Ready for adventure? We’ve roamed the world’s oceans and lakes to compile this look at eight of our favorite island escapes, from lounging in the palm trees of the South Pacific to paddling with whales in the Bay of Fundy and gazing at grizzlies in Alaska. We’ve also included one escapade that’s so daring, it may never be repeated.
From cultural stereotypes like Cuban cigars and vintage American cars, to political iconoclasts like Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, the largest of the Caribbean islands is also one of its most eclectic, diverse and fascinating. Cuba’s natural history is just as remarkable. One hundred million years ago, the island rode the drifting continental plates, hitchhiking from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean. Today, more than half of Cuba’s plants and animals are found nowhere else on the planet. From leaping crocodiles, bat-eating boas and millions of bright orange crabs marching through the forest each year, to miniature frogs and the Caribbean’s largest flock of flamingos, Cuba surprises at every turn. Due to limited development, the island is also home to arguably the healthiest coral reef ecosystems in the Caribbean, if not the world. Ancient coral cliffs, pristine mangrove forests, white and black sand beaches, mountainous lakes and rivers yet to be explored by outsiders make Cuba a paradise for adventurous paddlers.