The island's most publicized attraction is the Presidio Modelo (Model Prison; tel. 46/32-5112), located about 5km (3 miles) east of Nueva Gerona. The massive, five-story, circular prison blocks are dire and imposing, the remaining metal brackets whining in the silence, and even brief visits give you an idea of how uncomfortable they must have been. This is the prison where Fidel Castro and other surviving conspirators were sent following the failed Moncada raid. There's a small museum in the block where Fidel and his compadres did time, and you can even visit the Comandante's former cell, no. 3859. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 8am to 4pm, and Sunday from 8am to noon; admission is CUC$2. There's an extra CUC$3 charge for taking photos, and a CUC$15 fee for taking video.
If you're spending much time in downtown Nueva Gerona, you might want to stop in at the Museo Provincial (tel. 46/32-3791) on the park. Housed in an old building dating from the 1830s, this museum features a wide range of exhibits illustrating the island's history from pre-Columbian times to the modern era. Admission is CUC$1.
Nueva Gerona's downtown park, the Parque Julio Antonio Mella, is a great place to hang out, with some strategically placed benches for sitting and watching the townsfolk stroll on by. There's a pretty little colonial, mission-style church, Nuestra Señora de los Dolores, on the northern edge of the park, and the snazzy-looking Art Deco Cine Caribe on the eastern edge. Beginning at the park's western edge and running north for 5 blocks, Calle 39, also known as Calle José Martí, is a pedestrian-only street. This is where most of the town's shops, restaurants, and bars are located, and it's the site of the town's nightlife.
About 27km (17 miles) south of Nueva Gerona is an interesting botanical garden dubbed La Jungla de Jones, or the Jungle of Jones (tel. 46/39-6246). A rather unkempt attraction, the gardens nonetheless have a broad and varied collection of tropical flora. Admission is CUC$3. Farther south, beyond the town of La Fe, you'll find the Criadero de Cocodrilos, a crocodile-breeding project. The facilities are basic, but there are hundreds of these impressive reptiles here, ranging in size from little tots to monstrous adults. The facility is open daily from 8am to 5pm, and the CUC$3 entrance fee will get you a brief guided tour.
On the southeastern coast of Isla de la Juventud, 59km (37 miles) from Nueva Gerona is the Cueva de Punta del Este, a small complex of caves with more than 200 ancient pictographs well preserved on its walls. This cave system has been called the Sistine Chapel of Caribbean indigenous art. The paintings are of abstract and geometric patterns and are thought to have both religious and celestial significance. There's a pretty white-sand beach here as well, so you can combine a visit to the caves with some beach time. There's no entrance fee to the caves, but you'll need a special permit and guide to enter this area; your best bet is to visit as part of an organized tour, which can be arranged at your hotel or with Cubanacán (tel. 46/32-6369) or Ecotur (tel. 46/32-7101) in town.
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.