Prevailing travel wisdom would tell you that, while Havana’s distinct cultural mélange makes it a city of legendary appeal, adventurers are better off looking elsewhere in order to explore the richness of Cuban geography. Popular hubs like Pinar del Rio, Trinidad, and Baracoa, respectively situated next to the Vinales Valley, Sierras del Escambray, and Alexander von Humboldt National Park, come readily to mind. And while we’re not necessarily ones to fly in the face of authoritative expressions like “prevailing travel wisdom,” it’s worth noting that a stay in Cuba’s capital doesn’t necessarily condemn one to a week of urban exploration alone. Havana’s natural surroundings may not be the biggest or the most beautiful that the country has to offer, but if you’ve got an itch for adventure and a resourceful disposition (and we’re pretty sure most of you do), you’ll quickly discover that the call of the wild won’t go a-wanting here.
Should you be interested in staying above sea level, consider heading westward towards the gentle slopes of the Sierra del Rosario mountains. With more than a handful of available day-hikes and waterfalls accessible from the neighboring towns of Soroa and Las Terrazas, these undulating, forest covered hills make for an easy day out that generally gets overlooked by those en route to the renowned limestone “mogotes” 85 km farther west. Or, if a 100 km drive isn’t in the cards, think about an excursion to the much-closer Parque Escaleras de Jaruco which can easily be reached on bike. The caves and mini-mountains here helped give birth to the Cuban rock-climbing community back in the 1990’s, and while the sport may have moved on to more inspiring crags across the country there’s still enough beautiful scenery and adventurous intrigue here to merit an exploratory ride out.
On the aquatic end of the spectrum, Havana’s coastline might not be the prettiest in Cuba, but for anyone looking to spend a day in the water it offers enough nearby coral beds and wreck dives to make for a few interesting entries in the log book. Closest to the city center you’ll find the Hemingway Marina equipped to service two-drop outings, as well as the more scenic beaches of the Playas del Este to the east. Keep going in this direction and you’ll eventually hit Playa Jibacoa, whose quasi-resort status puts it somewhere both geographically and metaphorically between the gritty reality of Havana and the over-indulgence of Varadero. Luxury aside, the plentiful coral reefs and limestone crags make this particular destination a favorite for both divers and climbers, and one of the best of a surprising number of adventure opportunities located within a 100 km radius of the Cuban capital. Now put down that cigar and go get exploring.