its austere and outdated appearance, Playa Giron does have a few assets!
Diving at Playa Giron
With a dozen or so spots nearby, Playa Giron is a classic stop for diving enthusiasts.
A diving center (located at the Hotel Playa Giron) will allow you to rent equipment or organize excursions in the area.
The Bay of Pigs Museum
Castro’s regime obliges, the Bay of Pigs Museum – like all museums in Cuba – is sorely lacking in objectivity (the Museum of the Revolucion in Havana is not bad in this respect either).
With letters, objects and videos, the Museum recounts the famous failed attempt of the CIA to land in the Bay of Pigs in April 1961.
Although all the information provided must be taken with care, the Museum has the merit of presenting from the Cuban point of view a history that we know mainly through Western sources.
It is fascinating to see how much this episode has marked Cuban history and nourished Castro’s rhetoric!
Explore the surroundings of Playa Giron
Don’t stop at Playa Giron, the surroundings are also worth a visit: -Cienfuegos -Punta Perdiz -La Cueva de los Peces -Playa Larga -Boca de Guama