Sitting 130km southwest of Havana, this nondescript town just north of the Carretera Central is popularly considered the country's best spa location. As with other Cuban spas, its medicinal waters were supposedly 'discovered' in the early colonial period when a sick slave stumbled upon a sulfurous spring, took a revitalizing bath and was miraculously cured. Thanks to its proximity to Havana, San Diego's fame spread quickly and a permanent spa was established in 1891. During the early 20th century American tourists flocked here, leading to the development of the current hotel-bathhouse complex in the early 1950s.
Despite numerous possibilities for tourism, San Diego's scruffy bathhouse with its creepy sanatorium ambience isn't everyone's cup of tea. More alluring is the attractive natural region to the west known as the Sierra de Güira, an area replete with pine, mahogany and cedar forests. It's a favorite spot for birdwatchers.