If you're looking to get out of the capital and into the Cuban countryside for a day, try this adventure on for size. Hop on the Autopista Nacional headed southeast of Havana following the exit signs for the towns of Tapaste and Jaruco. After about 30 km (total) you'll come across a series of suddenly-emerging, foliage-covered karsts reminiscent of a miniature mountain range. Welcome to the 18 sq km natural reserve known as Las Escaleras de Jaruco, or "Jaruco's Stairs." We say miniature because none of these "peaks" tops 350 meters, a point which becomes relatively moot when you begin to explore the intrigue and natural beauty that can be found here.
First of all, this park is a cave lover's playground. Subterranean options range from the classic stalactites and stalagmites of Cueva del Cura (at 150 m, it's one of the deeper caves in Western Cuba) to the historical Cueva de Aguirre, strategic hideout of Major General José María Aguirre during the Cuban War of Independence (weekend guided tours available). There's even a bar/restaurant/quasi-slave museum at the entrance to the Palenque de los Cimarrones cave, although in reality you're probably better off avoiding this type of tourist "attraction."
If you want to do more than see the caves, Escaleras de Jaruco has plenty of other options up its sleeve, although none are entirely well advertised (aside from the campground). For example, these limestone cliffs helped introduce sport-climbing to the country in the mid 1990's; however, with the popularity of other sites like Vinales and nearby Jibacoa (part of the same karst system) their routes have faded from the spotlight. This makes climbing the 20 or so bolted routes here doable, but a challenge (we've provided helpful links). The same unfortunately goes for hiking, as you can find plenty of trails in Escaleras de Jaruco but reliable information on them is few and far between. That said, you'll never go wrong if you decide to explore the park on two wheels. Its manageable distance from Havana (where you can easily find bike rentals), combined with its winding roadways and handful of scenic viewing areas overlooking Mayabeque Province, make it an excellent destination for a full-day ride.