The best attractions in Isla de la Juventud

photo by Sami Keinanen on Flickr

Cuba’s islands are all idyllic tropical paradises, from the largest one to the tiniest speck of land. Isla de la Juventud is one such place, the second largest one of Cuba’s islands and the most populous one, except for the main island, of course. Isla de la Juventud combines culture and lush environments, and unlike many of the other islands around Cuba, it is neither an uninhabited natural haven, nor a cluster of luxury resorts. Isla de la Juventud has lovely beaches, lush pine forests, resorts and destinations where you can discover Cuban culture, so it’s not surprising that it is one of the biggest tourist draws of Cuba. If you are interested in what you can find on the island, here are the best attractions on Isla de la Juventud.

Presidio Modelo

One of the most talked about attractions in Isla de la Juventud (and a sight that Cuba is quite proud of) is Presidio Modelo, a former prison where Fidel Castro did some time after the failed rebel attacks on Moncada Barracks. The prison was built in the 20′s, and it consists of five panopticon-style circular buildings. The prison was closed in 1967, and now it is a museum and a national monument. You can see the cell of the Comandante and other prominent political prisoners.

Punta del Este Caves

photo by laurinha_lii on Flickr

Cueva de Punta del Este is a very interesting complex of caves that are famous not only for their natural beauty, but also for the several hundred ancient pictograms discovered on the cave walls. The pre-Columbian cave paintings are so beautiful and detailed that people have started calling the caves the Sistine Chapel of the Caribbean. The best day of the year to visit the caves is March 21, when a beam of sunlight enters through the ceiling of the first cave and marks the middle of the room.

Bibijagua Beach

Bibijagua Beach is one of those rare beaches that has black volcanic sand, and has quickly become one of the best attractions in Isla de la Juventud. This exotic beach is the favorite of the locals and of the communities of expats who settled on the island. The beach has several sections, but the less touristy part were the locals hang out are considered to be the most beautiful.

Nueva Gerona

photo by Alex Graves on Flickr

The capital of the Isla de la Juventud, Nueva Gerona, is a must visit if you happen to travel to the island. This pretty little colonial town is quieter than Havana, that’s for sure, but it has an unmistakeable charm of its own. The town center has lots of buildings dating back to the 1830′s when Nueva Gerona was founded, and there are several nice sights around, like the Provincial Museum, the downtown park, a colonial church (Nuestra Señora de los Dolores) and a quaint art-deco Cine Caribe movie theater.

 

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