Subterranean disco dance club in a Cuban cave comes with bright lights and a dark legend.
In the colonial city of Trinidad, Cuba, the nightlife is underground. As in, 100 feet under the earth, in an actual cave. Disco Ayala, also known La Cueva, is a dance club built into a natural cave, an unlikely union of Top 40 dance hits and naturally formed stalactites. Oh right, and it also was once the home of an infamous serial killer.
La Cueva (“The Cave”) is a favorite weekend spot for locals and the venturesome tourists that get wind of it by word of mouth. The cavernous disco is located on the northern outskirts of town, about a 10-minute walk up a hill away from the center of Trinidad, an old Spanish colony that feels even more preserved in time than the rest of Cuba.
Two hundred miles from the bustle of Havana, horses still trot down the narrow cobblestone streets of sleepy Trinidad, a Caribbean coastal town founded by Spanish explorers in the 1500s that rose to prominence as Cuba’s sugar economy boomed in the 18th and 19th centuries. The historic town is an unlikely setting for one of the world’s most bizarre discos.
As you approach La Cueva, the first curious thing you’ll notice is there’s no noise at all coming from the club. It’s not until you walk through the gated entrance, descend down a long flight of stairs and through a tunnel into the jagged cavity that the dance floor opens up and the music starts blaring. The second thing you’ll notice is that it’s very hot. You’re in the Caribbean after all, dancing in a throng of a thousand people. In a cave.
Inside, the scene is marvelously unique, if somewhat tacky. A mix of techno and salsa music explodes from the speakers, while videos of spring breakers and Cuban dancers play on suspended screens above the crowded floor. Stalactites and stalagmites surround the room, illuminated by colored lights. Rumor has it the staff has to smoke out the bats from the cave before the club opens at 10 pm each night. A few CUC will get you admission plus a free drink from the bar, a hole carved out of the natural stone. This is Cuba; make it a mojito.
As if cave-dwelling bats and disco lights isn’t a strange enough juxtaposition, the cave was also once home to a notorious serial killer: Carlos “Coco” Ayala, who legend has it would abduct children and murder them in this very cave. According to the oral histories, Ayala was a deserter from the Cuban War of Independence in the late 1800s, and went into hiding underground where he committed unspeakable crimes.
As myth and truth have blurred over the years, the killer has become a popular figure in Cuban culture—generations of parents have warned their children to be good or else Carlos Ayala will get you. Meanwhile, the decision to name the club after the cave’s murderous former inhabitant remains a mystery.
Know Before You Go
From Trinidad center, walk up a path leading directly behind the cathedral, off Juan Manuel Márquez, or take the longer route from Hotel Las Cuevas.
Atlas Obscura, April 28, 2016