Havana’s Tunnel

Any visitor to Havana from Varadero cannot help but notice that, shortly after the skyline of Havana appears on the horizon, you are submerged underneath the bay in a tunnel that is clearly a relic of the mid-twentieth century. Linking the historic forts on the eastern bank with the ornate Spanish architecture in the Old City, the Túnel de La Habana (Havana’s Tunnel) or the Túnel de la Bahía (the Bay’s Tunnel) would be forgettable if not for the eerie feeling that you get when you wonder how well the tunnel is kept up. But the tunnel has had a fascinating history, bringing locals and foreigners alike to the great city of Havana for over fifty years. Indeed, before the tunnel, people had to travel approximately 25 kilometers around Guanabacoa to cross the harbour whereas now it only takes driver 45 seconds traveling at a speed of 60 kph to reach the other side.

While the 733 meter-long tunnel was built between 1957 and 1958 by the French company French Societé des Grand Travaux de Marseille, the excavation work was conducted by the Cuban company Perforadora Panamericana owned and operated by Cuban engineers Gerardo and Fernando Pérez Puelles. In 2000, the tunnel’s maintenance was taken over by the Vinci Group, the leading construction company worldwide.

Although cars from the 1950s still pass through the tunnel every day, vehicles of all kind have used it. During the difficult times of the so-called Special Period in the 1990s when public transportation deteriorated to such an extent, Chinese bicycles and ciclobús –buses without any seats that transported bikes and riders across the bay via the tunnel –were a common sight. If you pay attention when you pass through the tunnel, you may catch a glimpse of one of these buses in operation today.

For many Cuban children, the tunnel is a fantasy, on the same level with riding a roller coaster or the Ferris wheel. For myself, the tunnel was the setting for some of those passionate moments of youth. There, more than once, my hand found its way to the hand of the girl who I had been courting for a long time. The tunnel also opened up my world. There was a time in the 1980s when spending the day at Santa Maria beach with our friends was practically a religion –an outing unlikely without the tunnel. While the tunnel may seem like a necessary but unnoticeable gateway that one must pass through, it can mean so much more and is worthy of our attention.


  • Cámara Oscura

    Cámara Oscura  LH 5

    Located on the top floor of the eclectic-style early 20th-century Edificio Gómez Vila—the plaza’s tallest building (35 meters/115 feet)—on the northeast corner, the Cámara Oscura provides a 360-degree …

    Arte Corte (Papito’s)

    Arte Corte (Papito’s)  LH 5+

    Established about eight years ago, Arte Corte is a hairdressing salon that is also an “interactive museum” where the customer, while comfortably seated in a hundred year-old chair awaiting their turn, …

    Jardín Botánico Nacional

    Jardín Botánico Nacional  LH 5+

    These 600-hectare botanical gardens feature approximately 150,000 examples of 4,000 different species of trees and bushes from all over the world. A tractor train ride around the park departs four tim …

    Santa María del Mar

    Santa María del Mar  LH 5

    Santa María is the most popular beach among both Habaneros and visitors. It has lodgings, restaurants, watersports hire, grocery stores and a pharmacy. As with the other beahes, it boasts soft, white …

    La Zorra y el Cuervo

    La Zorra y el Cuervo  LH 5

    Probably the most well known venue for jazz in Havana, the ‘Fox & Crow’ offers an intimate environment in this basement venue notably marked by a red English telephone box at its entrance. Top jaz …

    Ivan Chef Justo

    Ivan Chef Justo  LH 5

    There is only one problem with Ivan Chef Justo and that is describing to people how to get there. Actually it is not that complicated, opposite the Museum of the Revolution on the Old Havana side. Con …

    Jardines de la Tropical

    Jardines de la Tropical  LH 5

    If you attend any of the concerts that are held here in an effort to save this place from the state of semi-neglect it has been plunged into for many years, it would be a good time to appreciate the m …

    Basílica Menor y Convento de San Francisco de Asís

    Basílica Menor y Convento de San Francisco de Asís  LH 5+

    History & Architecture Initiated in its present form in 1716, this religious edifice was the most important symbol of the presence of the Franciscan order in Havana. It is a remake of an original, …

    Museo de la Revolución

    Museo de la Revolución  LH 5

    History & architecture In 1909, Governor General Aubert decided to build a new venue for the Provincial Government where the old city wall used to be. The design was by architects Rodolfo Marurí ( …

    Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas

    Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas  LH 5+

    This museum opened in 1964 and is housed in the house of José Gómez Mena, a mansion designed by the French architects P. Virad and M. Destugué in 1927. Gómez’s sister, María Luisa Gómez Mena, a wealth …

    1 of 21 pages »