Humboldt National Park
Alejandro de Humboldt National Park (Parque Nacional Alejandro de Humboldt; AHNP) is truly one of Cuba’s most special wild places, as it represents the largest and best-conserved remnant of forested mountain ecosystems in the entire Caribbean. The park is an Important Bird Area (IBA), a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA), and was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.
The mountains and tropical forests found within the park contain the greatest diversity of flora and fauna and abundance of endemism in the country. About a third of the mammals and insects, a fifth of the birds, and the vast majority of reptiles and amphibians found here are Cuban or even local endemics species.
The park is located just shy of the far east end of Cuba (Punta de Maisi), hugging the northern coastline. Due to the exposure to trade winds and the mountainous topography, this part of Cuba is the country’s rainiest and coolest region. Important rivers, including the Toa River, Cuba’s largest river, find their source in these forested mountains (the highest peak is El Toldo, at 1,175 meters), boasting remarkable freshwater biodiversity.
The rugged nature of this site has kept it remarkably isolated from human encroachment, and the park is currently in a very good state of conservation.The combination of mountains with well-preserved rainforests and pine forests, clear water rivers, pools and waterfalls, and the tropical weather makes it one of the most attractive landscapes in Cuba. There are many hiking trails in good condition throughout the park, and visitors can also enjoy a boat trip from Taco Bay to experience the marine ecosystems.
That being said, pressure to exploit mineral resources, disturbance from invasive species, feral cats and dogs, as well as hurricane impacts are high risk threats to this pristine wilderness. Ecotourism here should—as always—be carried out with the lowest impact possible.
The site has 129 species of birds of all types–terrestrial, aquatic, coastal–including 19 endemics and some critically endangered species such as the Cuban Kite (Chondrohierax wilsonii). Here you can see some of the country’s most important populations of Cuban Parrot (Amazona leucocephala) and Cuban Parakeet (Psittacara euops). In some localities of the park, important concentrations of the world’s smallest bird, Bee-Hummingbird (Calypte helenae), have been found during the reproductive season.
Target bird species: Blue-headed Quail-Dove, Cuban Parrot, Cuban Parakeet, White-collared Swift, Bee-Hummingbird, Giant Kingbird, and Gundlach’s Hawk.
Endemic species/subspecies: Blue-headed Quail-Dove, Gray-fronted Quail-Dove, Bee-Hummingbird, Cuban Green Woodpecker, Cuban Pygmy-Owl, Oriente Warbler, Cuban Grassquit, Gundlach’s Hawk, Cuban Solitaire, Cuban Vireo, and Cuban Oriole.
Species of restricted range: Olive-capped Warbler, Oriente Warbler, Cuban Kite, and Ivory-billed Woodpecker.
Endangered/Critically endangered species (According to IUCN): Blue-headed Quail-Dove, Giant Kingbird, Gundlach’s Hawk, Cuban Kite, and Ivory-billed Woodpecker (presumed extinct).
Bird species that breed here: Cuban Grassquit, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Cuban Bullfinch, Blue-headed Quail-Dove, Cuban Blackbird, Greater Antillean Grackle, Cuban Trogon, West-Indian Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Red-legged Thrush, Olive-capped Warbler, Gundlach’s Hawk, Cuban Green Woodpecker, and Cuban Tody.
Common and/or special migratory bird species present here: American Redstart, Ovenbird, Palm Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Indigo Bunting, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Harrier, Merlin, and Peregrine Falcon.
See here for a 2006 inventory of newly recorded bird species within the park.
The nearby cities of Guantánamo and Holguín each have airports that connect with the capital city of Havana.
The Alejandro de Humboldt National Park encompasses a large piece of land, and therefore has several entrances. One of the easiest ways to get there is via the Holguín-Moa-Baracoa road. The first and second sectors of the National park, known as “Moa Cliffs” and “La Melba”, are located in the mountainous region of Moa municipality. The third sector, known as “Taco Bay” after the actual bay (Bahia de Taco), can be reached via the Moa-Baracoa road. Other sectors of the park can be reached through the Guantanamo-Yateras road.
In the areas surrounding the National Park there are room and board accommodations, including a motel located on the shores of Maguana beach, and other infrastructures in the cities of Baracoa, Moa, and Guantánamo.
The entrance fee to the park trails is 10 CUC person/trail. The Ecotur and Paradiso travel agencies of the province of Holguín and San Cristóbal de la Habana provide tours and visits to Alejandro de Humboldt National Park.