Cuba Tourist Board
Nature-lovers love Cuba with its well-preserved ecosystems, amazing array of landscapes and abundance of flora and fauna. Cuba is home to more than 6,700 species of higher plants (about half of which are native), as well as 14,000 species of invertebrates and 650 vertebrates – including 350 bird species.
Take a walk through lush tropical forests, where rare orchids grow; dry mountainous areas, where prehistoric cacti still live; everglades populated by mangrove, manatee and flamingoes; wetlands harbouring species important to biotechnology; and hummocks that guard fossillized plants such as the cork palm (Microcycascalocoma).
And it’s all so easy to see. The country boasts more than 100 nature trails and hiking paths. Main hiking routes are well signed, and professional guides are available.
Shutterstock/PHB.czWhere To Go
• Guaniguanico Mountain Range: Noted for unusual rock formations surrounding the UNESCO World Heritage site of Valle de Viñales.
• Sierra del Rosario (biosphere reserve): Houses Soroa-Las Terrazas and the Santo Tomás cave system.
• Guanahacabibes Peninsula National Park (biosphere reserve): Protected areas include La Guabina and Mil Cumbres.
• Zapata Peninsula Nature Park (biosphere reserve): Features Caleta Buena, Playa Girón and Playa Larga; Laguna del Tesoro and the Amerindian village of Guamá; and La Boca crocodile farm.
• Guamuhaya Mountain Range: Home to Topes de Collantes Tourism Complex, El Nicho and Tunas, Zaza and Lebrige wild animal preserves.
• Sierra de Cubitas: Stretches from El Paso de los Paredones to Hoyo de Bonet to Cayo Ballenatos, in Nuevitas Bay, and the protected area in the northern Camagüey cays.
• Northern Holguín: Offers tours to scenic Guardalavaca-Estero Ciego and Pinares de Mayarí National Park.
• Sierra Maestra: Famous for its historical hideouts, this area spans Desembarco del Granma National Park, Pico Turquino National Park, Santo Domingo-La Sierrita, Marea del Portillo (including Las Yaguas and Cilantro Rivers).
• Baconao National Park (biosphere reserve): Houses La Gran Piedra, ruins of the island’s first French coffee plantations.
• Baracoa: The place where Christopher Columbus first set foot in Cuba remains relatively untouched by civilization. The area is marked by Alejandro de Humboldt National Park; Yunque de Baracoa; Toa, Miel and Yumurí Rivers; and Maguana beach.
Did You Know?
• Cuba is home to three of the smallest species of animals in the world: the sunsuncito or bee hummingbird (6 cm); the pygmy frog or sapito (12 mm); and the butterfly bat (3 cm).
• The oldest species of mollusk in the world, the calcifolio, is found in Viñales. It lives by sticking to limestone rocks and feeds from the fungi that covers them.
• The manjuari, considered to be a living fossil, is a prehistoric fish with the body of a fish and the head of a reptile and is one of the most primitive vertebrates on the planet.
• The Palma Corcho is considered to be a living plant fossil and it can only be found in Pinar del Rio.
• One of the largest species of flowers, the solandra grandiflora, is a native of Cuba. Its 15-20 cm yellow to white flowers are shaped like a chalice.