Caguanes National Park, Cuba

Photo: Effervescing Elephant [Flickr] via Cuba Travel Guides
Photo: Effervescing Elephant [Flickr] via Cuba Travel Guides
It seems like everyone is planning a trip to Havana. Ever since the relationship between Cuba and the U.S. warmed up last winter, the Caribbean island has become a realistic destination for curious Americans. After getting to know the vibrant capital though, you’ll start to wonder what else is hidden around the country.

Caguanes National Park sits on the Atlantic—that would be the northern—coast more than 200 miles east of Havana. The 80-square-mile area, along the Bay of Buena Vista, is stunning. It has 10 cays, swamps, and mangroves that act as a barrier against the ocean’s strong swells. Three long-closed sugar mills and caves are hidden on the land. While more than 200 species of birds  and the only freshwater carnivorous sponge in the world call the park home.

You arrive to find dense greenery and few people—the park has yet to be developed for tourists. Walk inside some of the caves, at least the ones not partially submerged with water. A colony of mariposa bats live in the Tres Dolinas Cave. Other caves are now archaeological sites. Plus the walls of many are filled with murals. Watch tall sandhill cranes forage in the Guayaberas Swamp. Sea kayak through the marshland, where spoonbills, pelicans, and flamingos wade. Then head out toward the cays to see this remote section of the coast from the water.

Like most things in Cuba, Caguanes National Park is sure to change quickly. Trails, and perhaps boardwalks, will be constructed. The caves will become tourist sites. Boat tours will make it easier to see the bay and the birds. And eco-resorts will probably be built in the area. Now is your chance to see the pristine park.

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