There's not much else to do on Isla de la Jeventud other than diving and snorkelling and a lot of people come here just for that. The island is home to the Punta Frances Marine National Park, which is a paradise of caves, walls, canyons, wrecks, healthy corals and loads of fish.
With only one centre on the island at El Colony, you're not swamped with choice. The area is far from the town and there are no shops so get an all inclusive deal with the hotel or bring a lot of supplies with you. There are a lot of mosquitos so be prepared for that.
There are 56 dive sites off the coast of El Colony, so in this instance you are swamped for choice! They are all within an hour's boat trip so you can spend a good couple of weeks checking out all the sites. The area is one of the best spot for photography and competitions have even been held here.
Those who love wall diving will be impressed with the drop offs here. The walls are filled with tunnels and passageways to explore and the reef is covered in gorgonians, sponges and different corals. Sea life includes turtles, rays, sometimes a nurse shark, and fish such as barracuda, grunts, snapper, spadefish, triggers and macro stuff like small crabs and shrimp.
Some of the best sites for advanced divers include Pared de Coral Negro with loads of black coral at 30 metres and magnificent corals along the walls, Cueva Azul its interesting shades of blue at the hole around 40 metres and Lon Indios is a rocky wall with sandy plateau with huge schools of fish and rays chilling on the sand. There's so much sea life here you won't know where to look!
The wrecks of the Jibacoa and Sparta lie in shallow water and great for any level of diver to enjoy. They used to be used for military target practice but not divers can enjoy the ships. It is possible to enter the wrecks but excellent buoyancy is necessary so you don't damage the delicate life growing on them.
El Cabezo de las Isabelitas is the place for great macro photography, certified divers can enjoy the shallow walls of El Mirador or El Valle de los Rubios with its small wreck. Other sites you might visit are Diver's Hiding Place, Shad's Arch and the Site of All.
If diving is the only thing on your mind on the Island of Youth then you're in for a fun time! Chill out in the evenings and enjoy the sunset with a nice cold mojito and get ready for your next day of diving.
(By Kelly Luckman)
50km south of cuba lies Isla de la Juventud (The Island of Youth), which is the second largest island in the country. It is rich in natural wonders and friendly people, a world away from the hustle and bustle of city life, you will find the relaxed atmosphere a breath of fresh air and this is a place to drop your bags and chill for a while.
You can get there by flying from Havana to the main town of Nueva Gerona, there are a few flights a day but be sure to buy a return ticket as it's difficult to book flights on the island. There is also an Aerotaxi from Havana or Pinar del Rio twice a week. A hour boat journey from the Batabano port will get you there in two hours but be sure to book in Havana as many a traveller has had problems buying their ticket from the port. You can rent a bicycle to the get around the island or hire a bicitaxi or Lada with driver for the day.
There isn't a lot of choice of hotel accommodation, the way to go is a home stay where the amazing Cuban families will open the hearts and their homes to guests for their stay on the island. Learn all about culture, food and probably end up becoming part of a Cuban family! This is a great way to get the most out of your Cuban experience and highly recommended. The easiest place to find a home stay is asking around in the main town of Nueva Gerona or you'll find people at the airport and port when you arrive.
The island is great for nature activities such as trekking, bird watching, swimming, diving, snorkelling and relaxing on the beach. Bibijagua beach is a black sand beach from the marble being eroded so the landscape is stunning or the lovely waters of Playa Paraíso next to the town. Climb the Sierra de Las Casas for nice views and have a dip in the local swimming hole or go caving at the Indian cave.
There are a few interesting museums around the town such as the Casa Natal de jesus, Museo Finca El Abra and the Planetarium and Natural History Museum. The church of Nuestra Señorade los Dolores with some very interesting history behind it.
Go in search of the famous local sucu-sucu, a band that sometimes plays at the Casa de la Cultura in La Fe. Chill out in one fo the local bars or restaurants for a Cuba Libre (Rum and Coke) or delicious Mojito.
You'll find yourself losing time on this island, relaxing the days away and enjoying the local hospitality and culture. A real taste of Cuban island life.
(By Kelly Luckman)