Sometimes the name of a place can be practical, rather than something that has a deep cultural or historical meaning. There’s an Australian beachside suburb with amazing waves, making it a paradise for Surfers. It’s called Surfers Paradise. A volcanic island off the coast of New Zealand almost constantly billows white smoke.
British settlers officially named it White Island. While these names give you an idea about what to expect before you even visit the place in question, what would you expect from a place called The Terraces? Las Terrazas (The Terraces) is a planned community about one hour’s drive from Havana, although it’s not the fancy houses and security gates type of planned community.
Centuries ago it was a lush paradise with extensive natural resources, and it was these resources that were to be its (temporary) downfall. The history of the region is fascinating, a sort of riches to rags and then back to riches story, and there are some truly unique things to do in Las Terrazas Cuba. So what exactly makes this part of Cuba so special?
An Up and Down (and Interesting) History
Don’t get us wrong, Las Terrazas is jaw droppingly beautiful… but it wasn’t always this way. The lush green hills of the area were harvested by Spanish settlers who needed wood for their rapidly growing new colony of Cuba. There was no idea of sustainable forestry back then, and while many of the trees were cut down, the soil remained rich. This is why the area became an agricultural stronghold, largely featuring masses of coffee plantations. Again, there was little thought of sustainability.
The farming depleted the natural resources of the region, leaving Las Terrazas in a very sorry state. It wasn’t until 1968 that things changed for the better. Fidel Castro, the former President of Cuba, wanted to rejuvenate the area, and so this is exactly what happened. Some 1360 square kilometres of non-intrusive, sustainable land was created by building terraces into the the sides of the hills, giving the area its name.
These dedicated areas were able to yield crops and create an industry without imposing upon the natural area surrounding them, which was extensively replanted to return it to its former glory. This rejuvenation hit a significant speed bump in 1991 with the collapse of the USSR. The Soviet Union allocated a significant amount of money to Cuba, and with its collapse, this money dried up. After a few difficult years, the focus of Las Terrazas moved from agriculture to ecotourism, and that is why the majority of people come to this stunning corner of Cuba… and it’s probably why you will want to come too.
Now it’s time to learn about some interesting options when it comes to your options what to do in Las Terrazas Cuba.
Some Sensational Things to do in Las Terrazas Cuba
1. A Bird’s-Eye View
Maybe the best thing to do in Las Terrazas Cuba is to see it from above. It’s possible to go zip lining in the community (or more accurately, just above it). There are some 1.6 kilometres (just under 1 mile) of zip lines above the forest canopy. You will be safely harnessed and then you can zip above the trees like a bird.
The company that offers the service helpfully points out that anyone who is under the influence of alcohol will not be allowed to participate, so it’s wise to leave that tasty mojito until after you’ve finished the zip line.
2. Eat at El Romero
A meat heavy diet is extremely common throughout Cuba, so El Romero is nothing short of a vegetable revelation. A meal at this sensational vegetarian restaurant is certainly an important inclusion on any list of things to do in Las Terrazas Cuba.
3. Hit the Water
The pristine bodies of water dotted throughout Las Terrazas help to accentuate the ecotourism credentials of the region. None of the lakes are particularly large, and yet this doesn’t make them any less beautiful.
Try renting a kayak and hitting the Lago del San Juan. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, try one of the sensational fish dishes at Casa de Botes. This fantastic restaurant sits on stilts, literally above the water.
4. Memories of the Past
The overfarmed coffee plantations were one of the things that led to the decline of the area, but an exploration of this past is something that needs to be done when thinking of things to do Las Terrazas Cuba. Head to Cafetal Buenavista, a semi-ruined coffee plantation in the town. Some of it has been restored, although now with a view to sustainable farming.
5. Not a Chicken
It’s easy to make mistakes in a foreign language. Please remember that Pollo means chicken in Spanish, whereas Polo is just a common first name (and also a type of mint and a posh horseback sport). Polo Montañez was an acclaimed Cuban musician who despite not having much in the way of training, managed to write some 70 songs.
He died in 2002 at the age of 47 (after a tragic car accident), and while you might not be familiar with his work, his former home (now a museum: the Casa Museo de Polo Montañez) is a fun and slightly kitschy addition to the list of things to do in Las Terrazas Cuba.
6. Time to Cool Off
Since a number of the things to do in Las Terrazas Cuba involve some form of physical activity, you will want to take a dip in the water to cool off. Around 4 kilometres from the centre of the town is the Banos del San Juan. You could walk it if you were particularly keen, but if the humidity is an issue, you might want to take a taxi.
These stunning natural pools (with a waterfall) are an ideal way to cool off after exploring the beauty of this wonderful corner of Cuba.