Western Cuba: Places to Explore


  • Cárdenas

    Cárdenas is traditionally known for its horse-drawn caletas (carts), for its many bicycles, for its crab fishery, and for being the first town in Cuba to raise the national flag. This event, much revered... Read more

  • Cayo Largo

    Popular with Canadian and Italian tour groups that often fly in directly, Cayo Largo is an ideal spot for a carefree vacation, though contact with Cuban life and culture is very limited. The island is... Read more

  • Cayo Levisa

    The Archipiélago de los Colorados that runs along Cuba's northern coast begins at Cayo Paraíso just west of Las Pozas and continues to the island's western tip. Cayo Paraíso was a famous Hemingway haunt... Read more

  • Isla de la Juventud

    Flat, scrubby, and—except for its subaquatic marvels—geographically undistinguished, the island was a pirate refuge for centuries after Columbus discovered it in 1494. In the 19th century, the Spanish... Read more

  • María la Gorda

    Named for a voluptuous young woman who was allegedly captured by pirates and returned to this westernmost Cuban point only to set up a brothel, María la Gorda is on the Bahía de Corrientes, two and a half... Read more

  • Matanzas

    Matanzas, which means "killings" or "slaughters," was Cuba's early livestock abattoir and exporter of meat to Spain. (An alternate story attributes the name to an ambush and murder of Spanish shipwreck... Read more

  • Península de Zapata

    The Península de Zapata, so called for its slipper-shape outline, is also known as La Ciénaga de Zapata (the Swamp of Zapata). Home to Cuba's largest wetland and wildlife sanctuary, the peninsula backs... Read more

  • Pinar del Río

    Named for the stands of pine trees that once shaded the banks of the Río Guamá, this has been Cuba's tobacco city since its first land grants were allocated in 1544. Viñales and Vuelta Abajo were the island's... Read more

  • Playa Girón

    Playa Girón is the beach and town on the Bahía de Cochinos where much of the bungled CIA-backed Bay of Pigs Invasion on April 17, 1961, took place. More than 1,100 men of the 1,300 Cuban exiles who made... Read more

  • San Juan y Martínez

    The finest-quality tobacco leaves come from Vuelta Abajo—the region southwest of Pinar del Río city—thanks to a combination of abundant rainfall throughout the year (except during the growing season)... Read more

  • Soroa and Environs

    Known for its orchid garden and its 30-m (99-ft) waterfall, El Salto, Soroa has been dubbed "the Rainbow of Cuba" for the rainbow that sometimes hovers over the falls. The area is a good place to take... Read more

  • Valle de Viñales

    The valley is justly ranked among Cuba's most beautiful landscapes, an expanse of lush green studded with the famous mogotes—freestanding, flat-topped, sheer-sided rock formations. Don't fail to stop at... Read more

  • Varadero

    Depending on your tastes and ambitions, Varadero is either a tropical paradise or a tourist inferno, but the fact remains: its beaches are excellent, and its offerings rival those of similar resort areas... Read more