Where to find the best beaches in Cuba
By Martha Hales
Picture your paradise Caribbean beach - limpid seas lapping at beaches of gleaming white sand - and you will likely find it in Cuba. With more than 5,000 kilometres of coastline there is a lifetime of beaches to discover, from broad sandy stretches that go on for miles to perfect coves on deserted cays, the variety is endless. Home to some of the best diving in the Caribbean, Cuba is encircled by coral reefs which are in great condition, keep the coastal waters calm, and shelter myriad underwater species.
Twenty-five percent of Cuba's marine territory is protected, so many beaches and cays are blissfully wild and undeveloped, and the sea life reflects this. Coupled with its unique and bewitching culture and historic towns, Cuba's coast makes this island a fantastic destination for a whole host of reasons, and it's beaches are up there among the most compelling. Here is a brief round-up of some of our favourites.
A slim peninsula extends 25 kilometres from the mainland, fringed along its northern shore with one of Cuba's finest beaches. It can't be claimed that this is an untouched corner of Cuba's coastline as Varadero is home to a sizeable tourist resort consisting of several dozen large hotels and a local town, but this shouldn't put you off. The beach is one of Cuba's best known for a reason - it's beautiful and big enough to absorb the crowds that flock here to enjoy it. For a great beach with all the facilities and luxury you could ever want, head to Varadero.
The charm of Playa Giron lies in its simplicity. Golden sands and nodding palms greet you at this beach where locals and tourists alike mingle and enjoy the view. The small village that gives the beach its name is old fashioned and friendly, the surroundings are wild, natural and inviting, while the waters are calm and full of underwater life. This is an area known for its great diving and snorkelling as there are several good sites in the vicinity.
Bleached out sand slopes gently into inviting turquoise waters so clear you can spot marine life from afar, served by a string of delightful resort hotels which can make every wish come true. Snorkeling and diving among the thriving reefs are the major pastimes here. If this is the stuff of your holiday fantasies, Cayo Coco is calling your name. The beaches certainly won't disappoint, as they are among Cuba’s prettiest and most carefully groomed. Cayo Coco is one of a string of islands scattered off mainland Cuba’s northern shore, accessible by a 25 kilometre causeway.
If you are visiting the colonial gem of Trinidad and fancy a day or two at the beach, head for secluded Playa Ancon on the peninsula of the same name, where the natural beauty of the surroundings are all part of the appeal. Mountains clad in greenery rear up behind the peninsula, and the sparkling Caribbean entices in front. It's a short hop from Trinidad and the journey is all part of the charm, taking you from the town out to a golden curve of beach backed with verdant forest and served by an unobtrusive smattering of facilities.
This beach is the definition of paradise, with dazzling shell sand unspooling along a deserted shoreline washed by the prettiest of Caribbean waves. The colours are mesmerising, as the sea fades from deep indigo via teal, sky blue and turquoise to palest aquamarine where it meets the beach. Playa Pilar, one of Hemingway's favourite beaches, is located at the far end of Cayo Guillermo, a secluded cay off the northern shore of Cuba's mainland where you really can have your little slice of paradise all to yourself. There is little in the way of facilities but who cares when you are in a real life daydream?
At the tip of a finger of land that curls into the sea on Cuba’s West coast, Cayo Jutias is a brilliant side trip if you are visiting Vinales. It is popular with locals as well as intrepid tourists and although there are no overnight options it has some good places to try some local food and a mojito or two. This is a beach with a wild side, with mangroves and forests stretching right to the shore in some areas and some deserted stretches if you walk a little way along. The sunsets here are fabulous and worth staying later for.
Make it happen
Cuba is the place to be for anyone who can't resist the delights of dazzling beaches. Whatever your dream beach looks like, you will find it here. Our local experts will be able to give you the lowdown on the blissfully deserted coves, the teeming dive sites, the endless sands of the cays and the exclusive resort beaches which make Cuba's coastline so appealing. Contact them to find out what your perfect, bespoke itinerary could look like. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office please call +44 (0)117 325 7898.