The Republic of Cuba consists of an archipelago that includes the largest island in the Caribbean Sea and the Western Hemisphere. It is located just south of the Tropic of Cancer. Seen from above, the main island resembles a crocodile, sunning itself in the Caribbean. The archipelago also includes more than 1,600 smaller islands.
Three bodies of water surround the island of Cuba: to the north is the Gulf of Mexico, to the east is the Atlantic Ocean and to the south and west is the Caribbean Sea. Key West, Florida, the southernmost tip of the United States, lies about 180 km to the north. Haiti lies to the southeast, separated from Cuba by the Windward Passage. Jamaica is just south of Cuba. Mexico lies to the west.
Much of Cuba’s territory is mountainous. There are three main mountain ranges: La Sierra de los Organos in the west, La Sierra del Escambray in the central region, and La Sierra Maestra in the southeast. Cuba’s highest mountain is located in the Sierra Maestra range. It is called Pico Real del Turquino and is almost 2,000 meters above sea level. From its summit, on clear days, the Blue Mountains of Jamaica are visible, about 140 km away.
The remaining Cuban territory consists of fertile plains used for growing sugar cane and tobacco. In central and western Cuba, the landscape is primarily savannah (grassy plains), used for tobacco farms and cattle ranches. In Guantánamo Province in the southeast, there is a desert. About 300 beaches surround the island.
Most rivers in Cuba are relatively short and the water currents are quite strong. They flow through the mountains, creating beautiful waterfalls such as Salto del Caburni and Agabama Falls. Cuba’s longest river is the Cauto River in the east. It is about 240 km long.
More than 300 birds are native to Cuba, including the ivory billed woodpecker and the bee hummingbird. These tiny birds like to hover around the white butterfly jasmine, Cuba’s national flower. There are about 8,000 varieties of plants, and many reptile species, including alligators, iguanas and small non-poisonous snakes.
July and August are the hottest months. During January, Cuba’s coolest month, temperatures average 21°C. The rainy season lasts from May to October. Cuba is subject to violent hurricanes, particularly in the autumn. Hurricanes develop to the south and east and move across the island toward the north. Tropical storms accompany the hurricanes, causing rivers to flood cities and towns.