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Nueva Gerona is the capital of Isla de la Juventud (before the Révolucion : Isla de Pinos or Isle of Pines and numerous other names) in the Archipielago de los Canarreos. Cubans call it simply "La Isla". In a few words, huge spaces, lots to see and do, no crowds and very affordable casa lodging.
The American colonists of the Fifties had projects to build enormous all-inclusive US-suburbia type resorts dotted with bungalows... Renamed in the 60's to sustain international relations with youth from Latin America and Africa, it once boasted 50 schools and colleges.
Pretty beaches, fantastic scuba diving (from the Colony Hotel and off Punta Francés), a couple of marble mines, trekking spots, natural parks and miraculous thermal waters.
And almost no one comes here.
• Demajagua, 3 250
• Santa Fe, 15 600
• Nueva Gerona, 71 000
• Cayo Piedra (Cienaga de Lanier), 36
• Cocodrilo, 70
• Hotel Colony/Ensenada de la Siguanea, 41
• La Demajagua (Santa Barbara), 21
• La Reforma, 32
• La Victoria, 29
• Punta del Este, 60
• Punta Francés, Punta Piedra, 110
• Santa Fe (La Fe) (Santa Rita thermal waters) 18
• La Habana, (ferry to Surgidero + bus), 138
• Cayo Largo, 135 km east, over the water : for tourists, only through La Habana by plane; from here, dive packages with direct flight included; charters available
GOTTA TRY THIS
• Aguas medicinales La Cotorra, just before Santa Fe (Discovered in 1853; before the Revolucion was called Balneario Santa Rita and had its own lovely hotel (see photo below right). Hollywood icon Erroll Flynn was once a patient. An art deco building renovated with Chinese funds : clinic, massage, acupuncture, magnetotherapy, etc, and three basins filled with radioactive water (bicarbonate, calcium, magnesium) with "miraculous powers : can cure over 300 ailments".
Today its name is Centro de Rehabilitacion y Aguas Thermales, calle 11, e/16 y 18, in Santa Fe Email Dir. Sra. Anairis Lourba; Basin manager : Sr. Wiltse Peña Tel. (46) 39-79-61
• Paraiso (7km), with an upstairs bar on the dock : meals served, mojitos 1,50cuc.
• Bibijagua (black sand, at 8 km), nice, in the shade of its royal palms. Small bar (mojitos 1,50cuc, cocos, 50c)
• Playa Roja (46km) in Ensenada de la Siguanea.
• Punta Francés (43km) scuba paradiso, quite popular : get there by 8cuc barca ride from the marina of Hotel Colony (Tel. (46) 39-82-82. The only food in Punta Francés : a 12cuc buffet, drinks extra. Dive centre is called Centro de Buceo Tel. (46) 39-81-81 Rates are 50-70cuc per dive.
• Other beaches : Larga, Punta de Piedra, Playa Pescador, Punta del Este (often closed), Guayabo, Buena Vista.
Cafeteria La Cocinita, El Abra (with mirador and bar), El Cochi, Hotel Gaviota and its swimming pool (3 km), La Vajilla, Tienda Imagene. By the central park, the usual Coppelia (ice cream parlour).
Cubana 32-25-31 ou 32-23-00, Cubataxi 32-22-22 ou 32-37-62), Havanautos 32-44-32, Inter 30-12-45, Medical 32-27-20, Radio Caribe 1270AM, Transautos 33-52-12, Turistaxi 39-82-81 Transtur 32-66-66 (car rentals ; scooters 20-23 cuc/day : ask for Miguel) Ecotur calle Marti (El Boulevard), e/ 24 y 26 Tel 32-71-01 Open 8h-17h, closed Sundays Email
Baseball : Estadio Cristobal Labra, Cabaret El Patio, Casa de la Cultura, Cinema Caribe, Disco Reina Amalia, El Dragon, Discoteca de Rumbos
CULTURE IN NUEVA GERONA
• Casa de la Cultura and Taller de Cerámica Artística Calle 37 esq. a 24 • Galeria de Arte Gerona • Galería de Arte Marta Machado, Calle 39 esq. a 26 • Finca Museo El Abra (farm where José Marti lived for 10 years with the Zarda family) Carretera Siguanea, km 1 • Museo de Ciencias Naturales Calle 41 # 4625 esq. a 54 • Museo de la Lucha Clandestina (Casa Natal de Jesús Montané Oropesa) Calle 24 e/ 43 y 45 • Museo Municipal de Nueva Gerona Calle 30 e/ 37 y Martí • Museo Presidio Modelo (5km) Prison (museum since 1973) where Fidel and his compañeros were transferred after the failed attack on the Moncada garnison (Santiago) in 1953.
GETTING THERE BY SEA • BY AIR
From La Habana, by a bus-ferry package, 40 minutes by road to Surgidero de Batabano (82 km), on the south coast.
BY SEA GOING A two-hour and 120 km ordeal on the very fully booked (and only means of sea travel for now) Iris aka Kometa carrying 100 : super-freezing aircon and super-loud music videos. Daily at 1300 hrs. Fare is 13cuc, including bus ride to Surgidero de Batabano on the coast. Reservations : Agencia Viajero aka NCC at terminal Astro in La Habana (7) 878-1841 or NCC (7) 860-8330 7 am to Noon. According to Lonely Planet "it is wise to make a reservation in person one or two days in advance at the NCC kiosk."
BY SEA RETURN Oddly, return tickets off the island are not available in Havana. You'll have to chance purchasing a return ticket on arrival in Nueva Gerona. If you're on a tight schedule save yourself the hassle and take a plane. In Nueva Gerona, the Iris/Kometa goes up the Las Casas river a wee bit and docks downtown on Calle Marti Tel. (46) 32-44-36 at the Naviera Cubana Caribeña (NCC) ferry terminal (46) 32 49 77 or 32 44 15; cnr Calles 31 & 24), beside the Río Las Casas.
The Kometa leaves for Surgidero de Batabanó daily at 9am (CUC$11), but you'd be wise to get there aheasd of time.
CULTURE & HISTORIA
• Casa de la Cultura and Taller de Cerámica Artística Calle 37 esq. a 24 • Finca Museo El Abra (farm where José Marti lived for 10 years with the Zarda family) Carretera Siguanea, km 1 • Museo de Ciencias Naturales Calle 41 # 4625 esq. a 54 • Museo de la Lucha Clandestina (Casa Natal de Jesús Montané Oropesa) Calle 24 e/ 43 y 45 • Museo Municipal de Nueva Gerona Calle 30 e/ 37 y Martí • Museo Presidio Modelo (5km) Prison (museum since 1973) where Fidel and his compañeros were transferred after the failed attack on the Moncada garnison (Santiago) in 1953 • Galeria de Arte Gerona • Galería de Arte Marta Machado, Calle 39 esq. a 26
Finca Museo El Abra, the farm where José Marti lived for 10 years with the Zarda family - located one km out of town on the road to Siguanea © CubaImage, panoramio.com
NATURE ON LA ISLA
• Parque Nacional Punta Francés (and beach) Our page here - Punta Pedernales (accessible via Hotel Colony, by barca) • Parque Nacional Los Indios - San Felipe • Cerro de los Murciélagos - Monumento Carretera Cantera Santa Isabel • Cueva de Finlay - Cave exploring Ensenada de Caleta Grande in Punta del Este • Cueva del Indio - Monument Camino Cocodrilo, Punta Francés • Cave exploring and monument in Punta del Este
• Presa (dam-lake) El Abra (5 km) with eco walks, horseback riding • Sierra de Las Casas (trekking) 70 km south • Jungla de John (13km) Half a century ago, John Jones, tree-lover working with US Agriculture service established this natural reserve including a 100-year old bamboo cathedral; now includes El Bosque Martiana part of reserve dedicated to José Marti; John's widow Hellen Jarry died in her house fire (ruin now covered by plants) in Feb. 1960; a bit before Santa Fe. Rundown, needs funds for enthusiastic but poor couple, Jarixa and spouse Tomas who run it • Parque Cienaga de Lanier, by way of Santa Fe and Criadero de Cocodrilo. Theme is Viaje a Los Origenes through Ecotur; office in town (see Services below) • Hotel Colony and Punta Francés (110km) Our page here : take an excursion (8h30-17h) including snorkel and lunch for 25cuc (+15cuc with a tank for scuba diving). Or just the return tour bus ride (and boat) to Punta Francés for the day (7am-5pm) for 13cuc. Through Ecotur; office in town (see Services below). Or budget-style, join the staff commuting to the Colony who take the 7am daily bus leaving from the corner of 41 and 18. 3cuc one-way.
Car rentals are very expensive, close to 90cuc or more per day. Roads are very few, safe and deserted. Rent a motorcycle (best value for bucks or cucs). If not, share a chauffeured taxi for the day. Some hustle in front of the church in the park. Don't expect the driver to know a whole lot or to speak Ingles, my fren.
Plan the itinerary with a map or guidebook beforehand with the driver. Should he sub-hire a "translator", make sure you negotiate his own rate and test his language skills. Don't pay more than 25-35 for car, 10-15cuc for translator. Drive a hard bargain, even if you deal only with card-carrying cuentapropistas Cubans with a permit to work on their own.
::: Make sure that in your first email or phone call you specify that you want to book a room in that particular casa and that you will reconfirm your booking on arrival in Cuba. Unless you only want a room in any house which may be of the same quality, not the specific casa you booked through photos on these websites ::: So as to not abandon expecting owners with empty rooms, reconfirm (or call ahead to cancel) your booking by phone as soon as you can after arriving in Cuba ::: Please write or phone a casa owner to cancel a booking. As late as it may seem, it allows them a chance to rebook. ::: Children under the age of 16 may share a bedroom with adults for free. Specify the child's age when booking. ::: Since October 2010, maximum bedroom capacity is not limited to two adults ::: Also, large casas are not limited to renting only two bedrooms per night. ::: At the end of the casa name, the V signals the casa was suggested by travelers or owners but not verified by the website staff. If you try it and like it, write us about it. ::: Unless otherwise mentioned, the average room rates and service prices are : 20-25cuc per bedroom per night [up to 40+ for 4 in a room]; breakfasts 3-5cuc, dinners 7-10cuc. ::: Any casa particular anywhere in Cuba must have a hot water shower, otherwise it cannot have a permit to rent ::: Please share your Complaints, comments & suggestions webmaster [@]cubacasas.net
||BOOK BY PHONE
• From Canada and the USA : 011 53 (add phone # preceded by the island's area code, 46) • From Europe, Great Britain, Scandinavia and Mexico : 00 53 (add phone # preceded by the island's area code, 46) ••• HOW TO DIAL A CUBAN PHONE NUMBER HERE ••• CELL PHONE NUMBERS on our town lists and casa pages are preceded by 05 for calls originating Havana; from anywhere else in Cuba, dial 01 + the 8 digits of the cell.
BOOK BY EMAIL :
Click on logo to open a message addressed to that casa in your email application; or right-click to copy address. Spanish vocabulary here.
|Click photos to see each casa's page and description. Locate most casas on this map of the city here.|
Calle 41, #4108, e/ 8 y 10, at the end of calle Jose Marti, behind hospital Heroes del Baire Tél. (46) 32 35 44
MARLE y NEGRA
Calle 46 #4708 entre 47 y 49, Reparto 26 de Julio. Tél. (46) 32 31 01
Calle 32 # 4110 entre 41 y 43, two blocks from Cristobal Labra beisbol stadium. Tel. (46) 32-1255
|TU ISLA + PALADAR
Calle 24 #4510 entre 45 y 47, 8 bedrooms, 3 with balcony. Cel. or SMS 58 12 36 93 or 53 50 91 28
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