Although Cuba is recognized around the world as a sun and beach destination par excellence, there are other attractions to be found farther from the coastline.
Natural parks, waterfalls, rivers, caves, and a rich variety of plant and animal species to observe abound in the center of the island.
The central region, ideal for combination circuits including the appreciation of nature and hiking, is considered today one of the most beautiful parts of the country to enjoy the outdoors.
Located in the Guamuhaya mountains, an indigenous name that means much water in the mountains, is Topes de Collantes, a natural preserve that is home to 45% of the island’s endemic birds, more than 15 species of pines, approximately 100 varieties of plants, amphibians known only here, and Hanabanilla Lake, the highest in Cuba at 400 meters above sea level.
Bordered by the central provinces of Villa Clara, Cienfuegos, and Sancti Spíritus, Topes de Collantes includes 200 square kilometers of varied terrain and is a designated Protected Natural Landscape.
NATURAL EXPERIENCES IN CUBA
For those who love fresh air, mountains, and clear waters, the region offers a variety of options. Several excursions are available in its six parks, including El Nicho, Altiplano, Caburní, Codina, Vegas Grandes, and Cubano, recognized as the most attractive to international and Cuban visitors alike.
In the Cubano, the closest park to Trinidad, daily tours with specialized guides are organized. On a short, four-kilometer hike visitors can enjoy a natural pool nine meters deep, while a 20-meter waterfall is the main attraction.
Vegas Grandes, for its part, boasts the highest waterfall of the region, close to 100 meters high. El Caburní was the first park to be opened and is the most famous. A seven-kilometer hike here takes visitors to a natural pool and 25-meter waterfall.
Codina is one of the most well-preserved parks in the area, with its Alfombra Mágica (Magic carpet) trail, always covered in moss, making hikers’ footprints practically invisible. Also located here is a cave where bats and different kinds of owls can be seen, as well as an overlook offering views of the city of Trinidad.
The most visited hiking area is the Guanayara, with a three-meter deep pool at the foot of a waterfall and various excursions offered.
All these parks offer food services, where restaurants serving traditional Cuban food predominate. Available for those with these interests are camping trips, catamaran excursions to Iguana Key, and a canopy experience for adventure tourists.
For longer stays in Topes de Collantes, lodging is available at the 105-room Helechos Hotel. Among its attractions are an indoor heated pool, a game room with billiard and ping pong tables, as well as a restaurant, Las Mariposas.
Hanabanilla is another of Cuba’s most beautiful spots, with a hotel set among the mountains. It is affiliated with the Islazul chain and receives European guests every year from Germany, the Netherlands, France, Italy, and Spain.
The Black River, located deep within the mountains, is not only noteworthy for its natural beauty but also for the meticulous care afforded its environment.
“This is a must-see visit that is much appreciated, making the Hanabanilla gardens an ideal place for weddings, quinceañeras, and celebrations of all kinds,” said Neuris J. Barzaga Laffite, Ministry of Tourism representative.
Boats are available for tours of the Black River, including two that have been reconditioned, and new nautical equipment has been acquired, added Barzaga.
ISLAZUL IN THE CENTRAL REGION
The Islazul Hotel Group administers several facilities in the central region of the country. Its activity in the province is growing, with plans underway to finish the year with these in better condition. Several projects are advancing, and there are openings for foreign investors.
“We currently have two administration contracts with prestigious international firms. One is Sercotel that already has four hotels in Havana, and the Meliá chain with three in Camagüey, and the other company is Inside, that should begin January 1, next year,” Barzaga explained.
Hotels with Cuban brand names have also strengthened investment in infrastructure, rooms, and training of workers, which is very important to achieving the needed competitive edge.
“The Santa Clara Libre Hotel has benefitted from the recovery of a number of rooms, 42 to be exact. It has new furniture, a high comfort level, new air conditioning, improvements in the hotel lobby and other spaces, among which the terrace and three event rooms stand out.
“Likewise, in what was formerly the basement, the Bodegón del Sótano has been opened, a bar that has been very well received by visitors,” Barzaga reported.
To expand in the circuit tourism modality, the Floreales Hotel in the city of Santa Clara has been completed.
In a city full of culture and history, the remodeled Floreales is considered a boutique hotel given its characteristics and comfort level. It boasts large rooms, various services, and the professionalism expected of this type of facility.
Islazul is present in all of Cuba’s cities, with a total of 110 hotels located in areas of significant cultural, historic, and natural value. This hotel group is committed to providing services for circuit tourism in urban and natural areas, which is being developed in the country.