With its 6,000 kilometres of coastline, thousands of square kilometres of mangroves and coral reefs, tropical forests, mountains and 1,600 islets, Cuba spreads its abundant mosaic of landscapes under the tropical sun. It holds the record for the largest variety of floral species in the West Indies. Among these plants, no less than 6,000 are endemic.
To discover the richness of Cuba, you will be spoilt for choice: hiking, cycling, diving, fishing, observation, there is no shortage of activities for nature lovers. Need help choosing? Here are five of the must-see natural sites to discover during a sports trip to Cuba!
Alejandro de Humboldt National Park
Mountains covered with forests exposed to the trade winds, mangroves along the coast, palm trees, an altitude of between -220 and +1175 meters: the largest of Cuba’s national parks offers the best conditions for the development of thousands of endemic species of the island.
It is located in the east, on the north coast, in the provinces of Guantanamo and Holguín. After a somewhat tortuous road, a guided walk will allow you to explore the small accessible part of the Humboldt Park (PNAH). Mammals, amphibians, reptiles, amazing plants, and in the sea the manatee, may be found in your souvenir photos. This territory was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.
Peninsula de Guanahacabibes Park and Biosphere Reserve
In the west of Cuba, in the province of Pinar del Rio, a peninsula is deep in the deep blue, between the Caribbean Sea to the south and the Gulf of Mexico to the north. This region is entirely protected.
The Guanahacabibes National Park is only one part of it: it represents an area of nearly 40,000 hectares, a small half of which is marine territory. Cliffs, beaches, coves, mangroves and lagoons form a rich ecosystem for more than 700 species of plants. You will see mammals, rare birds such as the zunzun (hummingbird), but also turtles, iguanas, fish and shellfish, and even whale sharks…
Viñales National Park
Located north of Pinar des Rio, in the interior of the country, the Viñales National Park will seduce you all the more if you like cycling or speleology. Indeed, it is a lovable cultivated valley that stretches around a three hundred year old village, Viñales.
Although it is flat and perfect for cycling, the region is dotted with the famous “mogotes”: curious mountains with rounded summits that have resisted long erosion. There are many underground caves in the ground, one of which, the Cueva de Santo Tomas, has at least 50 kilometres of galleries that have been explored! Leave for an excursion at sunrise to discover the region in different colours.
A popular spot for cavers from all over the world.
Ciénaga de Zapata
The Montemar Natural Park, formerly Ciénaga (marshland) of Zapata, is a wild and preserved wetland, which extends over a peninsula located about 150 kilometers southeast of Havana. You can explore this biosphere reserve in the company of a guide… and a good mosquito repellent!
But it’s worth it to observe this very special ecosystem where crocodiles and manatees, 900 species of plants, 190 species of birds (including hummingbirds and parrots), fish and many other creatures live side by side…
Great Sierra Maestra National Park
In the province of Granma, in the south-east of Cuba, stands the largest mountain range on the island: the Sierra Maestra. Mountains covered with dense vegetation, whose peaks play with the clouds, lakes and waterfalls will offer you a dream land for unforgettable hikes.
Among them, you will be able to climb to the top of Pico Turquino, the highest peak in Cuba (1974m). This is a “serious” trek that will take you two or three days, necessarily with a guide. You will have the opportunity to discover high places of Cuban history such as Fidel Castro’s headquarters.
For the less sporty traveler, Cuba offers many places to see and activities to do on its territory. Lazing around, discovering the island by car, visiting cultural places… The choice is yours!