Active tourism is still in its infancy in Cuba, but opportunities have opened up in the last few years. The island offers myriad opportunities to add a bit of adrenaline and adventure to your vacation. Watersports are the main draw here, and Cuba abounds with outstanding opportunities to fish, sail, snorkel, and scuba dive. For those looking for some dry-land adventure activities, there are great options for biking and rock climbing, and you might even be able to get on a diamond to play some baseball.
Most tour operators listed can arrange trekking tours. Caledonia (tel. 0131/621-7721; www.caledonialanguages.com) organizes trekking trips in the Sierra Maestra.
Baseball is the national sport and, after dancing and sex, Cuba's greatest national passion. Cuba's amateur players are considered some of the best in the world, and the premier players are aggressively scouted and courted by Major League Baseball. The regular season runs November through March, and playoffs and the final championship usually carry the season on into May. Most major towns and cities have a local team. Some of the consistently better teams include Pinar del Río, Sancti Spíritus, Santiago de Cuba, Santa Clara, and of course Havana's Industriales. It's usually easy to buy tickets at the box office for less than 5 Cuban pesos, or ask at your hotel or casa particular and perhaps they can get you tickets in advance.
If you want to actually get out and play, you should be able to find a pickup game to join. Check out the website of Baseball Adventures (tel. 707/937-4478;www.baseballadventures.com), which offers fully hosted trips geared toward serious players looking to play and train with local Cuban pros.
Tip: If you're planning on playing, bring some extra equipment -- balls, bats, and gloves -- to leave behind. It'll be greatly appreciated and is a great means of getting into a game.
With a local reliance on bicycles for everyday transportation and a relatively well-maintained road network serving a small motor vehicular fleet, Cuba is a great country to tour by bicycle. There are few local operations renting decent bikes in Cuba, so it's best to bring your own. I also recommend organized trips, as the logistics of traveling through Cuba still make it a bit difficult for independent bike touring. One dependable operation with regular bike tours and quality bike rentals in Cuba is Wow Cuba (tel. 800/969-2822 or 902/368-2453; www.wowcuba.com). Anyone thinking of bicycling in Cuba should pick up a copy of Wally and Barbara Smith'sBicycling Cuba: Fifty Days of Detailed Rides from Havana to Pinar Del Río and the Oriente (Backcountry Guides, 2002).
Over 350 resident and migratory species of birds can be spotted in Cuba, including some 24 endemic species. Cuba is also home to the smallest hummingbird in the world, the endemic bee hummingbird. A couple of organized tour options are offered by the British company Cuba Direct (www.cubadirect.co.uk) and the Canadian operation Quest Nature Tours (tel. 416/633-5666; www.questnaturetours.com). Some of the best places to go bird-watching in Cuba include La Güira National Park, the Zapata Peninsula, Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo, La Belen reserve near Camagüey, the Sierra Maestra region, and Baracoa. Bird-watchers will want to bring a copy of Field Guide to the Birds of Cuba (Comstock, 2000), by Orlando Garrido et al.
There's fabulous deep-sea sportfishing for marlin, sailfish, tuna, dorado, and more off most of Cuba's extensive coastline, while the Zapata Peninsula and Cayo Largo del Sur may just be some of the best and least exploited bonefishing spots left in the hemisphere. The mountain lake and resort of Hanabanilla is getting good grades as a freshwater ground for widemouth and black bass. There's a broad network of state-run marinas all around Cuba; the greatest number are run byGrupo Empresarial de Náutica y Marinas Marlin (www.nauticamarlin.com) and Gaviota (tel. 7/869-5774; www.gaviota-grupo.com). All offer sportfishing charters. Avalon (http://cubanfishingcenters.com) runs a reputable operation; it operates out of Jardines de la Reina, Isla de la Juventud, and Cayo Largo.
The country's only regulation 18-hole golf course is the Varadero Golf Club (tel. 45/66-8482; www.varaderogolfclub.com). The course is a relatively flat resort course, with lots of water, plenty of sand, great views, and almost no rough. Golfers will probably want to stay at the adjacent Meliá Las Américas (tel. 45/66-7600;www.solmeliacuba.com), although you can make reservations and play here from any hotel in the area.
In Havana, there's the Club de Golf Habana, Carretera Vento Km 8, Capdevila, Rancho Boyeros (tel. 7/649-8918, ext. 111), which has a decent little 9-hole course.
Riding horses is possible in Viñales, around Trinidad and Guardalavaca, and on some beaches such as Cayo Guillermo. Captivating Cuba(www.captivatingcuba.com) can organize trips focused on horse-back riding.
Great kite surfing can be found on Cayo Guillermo. You will need to bring all your own equipment though. Canadian hobbyists have been coming here for years.
Mountain & Rock Climbing
These sports are in their infancy in Cuba, but excellent opportunities abound, especially around the Viñales Valley. Cuba Climbing(www.cubaclimbing.com) can point you to the right rocks and answer any questions you might have.
Whether you take a day sail, or decide to go cruising the coastline for a week or so, opportunities to sail the clear waters off Cuba abound. The state-run marinas in Varadero, Jardines del Rey, Camagüey, Santiago, Cienfuegos, and Cayo Largo del Sur all offer charter sailboats, as well as a variety of day sailing options.
Scuba Diving & Snorkeling
There are fabulous scuba-diving and snorkeling opportunities on the coral reefs, ocean walls, and ancient wrecks that lie just off Cuba's coasts. Isla de la Juventud, Los Jardines de la Reina, Santa Lucía, María la Gorda, and Playa Girón are widely considered the absolute top scuba-diving destinations, but in each case, the majority of the accommodations options are either rustic or decidedly geared toward hard-core dive enthusiasts and almost no one else. You will also find perfectly acceptable dive opportunities and operations in Varadero, Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo, Guardalavaca, and Cayo Largo del Sur, as well as far more comfortable and varied accommodations.
Cuba is not considered a world-class surfing destination, and there are very few Cuban surfers or surf tourists. Still, this is part of the charm of surfing in Cuba, and there are waves and breaks all along the island's long coastline, including right off the Malecón in Havana. For good information and a primer, check outwww.havanasurf-cuba.com. You will definitely have to bring your own board, and I would recommend bringing a board (or two) that you wouldn't mind leaving behind for some very appreciative Cuban surfer.
Many of the large-scale beach resorts have tennis courts. Almost all are outdoor courts, and very few are lit. If you're set on playing tennis on your trip, be sure to check in advance whether your hotel or resort has courts. Your options are much more limited in Havana, unless you're staying at one of the few city hotels with a court. Your best bet in Havana is to try to book a court at the Occidental Miramar, Avenida 5, between Calles 78 and 80, Miramar, Playa (tel. 7/204-8158), which has six courts; or head to the Club Habana, Avenida 5, between Calles 188 and 192, Reparto Flores, Playa (tel. 7/204-3300); or Club de Golf Habana, Carretera Vento Km 8, Capdevila, Rancho Boyeros (tel. 7/649-8820). Each have a few courts open to the general public. All charge around CUC$10 per hour.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.