The national park had been the estate of a wealthy landowner and politician, José Manuel Cortina, who traded precious woods and was forced into exile in 1959 and his properties confiscated. His mansion and formal gardens are now in ruins.
The Cuevas de los Portales was the home of Che Guevara during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
The national park consists of 54,000 acres (22,000 hectares) of mountain wilderness, in the Sierra de los Órganos mountains.
Flora and fauna
Fees and permits
The road from La Güira to the Cuevas de los Portales is about 15 km. It looks like it goes through the highest mountains, and is said to be very scenic. However, locals said that it's impassable by car. It might be a good hike or mountain bike ride.
A better, but longer, way to drive to the Cuevas de los Portales is on the highway from Entronque de Herradura to La Palma, about 20 km.
The mansion and gardens
Cuevas de los Portales
This is one of the most beautiful places in Cuba, and certainly one of the least visited. A river cuts through a mountain, forming three joined caves. The caves are big and open so you don't need flashlights or a guide. The jungle outside the caves is wilderness.
Che Guevara lived in the cave in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He figured that if the Americans bombed the rest of Cuba, he'd be ready to lead the fight against the invaders. In and around the cave are plaques explaining that he played chess on this bench, wrote letters on this table, fired his rifle at that tree for practice, etc.
The restaurant near the mansion accepts only MN, not CUC.
At the Cueves de los Portales, the government built a nice campismo or campground for Cubans to vacation. The cabins looked nice, if spartan. No one was camping there, just the caretaker. The bar and restaurant were closed due to mass disease in the area.