By Mayté Solano Gómez
Cuba is a tropical island, so the sun and nature are common. This is very convenient in present days when the Coronavirus pandemic has defined different ways to enjoy holidays and travels. Find here the best nature sites in Cuba.
What about new travel trends if you travel to Cuba
Health, safety and re-sanitation of rooms are among the key factors on present travel choices. In Cuba, the issue of personal and family health and safety is essential, both for the government and from a personal point of view. Owners of private houses must have disinfectant substances (hypochlorite, alcohol, or others) for the decontamination of surfaces and hands available to customers. The use of a “nasobuco” or disposable mask by all workers in common areas is mandatory, as well as for customers in common areas where it is not possible to maintain social distancing.
Tourists also prefer to travel in a vaccinated group. Meanwhile, Cuba has successfully developed 3 vaccines and is working to immunize as much of its population as possible. Up to date, more than half of Cubans have been already immunized against Coronavirus. By the end of November, this number must be around 90%. Three of the 5 Cuban vaccine candidates, shows over 90% efficacy after the 3rd dose. Therefore, it can be considered an effective vaccine to combat coronavirus.
Organizing the trip well in advance is still important for prospective travellers, but now they prefer to do it from a retail point of sale or via the internet, but with interaction with an expert for guidance/reassurance. Travel companies are getting lots of enquiries from customers who have never used an agency before. With the CubaCasa team in Havana, you will find a personalized professional advisory service. They are concerned with the traveller’s personal needs and, at the same time, will help them to enjoy the destination. With their advice and services in Cuba, tourists will have fun, relax, learn about new Cuban traditions, exercise their body and mind and, at the same time, will have the satisfaction of contributing to the economic and social development of the small but diverse universe of the private tourism sector on the island that they will meet during the stay.
And no less important is the type of tourist attractions that destinations offer: luxury, nature, sun and beach, hiking and trekking, culture and heritage… Cuba is a spot where you will find all of this and even more. The tropical weather is present almost during the 12 months of the year. Sustainable tourism, remote working and co-working spaces have now become a sine qua non for tourism on the island.
Regarding the nature tourism
Cuba is characterized by a high level of endemic flora and fauna, great biodiversity and also by endangered or threatened species well identified by Cuban scientists. The climate favours taking long walks, without the threat of poisonous species of plants and animals. Horseback riding is also possible, on horses and mules, of robust and docile breeds.
All this is combined with the exchange with the peasants to show the way of life of the farmers, with the possibility of participating in the crops and learning about agricultural techniques, plus all the experience accumulated in the way of life of this population sector.
Best nature sites in Cuba: Viñales Valley
Declared a World Heritage Site, the Viñales Valley is also a National Park. Although the region does not have an international airport, it is easily accessible by car from Havana or Varadero.
The Viñales Valley, with its mogotes and its “alturas de pizarra” (slate heights, types of elevations typical of this region), being part of the Guaniguanico Mountain Range, is ideal for hiking and being in direct contact with nature. On these tours, it is possible to visit caves and underground rivers, such as the Cueva del Indio, or taste a delicious Creole meal from the top of the Balcón del Valle viewpoint. Horseback riding is also popular in this area.
Other nature places of tourist interest in Viñales are:
- The Viewpoint Los Acuáticos, located on the side of a mountain. The path to reach it covers a distance of between 1 and 4 km, depending on the route taken. The tour can be done on foot or on horseback, either on your own or with the help of a guide.
- The Viñales Botanical Garden, a small and simple garden that treasures specimens of the flora of the region. Admission is free, but at the end of the tour, you can leave a contribution to help maintain and improve the place.
- The Indian cave was a refuge for the first indigenous inhabitants of the island, so inside you can see, in addition to stalactites and stalagmites, cave paintings and archaeological remains from pre-Columbian Cuban cultures. An underground river runs through it, which allows visitors to travel through a section of the cave in a wonderful motorboat and experience the magic of t this place.
- The Orquideario and the Soroa waterfall, very close to Viñales, attest to the natural beauty of the island. The Orchid is one of the 13 existing botanical gardens in Cuba and has more than 700 species and varieties of this beautiful plant. In this place you can also see other species of plants and animals, some of them endemic to the region.
- The Soroa waterfall is 22 meters high and is considered one of the wonders of Cuban geography. It has 279 steps that allow you to reach the top, enjoy the wonderful view, and then descend to immerse yourself in the refreshing waters.
Best nature sites in Cuba: Cienaga de Zapata National Park
The Ciénaga de Zapata (Zapata swamp) in Matanzas, a swampy ecosystem that is part of the best-preserved green regions of the island, is the largest wetland in the Caribbean. As a whole, the Ciénaga de Zapata represents a place of world interest, due to the species of flora and fauna that it hosts.
Here you will find a Biosphere Reserve, a bird observatory and a Crocodile Farm where the native species is protected. It is possible to take a boat ride through the Laguna del Tesoro and contemplate the replica of the dwellings of the Taino, aborigines who inhabited the area. If you are a lover of snorkelling and diving, you can do it in the Cueva de Los Peces (Fishes Cave).
Other nature spots of interest near the Cienaga de Zapata National Park are:
- The Bellamar Caves, with more than 23 km of underground galleries, and the Saturno Caves, with a natural pool ideal for swimming and diving, are located a few hours from Varadero. Both have stalactite and stalagmite formations, being of great interest to tourists who visit this area.
- The Varahicacos Ecological Reserve was opened in 1974, with caves containing 2,500-year-old human remains and ancient pictographs. It includes an unguided tour, although documented, through trails and caves with different specimens of the native flora and fauna of the region.
- In Playa Larga / Bay of Pigs, numerous natural sites exist. There is also a site of historical interest in Matanzas, as it is the place where North American imperialism was defeated for the first time in Latin America, following the failed landing at Playa Girón.
Best nature sites in Cuba: Topes de Collantes
The Topes de Collantes Great National Park, in the centre of the island, can be accessed from Cienfuegos, Santa Clara or Trinidad, although the last one is the best option to stay in. It is at 800 mts above sea level and covers an area of more than 124 km2. It is characterized by perennial vegetation due to a climate abundant in rainfall and the temperature is low compared to the national average.
There are many parks that exist in this region, and each of them contains countless natural beauties. The site is ideal to enjoy walks, with small hanging bridges, horseback riding, bird watching and bathing in waterfalls and pools.
Among the best-known places are the El Cubano Natural Park, an excellent option to enjoy, either alone as a family, adults and children; the Salto de Javira is found when travelling the path of the same name, in this Natural Park; the Caburní Natural Park is located in the heart of Topes de Collantes and has among its main attractions the Caburní waterfall.
On the Vegas Grandes Trail, you can enjoy the waterfall found in these places, after a descent of about 500m. With a beautiful view and freshwaters where you can dive, it also has a small cave, protected by the waters that fall, resembling a curtain.
The lesser-known La Batata Trail runs through the dense green forest, a river and at the end has a curious formation of caves along the river, which can be accessed through a small and shallow water hole.
Best nature sites in Cuba: Eastern Cuba
The Turquino National Park is a protected area located in the heights of the Sierra Maestra, in Santiago de Cuba. Named this way for the Turquino Peak, the highest point in Cuba. It also contains Cuba Peak, Real Peak, and Sweden Peak.
The Baconao National Park, also in Santiago de Cuba, is one of the most popular tourist destinations for locals and foreign hikers. It is considered a World Biosphere Reserve and includes a great variety of attractions, such as the Prado de las Esculturas (Sculptures meadow), the Valley of Prehistory and the Dolphinarium.
The Alejandro de Humboldt National Park in Guantanamo, the most eastern province of Cuba, is a protected area and one of the most important sites for the conservation of endemic flora in the entire Western Hemisphere. It is also home to three of the smallest vertebrate species in the world.
It was included by UNESCO in its World Heritage List in the category of Natural Sites in 2001. The levels of biodiversity and endemism are the highest in the Caribbean and are among the highest in the world.
Other nature spots of interest in Eastern Cuba are:
• The Stone Zoo, with more than 426 sculptures. To climb to the highest part of the place there are 324 steps and 245 on the way back. Despite the space to be covered in this jungle environment, visitors do so with pleasure for the beauty of their sculptural work, the climate and the vegetation of the place. For all this, the Stone Zoo was declared “National Cultural Heritage” in 1985.
The ‘Desembarco del Granma’ National Park, in the province of Granma, is a World Heritage Site, whose most significant natural element is its system of marine terraces. Among the main tourist attractions in this park are Cabo Cruz, an ideal place for exploration and underwater photography; the natural archaeological trail el Guafe, an interpretive trail; the Coral reef of Cabo Cruz; the Cueva del Fustete, an aboriginal path whose walls display interesting pictographs; the Lagoon of the crocodiles, a suitable site for observing the flora and fauna of wetlands and the Cueva del Bojeo, one of the largest sea caves in the country.
If you are interested in the idea of visiting the best nature sites in Cuba, check out our accommodation in various locations below:
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To get your Cuban Tourist Card, even if you are coming from the USA, you can do it through EasyTouristCard.com. Here you can order all the tourist cards you need at the same time. In this way, you will only pay one shipping charge.