Some 45km southwest of Cayo Saetía, the ground swells and erupts into the livid green Sierra de Cristal mountains in which lies the Parque Nacional La Mensura. High above the cloud line here, the beautiful Pinares de Mayarí pine forest here is a great place for some hiking or relaxation, or a stay at the Villa Pinares de Mayarí. The forest is reached from the nondescript little town of Mayarí, 26km to the north, from where you head south towards the Carretera Pinares and take the right-hand track where the road forks, past tiny Las Coloradas; from Holguín, it’s a 2.5-hour drive. Though passable in a rental car, the road is steep and poorly maintained so requires masterful driving, and during the wet season it’s advisable to check in advance if it’s passable.
The drive up the hill to the forest affords crisp views over the Bahía de Nipe and the terracotta nickel mines to the east, near Nicaro. This lofty region is also Cuba’s main producer of coffee, with stretches of coffee plants visible along the way. At the top of the hill the sharp incline evens out into a plateau, where the lush green grass cool air form a scene that’s more alpine than Caribbean.