Even though the provincial capital of GUANTÁNAMO is only on the tourist map because of its proximity to the US Guantánamo naval station, 22km southeast, the base plays a very small part in the everyday life of the town itself. For the most part, this is a slow-paced place marked by a few ornate buildings, attractive but largely featureless streets and an easy-going populace. Most visitors bypass it altogether, and those who don’t tend to use it simply as a stepping-stone to the naval base and attractions further afield. However, it’s worth visiting the Casa del Changüí, where changüí genre (a country music which predates son) is nurtured and performed, or taking in a performance by the Tumba Francesa Pompadour, an Afro–Haitian cultural and dance group.
Many visitors come to the Guantánamo area just to see the US base, but although you can get to the lookout point in Caimanera with a little groundwork, there really isn’t a lot to see, as you cannot enter the base itself – or barely see it at all from Cuban territory. Venturing into the countryside around Guantánamo town is more rewarding, with bizarre contrasts between lush valleys and the weird desert scenery of sun-bleached barren trees. Just north of town is the offbeat Zoológico de Piedras, a “zoo” entirely populated by sculpted stone animals.