The best beaches
in Cuba

Sure, Cuba has flown relatively under the radar until very recently, but that doesn’t mean it has an abundance of isolated, butter-soft beaches with clear blue waters and fantastic views. Well, I mean it does have an abundance of beaches like this, but they’re often not isolated, and will probably come with a bunch of all-inclusive hotels complete with screaming children. Not ideal.

But, with a coastline of more than 5,000 miles long, there’s got to be some remote, out-of-the-way beaches, among the 300 that call Cuba they’re home, right? Right. Cuba has plenty of opportunity for adventure and seclusion along its coastline, you just have to know where to look.

Lucky for you, we do know where to look. And we’re happy to share this information. So, read on for a roundup of the best beaches in Cuba, without the screaming kids and littered sand.

Havana

Jibacoa

Completely surrounded by rolling green hills, Jibacoa beach is completely isolated. There’s a nearby coral reef, making this the prime spot for snorkelling thanks to all the colourful, tropical sea life and fish along the coastline.

Playa del Este

Just twenty minutes east of Havana, Playa del Este is a local favourite that can be hard to find for the tourists. A 10km chain of gold-studded beaches, it’s perfect for spotting the remains of beautiful corals and shells. Plus, it’s one of the best places in Cuba to spot a truly vibrant sunset.

Mantanzas

Varadero Beach

If you go to Cuba and you don’t visit Varadero beach, then you’re doing it wrong. One of the most popular beaches in the country, the beach is 25km long of pearly white sand marking the boundary between the land and the turquoise waters. Sure, it can’t be considered a traditional Cuban place due to the sheer volume of tourists that trample through every day, but the beach itself is so long that there’s plenty of space for everyone to enjoy it, stress-free.

Jardines del Rey

Varadero Beach

Found in Cayo Coco, Playa Los Flamencos is anything but a resort hub. Sure, the island itself is home to three very popular tourist beaches, but Los Flamencos is on the eastern end of the key, in a quiet corner away from this hustle and bustle. It’s a shorter beach than some other famous ones, but the water is still crystal clear, and the trees grow right next to the shoreline. Plus, it’s a great spot for diving and snorkelling.

Playa Pilar

Found on the western point of the tiny little island of Cayo Guillermo, Playa Pilar is quite literally a little slice of heaven. Easily one of the best beaches in Cuba, it’s long, sandy, glisteningly white, and very serene. It was also named after Ernest Hemingway’s yacht, Pilar, and the beach was one of the author’s favourite little hideaways.

Playa Perla Blanca

Found on Cayo Santa Maria, Playa Perla Blanca is one of the most untouched beaches in the Jardines del Ray archipelago, if not the whole of Cuba. It’s a bit of trek to get to, but it’s definitely worth it; Fidel Castro once even claimed this beach to be better than Varadero.

Playa Los Pinos

So paradisiacal it’s almost eerie, Playa Los Pinos is both amazingly beautiful and practically untouched and deserted. It’s only reachable via a very bumpy dirt track, which no public transport bothers to tackle. The longest beach on Cayo Sabinal, Playa Los Pinos is blindingly white, with clear turquoise waters and beautiful sand, perfect for a few days totally off the grid. Plus, wild horses and deer roam around the coastline, which totally feels like something straight out of a fairy-tale.

Pinar del Rio

Cayo Jutias

Home to nothing more than a beachside restaurant and a small kayak rental shack, the lack of tourists is what really appeals about this tiny little island. Practically the whole island is one long beach, and guests can find the perfect solitude in the 3 kilometres of white sand.

Cayo Levisa

A cool little island of the coast of Pinar del Río, Cayo Levisa is pretty much all mangroves except for one small beach on the northern side. Not connected to the mainland, you need to take a 30-minute boat ride to reach the island/beach, but the feeling of complete isolation this brings makes the journey totally worth it.

Playa Maria la Gorda

Found on Peninsula de Guanahacabibes, this beach is pretty much the only reason this area of Cuba is ever visited. The Peninsula is a rugged and rarely visited national park, but the beach is a far cry from this; a long, white sand beach with palm trees and laid-back beachside bars lining the coast. The main reason most people visit though is for the incredible diving opportunities. With drop-offs and reefs just a few hundred metres out, the best diving in mainland Cuba is right here – and the marina has some pretty swanky facilities to go with it.

Baracoa

Playa Maguana

With fine golden sands, and a peaceful, Robinson Crusoe vibe, it’s hard not to fall in love with Playa Maguana. About 14 miles from the city of Baracoa, apart from the daily Bubatur excursions, there’s very little tourism going on here. Just a tiny hotel, and some food stalls.

Playa Duaba

Just over three miles from Baracoa, Playa Duaba is home to black sands and beachside vegetation, near the point where the Rio Duaba meets the Caribbean Sea. It’s here that you can find a hidden obelisk marking the location where General Antonio Maceo landed during the 1895 War of Independence, plus there are nearby waterfalls and willing locals who will take you on a tourist-free eco-excursion.

Bahia de Baracoa

Typically considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Bahia de Baracoa can be found on the eastern edge of Cuba, surrounded by a stunning mountain range. It’s also one of the best beaches to get some amazing holiday snaps, thanks to the sparkling turquoise waters and sandy beach lined with palm trees.

Santiago de Cuba

Pioneer’s Camp Beach

One of the best beaches for sunbathing, Pioneer’s Camp is a 20-minute cycle away from Caletón. The beach is home to wild sea-grapes, bowing palm trees, and fallen coconuts in the hidden coves. It’s the perfect little secret spot, complete with homespun bars serving up some pretty fab daiquiris.

Playa Siboney

Playa Siboney is perfect for anyone looking to get out of the city and explore the “real” Cuba. About 12 miles from the city of Santiago, it’s a beach popular with locals and day-trippers – giving it a much more rustic atmosphere. The whole area is pretty much undeveloped in terms of tourism, and the local sand is a greyish black due to the underlying geology – so it’s not a beach if you want golden sands and paradisal views. It is, however, a great way to round off a day’s excursions, or use as a base for exploring the eastern part of Santiago province, staying in a casa particular nearby.

Playa Cazonal

Definitely one of the best beaches in Cuba, just on what it can offer to the general traveller alone. It’s popular with the locals, which means it has that authentic Cuban vibe, but it’s also fairly touristy which means it’s clean, looked after, and has a tonne of bars. Obvs. This is Cuba we’re talking about.

Camaguey

Playa Manguito

The best beach in Cuba if you’re looking for a party, it’s covered with coconut palm trees and lazy wooden chairs perfect for passing out in after a boozy evening. Hunt down Tato’s beach shack and you’re golden; the staff will bring you shrimp in tomato sauce and cucurucho, a Cuban speciality. Not somewhere to go if you’re after a bit of peace and quiet though, as there’s a boombox that makes an appearance in the afternoons, blasting out reggae music.

Playa Santa Lucia

By far one of the nicest beaches in Cuba, Playa Santa Lucia is a bit of a trek from Camaguey, but it’s well worth the journey. With a beautiful white sandy beach that stretches for 12 miles, and a ridiculously accessibly reef making for the perfect diving spot, it’s soothingly calm and decidedly un-busy for such a pretty beach. It’s home to colourful fish, shipwrecks that date back to the 19th century, and a decided lack of tourist infrastructure that is present at a lot of other beaches in Cuba.

Cienfuegos

Playa Rancho Luna

The best thing about this beach is how easy it is to get to. One of the nicest beaches near Cienfuegos, the soft sandy beach and warm waters are favoured by the locals and tourists alike. It’s perfect for whatever you want to do, whether that’s relaxing in the sun, swimming, or exploring the nearby coral reef that can be accessed easily. There’s also a diving centre nearby, and some Casas Particulares for travellers to stay in.

Holguin

Playa Bianca

The best thing about this beach is how easy it is to get to. One of the nicest beaches near Cienfuegos, the soft sandy beach and warm waters are favoured by the locals and tourists alike. It’s perfect for whatever you want to do, whether that’s relaxing in the sun, swimming, or exploring the nearby coral reef that can be accessed easily. There’s also a diving centre nearby, and some Casas Particulares for travellers to stay in.

Playa Esmerelda

Playa Esmeralda is great if you just want to have fun. It’s full of various different activities, from water sports – including sailing and diving – to horseback riding, tennis courts, miniature golf course, and basically everything you could ask for to provide a constant source of entertainment.

Playa Caletones

Similar to Varadero, but also totally and completely the opposite, without all the tourists. Part of this is because the journey getting here is long – although amazingly spectacular. It’s also well off the radar of any of the big tour groups, making it a little tricky to navigate. Once you get there though, you’re greeted y a very low-key beach bar, and miles of amazing coastline. There’s also natural bathing pools set back from the shore, and plenty of caves to explore.

Playa Los Bajos

One of the hands-down nicest Cuban beaches, Playa los Bajos is just east of Gibara, a lovely small city to base yourself and explore. You have to hop on a boat to get to the beach from Enramada, but it’s only a short ride and it’s well worth it.

Sancti Spiritus

Playa Ancon

Just 7 miles from Trinidad lies arguably one of the best beaches in Southern Cuba. Long, picturesque, sandy, with clear waters, Playa Ancon is easy to get to by bus or taxi – or even bike if you fancy it. It’s mostly uphill though, so bear that in mind.

Cayo Blanco

A tiny little island, Caya Blanco is only reachable by boat from the Trinidad Marina – or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you could snorkel there from Playa Ancon. It’s a popular destination to go diving in the reefs, and it’s literally a stone’s throw from the colonial town of Trinidad, which is full of historically charming buildings and attractions. Set up camp here in a casa particular, and you’ll have the beach practically on your doorstep.

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