The fast growth of Cuba's leisure industry, which has become a key sector in the national economy, is based on numerous natural, historical and cultural attractions throughout the largest Antillean Island.
Hundreds of kilometers of excellent beaches, and the Island's exuberant and pristine nature are combined with centuries-old traditions that have survived the passage of time in numerous towns and cities all over Cuba.
In central Cuba, Santa Clara - the capital of the province of Villa Clara - stands out as a region of legends and history, conveyed by monuments and centuries-old buildings that complement its tourist offers for thousands of vacationers visiting that territory every year.
Despite numerous stories about the city's origin, research links the city's foundation to economic reasons. The new settlement was founded in July 1689 in the Ciego de Santa Clara farm, which belonged to Antonio Díaz y de Pavia.
As in the cases of most Cuban cities, Santa Clara's development had its center in the Arm's Square, which was later called El Recreo Park, and it is currently known as the Leoncio Vidal Park.
Declared a National Monument in the late 1990's, the said square holds major monuments that honor several events that took place during the wars of independence in the largest Antillean Island over a century ago.
Santa Clara residents have carefully preserved the original names of the city's neighborhoods, as reminders of over 300 years of history.
The Leoncio Vidal Park, a must for travelers arriving in the city, is surrounded by buildings of great relevance, such as the José Martí Library, where General Máximo Gómez gave a speech in 1899.
Another major building surrounding the square is the Santa Clara Libre Hotel, which opened in 1956 as Santa Clara's tallest edifice. It is a sort of lookout from where guests can enjoy the city's splendor, and it serves vacationers visiting the provincial capital as a reference.
In 1885, La Caridad Theater was built where La Candelaria Chapel, the village's first temple, had been constructed in 1696 by the initiative of Father Juan de Conyedo.
The city's tourist offers are complemented by the Menjunje, a rustic cultural facility with bar, Cuban traditional music, theater, shows for children and art exhibits, and a meeting place for intellectuals and artists from all over the country.
A modern Boulevard, characterized by the constant coming and going of city dwellers and visitors, is the most recent contribution to Santa Clara, where vacationers can also visit the Memorial dedicated to Ernesto Che Guevara, also known as the Heroic Guerrilla, at a square named after the world-known Argentinean-Cuban hero.