Cuba's seven national parks, from the delicate wetlands at Montemar to the imposing mountains of the Sierra Maestra, protect the country's abundance of flora and fauna.
Alejandro de Humboldt National Park
This UNESCO site, the heart of the Cuchillas del Toa Biosphere Reserve, is located 40 km northwest of Baracoa. Widely recognized as the best- preserved mountainous ecosystem in the Caribbean, it is full of diverse flora and fauna, which prompted UNESCO to declare it “one of the most biologically diverse tropical island sites on earth.” It was named after German explorer Alexander Von Humboldt, who first arrived here in 1801.
Parque Nacional Desembarco del Granma
See the most pristine coastal cliffs in the Americas in this National Park, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its significance as the site of Castro’s landing with rebel forces in 1956. Highlights of the park include Cabo Cruz, an incredibly well-preserved marine terrace; and the Sendero Arqueológico Natural El Guafe, an archeological site within underground caverns featuring pre-Columbian artifacts.
Gran Parque Nacional Sierra Maestra
This gorgeous park is located in the heart of the stunning Sierra Maestra mountain range, and contains Pico Turquino, Cuba’s highest peak. You’ll find an array of endemic species here, including Sabicu (a West Indian tree commonly used for shipbuilding), and birds such as Carta Cuba, Tocororo and Zunzun. This park contains many sites of historical interest, such as La Plata, which served as Fidel Castro’s headquarters in the late 1950s.
Jardín Botánico Nacional (National Botanical Gardens)
This spacious area located in Lenin Park contains everything from a Japanese garden to greenhouses bursting with cacti and tropical vegetation.
Parque Nacional Sierra del Cristal
Cuba’s oldest national park, established in 1930, is home to Holguín’s highest peak, the Pico de Cristal.
Parque Nacional La Mensura
Inhale the rich pine scent in this heavily forested 5,300-hectare park south of Mayari. Stop by the mountain research centre of Pinares de Mayarí (Minari Pinegroves), which was modeled after an Alpine mountain hut. You can also hike to the foot of Cuba’s tallest waterfall, Salto del Guayabo.
Parque Nacional Monumento Bariay
The Parque Nacional Monumento Bariay was erected in 1992 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival at this spot in Holguín. This multi-purpose park also houses an archeological museum, models of huts and a 19th century Spanish fort.
Parque Nacional El Bagá
What was once an airfield on Cayo Coco’s has been converted into a 769-hectare nature park filled with lakes, mangroves, juniper forest and over 130 species of birds. Take a tour along winding trails to see the netted butterfly garden and crocodile enclosure.
Gran Parque Natural Montemar
The Zapata Peninsula Biosphere reserve was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2001. It contains the largest wetlands in the Caribbean. Here you will see flamingos, manatee, crocodiles and the world’s smallest bird, the bee hummingbird, thriving in their natural habitat.
Parque Nacional de Viñales
This picturesque valley was named a UNESCO World Cultural and Landscape Site in 1999, thanks to bucolic farms and villages set against the region's iconic limestone mogotes.
Parque Nacional Pico Turquino
Climb 1,974 metres to reach Cuba’s highest peak atop this mountain in the Sierra Maestra mountains. The journey takes about two days.
Climb the 454-step staircase for an unrivalled view of Santiago atop this 70,000-ton boulder teetering over the ridge of the Sierra Baconao, 1,000 metres above sea level.
Gran Parque Natural Montemar (formerly Parque Nacional Ciénaga de Zapata)
Part of the Zapata Peninsula Biosphere, this vast wetland is teeming with wildlife. Not to be missed: Laguna de las Salinas, with its spectacular parade of pink flamingos.
Reserva Ecológica Varahicacos (Varahicacos Ecological Reserve)
Covering about 30 per cent of the total area of the Hicacos Peninsula, this park contains the Cueva de Musalmanes, remarkable for its 2,500-year-old human remains and giant cactus.