100 km. from Havana Province, on the Caribbean Sea, southeast of Cuba’s main island and separated from it by the Batabanó Gulf, lies Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth), the biggest island on the Canarreos Archipelago, with a surface of 2200 sq. km. For more than three centuries it was an important anchoring place for every pirate and corsair roaming the Caribbean Sea.
This island, considered a special municipality in Cuban political division, was discovered by Christopher Columbus on its second voyage to Cuba. From then on it has received many names. La Evangelista (The Evangelist), Isla del Tesoro (Treasure Island) o Isla de las Cotorras (Isle of Parrots) were some of its former names. Early on the XIX century, Spain decided to colonize it, and Reina Amalia (Queen Amalia) Colony was founded. Its capital, Nueva Gerona, was established on December 17th, 1830. Afterwards it was called Isle of Pines until 1975, when it was baptized Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth) because of the thousands of young people that had studied there during the revolutionary period.
Isla de la Juventud is renowned by its citrus, especially grapefruit and orange, and its top quality marble mines.
Tourist industry here has lots of places to offer visitors. Without question, the best known of them is the Colony International Diving Center, located within the Punta Francés National Sea Park, traditional home to Photosub international encounters of submarine photography which bear witness to the top quality of its sea bottoms.
This island also has an interesting cave system in Punta del Este Beach. One of the most astonishing caves is Number 1 Cave, having on its walls over 200 pictograms depicted by the island’s aboriginal people.
Other charming sights include the island’s beaches, among which Bibijagua Beach stands out. The eroding effect of the sea on the marble rocks has blessed it with striking black sand.
Cayo Largo del Sur, Cayo Iguana, Cayo Rico, Cayo Rosario and so many other attractions complete the variety of landscapes and set the immense beauty of the Isle of Youth apart.
The Island can be reached by means of a ferry and a hydrofoil, both departing from Surgidero de Batabanó. It can also be reached by a plane arriving at Nueva Gerona’s International Airport.