Isla de la Juventud
Known for its diving and snorkelling, this island off Cuba’s Gulf of Batabano coast is growing in popularity as a destination. Head to the Punta Francés beach at the National Marine Park to see the best of what the island has to offer.
Get a flavour of small-town life in this laid-back spot in central Cuba. While the crowds flock to more established destinations such as Havana, Trinidad and Viñales, Sancti Spíritus provides a window into a life without tourism.
Santiago de Cuba
Don’t be put off by the distance from Havana—Cuba’s second most-populated city is well worth the trip. Known for its musical culture, you’ll find amazing musicians at every turn and much colonial history to learn about.
The highest peak in Cuba stands at 1,974 metres (6,476 feet) above sea level. It might not sound like much for seasoned mountain climbers, but it takes some effort to climb in Cuba’s tropical heat. One of the mountain’s routes starts right at sea level (making for a long day hike) and another starts higher up at 1,000 metres (3,280 feet) above sea level. If you think the latter is easier and shorter, you’re wrong. It might be closer to the mountain’s peak but the 18-kilometre (11-mile) route takes two days to complete, so choose wisely!
Peninsula de Zapata
Nature lovers should make a visit to this area an absolute priority. Home to a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the Peninsula de Zapata is teeming with bird life and is home to a crocodile farm where you can safely observe the reptile creatures.
María la Gorda
Another top diving spot, María la Gorda is rarely visited by tourists. Most who make the trip to one of Cuba’s most westernmost points do so to dive, and you’ll soon see why thanks to the abundant marine life and varied dive sites.
Many people who make the trip to Viñales choose not to go further west. Carry on deeper into the Pinar del Río province to visit the Cayo Jutías beaches where Cubans heavily outnumber tourists.
Nicknamed the ‘First City’, Baracoa is Cuba’s oldest city founded in 1511 and has been wowing visitors ever since. You can hike the flat-topped El Yunque mountain located 7 kilometres (4 miles) west of the city or visit its beautiful beaches.
Head to Cayo Largo del Sur off Cuba’s southern coast to find this idyllic stretch of sand. There is little to do here aside from soaking in the sun, sea and sand, but if you want to relax and recharge, it’s a wonderful spot to do so.
Most tourists rumble through Matanzas on their way to Varadero, but this poetry- and culture-rich city is definitely worth a stop. There is a pretty town centre and the city is the jumping off point for the famous Hershey Train to Havana.