Rock climbing in Cuba is one of the best outdoors activities in the country. The limestone faces in the western Vinales Valley overlook traditional Cuban villages providing a scenic and historic backdrop for a challenging climb. With over 4000 keys and islets scuba diving in Cuba is vast and varied. The predominantly flat and rolling landscape webbed with back roads means that mountain biking in Cuba is an ideal way to explore the countryside. The biking here is so idyllic that The Telegraph named cycling in Cuba one of their Top 20 Adventures for 2011.
Cuba consists of one island and several archipelagos where the north Caribbean Sea meets the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. The Bahamas and Florida are north of Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic are southwest, Jamaica is to the south, and Mexico is to the west.
Major Cities in Cuba
Havana, the capital, is the largest city in Cuba by a large margin, with over 2 million residents. It is followed by Santiago de Cuba with 423,000, Camaguey with 302,000, and Holguin with 270,000.
Geography of Cuba
Cuba’s main island is located about 145km south of Florida, 80km west of Haiti, 210km west of Mexico, and 146km north of Jamaica, where the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and Atlantic Ocean meet. Cuba has a total land area of about 111,000 square kilometers and is about the same size as Virginia. The main island makes up more than 95% of the country’s total area, with the remainder being comprised of the Isle of Youth (Isla de Juventud) and over 4000 keys and islets.
The bulk of Cuba’s main island is made up of plains and low hills. Mountain ranges include the rugged Sierra Maestra Mountains in the southeast where the country’s highest point, Pico Turquino (2,005m), is located, as well as the Sierra Cristal, which is also in the southeast, the Escambray Mountains, which are in the middle of the island, and Sierra del Rosario in the northwest. Cuba’s coastline is comprised largely of mangroves, marshes, and white sand beaches.
Cuba Weather and Climate
Cuba has a tropical climate with a rainy season from May to October. Cuba holidays are best taken during the dry season, which lasts from November to April. Hurricanes are also a regular occurrence in Cuba, usually during September and October. Cuba is warm all year round with temperatures ranging from 19 – 27°C in the winter and from 23 – 32°C in the summer.
Tourism is one of Cuba’s main sources of income and brings more than 2 million visitors to the island each year. Unfortunately, these visitors are largely shuffled into a few designated areas and are somewhat isolated from the local population. Until 1997 contact between tourists and Cubans was outlawed. The separation between tourists and locals is still quite strong, but things are improving and rural areas outside of the tourism enclaves are increasingly opening up to visitors.
Cuba is rich in history and natural beauty, with seven UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Sites and two UNESCO Natural World Heritage Sites. The country’s geography ranges from white sand beaches and mangroves to rolling hills and rugged mountains. Although Cuba’s geography is perfect for all manner of outdoors adventures, past government limits on tourism prevented visitors from being able to take full advantage of the country. The most developed outdoors adventure sport is definitely scuba diving, although mountain climbing has been gaining in popularity as well.
• Rock climbing in the Vinales Valley.
• Scuba dive in Maria la Gorda.
• Trekking in the Sierra Maestra Mountains.
Cuba Outdoor Adventure Activities
• Surfing (all levels)
• Stand-up paddle boarding
• Scuba diving (reef, wreck, cave)
• Kitesurfing (possible, though shops and schools are hard to find)
• Sky diving
• Bungee jumping
• Whitewater rafting (possible, but rare)
• Kayaking (river and sea)
• Caving and spelunking
• Hiking/trekking (all levels)
• Rock climbing (all levels)
• Mountain Biking (novice to expert)
• Horseback Riding
Budget Travel in Cuba
I like to use World Nomads. It’s not too expensive and signing up is fast and straightforward. They also have pretty good coverage for sports equipment like surf and snowboards, but it varies depending on your country of origin, so be sure double check. You can get a free quote on their website.
Images (in order) courtesy johnnypinball, SandraW12, Bobcatnorth, JTF Guantanamo, Big Swede Guy, Ed Yourdon, Jason Michael, localsurfer, RobMan170, thorsten.rinne, hoyasmeg, and Leshaines123 on Flickr.
Click on the images for more information
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