Exploring Cuba

Exploring and Living in Cuba

  • Register

The province of Pinar del Río is Cuba’s third largest and located on the western tip of the island. It is known for its natural beauty, dramatic landscapes, incredible scenery and for producing some of the best tobacco and cigars in the world. Pinar del Río is considered by many to be the most beautiful province in Cuba. The province has two of the areas named by UNESCO as a world Biosphere Reserves: the Sierra de Rosario mountains and the Guanahacabibes Peninsula.

Pinar del Rio map

The small city of Pinar del Río, about 110 miles west of Havana, is the most important town in the province with the same name.  Despite having a population of around 125,000 it has the feel of a much smaller town.  It is named for the many pine trees found in the area when the city was originally founded. The city has many neo-classical buildings and other architecture.  A bank, bookstore, library and museum and cigar factory are also found in this city. The town is dull in terms of nightlife, however on weekends there is some activity.

         Located in a valley with the same name, the beautiful town of Viñales is a national monument and also recognized by UNESCO's World Heritage Committee.   It is a photographer's paradise.  A unique string of limestone buttes called mogotes are a prominent feature of this area.  There are also many nearby caves worth exploring.   The best known is the Indian Cave or Cueva del Indio that may actually be explored by taking a boat ride through underground caverns.  You can also do rock climbing, hiking, and horseback riding and there are two mineral water spas, San Vicente and San Diego de los Baños. The latter is about 90 miles southwest of Havana.

Noted for its scenic beauty, Soroa in the Sierra de Rosario Mountains, 60 miles from Havana, is a botanical resort and nature lover's dream come true.  The 700 varieties of orchids found in the garden have to be seen to be believed.   There are some 35,000 square kilometers devoted solely to orchids.  A mirador or lookout and impressive waterfall are found nearby. While there, you visit the Castillo de las Nubes (the Castle of the Clouds) located on the highest peak in the area.  The panoramic view is unparalleled.

         The beaches found in this province are less accessible and less developed than those found in other areas. Cayo Levisa is on a small key off the north coast of this province.  By far the best beaches in the province are found here. There are some offshore reefs and the diving is excellent.  Playa María la Gorda is a nice beach in Bahía de Corrientes at the extreme southwest tip. Laguna Grande is a man-made fishing lake located in the province.

         The Island of the Youth or Isla de la Juventud, known originally as the Island of the Pines or Isla de Pinos before the revolution, lies about 30 miles off the south coast of Cuba, at the mouth of the Gulf of Batabanó, is the largest of Cuba's offshore islands. The island was known as Isla de Pinos (Isle of Pines), because of the native conifers that once covered its rolling plains and swamps. The comma-shaped island is the seventh-largest landmass in the Caribbean but has only about 80,000 residents.

Castro renamed in Isla de Juventud in 1978 to honor young people. Christopher Columbus called the island “La Evangelista” (“The Evangelist”) when he landed in 1494. But a generation later it appeared in Spanish records as the Isle of Pines.

When Cuba took full possession of the island, President Gerardo Machado ordered the construction of a vast prison complex, Presidio Modelo. The prison’s most famous inmate arrived in 1953: 27-year-old Fidel Castro. He and his younger brother Raúl, then 22, were sent there with 30 comrades who had attempted to overthrow the government in a bloody attack on a military garrison.

Castro and the other conspirators were assigned to the prison’s infirmary to keep them apart from the other inmates. After 19 months, they were pardoned and set free.

Isla de Juventud is said to be the place Robert Louis Stevenson had in mind when he wrote Treasure Island, because, allegedly, there is a pirate treasure buried there. The island has numerous virgin beaches that you can explore.  The abundance of shore ship wrecks, underwater caves, coral reefs, copious marine life and crystal clear water offer some of the best diving in the Caribbean, especially between Point Francés and Point Pedernales.  Punta de Este has a beautiful beach and caves nearby. Nueva Gerona is the island's largest town.

        Punta Frances National Park is located on the southern portion of Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth) in Cuba. There are not many tourists, but those that do come, usually come by water to dive in the nearby exquisite coral reefs. 

         About 75 miles east of The Island of the Youth lies the resort, Cayo Largo.  This 16 mile-long island is a place you go to "get away from it all."  The endless white sand beaches and crystal-clear water make it a good place to relax and participate in a number of water sports like horseback riding, snorkeling, fishing, sailing, diving and windsurfing.  This spot is popular with vacationing Europeans.  If you are a person who likes this type of laid-back resort atmosphere and beach lifestyle, this area will suit you.


Official Guide to
Cuban Spanish

Official Guide to Cuban Spanish

For those who want to communicate with the locals and to develop basic Spanish survival skills, purchase our one-of-a-kind eBook which includes Cuban slang in English


"I always keep this book on my tablet so that I can maneuver through Cuba’s linguistic maze."

Max Gómez, Cuba Scout, Travel Expert

Contact Us

Send an e-mail. All fields are required.

Medal Award

Not ready to relocate to Cuba yet,
then check out 
Costa Rica Latin America’s #1
retirement haven


Living and Investing in Cuba - Live in Cuba - Retire in Cuba - Retirement Tours in Cuba 

Information herein is authorized through the courtesy of Christopher Howard, author of the best selling Cuba information source, Living and Investing in the New Cuba. Please be aware that all information herein is protected by COPYRIGHT © and misuse of it will carry a penalty by law.