Just east of Santiago, the mountains of the Parque Nacional de la Gran Piedra are some of the most easily accessible peaks in the country. Eleven kilometres along the coastal road from town, a turn-off inland leads you up a steep, curving mountain road. As the route ascends, temperate vegetation such as fir and pine trees gradually replace the more tropical palms and vines of the lower levels.
Around 15km along the road, a purpose-built staircase leads up from the visitors’ centre to La Gran Piedra, or “The Big Rock”, sculpted by ancient geological movement from surrounding bedrock and now forming a convenient viewing plateau 1234m above Santiago de Cuba, with views out to the sea on clear days. It’s an easy though still invigorating climb to the top, through woodland rich in animal and plant life, including over two hundred species of fern, and is best made before noon, when you’ve a better chance of clear views.