Most Americans know Cuba only as a forbidden land of rum, cigars and communism—after all, most forms of travel to Cuba have been banned for more than 50 years. The long-time embargo has conjured images of a dark and mysterious place in the minds of those not allowed to visit.
In 2011, the Obama administration took a big step toward repairing relations with Cuba by allowing “people to people” trips, opening educational travel opportunities. Last week the administration made history once again by announcing further repair—and more travel opportunities—easing travel rules even further.
Though the increased travel opportunities haven’t taken effect yet, tour operators, airlines and travelers are excited about what’s ahead. In preparation, we’ve compiled some of the best active adventures that can be found on the island of Cuba. From hiking to the highest point in the country to diving deep in caves, there’s plenty to do in Cuba, should you have the opportunity to visit.
Many islands in the Caribbean promise crystal clear water, but very few offer the experience to dive and explore the depths of a cave that reaches 70-feet deep. Cueva de Saturno, pictured left, is one such diving spot that’s not far off the beaten path—and it’s certainly not the only cave in Cuba worth a visit. Travelers truly interested in cave diving should get to Gran Caverna de Santo Tomas, one of the largest and most complex cave systems in the Western Hemisphere (headlamps required). Those slightly less adventurous might opt for the well-lit Cuevas de Bellamar, which some say is Cuba’s oldest tourist attraction.
For the bold, adventurous and skilled climber, western Cuba offers some of the most magnificent climbs in the Caribbean. A quick two-hour ride from Havana will put climbers at the base of 1,000-foot-tall limestone crags in the Vinales Valley National Park. Should you make it to the top, the view of old Cuban houses, gigantic palm trees and mountainous outlines in the distance is just as amazing as the climb itself.