Yes, it was quite the fiasco back in 1961 when the Kennedy administration attempted and failed to overthrow Cuba and Fidel. Now to our amusement the former Bay of Pigs battle site is home to Cuba’s most accessible dive sites. Although not the best dives in the country, its accessibility and low cost ($25 per dive, all equipment included) made it too hard to pass up. The premier dive sites in Cuba are Isla de la Juventud and Maria la Gorda, but they require too much time and money to get there. Diving in the Bay of Pigs it was!
Rather than taking the 8-hour $32 Viazul bus from Viñales to Playa Larga, we took a 5-hour $38 shared taxi from Viñales to Playa Giron instead. Saving 3 hours was fantastic, but we wondered if sacrificing comfort (crammed shoulder-to-shoulder with other passengers without air conditioning and loud, shitty music) was worth it, not to mention a shady taxi driver who repeatedly lied to our faces and attempted to scam us upon dropping us off.
Aside from our less-than-stellar transportation to Playa Giron, diving at Playa Giron could not have been easier! After quick inquiry at The International Scuba Center at Villa Play Giron, we were told to just show up the next morning at 8:30 and everything would be taken care of. A giant bus filled with divers and snorkelers ended up picking us up at our casa the next morning (courtesy of a phone call from casa hosts) and more than 20 of us showed up at the scuba center by 9. We all lined up, paid for our dives, and quickly received our dive equipment. While we waited we learned that dive experience was not even necessary to scuba dive! For first-timers, they would give a brief intro prior to getting into the ocean. Because they wouldn’t descend more than 8 meters, we figured it wasn’t such a terrible idea and was perhaps the cheapest intro-to-scuba lesson in the world.
The drop-off 30 meters from shore that stretches 30 km from Playa Larga to Playa Giron sounds much more exciting in writing, but was nothing compared to the world-famous dropoff in Sipadan, Malaysia. Like a gentle stroll in a park, we enjoyed observing the small coral and fish, but it was far from spectacular. Perhaps we were jaded due to our dives with sharks in the Galapagos only three weeks prior. =P
Other areas of interest in the tiny town of Playa Giron included our favorite pizza shack, conveniently located on the dusty main road. $6 CUP (25¢ USD) for a fluffy, cheese pizza or $8 CUP (33¢ USD) for a fluffy cheese and ham pizza FTW!
Although slightly propragandic, the Museo de Playa Giron was also worth checking out for a quick lesson about Cuba and the Revolution. A number of vessels used in battle were displayed outside.
Shortages are a part of everyday life even in the major cities in Cuba, and it was more frustratingly so in the tiny Playa Giron. Fruit cart vendors were easy to find in Havana, and a bit more difficult to find in Viñales. However, they were nonexistent in Playa Giron. After a futile attempt to find fruit, I asked my casa host where she bought produce. The sad answer was from a truck that came into town only twice per week. Upon our departure from town I stumbled upon this biweekly truck on the main road, and even then, the sad pile of fruits and vegetables were extremely limited. Still, there were more locals walking about and riding their bikes than usual as they needed their fill on fresh foods.
Getting out of the Bay of Pigs seemed hit or miss, as there was no Viazul office or a large concentration of tourists in town. Our only option was a rip-off taxi ride with unmotivated drivers, or loitering near Villa Playa Giron between 10-11am in hope that the Viazul bus from Havana to Trinidad (or vice versa) had space. At exactly 10:30am a Viazul bus bound for Trinidad showed up, and miraculously everyone from the small crowd of tourists was able to find a vacant seat in the bus. 2 hours and $12 later we arrived to Trinidad.