Eastern Cuba is less traveled-to than other parts of the island, but for true challenge-seekers, it’s where some of the best adventures are found. With a bit of planning, most of these adrenalin-highs can be organized on the ground.
Hikers will want to summit Pico Turquino in the Sierra Maestra Mountains. The highest mountain in Cuba, at 1,974 m, can be climbed in one day for the very fit; most hikers spend at least one or two nights camping descending to Las Cuevas, on the Caribbean coast, west of Santiago de Cuba.
Equally, you can begin the trail at Las Cuevas.
The Pico Turquino hike can also be combined with a visit to Fidel Castro’s mountain rebel camp, La Comandancia de La Plata.
Castro and his guerrilla army holed up here in 1958 and built a camp, hospital, and rebel radio station. It’s now a well-preserved museum, and can be reached on a day hike from Santo Domingo.
Santo Domingo is the HQ for trekking services; no self-roaming is permitted.
Striking northeast, the cool mountain air of the Sierra de Cristal houses the Pinares de Mayarí pine forest.
There’s a chalet hotel up here with walks into the surrounding forest; take a plunge into the foot of the cascading Saltón de Guayabo waterfall near the hotel.
A little further north you’re close to the best beaches in eastern Cuba.
Cayo Saetía is an offshore island populated by ostrich, zebra and buffalo. It’s a former hunting ground turned tourism attraction.
Stay in the hotel bungalows and drive to the gorgeous, butter-soft sand beach buttressed by granite boulders in the morning, and take a jeep photo safari through the long grass in the afternoon. This is one of Cuba’s most bizarre destinations.
Heading north from Cayo Saetía, you’ll reach the beaches of Guardalavaca - a series of beaches with sparkling sands, and turquoise seas, backed by hills peppered with Royal Palms.
Sail, swim and dive, and cruise on the catamaran down to Cayo Saetía for the day.
Heading south along the pot-holed coastal road from Saetía to Baracoa, adventurers will revel in the city’s nearby beaches, the trails of the nearby Alexander de Humboldt National Park, and climbing its famous flat-topped mountain, El Yunque. See Baracoa Things to Do for more.
Further south, surfers are talking up the surfing at the mouth of the River Yumurí.
Under water offers up more than coral reef diving in Eastern Cuba.
Most of the reef diving and snorkeling takes place off the beaches of the Guardalavaca area on the northeast coast.
Just west, in the Gibara area, are hidden caverns, which can be dived or snorkeled, depending on your experience.
Behind Gibara town are a series of caves which can be explored on foot.
Off the southern coast, west of Santiago de Cuba, are the wrecked remains of vessels sunk during the Cuban-Spanish-American War in 1898.
The most famous of these is the armored cruiser Cristóbal Colón.
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