The Isle of Youth, south of western Havana province, is called the island of one thousand names, in allusion to the many names it has been given since it was discovered centuries ago.
Admiral Christopher Columbus, who discovered the island during his second voyage, called it San Juan Evangelista (Saint John the Evangelist).
Island of Parrots and Treasure Island are among its first names, during a period from the 16th to the 18th centuries when the island was a safe haven for pirates and corsairs.
For its aboriginal inhabitants, it was Siguanea, while Isla de Pinos (Isle of Pines) was the longest-lasting name, in allusion to the exuberant forests of pine trees of the Caribbean variety that covered the region.
The island, one of the 672 keys and islets that make up the Canarreos Archipelago, shows visitors an irregular coast with exuberant vegetation and a relief characterized by mogotes (round-top hills).
Under their vegetable layer, the island’s mountains hold an invaluable treasure of different varieties of marble, giving the environment a singular touch.
The Isle of Youth is also a land of citrus and pottery. During the flowering period in citrus plantations, the smell of blossoms is impregnated in the air, a sign of the upcoming harvest of grapefruit and orange, which are highly demanded all over the world.
Turned into a protected area due to the natural and archeological elements it treasures, the Isle of Youth has exuberant tropical forests inhabited by big iguanas, hutias, boars and pigeons, among other animal species living in their natural environment.
In the southwestern tip of the island, 122 kilometers (75 miles) from Nueva Gerona, stands the Punta Frances National Marine Park, which covers 4,000 hectares. It is one of the best-preserved coastal ecosystems in the country.
A coral reef of extraordinary beauty and diversity of species, including numerous tubular sponges and several caves, runs underwater.
The Colony Hotel is the ideal place for those who love nautical activities, providing such options as day and night diving, underwater photography and a marina for 15 boats, where yachters can enjoy such services as drinking water, electricity, fuel and catering.
Also impressive are the island’s beaches and jungles of palm trees, and its springs of sulfurous waters, which are highly demanded by visitors.
From the historical view point, tradition lovers can visit the El Abra Farm museum, which was declared a National Monument and exhibits personal objects related to National Hero Jose MartÝ‘s stay in that place.
Another relevant museum is the “Presidio Modelo” (Model Prison), the only facility of its kind in Latin America, where visitors can learn about the characteristics of Cuba’s prison system from the 1920’s to the revolutionary period.