Casa Particular / B&B
Calle 10 #3710
e/ 37 y 39
Isla de la Juventud
Phone +53 (46) 32 23 45
10 CUC without aircondition, 15 CUC with aircondition.
Note: In the downtown of Nueva Gerona, Odalis rents a house with two rooms, each one having a double bed, air conditioning, fan, refrigerator and private bathroom (with hot and cold water) that is daily cleaned. From the house rail one can observe the daily life of a small Cuban city. They offer gastronomic service. Needless to say that Odalis is a very good cook; her meals are quite delicious and prices are low. The atmosphere at home is very familiar and pleasant. It is worthy to note that Odalis´ husband, Argelio, works at the local farmer's market so he brings home the best of fruits and vegetables.For me it is the best house of Isla de la Juventud, not luxury but very near every day cuban life.
Isla de la Juventud is a place with little tourism; however there is a lot to see. It is very easy to reach the island from Havana. Apart from the enchantment of a Cuban rural city, near Nueva Gerona one finds some peaceful beaches. In the southwest of the island one can enjoy world wide known submarine sceneries. A small jungle, a crocodile hatchery and thermal waters spa wait for you in the center of the island. In fact, Isla de la Juventud is a quiet place to know daily life in Cuba, enjoy beautiful beaches and do some interesting excursions.
In the city
- You won´t need too much time to know Nueva Gerona´s downtown; once you walk from beginning to end of 39th Street, you will have a good impression of the city. Here you find most important offices such as Cubana de Aviación, the bank, CADECA, the hospital, the drugstore and the majority of shops, restaurants and bars of Nueva Gerona. It is always worthy visiting La Galería, also located in 39th Street. Local artists have an exposition of their works here, and the entrance is free.
- Nocturnal life, of course, takes place in this pedestrian area of 39th Street. Places more frequently visited are the discotheque, the bar and restaurant Rumbos. To enter El Patio and the discotheque you will have to pay 1 CUC per person. When Rumbos closes at 2:00 am and you do not want to go bed, you can keep dancing at the discotheque of Hotel Cubana, at the end of 39th Street, in front of Parque de la Cotorra. Entrance costs 5 CUC per person; offers in the bars are also paid in CUC.
- If you want to navigate in internet you should go to ETECSA office, situated at the corner of 28th and 41th Streets, near the gas station CUPET. You have to surf under ETECSA conditions.
Bathing - beaches - relaxing
- Playa Paraíso is a good beach near the city. There are umbrellas and palms protecting from the sun. One can go far into the sea because it is not that deep. People physically fit for swimming may swim to Cayo de los Monos, at a distance of around one kilometer. There were monkeys in this small island a time ago but right now there is nobody there, so you will surely feel as a Robinson Crusoe. There is a ranch at the beach where they sell drinks (beers, cocktails, soft drinks, fresh coconuts) and meals. For ecological reasons one side of the beach is abandoned. Marine plants spread all over stink enough contaminating the environment. So it is better to stay on the other side of the beach. If you like snorkeling it is advisable to practice on the reefs to the left end of this beach. It is worthy, however!
One may go to Playa Paraíso in a carriage (3-4 CUC round-trip), in a cab (4-6 CUC round-trip) or biking.
- Playa Bibijagua. Located 6 Km from Nueva Gerona it is the only black sand beach of Cuba. There are three areas in this beach: one is in front of a hotel that has been in repair for years, but don´t you worry about any noise since I have never seen a human soul working here. It is a large space with plenty of vegetation offering shadows; there is also a ranch where they sell drinks and sometimes meals. It is not clear whether one has to pay with CUC or CUP, though it seems that officially everything is paid with CUP. Be careful with persons selling foods made at home, given that the quality is not always good; it is said that visitors got intoxicated several times with meals prepared at home in Playa Bibijagua. Another part of this beach is the camping site which is reserved for its customers, and so you cannot always go there to bathe, though it is a very good place.
You may go to Playa Bibijagua in the above mention transports; prices would be 1 or 2 CUC higher. One may also try to get there by bus (line Nueva Gerona-Chacón-Bibijagua). There is a bus thrice a day, which I would not advice given that this service is not trustworthy.
- Playa El Gallego. This beach is located between Playa Paraíso and Playa Bibijagua. Here there are too umbrellas and a small restaurant with offers in CUC. By now it is the most visited beach, especially by people from Chacón, a near town.
You can go to this beach in a carriage (car pulled by horses) at a price of 3-4 CUC round-trip, in a cab (4-6 CUC round-trip) or biking. Furthermore, one could try to get there in the bus Nueva Gerona-Chacón-Bibijagua. This service is very inexpensive but quite insecure; I do not recommend it. Eventually one has to walk for 15 minutes from bus stop to the beach.
- Playa Punta Piedra is the nearest beach to Nueva Gerona. Here there are also umbrellas, a small restaurant and a bar with offers in CUC. Given that it is near Nueva Gerona there are always many people at this beach. Some persons say the water is not so clean due to a local industry.
One may go to Punta de Piedra in a carriage (about 3 CUC round-trip), in a taxi (4 CUC round-trip), and on bike to Playa Paraíso. Besides you may go on foot when it is not too hot; however, there is little to see on the way.
- Hotel Colony is a very famous site, especially because of offers of diving in Punta Francés, a world known place among diving community. Besides it is worthy visiting the beach of Hotel Colony. It is a very peaceful beach due to the fact that hotel´s customers spend most of the time into the water. Here you find hammocks, palm shadows, fine sand and crystalline waters. The hotel restaurant is expensive with offers in CUC. People who don´t want to spend 10 CUC in a meal, could take with them their lunch from Nueva Gerona and buy a cold beer or good Cuban cocktail at the restaurant. The entrance to the hotel just to use the beach costs around 2 CUC per person.
The distance of 35 kilometers from Hotel Colony to Nueva Gerona is preferably covered in a taxi (about 25 CUC round-trip). One can also go in the workers bus which departs from El Parque de la Cotorra in Nueva Gerona at 6:00 am and returns at 5:00 pm to Nueva Gerona. The fare is 3 CUC per person. This trip is very slow (around 90 minutes) though safe.
- Thermal baths in La Fe. In La Fe periphery there is a medicinal fountain discovered by a Spanish physician in the middle of XIX century. A small house with two little swimming pools invite for a bath in these waters. Outside one may take sun and drink medicinal water. The only problem is that though these resorts have been finished about three years ago, this place is not officially opened yet. So, to go in one has to talk to the guard man for a short bathing time, what might be paid with one CUC for the keeper -if you like. One may reach Santa Fe in a bus or a collective taxi. Faster and comfortable may be a cab that costs from 15 to 20 CUC round-trip. It is advisable combining this excursion with another one, like La Cocodrilera or La Jungla de Jones.
- El Caolín. This excursion is something very special, very advisable and should be preferably done in a sunny day. The objective of this excursion is a small lake in a place where kaolin was formerly extracted. Today this is full of water of a fantastic color due to high content of kaolin and other minerals. This lake looks turquoise. There is no fish, crocodile (what is abundant in some other parts of the island) or seaweeds. The ritual is as follows: firstly one bathes in the lake (take care because it is quite deep); then you look for a spot in the shore with mud free of stones, and with this mud you cover all your body from toe to head; then you remain under the sun till all mud dries up. Eventually you come back to the water to remove all mud from your skin; final result is an extremely smooth skin, a pleasure! A real wellness that is free. There is no facility in this place so it is better you take some food and beverages with you for this treatment. Trees offer some shadow after the ritual.
To get to El Caolín you will need a car or a rented cab. A taxi costs about 20 CUC (round-trip). I do recommend this excursion.
Diving and snorkeling
- In most of the above mention beaches one can practice snorkeling and sometimes there are good places for diving. But there is no other site like Punta Francés, to the south of Isla de la Juventud. This is such a world wide known place that many divers come to Cuba and specifically to Isla de la Juventud with the sole purpose of diving in these waters. I suggest all tourists staying in Nueva Gerona and knowing diving, to do an immersion in Punta Francés. And snorkeling fans will find a marvelous coral reef here. For snorkeling and diving one has to make the reservations at Hotel Colony before 8:00 am, time of departure. The offer includes transportation on a ship to Punta Francés (an hour trip). Divers and snorkeling fans may rent the necessary equipment. Snorkeling practitioners has, as their base, Punta Francés´ beach, which is a virgin and long beach with fine sand and crystalline waters; however, there is an obstacle here: there are more than one thousand hammocks waiting for tourists of a cruise that once a week arrives at this place. I do not recommend anybody visiting this beach that day. It´s better to get informed beforehand. When going to Punta Francés one has to carry the passport.
Read the above explanation on how to go to Hotel Colony.
- Presidio Modelo was the prison where Fidel Castro remained in jail after Moncada garrison attack in Santiago de Cuba in 1953. It´s very impressive visiting this place and imagining the conditions prisoners had to undergo while here. In the building that was formerly a hospital there is a museum today. It is worthy paying 2 CUC for entering since you will have a guide included. Later on you can go to the other buildings by your own. El Presidio Modelo is situated in Chacón, about 4 Km from Nueva Gerona. One may get there in a taxi (5 CU round-trip), in a carriage (3-4 CUC round-trip), on bike and one may try to arrive in a bus, which should supposedly circulate thrice a day along Bibijagua, Chacón and Nueva Gerona. A visit to El Presidio Modelo may be well combined with a day in one of near beaches (Paraíso, El Gallego, and Bibijagua).
- A surprising visit surely is La Jungla de Jones. From the distance one hardly imagine that in the flora of Isla de la Juventud one could find a wood that resembles so much a jungle. Jones was an American herbalist who often travelled around the world. In 1902 he and his wife moved to the place where we find La Jungla today. Jones used to return from his world voyages carrying new plants that he would try to adapt to the climate of this island. He also wanted to create a botanical garden for tourists looking for a cure in the thermal springs of Santa Fe. After Jones death, her wife kept taking care of this park till her passing in the 50´s of last century, after the assault of some prisoners that escaped from El Presidio Modelo. After Helen Jones death this site was forgotten, till fifty years later when the site was revived again for nature lovers. The main objective was to create a space where people may know nature much better. Workers built a footpath through a great part of the jungle. Entrance (6 CUC per capita) always includes a guide who explains about plants and animals or whatever our curiosity on that nature. This is an interesting place, not only for persons interested on the knowledge of plants from Cuba and abroad, but also for people who like to visit a calm place with marvelous vegetation. One can bathe in a small river and sit within some caves created by bamboos while listening to nature sounds. At the entrance/exit of La Jungla one may buy drinks.
You cannot go on public transports to this place; you should rent a car or take a cab that costs 15-20 CUC (round-trip). One might combined this trip with a journey to La Cocodrilera or thermal springs of La Fe.
- La Cocodrilera is located to the south of La Fe. It is a crocodile hatchery one could visit. A guide leads you through the hatchery to show big and very small crocodiles. Sometimes they can be observed very close; more aggressive crocodiles may be seen through a grill and some others may be watched from a distance without nothing in the middle, given that these are less aggressive…In fact, there is adventure and excitement on the air. So far nobody has told me about a crocodile eating any tourist. This visit, including a guide, costs 6 CUC per person.
One has to arrive in a taxi (20-25 CUC round-trip) or with a rented car. This visit may be combined with some near sites (La Jungla de Jones or thermal baths of La Fe).
- The south of Isla de la Juventud is not so populated by persons but there are many crocodiles. There are virgin beaches as Playa Larga and also at Punta del Este. A must visit in the south is Cueva de Punta del Este where are many cave pictures of natives that inhabited this place long ago. Given that this cave is not a tourist site you should take a lamp with you for exploring. Don´t you put any hair gel with fruit scent, otherwise you will have a bee hive chasing you; the only escape will be jumping into water… People travelling south should visit small towns of Carapachibey and Cocodrilo. Most of persons in these towns speak English since they are descendants from Islas Caimán inhabitants. Furthermore, one may visit a turtle hatchery here.
Before going to the south of Isla de la Juventud you have to request permission, at least a day before the journey, at ECOTUR office in Nueva Gerona. Not always one may obtain this permission due to the existence of a military base in the south. When you rent an official taxi (80 to 100 CUC a whole day) to do this excursion, you don´t have to worry about the permit since the cab enterprise will do it; however, when travelling in a private car you do have to arrange it.
Arrival and departure
- Cubana has 2 to 3 flights daily from Habana. Price: 59 CUC (one way). The best way to get your ticket is by buying it at the Cubana Website. You need to be two hours before the flight at the airport. I also suggest to catch the morning flight, because it's the most reliable.
- Catamaran. This ship departs everyday at 10:00 and 16:00 from Batabanó to Nueva Gerona. There is a bus connection from Havana to Batabanó port. Buses depart from ASTRO bus station at 7:00 and 12:00. One has to be at the station at least 30 minutes before departures. Tickets for the Cometa (a ship) has to be bought at least a day before at the ASTRO station in Havana or at the NCC (Cuban ships) office of Batabanó. Personally, I don´t advise arriving at Batabanó without your tickets. In Havana NCC enterprise has its own booth for ticket sale next to ASTRO station (a parking of collective taxis). Attention: This booth is open just till 12:00. The price of ticket is 50 CUC. The bus trip is paid at once and costs 2.30 CUP. When returning, one has to buy tickets directly at the office of NCC in Nueva Gerona (Tel: 32 24 71). After your trip to Batabanó you may take again the bus for returning to the ASTRO bus station in Havana; this fare is also in CUP.