La Isla de la Juventud
It is the second island in extension of the Cuban archipelago and, along with more than 600 cays and islets, it forms part of the Archipiélago de los Canarreos. It is separated from the main island by a strip of sea of 80 km. Known as "The Island of a Thousand Names", it was named “La Evangelista,” by Columbus on his second voyage, a name with which it became famous as a haven for privateers and pirates. Until 1975, it was named "Isla de Pinos," the date on which it was renamed as "Isla de la Juventud,"
Capital: Nueva Gerona Extension: 3 056 sq. km Denonym: pinero/a Limits: it limits to the north with the Gulf of Batabanó, to the east with the waters of the insular platform and the province of Matanzas, to the south with the Caribbean Sea, and to the west with the waters of the insular platform and the province of Pinar del Río. Access: it has a national airport and an international airport, in addition to the “Vilo Acuña” International Airport in Cayo Largo del Sur, equipped to operate large aircrafts. Its other access route is maritime from the Surgidero de Batabanó in the province of Mayabeque, from where ferries depart.
PLACES OF INTEREST NUEVA GERONA
As the capital of the Isle of Youth, it is a small town surrounded by hills and founded next to the Las Casas river. Its main street is Martí (39), which is bordered by old restored colonial buildings.
Parque Guerrillero Heroico (Park)
Calle 39 between 28th y 30th
It is the center of the social life of the city, surrounded by the emblematic buildings of the colonial villas.
Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores ( Church)
Tel 046 32 3791
Built in 1929 in Mexican colonial style, it has a simple marble altar and a side chapel dedicated to the Virgen de la Caridad de El Cobre.
Galería de Arte Martha Machado (Art Gallery)
Calle 39, and. 26th streets
Located in a beautiful colonial house, it is financed by the world famous plastic artist, Alexis Leyva Machado, Kcho, and exhibits his works among
others belonging to artists of the locality.
Memorial El Pinero
Calle 33, between 26 and 28, Tel 046 32 3195
It is the memorial where the hull of the El Pinero ferry, built in Philadelphia in 1901 and that transferred Fidel to the Big Island after its liberation of the Presidio Modelo in 1955, is preserved.
MUSEO CASA DE LA FINCA EL ABRA (MUSEUM)
Carretera Siguanea km ½, Tel 046 39 6206
Located 1 km south of new Gerona, this was the place where Martí lived under house arrest for 3 months after his release in Cuba, under the custody of Catalan landowner José Sardá, a friend of his family´s. The museum keeps personal objects, documents as well as other pieces that testify to Marti’s stay in the place before leaving for exile in Spain.
PRESIDIO MODELO (FORMER PRISON, CURRENTLY MUSEUM)
Reparto Delio Chacón, Tel 046 32 5112
Located south of the town of Delio Chacón, and about 5 km from Nueva Gerona, the Presidio Modelo is a unique of its kind complex in Latin America, due to its monumentality and shape. It consists of 34 buildings, in addition to the surveillance system and the perimeter fence. It was constructed between October of 1925 and February of 1933 during the government of Gerardo Machado. Designed to house 6,000 prisoners in circular buildings with a guard tower in the center, it was known to be a silent place.
Currently, the museum occupies two oblong buildings that during World War II were used to imprison Japanese, German and Cuban prisoners. The first wing of the museum shows photographs taken during Machado´s government, while the other wing was the hospital, where
Fidel Castro and 25 other youths were imprisoned after the assault on the Moncada Barracks. Their beds are preserved there with a photograph of their occupants. To the left of the entrance of the museum is the cell where Fidel was confined in solitary, with his belongings and books.
RESERVA ECOLÓGICA “LOS INDIOS” (ECOLOGICAL RESERVE)
It occupies about 4 000 hectares, which border a bay and shelter a fragile environment that includes mangroves, savannas, pine trees and endemic palms. It treasures at least 60 native species of flowers, 15 of them limited to this particular reserve, of which 14 are in danger of extinction and one is carnivorous. It is also the habitat of 153 species of birds, including the Cuban crane, parrots and parakeets.
AREA PROTEGIDA “SUR DE LA ISLA DE LA JUVENTUD” (PROTECTED AREA)
It occupies the whole southern part of the island. Of intact nature, with bushes and marshes, is populated by wild pigs, deer and crocodiles. The coast is bordered by beautiful beaches of fine white sand and calm turquoise waters protected by a coral reef. The area is a military zone and can only be accessed by booking a tour through EcoTur agencies.
Punta del Este
Located about 20 km east of Cayo Piedra within the protected area, it has a beautiful beach and its main attraction is Cuevas Punta del Este.a system of 4 caves that contain 238 aboriginal petroglyphs, is considered as the most important set of the Antilles. Formed by concentric circles, red, black and white, represent a celestial array related to the passage from day to night. On March 21, with the summer solstice, the sun projects its light right on the middle of the entrance of the cave revealing a red beam resembling a phallus that penetrates the concentric circles in the background wall in an apparent illusion of the procreation.
PARQUE NACIONAL MARINO PUNTA FRANCÉS (NATIONAL PARK)
Located at the southwest end of the Isle of Youth, 22 km from the village of Cocodrilo, and 122 km from Nueva Gerona. It occupies 6, 079 hectares of which 4 313 belong to the sea. The area is abundant with corals, gorgonians and sea turtles.
Playa Punta Francés
It is a pleasant beach where Spanish galleons and coral formations await scuba diving lovers, just a short distance from the coast. With a small restaurant, and the possibility of practicing water sports, it offers cruisers passengers who come to the coast a unique opportunity to enjoy nature.
“El Colony” Hotel and Marina
Carretera Siguanea km 42 Tel 046 39 8181
Located on the Siguanea Cove, south of the Isla de la Juventud, its construction dates back to the 50's of last century. A short distance from this is the Marina
El Colony with boats for professional diving and fishing. For underwater activities there are 56 diving sites, concentrated along the La Costa del Pirata, whose waters are protected from the Gulf Stream. The sites extend for 15 km between Punta Pedernales and Punta Francés. Site 39 is known as the "Cathedral of the Caribbean," as it has the highest submerged coral column in the world. Other places of interest are the Muro de Coral Negro and the Paraíso de las Levisas where you can swim with these friendly fish (levisas.)
To the northeast of Punta Francés a naval battle took place between the pirate Thomas Baskerville and the Spanish Fleet, resulting in several ships being sunk, of which three well preserved Spanish galleons may be visited.
ARCHIPIÉLAGO DE LOS CANARREOS
A set of uninhabited cays that extend for several km to the east of the Island of the Youth, is a paradise for navigation and diving. It is world-wide famous for being considered one of the best places for wildlife observation, such as the small population of monkeys in Cayo Cantiles, the flamingos of Cayo Pasaje and the huge iguana population endemic to Cayo Iguana. This archipelago belongs to Cayo Largo del Sur, the only one that has tourist infrastructure.
Cayo Largo del Sur
Located 177 km south of Havana and 120 km east of the Isla de la Juventud, 3 km wide, 25 km long and boomerang-shaped, it has 24 km of beaches of fine white sand and crystal-clear turquoise and jade waters. Its nature boasts a high degree of conservation and has coral reefs and an impressive endemic fauna that cohabits in harmony with a hotel infrastructure of high level. It has marinas services and for the practice of diverse water sports such as diving, fishing and freediving. It is a preferred tourist destination among Europeans and Canadians, which offers the possibility to travel by plane to the Isle of Youth, enjoy yacht and catamaran tours, and visit the nearby keys.