I’ll admit—it took a few days of frolicking on the 22 kilometres of beach and eating the non-stop supply of churros (which I quickly decided was God’s gift to my mouth) at my plushy Cayo Coco resort before I wanted to break free.
It was high time, I decided, to leave the confines of my resort and venture into another side of Cuba—the town of Morón.
Away from the shimmering turquoise water, sprawling resorts, and sun-soaked beaches of Cayo Coco, Morón is easily recognizable by the giant bronze rooster that stands guard.
That stately rooster celebrates Morón’s nickname—Ciudad del Gallo (or City of the Rooster)—alluding to a legend from the original town of Moron, in Seville, Spain.
Founded by Spanish settlers in the 16th century, the town is heavily steeped in history and culture. Like visiting many of Cuba’s colonial towns, going to Morón is like travelling back in time.
Open Carriage Rides
My visit to Morón started with an open-carriage ride through part of the town. As I looked around me, I secretly wished I had a better camera.
The streets were lined with aging Spanish Colonial buildings, and the history-lovin’ nerd within me was in heaven!
I wanted to get out of the carriage and explore the town, and when our chariot finally stopped, I did just that.
Walking the streets of Morón was another eye-opener. It was a small window into what life in a communist country is truly like.
In Morón, you socialize! It was an odd feeling to walk into an empty shop because its workers are down the street talking with friends.
Mixed in with shoe stores and clothing shops were shops no bigger than a closet—their owners selling wares specifically made for tourists.
Either way, shopkeepers are generally friendly (as all Cubans are, right?) and must have been taught to kill ‘em with kindness. It’s a fabulous sales tool that I fell for many times over.
Museo de Arqueología e Historia
Once you’ve satisfied your shopping addiction, a visit to Museo de Arqueología e Historia is a must.
Breathing in the musty smell of the museum, I loved poring over the aging artifacts that explore Indo Cuban and Meso-American archaeology as well as the archaeology and history of the city.
The museum is open from Monday to Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (though it may be open later on certain days). Entry fee is CUC$1, or about $1.10 in Canadian currency.
The Railway Station
Circa 1923, the railway station is a fabulous stop for history buffs like myself.
I loved the hand-painted schedule boards and old ticket wickets.
Stepping into the neo-classical railway station is an old-world experience. The only thing that has changed in the last 87 years are the workers themselves.
I quickly embraced the laid-back, carefree attitude and relished in opportunities to interact with locals.
As I walked through the square, I stopped to speak with a man sitting on a bench, his bright, friendly smile making me feel at home instantly.
I spoke English; he spoke Spanish. Neither of us could understand the other.
He smelled like a combination of tobacco and old leather, his face was scruffy and slightly aged. Our conversation consisted mostly of hand gestures and smiles, and in my experience, those kinds of conversations leave an even deeper impression on me.
It was as though the world around us had melted away.
He would show me Cuban money, say something in Spanish and smile. I would examine whatever he offered me and laugh along with him.
My time in Morón was short, too short. I wanted to explore the town more.
I loved watching the horse and buggies wander down the street and catching the occasional glimpse of classic cars.
Getting to Morón
Morón is about a 50-minute drive from many of the Cayo Coco resorts.
You can take a state taxi from Cayo Coco to Moron for about $25 each way.
Alternatively, tours with local tour operators can be booked through your resort.
Carriage Photo: lvroberts
Three Places to Go if You Really Love Books
In honour of National Novel Writing Month this November, an annual event where participants attempt to write a manuscript in 30 days, consider taking a literary-inspired vacation to Jamaica, England or Cuba to learn about Ian Fleming, Jane Austen or Ernest Hemingway.