Cuba Bird list
Soroa is about a one hour drive west of Havana, and easily accessed via the autopista. Although, from a birding perspective, this is not an essential site to visit, it is a very pleasant place to spend a couple of days. The hotel has been completely renovated, has a great swimming pool and gardens, and is situated only a hundred metres from the start of the forest trails with a walk to a spectacular view point. The bird species here are almost identical to those at La Güira, with the exception of Olive-capped Warbler which does not occur as its habitat, Pinus carribeus is absent. However there is a good chance of Blue-headed Quail-Dove on the forest trails early in the morning before the crowds arrive. If you are feeling really lazy it’s even possible to ride a horse to the view point. This was the only place we saw Scaly-naped Pigeon and we were able to look down on Cuban Solitaire from the viewpoint. Cuban Pygmy-Owl is extremely common in the hotel grounds, and Stygian Owl also occurs, though we had no response to a tape.
La Güira is a "national park" 40 km west of Soroa and can be reached from Soroa within an hour’s drive. The two specialities of the area are Olive-capped Warbler and Cuban Solitaire -- the former is common in the pines, the later common by voice. The only tourist accommodation is at the nearby town of San Diego de los Baños where you can also find a small shop at the petrol station just as you enter town. Having driven under the archway at the park entrance, follow the road for c7 km straight up the hill and bear right at the fork to arrive in the pines. If you continue on foot at the end of the road there are a couple of reasonable forest trails that we briefly explored and have potential, possibly for Quail-Doves. Gundlach’s Hawk is a remote possibility.
Playa Larga, situated on the famous Bay of Pigs, 180 km south east of Havana can be reached via the autopista within three hours from Havana. This is the key birding area in Cuba, and holds most of the specialities. At least 3-4 days are required to get to grips with most of them, and a local guide is almost essential (see contacts section above). The main birding areas are the forest tracks and trails around the villages of Soplillar and Pálpite. An additional trip into the Zapata Swamp will also required for those wishing to try for the Zapata Rail, Sparrow and Wren. We also visited swamp areas around Bermejas for Cuban Red-shouldered Blackbird. The only official tourist hotel in town is the Villa Playa Larga, but mosquitoes here appeared to be quite a nuisance, so it’s preferable to stay in one of the several casas particulares.
Najasa is the well know site for Giant Kingbird and Cuban Palm Crow, two seriously threatened species. Other species more easily seen here include Cuban Grassquit, Cuban Parakeet and Plain Pigeon. Although not essential, it is an excellent idea to contact the local ornithologist Pedro Regalado in advance, who will willingly take you around for a small fee. He can arrange accommodation in the adjacent La Belén National Park. Otherwise it is necessary to stay in a hotel in Camagüey, 40 km away.
Cayo Coco, and its Cancun-like beach resorts catering solely to western visitors get a bad press in the Lonely Planet guide. Certainly the native habitat destruction continues apace and one dreads to think what the environmental impact to its pristine beaches and native habitats will be over the next ten years. A series of offshore keys, of which Cayo Coco is the biggest, are connected to the mainland by a 23 km causeway across the bay. Almost all the accommodation on the island is of the fully-inclusive type and horrendously expensive. We did note however cheap beach bungalows at Flamingo Beach and Sítio La Güira for around $15-25, although a couple we met who were staying didn’t recommend it at all. It’s almost certainly better to stay in Morón