You will see the name Isla de Pinos (Isle of Pines) on old maps; this was the island's name until 1978.
Flora and fauna
The large American crocodile and the smaller, endangered Cuban crocodile inhabit the island.
Cubana de Aviación, from Havana. Reservations are imperative, with at least 5 days in advance. Most Internet sources are outdated, Aerotaxi doesn't fly to Isla de la Juventud anymore.
Bus from Ciudad de La Habana (Estación Central de Ómnibus) to Batabanó (Habana province, south of the capital): CUP5 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). I'm not sure about the bus leaving hours, but they seem to be in the morning (09:00-12:00?).
The boat ("Kometa" catamaran):
- CUC50 for foreigners
- CUP50 for locals.
No reservations needed to go to the island. Best to buy a ticket with one day in advance for the return (or you'll have to wake up at 05:00 to leave at 12:00). 1 to 2 boats daily, except on Sundays. The trip isn't an experience per se (modern, long, highly cooled air, can't go on deck....)
No bicycle can be brought on the island. Knives and the such must be checked in (free, secure and minimal loss of time).
Fees and permits
An old Lada with a driver will cost you CUC35-40 a day. There are only 2 official car taxis on the island, the rest are bici-taxis. You can also rent a bicycle by the hour or the day.
- Beaches, e.g. Playa Paraíso, a nice beach near Nueva Gerona. Poorly managed as of 2006-12 (rotting algae on the beach) but nice sea. There's a key about 1 km away from the beach (Cayo de los Monos) that can be accessed through vigorous swimming. It's also a nice place for sportive diving.
- Hiking – Nice 20 min hike to the hills that oversee Nueva Gerona. Physical but nice. Ask for directions to get to the base of a hill (near "la Cueva del Agua") then just go up following trails when you find them. The base of the hill is filled with rubbish heaps but the top and the middle are nearly pristine.
No security problems whatsoever on the island as long as you avoid the military zones.
Important warning on sex:
- Sex with the underaged is one of the worst offenses a foreigner can commit in Cuba. Ask for I.D. when in doubt.
- Isla de la Juventud is said to have the highest HIV contamination levels in Cuba. Use condoms (CUP1 in every generalist shop in Nueva Gerona).
In Nueva Gerona:
- "Los Rumbos" night-club (CUC1)
- open dancing area near the Pinero prison boat and the quay (every day of the week after 21:00 or 22:00)
- the main plaza during week-ends.
- The movie theater on the plaza (600 places, almost always nearly empty, CUP2).