There are three good reasons for visiting the Isla de la Juventud: diving, birdwatching and checking out Cuban provincial life away from tourist resorts. The island is a good place to go for a weekend out of Havana, although if you plan to see the whole island you will need more time.
Additional Resources :Isla de la Juventud : Litte Paradies
In recent decades its population has been swelled by tens of thousands of Cuban and Third World students, giving rise to the modern name of Isle of Youth. Early aboriginal inhabitants called it Camaraco, Ahao or Siguanea. The abundant pine and later casuarina (Australian pine) trees gave rise to the name Isla de Pinos (Isle of Pines). From the 19th century until the Revolution its main function was as a prison and both José Martí and Fidel Castro served time there.
The capital, Nueva Gerona, dates from the 19th century and remains the only substantial settlement. Surrounded by small rounded hills, it is a pleasantly laid-back country town with a slow pace. As most development has taken place post-1959, there are few historically interesting buildings. The Río Las Casas runs through the town heading northwards out to sea, and this has traditionally been the main route to the Cuban mainland. The boat which served as a ferry from the 1920s until 1974, El Pinero, has been preserved by the river at the end of Calle 28.
Additional Resources about Nueva Gerona : http://www.cuba-individual.com/e_nueva_gerona.htm
The Museo Municipal is in the building which was once the Casa de Gobierno, built in 1853, one of the oldest on the island. It is on the south side of the Parque Central and has a small historical collection of items of local interest. Calle 30. Tue-Sat 0800-1700, Sun 0900-1300.
The Museo de la Lucha Clandestina, near Coppelia, has a collection of photos and other material relating to the Revolution. Calle 37 y 30. Tue-Sat, 0900-1700, Sun 0800-1200.
The Planetario y Museo de Historia Natural, has exhibits relating to the natural history, geology and archaeology of the island, with a replica of the cave painting. Calle 41 y 52. Tue-Thu 0800-1900, Fri 1400-2200, Sat 1300-1700, Sun 0900-1300, US$2. Outside the town, 3 km west just off the road to La Demajagua, is Museo Finca El Abra. This is where José Martí came on 17 October 1870, to spend nine weeks of exile and hard labour quarrying marble in the Sierra de las Casas before being deported to Spain. You can see the contents of the house and kitchen and some of Martí’s belongings. Tue-Sun 0900-1700.
Cayo Largo is at the eastern end of the Archipiélago de los Canarreos, 114 km east of Isla de la Juventud and 80 km south of the Península de Zapata. It is a long, thin, coral island, 26 km long and no more than 2 km wide. There are beautiful white sandy beaches protected by a reef, all along the southern coast which, together with the cristal clear, warm waters of the Caribbean, make it ideal for tourism. A string of hotels lines the southern tip of the island. The northern coast is mostly mangrove and swamp, housing hungry mosquitoes as well as numerous birds (pelicans being the most visible) and iguanas. Turtles lay their eggs at Playa Tortuga in the northeast, and there is a turtle farm at Combinado northwest of the airstrip.
Additional Resources about Cayo Largo : http://www.cayolargo.net/