Cuba’s 7 Best Beaches
July 24, 2015 | By Bryn Symonds |
The island of Cuba has some 300 beaches spread across 600 km, so choosing the best is no mean feat. How white is the sand? How soft? How turquoise and clear is the water? And what are the options if you’re looking for something a little more energetic than napping in the sun? These are our 7 favourites, but Cuba averages 330 days of sunshine a year, so you have plenty of time to explore.
Probably the most famous beach of all, Varadero’s soft, white sand stretches an incredible 20 km. It’s well developed so you’ll find lots of activities, watersports, and all-inclusive resorts offering stress-free vacations. Off the beach you’ll find intriguing caves and a chain of offshore islands surrounded by beautiful coral reefs. You’re also only 140 km from Havana, which means you can easily spend a few days in the historic capital. The streets and fortifications of Old Havana are a World Heritage site and well worth a visit.
2) Playa Pilar, Cayo Guillermo
Ernest Hemingway was enchanted by the towering dunes of Playa Pilar in the gorgeous Jardines del Rey archipelago. In fact, this area was the inspiration for parts of his book Islands in the Stream. Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo, tiny islands joined to the mainland by a causeway, have immaculate beaches with excellent diving, snorkelling and tons of watersports. Playa Pilar is well known as the most beautiful of them all for its perfect white sand, swaying palms and warm clear waters. There may not be much traditional Cuban culture here, but you will definitely enjoy the mojitos and piña coladas.
3) Playa Flamingo, Cayo Coco
This undeveloped beach on Cayo Coco will feel like your own little secret of white sand, and turquoise water. Cayo Coco is Cuba’s fourth largest island and has nine beaches over 22 km. There’s rich, indigenous vegetation here and over 150 different species of bird, including the graceful flamingo, hence the name of the beach.
4) Playa Megano and Playa Ensenachos, Cayo Ensenachos
These protected crescents of soft, warm sand are located on the tiny islet of Cayo Ensenachos in La Cayería del Norte. The land here drops off very slowly allowing you to wade out to 90 m or more in crystal clear waters. As an added attraction, the sea is calm here all year round, so there are no worries about getting red flag days (no swimming). Both beaches are incredibly beautiful, but Playa Ensenachos is closer to the resorts, which is perfect if you’re in the mood for something a little more upbeat. Playa Megano is more removed and is the spot if you’re looking for relaxation.
5) Playa Periquillo, Cayo Santa Maria
Cayo Santa Maria is part of a vacation area of three islets (cayos): Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Ensenachos and Cayo Las Brujas (a.k.a Los Cayos de Villa Clara), all of which are part of the UNESCO-recognized Buenavista Biosphere Reserve. There is great diving and snorkelling here as well as bird watching, especially on the south coast of Santa Maria, which is dominated by salt marshes and mangroves. Playa Periquillo is a low-lying crescent of white sand and warm water. The shallow waters are great for bonefishing and long, sun-filled walks. Further out are coral reefs and a wreck perfect for diving.
6) Guardalavaca, Holguin
Holguin is Cuba’s most attractive resort area. The beaches of white sand and clear water stretch forever, occasionally interrupted by secluded coves and some elegant resorts. The town is quite charming and history buffs will enjoy some of the island’s best pre-Columbian archeological sites. As to the name of this area, it does mean “guard the cow,” a possible malapropism of guarda la barca, “guard the ship.” This area was once a frequent target of pirates. The name, then, would be a call to arms.
7) Playa Paraíso, Cayo Largo del Sur
Playa Paraíso is the most outstanding of all the beaches on this secluded islet. There are no permanent residents on Cayo Largo, which means it’s very quiet, calm and undisturbed. There’s a thriving coral reef, lots of wildlife including iguanas, and beaches for days. On Playa Paraíso (literally paradise beach) there’s a beachside restaurant and not much else, which is really what it’s all about.
Is one of these beaches calling your name? For more information or to start planning your Cuban getaway, check out our Cuba travel page.