If you’re experiencing Cuba for the first time, you probably have your priorities in order. You want to see, smell and taste your way through Havana (and given the quality of the rum, drinking will probably factor in sizeably), but you shouldn’t cheat yourself out of experiencing the country’s natural wonders. If you’re looking to get out of the city, even for a day, consider a trip out to one of these parks for a hiking experience you won’t soon forget.
Valle de Viñales
Considered by many to be the best place for hiking in Cuba, and a popular destination in its own right, Valle de Viñales offers several trails for beginners and experienced climbers alike. Hiking in the Valley is worth at least a day. Depending on how much exploring you do here, you can see rolling fields of tobacco, caves and underground swimming holes.
There is a short, 25-minute hiking trail around this system of waterfalls that offers the perfect opportunity to take in some wildlife and spectacular views of Central Cuba and the valley below. Work up a sweat before finding a natural pool to cool down in. Be sure to get there early if you want to claim a pool for yourself.
La Gran Piedra
You may have to arrange for a cab to take you up the steep 12-kilometer road to the visitor center at La Gran Piedra – a massive rock formation that rests atop a gorgeous green mountain range. Once you get there, you’ll be taking in some stunning views. Climb to the top – around 500 steps from the visitor’s center – and take it all in. Then, descend into the lush greenery and through some of the oldest coffee plantations in Cuba.
Parque Nacional Alejandro Humboldt
Take a guided hike through this forest in the Guantanamo Province and observe around 1000 or so plant species that grow here. If plants aren’t your thing, settle for the awe-inspiring views of the coast, or try to catch a glimpse of a Monte Iberia eleuth, the smallest living species of frog in the Northern Hemisphere.