Isla de la Juventud English: Isle of Youth) is the second-largest Cuban island and the seventh-largest island in the West Indies (after Cuba itself, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, and Andros Island). The island was called the Isle of Pines (Isla de Pinos) until 1978. It has an area 2,200 km2 and is 50 kilometres south of the island of Cuba, across the Gulf of Batabanó. The island lies almost directly south of Havana and Pinar del Río and is a Special Municipality (2,419 km2), not part of any province and is therefore administered directly by the central government of Cuba. The island has only one municipality, also named Isla de la Juventud.
The largest of the 350 islands in the Canarreos Archipelago (Archipiélago de los Canarreos), the island has an estimated population of 100,000. The capital and largest city is Nueva Gerona in the north, and the second-largest and oldest city is Santa Fe in the interior. Other communities include Columbia, La Demajagua (formerly Santa Bárbara), Mac Kinley, Cuchilla Alta, Punta del Este, Sierra de Caballos and Sierra de Casas.
Much of the island is covered in pine forests, which is the source of the island's large lumber industry. The northern region of the island has low ridges from which marble is quarried, while the southern region is an elevated plain. Agriculture and fishing are the island's main industries, with citrus fruit and vegetables being grown. A black sand beach was formed by volcanic activity.
The island has a mild climate, but is known for frequent hurricanes.
Cubana de Aviación, from Havana. Reservations are imperative, with at least 5 days in advance.
Bus from Ciudad de La Habana (Estación Central de Ómnibus) to Batabanó (Habana province, south of the capital): 5 CUP for everybody (Astro bus). Go to the small ticket office of the NCC company (hard to find, better ask where it is) in the Estación Central de Ómnibus. You get a reservation for Batabanó (if you pay in CUC, you'll have reserved places so you this reservation is a guarantee to leave) plus a ticket for a right to go on the bus (you pay inside). The boat ("Kometa" catamaran) costs 50 pesos per person (25 for children of less than 12 years of age):
No reservations needed to go to the island. Best to buy a ticket with one day in advance for the return .1 to 2 boats daily, excepts on Sundays.
An old Lada with a driver will cost you 35-40 CUC a day. There are only 2 official car taxis on the island, the rest are bicitaxis. You can also rent a bicycle by the hour or the day.
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