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Posted January 14, 2010 by publisher in Cuba Travel

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Rob Sequin | Havana Journal

To the west of the city of Havana is the Almendares river which divides the municipalities of Plaza de la Revolucion (containing Vedado) and Playa (containing Miramar). The article will describe what you will see as you drive West on First Avenue from Havana.

When you arrive at the Almendares river (as Vedado ends), you will come to the first of several beaches of the West, known locally as the Playas del Oeste.

Coming out of the tunnel under the Almendares river you will first come to “La Puntilla” beach which is really no more than a rocky coast at the mouth of the Almendares river. The area is a popular hang out for young people.

La Puntilla looking East

Next you will come to a pre-Castro social club called “Cristino Naranjo” now reserved today for the personnel of the MININT ministry (Police and Security). This is next to the famous Karl Marx theater (formerly Blanquita). The beach is small with an enclosed cove and a patch of artificial sand.

Cristino Naranjo

Further West is the popular “Playita 16”, not more than a rocky coast with some natural pools and concrete walkways and benches. Lately makeshift cafeterias catering the young crowd and beach goers. A gathering place for “Pepillos” or westernized youngsters fan of rock n roll and poetry. They like to go here after school.

At 20th street and First avenue you will find another social club, the “Armando Mestre” which is the swimming school for the INDER or Ministry of Sports.

Amando Mestre

At 34th street there used to be another popular beach, the “Playita 34” with crystal-clear water and a suitable depth for swimmers. At 36th street is the the “Marcelo Salado” social club that has been neglected by time and abandon but still a nice beach. Then you arrive at the first of the hotels of the West of Havana, the Copacabana, which was recently restored. It has a good swimming pool and access to the sea.

Then, almost at the end of the First avenue, we find the beaches of Monte Barreto, another beach area with concrete walkways and benches and, before the last hurricane, with some thatched umbrellas under which people could enjoy shade from the hot Cuban sun. The hotels Panorama, Triton and Melía Habana are world class hotels for wealthy tourists.

Nearby is the small and cozy Chateau-Miramar Hotel, a business hotel for conferences and business people visiting Havana. It has good facilities and a small pool on the sea side.

Chateau Miramar

Next is the Hotel Comodoro at 3rd avenue and 84th street which is a bungalow-style hotel that has been recently refurbished. It has several pools and facilities such as conference rooms, restaurants, a bar and cafeterias as well as a retail center with several department stores and boutiques.

Further West from the the hotels is the “Patricio Lumbumba” Social Club at 3rd avenue and 92nd street. This is reserved for the Army personnel in an elegant American-style building from the 1950s with good facilities for bathing and swimming on the open sea and a small but suitable patch of sand.

Patricio Lumbumba

Along the same street we find the José Luis Tasende Social Club used by the CIMEX Corporation which is the biggest retail store chain in Cuba and one of the main contributors of hard currency to the country. This club was formerly a nautical sports school of the INDER.

José Luis Tasende

At the end of 3rd avenue there is a small and popular beach, Playita 110 (as in 3rd ave and 110 street) featuring a noticeable mermaid tail. There are lots of rocks but the area is good for children.

Back on 5th avenue we come to the area formerly known as “Paradero de la Playa”, an area featuring many terminals for local buses. In pre-Castro days there were many nightclubs, restaurants and even brothels here. Many buildings are still here but run down. However, lately there has been an effort to revive the area. There is even a recently restored amusement park still named “Coney Island”. There are Chinese made merry-go-rounds, bumper cars and many other amusements for children.

Next to this is the “Concha” beach area with its Spanish style building reminiscent of more affluent times. It was a very popular beach but today is completely abandoned.

Concha beach Havana

The Havana Yacht Club is next door with its trademark green-tiled roof but it’s all run down now.

Havana Yacht Club

Adjacent to this is still the former “Casino Español”, a gathering place for Spanish immigrants and their families. It was famous for its tennis courts. Today it is called the “José Ramón Rodriguez” and used by workers of the Communication ministry.

The once famous “Nautico Club” is one of the most popular beaches on the coast with a good stretch of sand and restaurants and ballrooms. This is now reserved for the workers of the Transportation Ministry.

Following 5th avenue West you come to the nice suburb called “The Biltmore” with many elegant American-style houses with large gardens and courtyards.

The “Club Habana” is a complex of expensive stores, real-state developments for foreigners to rent apartments, restaurants, cafeterias, reception rooms, tennis courts and a good sand beach open to the sea. Its use is reserved for members who are mainly foreign residents and diplomats who pay a yearly fee to enjoy the facilities. There is also a famous Casa del Habanos cigar shop here.

Club Habana

Following the same avenue that turns into a two-lane coastal road is the small town of Jaimanitas, formerly a fishing town, today is just a suburb of the city and home to a large population of people who have a hard time connecting with Havana because there is only one bus line. The “Marcelo Salado” social club offers a small beach and other facilities.

Marcelo Salado

Five miles further West is the “Panamerican” road leading to the port of Mariel. The ruins of the “Salado” beach which once had a deep draft marina yachts, was also the site of a camping area with small bungalows, a restaurant and dance hall. Today, like most areas, it is in a very dilapidated state after suffering the attacks of several hurricanes, the constant weathering from salt air and total human neglect.  SER

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