The best beaches in Cuba

The Best Beaches in Cuba

Historic buildings, beautiful parks, vibrant shopping districts, and breath-taking beaches make Cuba a tropical paradise and the sugary white sand and crystalline turquoise water of Cuba’s beaches are known for their natural beauty.  Although getting around Cuba can be more challenging than in other countries, you will be rewarded with breath-taking views, fascinating history, and yes, breath-taking beaches. The best beaches in Cuba are on the south coast, but no matter where you go in the country or whether you’re into surfing, wildlife, or simply relaxing with a cocktail, you’ll find something spectacular.  Here are the best beaches in Cuba!

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The Best Beaches in Cuba

If you imagine the ideal Caribbean beach, Cuba’s expansive coastline comes to mind: powdery, bone-white sand, often dotted with shady palm trees, and clear, turquoise waters.

Beaches in Cuba are diverse, with something to suit everyone’s needs: large swaths of white sand groomed by resorts promise days of utter luxury, offshore islands where you can escape and explore the reefs underwater.  And paradise beaches down tiny unmarked roads. If you’re staying in Havana and don’t want to travel far, we’ve even got a list of the best beaches near the city.  Ready for more of Cuba’s best beaches?

If you do spend the day on the beach be sure to secure your valuables. We use and recommend portable travel safes. Here are the best portable travel safes for Cuba.

Varadero Beach, Cuba

Varadero Beach is one of Cuba’s most popular beaches, and it’s known for being the complete package when it comes to a rejuvenating Cuban beach vacation.

Varadero’s main attraction stretches for 20 kilometers, disappearing into the Atlantic that’s shallow here, with a glorious combination of colors of sapphire and turquoise.  The beach here is a beautiful border between the mainland and the Florida Straits and is formed by a combination of blue and green waters. To top it off, the Varadero peninsula’s narrow width ensures that the beach is never more than a few steps away. There’s more on the best things to do in Varadero here.

Cubas best beaches varadero beach

Around the peninsula, there are over thirty diving sites. If you don’t want to dive, you can try other water sports like sailing, snorkeling, fishing, or taking a glass-bottom boat ride.

  • Varadero Beach is best known for:
    • Glorious fine sandy beaches
    • Crystal clear waters
    • The length of the beach – the beautiful, almost-straight 25-kilometer stretch of white sand beach runs the length of the peninsula.
  • How to Get to Varadero Beach:
    • It takes 2.5-3 hours to get to Varadero beach from Havana.  You can take the Viazul Bus (our guide is here), rent a car, book a prepaid transfer, or fly into Varadero’s International Airport and transfer from there. (note that you can book both private AND shared transfers).

Cayo Coco beach aka Playa Los Flamencos – Cuba

Playa Flamencos is a charming coastline surrounded by opulent resorts and lush mangroves.

Cayo Coco is part of the Jardines del Ray, or “King’s Gardens,” chain of islands. Here, you can enjoy a relaxing getaway while participating in relaxing activities such as snorkeling, sunbathing, or swimming in the warm water.  You’ll find beach loungers, from hotels along the shoreline, ideal for relaxing and dozing off in the sun’s warmth. And the beach bar at Playa Flamencos serves delectable Caribbean drinks (local rum optional!)

Cubas best beaches cayo coco Cuba
  • Cayo Coco Beach is best known for:
    • Towering palm trees, and lush landscape
    • Immaculate sand beaches.
  • How to Get to Cayo Coco Beach:  
    • If the flights are running take a Cubana domestic flight from Havana to Cayo Coco (Jardines del Rey Airport), and then a taxi from Cayo Coco Airport to your hotel (US$15 to US$50 depending on your hotel).  
    • You can also check the current Viazul Bus to Cayo Coco timetables and book tickets online here.    You’ll likely need to take the bus to Ciego de Avila and then change to another bus out to Cayo Coco.

Cayo Guillermo aka Playa Pilar – Cuba

Cayo Guillermo, also known as Playa Pilar, is a sleepy, laid-back island west of Cayo Coco that offers a more tranquil beach for those looking to relax and enjoy fishing and diving.

This beach on Cuba’s northernmost coast is home to hundreds of bright pink flamingos, which make for great photos, similar to Playa Los Cocos.  If you prefer snorkeling and diving, then the waters here are teeming with tropical fish as well as more exotic species like marlin if you want to go deep-sea fishing.  If you’re on a budget, get a day pass to one of the resorts that give you access to this beach and others nearby for a relaxing day.

Cubas best beaches cayo guillermo cuba
  • Cayo Guillermo Beach is best known for:
    • The island’s most famous feature is its colony of 12,000 flamingos, which gather here to feed and provide a captivating sight for most visitors.
    • The waters of Playa Pilar are rich with marine life, including marlin, and are ideal for deep-sea adventures.
    • There are gloriously shallow waters here and a lovely peaceful atmosphere.
  • How to Get To Cayo Guillermo:
    • If you’re in the Jardines del Rey archipelago and want to visit the small but beautiful Cayo Guillermo, then you can access it easily from Cayo Coco thanks to the Pedraplén – it’s the first “stone road” built over the sea in Cuba and is 17 kilometers long.
    • To get to Jardines del Rey, you can fly in because it has an international airport (as above for Cayo Coco), or you can take the Pedraplén, a road built over the sea, from Cuba’s main island.
    • If the flights are running take a Cubana domestic flight from Havana to Jardines del Rey Airport, and then a taxi from the airport to your hotel).  
    • You can also check the current Viazul Bus to Cayo Guillermo timetables and book tickets online here.    You’ll likely need to take the bus to Ciego de Avila and then change to another bus out to Cayo Guillermo.

Playa Ancon, Trinidad, Cuba

Playa Ancon is the best beach in the south, and it’s only a short drive from the historic town of Trinidad.

Playa Ancon is the largest and longest beach in the area, boasting clear turquoise waters arched around glistening golden sand. It is frequently referred to as the best beach in Southern Cuba.  Although the beach is the main draw in the area, Playa Ancon has managed to preserve its natural beauty to the best of its ability. The shoreline is lined with trees and shrubs, and the reefs are absolutely stunning.  Playa Ancon is about 12 kilometers (8 miles) from Trinidad, located on the Ancon Peninsula.  The white sand beach stretches for 2 miles at the end of a peninsula.  There is a coral reef just offshore and the beach stretches around 4 kilometers.  If you want to go further afield, take a boat trip from Playa Ancon to Cayo Blanco, where you can dive and snorkel the reef there. This is one of the best day trips from Trinidad.

Cubas best beaches playa ancon Trinidad
  • Playa Ancon Beach is best known for:
    • You can dive and enjoy the reefs
    • There’s good snorkeling here and also diving at around 30 dive sites.  You can pick up a tour to Playa Ancon for snorkeling or diving from the Brisas del Mar Trinidad and any of the Playa Ancon hotels.  You’ll pay around US$45.
    • Fishing for big game, deep-sea fishing adventures, and bottom fishing are all popular activities in the area
    • Taking a catamaran trip out to the small islands and snorkeling
  • How to get to Playa Ancon:
    • Starting from Trinidad you can rent a bike and cycle here.  If you go for a bike rental, then test everything is working before you set off – organize through your casa particular.  In the unlikely event that they can’t provide one, go to Hostal Victor and ask there.  If you cycle to Playa Ancon you should stop via the slightly longer more scenic route of the small village of La Boca (we stayed here it is gloriously quiet after the tourist throng of Trinidad!).  It will take you about 40-45 minutes to cycle from Trinidad to Playa Ancon.
    • If you go to Playa Ancon from Trinidad by taxi it will take about 15 minutes.

Playa Giron, Cuba

Playa Giron Beach is a beautiful beach with palm trees and crystal clear water, as well as soft, silky sand.

Playa Giron is in the historic Bay of Pigs, and here you’ll find a small museum dedicated to the history of the area – it’s primarily in Spanish, although you may luck out and find a guide who can speak English.  There are, however, lots of photos and it’s worth the small entrance fee.   The diving here in the Bay of Pigs is great as well – and there’s more on that here.   Now, back to the beach.

Cubas best beaches playa giron

The beach at Playa Giron has numerous rocky outcroppings, a beautiful beach, and excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities, which you might want to enjoy after learning about its turbulent past. (go on head to that museum…)  Not only that, but the beach is bordered by the Ciénaga de Zapata mangrove jungle, where you can take a safari-style boat trip, and the nearby town is full of fun places to try the local cuisine.

  • Playa Giron Beach is best known for:
    • Well… Playa Girón Beach is almost indistinguishable from other small Cuban beaches, with the same coral sand and turquoise waters that cover the amazing reefs.
    • It’s the history here that’s important
    • And you can just walk straight in.  Drink rum cocktails from a shack on the beach.
    • It’s seriously laid-back beaching here.
  • How to get to Playa Giron
    • Take the Viazul Bus from Havana to Playa Giron (if you’re coming from Havana it will stop at Playa Larga first.  The stop is on the Havana to Trinidad route.  The bus stops both ways (i.e. from Trinidad to Havana as well). 

Playa Larga, Cuba

Playa Larga, famous for the Bay of Pigs invasion, is unquestionably one of Cuba’s best beaches for inexpensive water activities like snorkeling and diving.

The Playa Larga Beach, located in Matanzas Province, Cuba, is a large, 4-kilometer-long sandy area famous for being the site of a battle in which a group of Americans attempted to take control of the beach on April 17, 1961, but were repelled by the Cuban people.  (head to the museum in Playa Giron if you want to learn more about this)

Cubas best beaches playa larga cuba

The dive sites around the Bay of Pigs are best suited to novice and budget divers. The beaches along the coast from Playa Larga to Playa Giron are ideal for such water activities. The majority of agencies also provide equipment and transportation for as little as US$25.  Playa Giron is the main site for diving in the Bay of Pigs, but you’ll also find dive companies based here in Playa Larga.

Right, so the beach – there are a large number of trees along the shoreline provide plenty of shaded areas where you can relax or sunbathe without getting sunburned.

  • Playa Larga Beach is best known for:
    • It’s best in the morning when the water tends to be calmer.
    • It’s a pretty relaxed vibe here, like Playa Giron
    • BUT – there are bugs here, especially as the day progresses, you’ll need bug spray (try this one) – as the area here is known for biting bugs.
  • How to get to Playa Larga
    • Take the Viazul Bus from Havana to Playa Larga The stop is on the Havana to Trinidad route.  The bus stops both ways (i.e. from Trinidad to Havana as well). 

Playa del Este, near Havana, Cuba

The calm and serene atmosphere of Playa del Este makes it an ideal location for a relaxing beach stop. It features a long stretch of sandy beach, tall palm trees, and clear water.

If you’re planning a quick trip to Cuba and want to concentrate on Havana, the Playas del Este are the ideal location for you.  This is where Havana residents go to get away from the city, so expect it to be crowded on weekends.  The T2 tourist bus runs daily from Parque Central, making it easy to squeeze in a day trip or spend the morning sightseeing before hitting the beach.  These are the closest beaches to Havana.  You can take a private transfer here.  There are more than 30 miles (50 kilometers) of glorious white sandy beaches here fringed by palm trees.    This area is known as the Havana Riviera and it’s an awesome day trip from Havana.  There are restaurants here, and bars and you can rent sunbeds and umbrellas for about US$5 a day.

Cubas best beaches playas del este havana
  • The beaches of Playas del Este are best known for:
    • The beaches of Playas del Este stretch for nearly 4 miles (6 kilometers) along Cuba’s north-central coast. They’re only a 20-minute drive from Havana, so they’re ideal for a day trip when you need to get away from the city. Beaches are popular among both Cubans and visitors who come to relax on the coast.
    • If you’re in Havana between January and April you’ll likely have the beaches here to yourself as most Cubanos tend to find it too cold to visit the beach at this time.  (The water temperature in Cuba in January is about 26 degrees (79 Fahrenheit – so you can decide what’s too cold for you!)
  • How to Get To the Playas de Este:
    • Take the Hop on Hop off bus to the Playas del Este – The Havana Hop on Hop Off Bus run by Transtur goes to Playa del Este and takes about 30 minutes.  You’ll want the T3 which runs from Habana Centro, where the main stop is Parque Central (opposite the Hotel Inglaterra).  An all-day ticket costs US$10 and the service runs from 0900 to 1900.    You’ll find locals and tourists on this bus. 
    • The cheapest way to get to the Playas del Este is by public bus.  It will cost you the equivalent of US$0.05.  Public buses in Havana are called “guas guas” – pronounced “wa wa”.  They’re crowded, there’s no A/C and you’ll stand out as a foreigner.  The bus to Guanabo is the one that you want.
    • Take a taxi – ask your casa particular owner, or aim for the nearest major hotel and find a taxi.  A taxi from Havana to the Playas del Este beaches will cost around US$15 each way, depending on your negotiation skills.

Cayo Santa Maria

Santa Maria Beach is a top-rated beach with glistening azure water, sugary white sands, and breathtaking oceanfront views.

The wide beach on Cayo Santa Maria, with fine white sand here which is part of the Jardines del Rey archipelago, is home to Playa Perla Blanca, one of the most untouched beaches in the northern cays.  Though getting to Playa Perla Blanca is a bit of a trek, the beauty of this stunning beach is open for all to see and enjoy while relaxing on its smooth sand.

Cubas best beaches cayo santa maria cuba
  • Cayo Santa Maria is best known for:
    • Snorkeling, kayaking, sailing on catamarans, paddle boating, body surfing, scuba diving, and many other activities are available.
    • There’s some great coral here.
  • How to Get to Cayo Santa Maria: Cayo Santa Maria is about 90 minutes by road from the nearest international airport in Santa Clara (the capital of the province of Villa Clara).  You can take a transfer from there with Suntransfers.

Playa Paraiso, Cayo Largo del Sur, Cuba

Playa Paraiso, or Paradise Beach in English, is a small island off the coast of Cuba called Cayo Largo.

In 2016, this beach was voted the third most beautiful on the planet, so if you only have time to visit one in Cuba, make it this one!  Playa Paraiso is connected to a few other beaches with more food and lodging options, but it is a quiet, unspoiled, and beautiful place to spend the day.

Though the majority of the activities are located in Playa Sirena, about a 20-minute walk from Playa Paraiso, the beach line at Paradise beach provides a tranquil atmosphere and a perfect escape.  Expect nothing fancy in terms of service, but the snack bar does offer fresh juice, bottled beer, or of course rum cocktails. (You can read all about Cuban cocktails here!)

Cubas best beaches Cayo Largo del Sur
  • Playa Paraiso Beach is best known for:
    • Sunbathing on the fine white sand
    • Swimming in the crystal clear blue water
    • One of the advantages of Playa Paraiso is that it has restaurants nearby that serve traditional Cuban fare as well as a snack or pizza menu if you’re in the mood for something different.
  • How to Get to Playa Paraiso, Cayo Largo:
  • You may be able to take a charter flight from Havana to the lovely island, or you can take an excursion and return the same day, or you could stay a little longer (we recommend a week) to learn more about the key’s wonders. Apart from charter flights that arrive at the Aeropuerto Internacional Vilo Acuña, the island also offers a marine option that allows you to explore this small slice of paradise by arriving at the Puerto La Marina Cayo Largo del Sur.

Travel Tips for Exploring Cuba

Final Words on Cuba’s Best Beaches

Cuba, the largest of the Caribbean islands, is a seductive mix of tropical rhythms, modern art, painstakingly restored colonial architecture and breathtaking natural landscapes. With nearly 3,500 miles of coastline and 430 beaches to choose from, including powdery white, golden, and black sand beaches, finding the best beach in Cuba is a highly personal endeavor.  It can take a significant amount of time and effort to get to your perfect beach in Cuba, but once you get there they are simply breath-taking.  The best beach in Cuba for you can be found all around the country, just head on in and find yours!

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