Prior to 1959, Cuba was the only island in the Caribbean with a significant tourism industry. It was only after Castro’s revolution in ’59 that tourism on other Caribbean islands became viable. As the largest island in the West Indies and one with such diversity there is little wonder that it was a vacation destination for anyone looking to visit the Caribbean.
Cuba’s landmass is equal to the total combined landmass of all the islands in the West Indies. Consequently, Cuba has over 2,000 nautical miles of coastline, almost 4,000 islands and cays, 200 sheltered bays of which 81 are unique pocket bays. Cuba also boasts beautiful sand beaches and hundreds of miles of unspoiled coral reefs.
The reefs shelter both the island’s Atlantic and Caribbean shores. “Jardines de la Reina”, an extensive reef area on the south coast named by Columbus. It is considered one of the world’s larger coral reefs. Water visibility is 30 to 40 meters and the surface water temperature averages between 24°C and 29°Celsius. The island also boasts an average of 330 days of sunshine per year. Cuba’s interior contains three mountain ranges. The highest range is the Sierra Maestra in the far southeast. Its summit, Pico Turquino, towers to 1995 m (6542 ft).
Other inland features include rivers, creeks, marshes and lagoons. Despite its impressive natural beauty most travellers are drawn to Cuba’s cities, towns and small villages where the quantity of striking Spanish colonial architecture is astounding. Some of these buildings date as far back as 1519 and have UNESCO world heritage designation. Imagine, Havana will soon celebrate its 500th anniversary. It is safe to say that Cuba has some of the most historic sites in the Americas.
For the yachtsman, Cuba is easy to reach. A boater whose departure point is anywhere on the eastern seaboard of North America (including the Great Lakes) will find that the passage is via inland and/or coastal waters to the Florida Keys and then an overnight passage of only 90 nautical miles.
When the time comes to decide on a winter cruising destination, be it the Bahamas, farther south to the Windward and Leeward Islands or to Cuba, you will soon realize that Cuba is the most logical choice. Its close proximity to North America, an almost infinite choice of great anchorages and much to see and do leaves little doubt that Cuba will once again become the winter destination of choice for yachtsmen the world over.