Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean and is some 1,200km (745 miles) long; its greatest width is 210km (130 miles). There is about 6,073km (3,774 miles) of coastline and 345km (214 miles) of beach that shelters sea water that's an inviting 24°C (75°F) year-round.
Some 4,000 islands and islets offshore in both the north and south create an area of 110,992 sq. km (4,2854 sq. miles). There are two principal islands -- both off the southern coast -- the Isla de la Juventud and the tourist enclave of Cayo Largo del Sur. Most of the northern coast of the mainland is fringed by white sand beaches and palm trees with coral reefs just offshore; on the southern coast, black sand beaches can be found.
The interior of the island is dominated by three mountain ranges. In the west, stretching down the spine of Pinar del Río province is the Cordillera de Guaniguanico; in central Cuba is the Sierra del Escambray and in Oriente, the Sierra Maestra, with Cuba's highest mountain, Pico Turquino at 1,974m (6,476 ft.). Waterfalls, such as Salto del Caburní in Oriente and El Nicho near Cienfuegos, abound. Limestone geology has meant that there are extensive cave networks in the country; those near Viñales, Santo Tomás, and the Cuevas del Bellamar near Matanzas are the most famous. In the World Heritage Site of the Viñales Valley, erosion left limestone stumps in its wake. These limestone round-topped mountains covered in clambering vegetation are scattered on the floor of the Valley, and are known as mogotes.
Cuba's landscapes are diverse and verdant (some 55 inches of rain fall a year) and include rolling sugar cane fields, tobacco plantations, coffee bushes, rivers, Royal Palms, river canyons, and forests bursting with bird life and orchids; across the country more than 300 protected areas have been established.
There are six UNESCO Biosphere reserves: Guanahacabibes Peninsula and Sierra del Rosario in the west, Parque Nacional Ciénaga de Zapata in the south at the Bay of Pigs; Parque Nacional El Caguanes in the north central area; Parque Nacional Baconao, east of Santiago, and Cuchillas del Toa near Baracoa.
Cuba is also rich in flora and fauna. Some 400 species of bird exist in Cuba (of which 21 are endemic). The most famous bird species is the tocororo, a trogon (Priotelus temnurus) and Cuba's national bird (it sports the colors of the national flag -- red, white and blue). Flamingos (phoenicopterus ruber) stalk the marshlands of the Zapata peninsula and the saline flats along the north coast from Cayo Coco to Playa Santa Lucía. The smallest bird in the world, the zunzuncito (Mellisuga helenae), a hummingbird; the world's smallest frog (Eleutherodactylus iberia); and the world's smallest bat (Natalidae lepidus) all live in Cuba, along with the Cuban crocodile (Crocodylus rhombifer) and a rare creature called the Cuban Solenodon (Solenodon cubanus). Another unusual Cuban animal is the jutía, a tree-loving mammal that is like a cute rat when young. The most endearing of Cuba's fauna is the polymita picta snail, shaded in swirls of yellow, green, black, brown, and white; this rare snail is found near Baracoa.
Cuba is home to about 6,700 species of flora, including 74 endemic plants. A common sight is the royal poinciana (flamboyán), known for its starburst of red flowers; the mariposa, the white fragrant national flower; the ceiba tree; and enormous hibiscus flowers.
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.