As an island within an island (Cuba), Isla de la Juventud has a long and dramatic history, and with that, dozens of name changes over the years. Still called the Isle of Pine after the Triumph of the Revolution, it was renamed in 1978 to its current and euphonious name, Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth). Thousands of students from all over Cuba and the world came to the island to study, mainly medicine, and work in the citrus orchards. This youthful influx gave a new and different image to the once old and ravaged island, thus, reflected in its youthful name change.
The Isla de la Juventud is located south of the mainland of Cuba, in the western region. It is surrounded in the north by the Gulf of Batabanó and in the south by the Caribbean Sea. About two-thirds of the sea around the island is shallow. From Cabo Frances in the south, to Punta del Este in the eastern part of the island, depths rarely exceed 10 meters, with an average of 7 meters.
Interest in diving activities off the shores of Isla de la Juventud began in the ‘70’s. The National Park Marino Punta Frances is privileged with calm waters and excellent visibility. Pirates once anchored in the limestone caves but today, it is the perfect backdrop for divers. Not all pirate ships sailed safely away from the island and today divers can choose from more than 70 shipwrecks in Bajo de Zambo.
Deep tunnels and channels give shelter to more than 40 species of coral such as elkhorn, staghorn, black coral, and more. The marine life is also abundant with a variety of fish and you can see barracudas, groupers, snappers, sea bass, grunt, as well as, turtles.
From Marina Colony, there are at least 56 dive sites that are all accessible by boat.
But the youthful island has more to offer than just dive sites! Cienaga de Lanier National Park, in the southeast of the island, is a wetland consisting of flooded savannas, deciduous and coniferous trees, and mangroves lining the coast. In addition to the rich flora, the area has an equally rich fauna with crocodiles, turtles, deer, caimans, and parrots.
And let’s not forget about the paradisiacal beaches…and yes, Isla de la Juventud has many! With a coastline of 229 kilometers, the beaches are quite varied. The luxuriant growth of mangrove dominates in the north, east, and west of the island. However, the south features a coastline of 30 kilometers with beautiful beaches of fine white sand, interrupted by small and sheltering covers, cliffs and mangrove bushes.