As square as a slab of butter, 575m El Yunque, 10km west of Baracoa and streaked in mist, seems to float above the other mountains in the Sagua Baracoa range. Christopher Columbus noted its conspicuousness: his journal entry of November 27, 1492, mentions a “high square mountain which seemed to be an island” seen on his approach to shore – no other mountain fits the description as well. El Yunque is the remnant of a huge plateau that dominated the region in its primordial past. Isolated for millions of years, its square summit has evolved unique species of ferns and palms, and much of the forest is still virgin, a haven for rare plants including orchids and bright red epiphytes. The energetic though not unduly strenuous hike to the summit should take about two hours.

A shorter and easier option is a guided trek to a waterfall within the protected area. After a 2km walk you reach a pristine lake, perfect for bathing in. An easy enough fifty-metre scramble then takes you to a pretty waterfall. It’s well worth it for a short morning excursion.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Cuba features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Video: a 1 minute guide to Cuba

Video: a 1 minute guide to Cuba

From the gorgeous countryside of Viñales to the brilliant beaches of Varadero – not to mention the atmospheric, timeworn streets of Havana – Cuba is a begu…

17 Nov 2017 • Colt St. George videocam Video
Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

That ever-growing travel wish list might be putting some pressure on your pocket – but there are plenty of destinations where you'll get more bang for your b…

11 Oct 2017 • Emma Gibbs camera_alt Gallery
12 tips for backpacking Cuba

12 tips for backpacking Cuba

Cuba’s captivating, colourful streets and carnaval­ feel make it appealing for travellers year­-round. And, as relations with the US thaw, the country's p…

23 May 2017 • Freya Godfrey insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right