Stranded out on the far side of the westernmost province in Cuba at the end of the autopista, PINAR DEL RÍO is, quite simply, a backwater of a city. Close to some more alluring destinations – particularly Viñales, just 25km to the north, but also María La Gorda and the beaches Boca de Galafre and Playa Bailén to the south – the city works best as a base for exploring this half of the province. Despite its 125,000-strong population, Pinar del Río has the feel of a much smaller place, its central streets more reminiscent of a residential neighbourhood than a town centre.
Despite being the capital of the province, Pinar del Río is comparatively undeveloped for tourism: none of the international or upmarket hotel chains is represented here, nightlife is limited and dining options and the museums could do with a rethink. On the other hand, countless casas particulares are spread all over the city. You’ll need no more than a couple of days to get to know the place inside out, and in fact very few visitors spend even that long here. The highlight is the Fábrica de Tabacos Francisco Donatién, a diminutive cigar factory offering illuminating tours, while the Cabaret Rumayor offers a taste of classic Cuban entertainment whose extravagance feels somewhat out of place in this less-than-cosmopolitan town. If you do find yourself here for any length of time you’re probably best spent seeking out a paladar or casa particular to suit your taste and retreating to one of these, or lounging around the pool and grounds of the Hotel Pinar del Río, away from the attentions of the jineteros.Read More
Pinar del Río’s jineteros
Pinar del Río’s jineteros
Pinar del Río could not be described as a tranquil city, thanks to the increasingly aggressive nature and disproportionately large number of jineteros who thrive here away from the attentions of the state, which generally focuses on Havana and the more popular tourist locations. As a result, levels of pestering and prostitution are surprisingly high. Foreign visitors, particularly those in rental cars or on Víazul buses, are often surrounded by touts within minutes of arrival and are likely to attract what can become a tiring level of persistent attention throughout their time in the city.
The problem is particularly tiresome when you’re looking for accommodation. Some jineteros have adopted particularly aggressive techniques, going as far as following you to the door of a house and claiming that no one lives there or that it’s full, just as the owner approaches to let you in. With this in mind, be careful if asking directions, particularly from young men who offer to take you to the address. Many house owners have complained of touts demanding commission even when the guests have actually arrived independently. If you got there on your own, make it clear to the house owner that you did not get their address from a tout; it can also help to let the tout know you will be doing this.