Do you enjoy taking a ride on a rollercoaster? If so, you will enjoy the drive up to the El Nicho Waterfalls Cuba. The road is reportedly much better than it used to be, but you wouldn’t want to imagine just how it used to be. Sharp curves will have you bouncing in your seat, lurching from side to side as you say a silent thank you to the inventor of the seat belt. Most excursions to this resplendent slice of Cuban countryside leave from Cienfuegos (a town of 150,000 people, a little over 2.5 hours from Havana by car) and the ride to the waterfalls should take around two hours.
It’s an exciting two hours though, and while El Nicho is unlikely to be the highest set of waterfalls you’ll ever encounter, there’s an undeniable tranquility here, even during the warmer months when you will have to share the area with a fair few other people who had the same idea. So what can you expect when you come to El Nicho (aside from that memorable drive)?
A Natural Water Park
The El Nicho Waterfalls Cuba is kind of like a natural version of a water park. There is a small entrance fee (which is covered by the price of some tours), and there are even a number of small bars and kiosks selling basic yet delicious food, and also a wide array of drinks (which is really a shock when you’re in Cuba).
The focus is on the series of small waterfalls and the swimming in the natural pools they feed into, but there are also a number of nature hikes in the countryside around the falls themselves. It’s not what you could consider to be a difficult walk, since there are only around 1.5 km of paths here.
Arrive Early in the Day to Avoid the Crowds
The main swimming pool (with the highest waterfall) is higher up the slope, and unfortunately it gets rather crowded during the peak summer period. There will be a mixture of visitors and locals, all looking to cool off from that famous sultry Cuban heat. You can find tranquility here, but in the summer months you can generally only do so if you make an effort to arrive early in the morning (or even later in the evening).
The El Nicho Waterfalls Cuba are popular for a reason, although this popularity can be seen as a downside if you’re trying to enjoy the main swimming pool on a busy day. But don’t worry, you have some other options.
Your Choice of Swimming Location at the El Nicho Waterfalls Cuba
Make your way down the slope, following the water as it cascades downwards. There’s a path, and the area is not so large, so you’ll easily find your way. There are two (smaller) pools further down from the main pool, and these are generally less crowded than their larger counterpart. It allows you to cool off and enjoy the beauty of the area without having to share your space. But all the swimming areas are large enough, so you will certainly be able to find your own quiet corner in one of them.
Please Be Careful While Exploring
Cuba is gloriously undeveloped in many areas, and this is part of its undeniable charm. This is also evident when you visit the El Nicho Waterfalls Cuba, particularly when climbing upwards. The paths (and steps) are often carved directly into the rock, and they can become slippery.
So please exercise caution when you’re exploring, and some portions of the park might not be suitable if you have any mobility issues.
Eating and Drinking
While there are limited facilities in the park, there are a few things you need to take care of yourself. So really what we’re saying is that you need to be sure to bring your swimsuit and a towel. Some mosquito repellant is also extremely wise, and please remember that this is difficult to track down in Cuba (so pack some in your suitcase). You don’t need to bring food or drinks unless you want to.
The dining facilities close to the El Nicho Waterfalls Cuba are refreshing in that their prices are very reasonable. When there’s a captive market, prices tend to move upwards, but this is happily not the case here. There are also a number of eateries located outside the entrance to the park.
Refreshing… But Cold
A word of warning about the El Nicho Waterfalls and swimming pools. Yes, the water is crystal clear and looks awfully tempting on a hot day, and you will certainly cool off, because that water is cold. The water is constantly in motion, meaning that it doesn’t have a chance to be warmed by the sun as other bodies of water can be.
Even the warm ocean currents mean that the sea is going to be warmer than the waterfalls here (and you’re in Cuba, so it’s practically a given that you’re going to take a dip in the sea). So really what we’re saying is that you perhaps shouldn’t jump straight into the water after hiking through the park. It might seem like a good idea, but it can be quite a shock to your system. It’s better to ease yourself into the cold, refreshing waters. You’re going to be very happy that you did.
Isolated and Beautiful
The El Nicho Waterfalls are not exactly a hidden secret (as you can notice during the summer months) and yet they offer a glimpse of Cuban nature that many visitors don’t get to see. It’s a little off the beaten track, but this isolation gives it an added beauty, like you’re going somewhere that none of your friends or family will even know about. Yes, the ride out there can feel a little bit daunting, but it’s certainly worth the effort. And that car drive up and down the winding roads that lead to the waterfalls is an adventure in itself!
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