Health Care Sector

The Ruta del Agua – Thermal Tourism in Cuba

The San Diego de los Banos in Pinar del Rio.

Cuba has begun to offer health and wellness programs called the “Ruta del Agua” (The Water Route). The Island has an abundance of natural water springs throughout the Island and much experience in the medicinal use of these waters. The Ruta del Agua tourism package blends wellness therapies with the natural beauty of the Island.

The program was created by the Comercializadora de Servicios Médicos Cubanos, S.A. (SMC Salud) group in coordination with the Ecotur travel agency and the Ministry of Tourism.

Cuba has been promoting these wellness tourism packages at health conferences and at Wellness Week, an event sponsored by the Pan American and World Health Organizations (PAHO / WHO).

Dr. Yamila de Armas, First Vice President of SMC Salud said some of Cuba’s spas have existed for more than a hundred years. Dr. de Armas spoke of some of the more well known facilities in the country such as San Diego de los Baños, San Vicente, San Miguel de los Baños, Elguea, Ciego Montero and La Cotorra.

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Ruta del Agua health tourism packages are based in the west and the center of the country. These wellness plans are combined other types of excursions of nature tourism, city tours and other attractions.

In the 18th century hot springs were discovered in San Diego de los Baños in province of Pinar del Río somewhat accidentally by a slave of a Creole businessman named Carlos Cardoso. The medicinal virtues of the waters were found to cure skin sores and quickly became very popular. Cardoso then constructed a bathhouse and a small inn to offer accommodations for those who came to take the waters in pursuit of cures for skin ailments. By the 19th century, travel to the waters of San Diego de los Baños had become so popular that trips were organized for people seeking cures from Batabanó on the south coast of Cuba to San Diego de los Baños.

Currently, medical tourists can stay in the hotel next door to the Spa or at casa particulars in the small town. The Pradera International Health Center in Havana offers a program to the Spa of San Diego de los Banos for both national and international patients. This program is a part of the campaign developed in the country to promote thermal culture and traditional natural medicine.

Other well-known spas can be found in Cuba. The Ciego Montero, is located in the town of Ciego Montero in the municipality of Palmira, near Cienfuegos. For accommodation, there is a hotel that serves the spa with 25 rooms for people who seek physiotherapy and rehabilitation services. The Ciego Montero Spa offers treatment with medicinal mud, thermal pool treatments, heliotherapy, gymnastics, acupuncture, massage, laser therapy, and psychotherapy.

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In the north of the province of Villa Clara, an hour’s drive from Varadero, is the Elguea Spa. The waters of Elguea are rich with the content of bromine salts and other minerals. The waters are used for the cure of neurological, respiratory and circulatory problems, as well as other health conditions.

One of the most famous of historical spas is the San Miguel de los Baños, is located in Jovellanos, Matanzas. Its waters still maintain all the curative minerals that once made the spa famous and  attracted medical tourists from around the world in its heyday of the 1930s to 1940s. The waters are still used by residents and hikers but the actual building once used as the spa is, unfortunately, abandoned.

Apart from the freshwater therapies, Cuba also offers thalassotherapy treatment. Thalassotherapy is the use of seawater and its properties to treat a multitude of diseases of the skin. As an island, Cuba has lots of access to seawater which is rich in salts and with a tropical climate suitable for therapeutic use.

More information on Cuba’s health and wellness tourism packages, can be obtained from the La Pradera International Healthcare Center in Havana.

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