The fecund flatlands are disjoined by three mountain zones, where the air is cool and inviting and the roads dip and rise through very untropical-looking countryside.
The westernmost mountains are the slender, low-slung Sierra del Rosario and Sierra de los Órganos, which together constitute the Cordillera de Guaniguanico, forming a backbone along the length of northern Pinar del Río Province. In their midst is the striking Valle de Viñales, a classic karst landscape of limestone formations called mogotes.
The Sierra Escambray  rises steeply over west-central Cuba, dominating eastern Cienfuegos and southern Villa Clara Provinces.
A third mountain zone, incorporating several adjacent ranges, overshadows the provinces of Granma, Santiago de Cuba, and Guantánamo and spills over into Holguín Province. To the west, the precipitous Sierra Maestra rises steeply from the sea, culminating atop Pico Turquino (1,974 meters), Cuba’s highest mountain. To the east are the Cuchillas de Toa, Sierra de Puriscal, and Sierra de Cristal.
Cuba has more than 400 beaches in shades of oyster white, chocolate brown, golden, and taupe. The most beautiful line the ocean side of the innumerable coral cays beaded like pearls off the north coast. Most beaches along the south coast can’t compare; notable exceptions include Playa Ancón  and Cayo Largo.
The north coast is indented by of huge, flask-shaped bays, not least Bahía de Habana, on whose western shores grew Havana .
Cuba has over 500 rivers, most of them short, shallow, and unnavigable. The principal river, the 370-kilometer-long Río Cauto, which originates in the Sierra Maestra and flows northwest, is navigable by boat for about 80 kilometers.
Most rivers dwindle to trickles in the dry season, then swell to rushing torrents, flooding extensive areas on the plains when the rains come in summer. Cuba is studded with huge artificial reservoirs.