Cuba is an archipelago of islands located in the Northern Caribbean Sea at the confluence with the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. It lies between latitudes 19° and 24°N, and longitudes 74° and 85°W. The United States lies 90 miles across the Straits of Florida to the north and northwest (to the closest tip of Key West, Florida), the Bahamas to the north, Haiti to the east, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands to the south, and Mexico to the west. Cuba is the principal island, surrounded by four smaller groups of islands: the Colorados Archipelago on the northwestern coast, the Sabana-Camagüey Archipelago on the north-central Atlantic coast, the Jardines de la Reina on the south-central coast and the Canarreos Archipelago on the southwestern coast.
The main island is 1,199 km (745 mi) long, constituting most of the nation’s land area (105,006 km2 (40,543 sq mi)) and is the largest island in the Caribbean and 16th-largest island in the world by land area. The main island consists mostly of flat to rolling plains apart from the Sierra Maestra mountains in the southeast, whose highest point is Pico Turquino (1,975 m (6,480 ft)). The second-largest island is Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth) in the Canarreos archipelago, with an area of 3,056 km2 (1,180 sq mi). Cuba has a total land area of 110,860 km2 (42,803 sq mi).
The local climate is tropical, moderated by northeasterly trade winds that blow year-round. In general (with local variations), there is a drier season from November to April, and a rainier season from May to October. The average temperature is 21 °C (69.8 °F) in January and 27 °C (80.6 °F) in July. The warm temperatures of the Caribbean Sea and the fact that Cuba sits across the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico combine to make the country prone to frequent hurricanes. These are most common in September and October.
The most important mineral resource is nickel, of which Cuba has the world’s second largest reserves (after Russia). Sherritt International of Canada operates a large nickel mining facility in Moa. Cuba is the world’s fifth-largest producer of refined cobalt, a byproduct of nickel mining operations. Recent oil exploration has revealed that the North Cuba Basin could produce approximately 4.6 billion barrels (730,000,000 m3) to 9.3 billion barrels (1.48×109 m3) of oil. In 2006, Cuba started to test-drill these locations for possible exploitation.