Cuba Main Facts
Cuba is home to beautiful beaches, forests, mountains, mangroves, and wetlands, but it was not until the 1990s that the government established laws to protect the environment. Since then, Cuba has established an excellent network of nationally protected natural areas in a variety of habitats, thus covering some 12% of the total land area, which falls within roughly 200 conservation units. Among these, there are 6 RAMSAR sites, 6 Biosphere Reserves and 28 Important Bird Areas. Cuba is also an Endemic Bird Area (EBA) in itself. Despite a great percentage of Cuba’s native vegetation been converted into farmland over the past 200 years, 20% of land still remains in its natural state, virtually untouched, and thus creating a safe haven for rare and intriguing indigenous animals, as well as for hundreds of species of migratory birds and marine creatures.
Cuba’s natural habitats range from forests to coastal mangroves, and wildlife also benefits from artificial man-made habitats such as rice fields and other farmland. Besides the mountain ranges of Sierra Maestra and Sierra Cristal in the southeast, the Escambray Mountains in the centre, and Sierra del Rosario in the northwest, the island is mainly lowland, with arid scrub, savannah, and different types of forest, including lowland and montane rain forest, cloud forest, and dry deciduous forest. Some extensive coastal wetlands are particularly interesting for birders, with Zapata Swamp standing out of all the others.
Cuba has a large variety of ecosystems (42 types) and landscapes (23 types), ranging from arid and semi-arid land to humid tropical forests and mountains. It is composed of a main island and several archipelagos. Plains cover 75% of the territory, while mountains cover 18% and humid coastal lands cover the remaining 4%. Mangroves represent 26% of the country’s forested surface and 70% of its coasts. Although natural and anthropogenic stressors have affected more than 30% of existing mangroves, this ecosystem is ranked first amongst the Caribbean island countries and ninth worldwide. Cuba is the principal center of evolution and speciation in the Antilles, as well as one of the most important islands worldwide for biodiversity. The high level of endemism is caused by extreme climate conditions, diversity of habitat, geologic evolution (soil mosaic) and geographic isolation. As a result, approximately 50% of plant species and 42% of animal species can be found in Cuba only. Of the 612 vertebrate species, endemics include 15 mammals, 91 reptiles, 43 amphibians, 23 fish and 22 birds.
With the entire archipelago south of the Tropic of Cancer, the local climate is tropical, moderated by northeasterly trade winds that blow year-round. The temperature is also shaped by the Caribbean current, which brings in warm water from the equator. In general (with local variations), there is a drier season from November to April, and a rainier season from May to October. The average temperature is 21 °C (69.8 °F) in January and 27 °C (80.6 °F) in July.
Suggested tours for Cuba
These tours give you a starting point for what your trip to Cuba could entail. They cover routes we’ve found work particularly well and feature some of our favorite places to stay. Treat them as inspiration, as each trip is created uniquely for you.