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Cuban National Parks: the must-visit national parks in Cuba

by Susan Blanchet | February 7, 2022
pelican bathing in the Caribbean waters in Cuba

Only a few visitors are aware of how diverse Cuban nature is, and of the several natural parks and landscapes that exist, each with a unique biodiversity not found anywhere in the Caribbean.

When people think of things to do in Cuba, they think of Old Havana's colorful façade, sandy beaches, Cuban rum, tobacco, and music. But Cuba is not just that. There are plethora of other things to see if you travel to Cuba like, for example, the Cuban national parks.

A system of National and Marine Protected Areas protects approximately 22% of Cuba's land and water. There are 211 protected sites in the country, with 12 of them designated as national parks in Cuba. 

Frogs that are only a few millimeters long. Swamps that are vast. Rivers that are immaculate. The island has some of the best-kept wildlands in the Caribbean, whether by intention or accident.

If you’re planning to visit soon to cherish the natural beauty of Cuba, below are some of the Cuban natural parks that are a must-see.

Guanahacabibes Peninsula National Park

This entry of the Cuba national parks is situated in Eastern Cuba, approximately 94 kilometers from Pinar del Ro.

The submerged coast of the reserve is home to a diverse range of intriguing landscapes, including enormous mangroves, low shrubland vegetation, and a raised platform with a mixture of white sand and coral rocks.

It has an exceptional flora and fauna, comprising 172 birds, 700 plants, 18 animals, 35 reptiles, and 19 amphibian species, thanks to its unique karst (limestone area) formations. Several species of marine turtles, including the loggerhead and green, migrate to the beach on summer nights to lay eggs; this makes the visit particularly intriguing between May and October, when night visits are available to witness how they nest.

Guanahacabibes Peninsula National Park

Pico Turquino Peak Area, Santiago de Cuba

In the Pico Turquino Peak area there are numerous activities to partake in during your vacation. Explore the unique hiking trails leading up to Pico Turquino Peak or those departing from the shipwreck site of Christopher Columbus. Discover the incredible shipwreck of Christopher Columbus, sunk only 15 meters deep, with only a pair of goggles and a snorkel.

Visit historic sites such as the Silver Museum and look at the Revolutionary War artifacts on display. Don't miss out on the opportunity to visit this magnificent place and go on journey of 2 to 4 days. Take long walks or go diving while admiring the beautiful scenery.

Desembarco del Granma National Park

Locate a beautiful park in the southeast of Cuba, related to the Mais system, constructed in part by a system of marine terraces (submerged and emergent) over the most important and best preserved calcareous rocks in the country.

This is one of the few Cuban national parks that mixes nature with history. In terms of history, this was the location where the Castro brothers and Che Guevara disembarked from Mexico in 1956, bringing the tyranny of Fulgencio Batista to an end. That's how it got its name, as well as the name of the boat replica you'll see on the journey.

When it comes to nature, visitors will be able to observe not only the beautiful cliffs that emerge in various parts of the park, but also the fruits of the magnificent marine terraces.

Caguanes National Park

The Caguanes National Park, which includes Caguanes Cay, the Ciénaga Swamp, Guayaberas, and the Piedra Cays islets compound, is located in the northern section of the municipality of Yaguajay. It is ideal for ecological and adventure tourism enthusiasts. Santa Mara Cay is the finest spot to go if you want to enjoy a variety of aquatic activities in an idyllic setting with clear blue waters.

Other ecosystems in the Caguanes National Park include the Manglares and the Ciénaga de la Guayabera. The first is a haven for numerous terrestrial and marine wildlife species. The second environment is located in the park's southernmost corner, and it is divided into two ecosystems: one of grassland and another of drainage forest.

beach with palm trees Cuba at sunset

Sierra de Escambray Range

The Sierra del Escambray Range is a mountain range in Cuba's central region. When the Spaniards came in 1492, it was known as Guamuhaya by the indigenous people who lived there.

Pico Potrerillo Pike, at 930 meters above sea level, is the highest point. This range is known for its lush flora, which includes deep valleys, vast cave systems, breathtaking scenery, rivers, and crystalline water waterfalls.

The Caballete de Casa Meseta, where Che Guevara's base camp was established during the Cuban Revolution, stands out. Today, it is a national monument that has maintained these ancient relics, albeit access is adventurous yet difficult because it requires trekking to the summit of the mountain on foot.

Alejandro de Humboldt National Park

The Alejandro de Humboldt National Park is one of the most significant sites for preserving the region's indigenous vegetation. The park's name is a tribute to German scientist Enrique Alejandro, Humboldt Baron, who traveled all around the island in the 19th century, earning the title of Cuba's Second Discoverer.

This park, which spans 10,680 hectares, is home to some of the world's most diverse indigenous ecosystems. The park offers camping, lodging, guided tours, and highly qualified staff to assist tourists with any questions or concerns they may have.

Surrounded by cascades, enjoy the forest, puddles, and waterfalls, which form an unrivaled landscape. A real gem that you must see on your journey to Cuba's eastern coast.

These are some of the most exciting national parks in Cuba. To travel and to visit the most impressive Cuban national parks is no less than peaking into the heavens but on earth. Most of the national parks in Cuba are under the protection of UNESCO, that is just what these places need for the preservation of its beauty.