Welcome to Cuba!
The Caribbean harbors a jewel in the Island of Cuba. The tropical Island extends 750 miles (roughly the size of Pennsylvania) and is a beautiful mix of mountain ranges and plains. There are over 200 bays and 289 sun drenched beaches to explore. The main ports are located in the provinces of Cienfuegos, Havana, Manzanillo, Mariel, Matanzas, Nuevitas and Santiago de Cuba.
Cuba has no plants or animals that are lethal to humans (Yes, this includes poisonous snakes!) The mountain ranges include the Sierra Maestra to the East, the Cordillera de los Organos to the West, and the Sierra del Escambray in the central region.
The elongated island of Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean and is bounded to the north by the Straits of Florida and the greater North Atlantic Ocean, to the northwest by the Gulf of Mexico, to the west by the Yucatan Channel, to the south by the Caribbean Sea, and to the east by the Windward Passage. The Republic comprises the entire island, including many outlying islands such as the Isle of Youth, previously known as the Isle of Pine, with the exception of Guantanamo Bay, a naval base that has been leased by the United States since 1903. The mainland is the world's 16th largest island.
The economy of Cuba is based on state ownership with some small scale private enterprise existing at the fringes. Tourism has become one of the largest sources of income for Cuba, and in 1993 the U.S. dollar was made legal tender (the country operated under a dual-currency system); this arrangement was, however, revoked on 25 October 2004.
The Cuban economy was hit hard in the early 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Comecon economic bloc, with which it had traded predominantly. More recent problems include high oil prices, recessions in key export markets such as sugar and nickel, damage from hurricanes (most recently an estimated 1 billion dollars economic damage from hurricane Charley), depressed tourism, and faltering world economic conditions. In late 2003, and early 2004, both tourism levels and nickel prices increased. One other factor in the recovery of the Cuban economy is the remittances of Cuban-Americans (which constitute almost 3% of the Cuban Economy, by some estimates). Cuba currently trades with almost every nation in the world (including the U.S.). However, Cuba owes billions in Paris Club debt to nations such as France, Japan and Germany.