Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth), south of the western Cuban province of Havana, is an excellent place that combines a wide range of tourist attractions, nature and history.
The isle, which is 100 kilometers south of the largest island in the Cuban archipelago, has always been associated to legends, adventures and traditions, which are complemented by its unique nature.
Its capital, Nueva Gerona, was founded in 1830 under the name of colony Queen Amalia, in honor of King Ferdinand VII's wife. The city boasts a well preserved eclectic architecture in which singular neoclassic elements stand out.
For legend lovers, the island is also known as the land of one thousand names, due to its many denominations since it was discovered centuries ago.
Admiral Christopher Columbus discovered the island during his second voyage to the Americas and called it Saint John Evangelist.
Other names are the Island of Parrots and Treasure Island, as that territory used to be a safe haven for corsairs and pirates from the 16th to the 18th century.
The aborigines called it Siguanea, while the name of Isla de Pinos (Isle of Pines) came from the Caribbean pine forests that covered the island.
The island, one of 672 keys and islets that make up the Los Canarreos archipelago, offers tourists a broken coast covered by exuberant vegetation and a relief characterized by "mogotes" (rounded-top hills).
The Punta Francés National Marine Park, one of the best-preserved coastal ecosystems in Cuba, is located in the southwestern part of the isle, some 122 kilometers from Nueva Gerona.
There are more than 50 dive spots in that area, which also offers a 400-kilometer coral reef that is among one of the best preserved in the world, and a varied marine fauna.
The Colony is the perfect place for those who love nautical sports, as they can dive during the day and at night, and take underwater photos. There is also a marina for 15 boats, where the boat owners receive such services as drinking water, electricity, fuel and catering.
One of the attractions on the isle is Villa Isla de la Juventud, which offers 20 rooms and an extensive program of recreational activities, excursions and tours of places of interests.
Chinese, Japanese and North American immigrants settled in the area near Bibijagua Beach, which is famous for its black sand, due to the erosion of marble rocks, which abound on the island.
Vacationers can also practice trekking, watch birds, tour forests, have lunch in the countryside and visit aboriginal places and flooded caverns.