10 of Cuba’s Best Natural Attractions

[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] Josh Lew chooses ten of Cuba’s natural attractions. For descriptions and spectacular photos, read full article at Treehugger.

While well known for its coffee plantations, tobacco farms, and outdated urban streets, nature is the main attraction on the island nation of Cuba. The island has an impressive array of beaches, national parks, preserves, and other protected areas. Many of the island’s natural areas are teeming with wildlife, both on land and underwater, making the country ideal for spotting sea turtles, bird watching, hiking, and exploring caves. Here are 10 destinations in Cuba that let the country’s stunning natural beauty shine.

Cayo Coco: A remote island destination connected to the mainland and the adjacent Cayo Guillermo by a long causeway, Cayo Coco’s uncrowded beaches are the star of the show. Visitors can enjoy long strolls along the island’s coast. However, sharp reef remnants of emerged coral, referred to as “dog’s teeth,” necessitate appropriate footwear for those who want to hike beside the water. [. . .]

Zapata Swamp National Park: Ciénaga de Zapata (or Zapata Swamp) contains the largest wetland in the Caribbean. The park’s more than 1.5 million acres have been zealously protected. Zapata Swamp is designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. Many of the visitors who come here note similarities between Zapata and the Florida Everglades. One of the main differences: Zapata has Cuban crocodiles instead of alligators. [. . .]

Guanahacabibes Peninsula National Park: Located within the Guanahacabibes Peninsula UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Guanahacabibes National Park is more than two hours from the nearest large population center and is one of the most remote places in Cuba.

The interior areas of Guanahacabibes are covered by forest, while mangrove swamps can be found along parts of the park’s coastline. Deer, iguanas, and more than 200 species of birds have been sighted on the peninsula. The sandy sections of the shoreline boast sea turtle nesting sites that are among the most active in Cuba.

Topes de Collantes: A protected area in the Escambray Mountains, Topes de Collantes is named for a 2,500-foot peak within the preserve. The landscapes here are characterized by caves, waterfalls, rivers, and plenty of greenery and wildlife. One of the local waterways, the Caburni River, boasts impressive falls that terminate in natural swimming areas. [. . .]

Topes de Collantes embraces its ecotourism allure with Paseo Ecologico, an ecology trail filled with pine and eucalyptus trees, towering ferns, and the Cuban national flower, Hedychium coronarium.

Hanabanilla Lake: Hanabanilla Lake was built as a reservoir during the reign of the Batista government before the communist revolution. Because of the way the reservoir was constructed, the underwater topography is ideal for freshwater fish. Indeed, the main attraction here is fishing. Hanabanilla is especially known for its oversized largemouth bass. [. . .]

Viñales National Park: Viñales is arguably one of the most scenic places in Cuba. It’s also one of the most well-known nature destinations on the island. Tourists flock to this valley to see the picturesque rounded limestone rock formations called mogotes, which rise above the tobacco and banana farms on the floor of the valley. [. . .]

Desembarco del Granma National Park: Desembarco del Granma—a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site in southern Cuba—is a natural area defined by limestone terrace formations. The cliffs and waterfalls here are very close to the coast. In fact, Desembarco has some of the most pristine sea cliffs in the Caribbean. [. . .]

Las Terrazas: Las Terrazas (or the terraces) is an eco-village in the Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve that got its start during a reforestation effort in the 1960s. At that time, new trees were planted on terraced hillsides so that they would not be swept away by rain and erosion. [. . .]

Soroa Orchid Garden: The Soroa Orchid Garden is a small botanical garden in Sierra del Rosario, the same reserve that houses Las Terrazas. The garden features hundreds of different species of orchids and a host of other ornamental plants. Not only are Cuban orchids studied and displayed here, classes are offered for visitors who want to learn how to cultivate and care for the fragile but beautiful flowers. [. . .]

Baconao Park: Part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Baconao Park is located on the southeastern coast of Cuba near Santiago. The park extends from the rugged Sierra Maestra mountains to remote beaches along the sea. It offers easy access to dozens of attractive dive sites. The parkland, which stretches for more than 300 square miles, is home to an abundance of plant and animal species. Baconao also boasts a diverse menu of landscapes. [. . .]

[Photo above by Dmitri Korobtsov / Getty Images: Viñales Valley in western Cuba is an agricultural area and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.]

For full article, see https://www.treehugger.com/cubas-best-natural-attractions-4869250

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