Montemar Natural Park
Cuban Pygmy Owl © Shawn McCready
Cuba is developing its eco-tourism potential and one of the prime spots for getting back to nature is the Montemar Natural Park on the Zapata Peninsula in the province of Matanzas (about 75 miles/120km from Havana). The hour long drive from Havana is well worth the effort as the park can occupy the whole family for at least a day.
The peninsula is home to one of the largest swamps in the Caribbean, and its vast area also includes forests, crystal-clear lagoons and canals. Its exuberant flora, including more than 900 species of plants (115 of them endemic to Cuba) is complemented by its rich fauna, consisting of 160 bird species and 12 types of animal, including crocodiles.
One of the park's many interesting features is the Laguna del Tesoro (Treasure Lagoon), a fresh water reservoir inhabited by golden trout. In the midst of the lagoon is a reproduction Taino village with its houses built on pillars. There are also nature trails, a bird watching centre, and the largest flooded cave in Cuba. There is also a scuba centre, crocodile farm and several restaurants. Kids will love the chance to be outdoors and expend some energy, and things like the crocodile farm and the flooded cave are delightful attractions for children and adults alike.