Isla de la Juventud & Cayo Largo del Sur

A historic refuge from the law for everyone from 16th-century pirates to 20th-century gangsters, La Isla is perhaps the quirkiest castaway destination you ever will see. Dumped like a crumpled apostrophe 100km off mainland Cuba, this pine-tree-clad island is the Caribbean's sixth-largest. But the Cayman Islands this isn't. Other tourists? Uh-uh. And if you thought mainland Cuba's towns were time-warped, try blowing the dust off island capital Nueva Gerona, where the main street doubles as a baseball diamond, and the food ‘scene’ is stuck in the Special Period. Yet, if you make it here, you're in for a true adventure. The main lure is diving some of the Caribbean's most pristine reefs, but otherwise get used to being becalmed with the coral, the odd crocodile and a colorful history that reads like an excerpt from Treasure Island.

Further east, Cayo Largo del Sur is La Isla's polar opposite, a manufactured tourist enclave renowned for its wide, white-sand beaches.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Isla de la Juventud & Cayo Largo del Sur.