The Geography of Cuba
At 42,803 square miles (110,860 square km), Cuba is easily the largest island in the Caribbean. It’s about the same size as Virginia and is slightly larger than Guatemala. Cuba is set on the eastern edge of the Gulf of Mexico and is just south of the Tropic of Cancer. Incredibly, Cuba is only 93 miles (150 km) south of Key West, Florida.
Cuba’s main island is 778 miles (1,250 km) long. At its widest point, the island is 120 miles (193 km) across and at its narrowest point is just 19 miles (31 km) across. Technically, Cuba is an archipelago; there are around 4,000 smaller islands and cays surrounding the main island. The large Isla de la Juventud is set off the southern coast of Cuba. This island – 850 square miles (2,200 square km) – is part of the Canarreos Archipelago, a group of islands in western Cuba. East of the Canarreos Archipelago is the Garden of the Queens Archipelago (Archipiélago de los Jardines de la Reina), which is composed of beautiful coral cays and is one of the best scuba diving locations in all of Cuba. Along the northern coast of Cuba is the Gardens of the King (Jardines del Rey) islands, which are home to beautiful white-sand beaches and a concentration of all-inclusive resorts.
Cuba is one of the least mountainous islands in the Greater Antilles—around two-thirds of the island is plains, and the median elevation is about 300 feet (90 m) above sea level. Western Cuba is home to the Guaniguanico Mountain Range, which is made up of the Órganos Mountains and Rosario Mountains and cuts through the heart of the Pinar del Río Province. These mountains are beautiful, especially the limestone formations known as mogotes that are found around Viñales.
In eastern Cuba, the Maestra Mountains tower over the landscape and sea. This is the location of Cuba’s highest peak, Pico Turquino. Standing at 6,476 feet (1,974 m), Pico Turquino can be summited in two days and is a challenging hike. The surrounding mountains are filled with dense forests and are utterly beautiful. Central Cuba is home to the Escambray Mountains, which rise above Trinidad and host the Topes de Collantes Natural Park.
There are over 500 rivers in Cuba. The largest river is the Cauto River, which begins in the Sierra Maestra flows for some 230 miles (370 km). Most rivers in Cuba are shallow and unnavigable by boat.
Cuba is famous for its beaches, and for good reason—they are simply incredible. Get ready for powdery white sand and a turquoise-colored ocean. The northern coast is home to some of the best beaches, many of which are found on islands. Some of the best beaches are at Veradero, Cayo Coco, Cayo Levisa, Guardalavaca, and the Cayos de Villa Clara.