Cuba’s bounty of natural attractions, paired with its meticulous conservation practices, makes it the best ecotourism destination in the Caribbean. It is home to 263 protected areas, covering approximately 22% of the total land. This includes six UNESCO biospheres that range from the coastal scrublands of Península de Guanahacabibes in Pinar del Río to the untouched rainforests of Cuchillas del Toa in Guantánamo. The abundance of carefully guarded land protects over 350 species of birds as well as endangered species such as the Cuban crocodile, the jutía and the ivory-billed woodpecker.
The province of Pinar del Río is particularly well-endowed when it comes to natural attractions: it boasts two UNESCO biospheres and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the sprawling Valley of Vinales. Pinar del Río’s Las Terrazas is an ideal base for ecotours: it was Cuba’s first sustainable resort community. Other noteworthy ecotourism destinations include the pristine area surrounding Baracao on Cuba’s eastern coast, and the Peninsula de Zapata to the south, which contains the Caribbean’s largest swamp.
Cuba boasts a wide selection of activities for ecotourists, including hiking along one of over 100 nature trails, cycling, horseback riding, spelunking, nature observation, photo tourism and speleo-scuba diving. Many of the country’s hotels, like the Hotel La Moka in Pinar del Rio, are sustainable and have been designed to blend harmoniously with their picturesque natural surroundings.
Salto del Guayabo
Gaze up at Cuba’s highest waterfall, which cascades from its 100-metre perch in the Sierra del Cristal. Take a guided tour through the surrounding forest to see the abundance of native plants that thrive in this alpine microclimate.
Ride a steam train through this majestic, mogote-lined mountain range northeast of the city of Holguín.
Las Guanas Eco-Archaeological Trail
This winding trail near Playa Esmeralda takes you past 14 endemic plant species and leads to a spectacular bluff with a picturesque lighthouse.
This causeway offers plenty of bird-watching opportunities. Watch out for wading birds like herons, pelicans and roseate spoonbills just off of this road connecting Cayo Coco to the mainland.
Parador La Silla
You’re certain to see a flock of pink flamingos flying overhead here at sunrise and dusk. Prime flamingo-watching season is April to November, when they congregate at the Laguna de los Flamencos.
Escape to this peaceful protected area to see the world’s biggest crocodile breeding farm, and observe multitudes of birds fluttering in the trees and gliding over the water.
Criadero de Cocodrilos
Established in 1962, this crocodile breeding farm has successfully saved two endangered species of crocodiles from extinction.
Laguna del Tesoro (Treasure Lake)
Head down a 5-km canal to reach this scenic lagoon located east of Boca de Guamá. A lifelike recreation of a Taíno village spans across several small islands.
Cueva del Indio
Enjoy a boat ride on the underground river that runs through this huge cavern. It is illuminated, so you can get a good look at the inside of a mogote.
Watch ox-drawn ploughs make their way through the beautiful valleys that grow Cuba’s best tobacco.
Cueva de los Portales
Study the various stalagmites and stalactites in this 100-foot-high cavern, which now houses a museum.
This mountain community of artists and organic farmers is Cuba’s first sustainable village. There are hiking trails to stunning waterfalls, sparkling mineral springs and lush coffee farms. Stay at the Hotel La Moka, which specializes in eco-excursions.
Gran Caverna de San Tomás
Take a guided tour of Cuba’s largest cave system. Spread out over eight levels, the 46-km cave system is home to bats, underground pools and a replica of an ancient mural.
Hike to the spectacular El Salto waterfall, or climb atop Mirador de Venus for panoramic views. Botanical experts have identified 1,000 species of exotic plants here; one hillside garden boasts 750 different types of orchids alone.
Escape to this gorgeous, unspoiled coral key lined with mangroves, marshes and lagoons and watch clouds of butterflies flutter above the lush landscape. Be sure to spend an afternoon at Playa Los Pinos, a standout amid the key’s many beaches, located 22 km from the town of Nuevitas.
Sail along the Santa Lucía coastline to visit a flamingo colony south of Cayo Sabinal. You’re sure to see hundreds of the pretty pink birds, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot a dolphin in Nuevitas Bay.
Sierra de Cubitas
Visit this beautiful ecological reserve to explore the caverns, isles and leafy trails.
Cordillera de la Gran Piedra
Discover spectacular views of the Caribbean Sea from one of Cuba’s most bio-diverse mountain ranges. The area supports many endemic species of flora and fauna (including the endangered hot-cave bat) as well as the historic ruins of French coffee settlements.
Escape to this scenic mountain resort that serves as a great base for eco-tourism excursions, bird watching treks and hikes to local waterfalls.
Topes de Collantes
Explore the local flora and fauna – including colourful parrots and the Tocororo, Cuba’s national bird – at this park, deep within the Escambray Mountains. Be sure to stop by the towering Salto de Caburni waterfall.
Cueva Ambrosio (Ambrosio Cave)
This stunning 300-metre cave is a well-preserved archeological site featuring approximately 47 pre-Columbian drawings.
Cuevas de Bellamar (Bellmar Caves)
Located on the outskirts of Matanzas, these caves are among the Caribbean’s largest and most beautiful underground formations.
Row your boat, ride the minitrain or wander at will through lush tropical vegetation in the gardens, groves and lagoons of this public park.
Arroyo Trinitario waterfall
The 1.5 km hike to reach this scenic waterfall is well worth the effort. Cool off with a dip in the pool.
Explore this picturesque reservoir framed by a lush tropical forest.