If you are looking for the best beaches in Cuba, search no further! I am quite the expert on gorgeous beaches, as I grew up in Sardinia. Like other places in the Caribbean such as Antigua or the Riviera Maya, Cuban beaches can be enjoyed year-round!
Curious to find out the best places to bask in the sun, swim and enjoy a day out? Continue reading to discover the best Cuban beaches.
The Best Beaches In Cuba
Playas del Este
At only 18 km (11 miles) from Havana, this is a series of nice beaches that start in Bacuranao and ends in Guanabo. They are very popular among tourists and locals looking for a quick getaway from the chaos of the capital. You will find beautiful white sand and clear blue waters. Chances are that in the winter months you’ll get the place to yourself, whereas in July and August the beaches will be crowded with locals escaping from the city.
Don’t expect much in terms of services – this is not Varadero, after all!
Playas del Este is an easy day trip from Havana. You can get there by bus: Havana Bus Tour leaves every hour from Parque Central. You can also go by train, with the Hershey Train departing 5 times a day.
About 65 km (40 miles) from Viñales, this beach is so gorgeous that you will likely mistake it for heaven. It’s 3 km (1.8 miles) of white sand, mangroves and the clearest waters you can imagine, with the reef within easy reach. Not far from the beach there is a lighthouse that dates back to 1902.
It’s a great place to relax in the sun, snorkel and dive. The beach is nicely serviced so you can rent beds and umbrellas. There are a couple of places where you can eat, but the food is cafeteria style.
Most tourists go on organized tours that include transportation and a rather tasteless lunch, and must leave the beach as early as 4:00 pm. Invest in a private transfer, so that you can stay as long as you want and instead of the tasteless lunch ask one of the local fishermen to cook fresh lobster for you, the Cuban way.
Cayo Levisa is a bit more crowded than Cayo Jutias, since there is a hotel with bungalows. It can only be reached via a short boat ride from Palma Rubia and counts with a 3 km (1.8 miles) beach and fantastically transparent waters. There is a diving center where you can rent equipment.
Check out this Cayo Levisa private excursion.
Playa Maria la Gorda
This lovely beach has white sand and is lined with thick vegetation. It’ s a favorite of divers, thanks to the beautiful reef: coral formations and incredible marine life can be seen at a mere 14 meters (46 feet) under the surface! You won’t find any resorts: there’s just an isolated hotel.
Bahia de Cochinos
Some of the best beaches in Cuba are in the province of Matanzas. There, my favorite place by far is the Bahia de Cochinos, known internationally as Bay of the Pigs. To be fair, this isn’t really a beach but an enclosed bay with incredibly transparent waters. You won’t find sandy beaches there, but diente de perro (jagged rocks). It’s not really a place to chill in the sun or go for walks, but if snorkeling or diving is your thing, this is the place to go.
You can visit the Bay of the Pigs on day trips from Cienfuegos, the closest big city. The best way to roam the area is on private transportation, which can be arranged through your casa particular and during which you can also stop by more beaches such as Playa Larga.
If you are on a tour of the area, it will be worth stopping by this beach to enjoy the beautiful waters. It’s really not a touristy place, so chances are nobody else will be there when you visit. This is one of the best diving spots in Cuba – you can rent equipment in the area for around $25 USD per day. Like in the rest of the bay, you won’t find much in terms of sand – but you will have lots of shade among the thick vegetation.
On the eastern side of the bay, this beach takes its name from the French pirate Gilbert Giron, who in the 17th century regularly raided the area until the locals managed to catch him and beheaded him. The beach is long and sandy and has easy access to the gorgeous reef.
Not a beach proper, Caleta Buena is located at around 8 km (5 miles) south of Playa Giron. It’s a fantastic small cove with some of the clearest waters you could hope for, perfect for swimming as it is well protected from the currents. There is a fee to access it, but this includes the rental of beds, and access to a buffet lunch and drinks throughout the day.
There’s no denying that Varadero beach, in the Hicacos Peninsula, is fabulous. Located at a mere 2 hours drive from Havana, this 25 km (15.5 miles) long, white beach is lined with all-inclusive resorts and is a very famous (if only a bit touristy) destination in the country. Even the surroundings are fabulous, with a gorgeous reef and lots of sea caves and diving sites (though to be fair they aren’t very close to the beach). It’s also a great place for water sports.
If you want to experience Varadero minus the international crowds, or hope to see more Cuban people, go in July and August.
When it comes easy access to the coral reef, Playa Coral deserves to be mentioned. There are supposed to be around 300 species of fish in the area. The beach is located on the coastal road, at about half way between Matanzas and Varadero. Though reaching the reef from the beach is fairly easy, the best way to see it is from Laguna de Maya, the Fauna Reserve, where you can rent snorkel equipment and hire a guide that will show you the best spots.
18 km (11 miles) south of Cienfuegos, Rancho Luna is a nice beach with golden sand and clear blue waters, perfect to relax in the sun and swim. The coral reef can be accessed easily. There is a diving center, two hotels and a couple of casas particulares in the village on the way to the lighthouse. Not far from it, you’ll find Punta la Cueva, another nice beach.
There are supposed to be some local buses going from Cienfuegos to Rancho Luna, but the easiest way to get there is by scooter. You can rent one in town.
At just 12 km (7.5 miles) from the lovely Trinidad, in the province of Sancti Spiritus, this beach is nice, long and sandy, with inviting waters.
You can easily get to Playa Ancon by bus or taxi (book it here), and even by bike – but keep in mind that the ride back will be mostly uphill. Bring insect repellent as sandflies are everywhere in Ancón and they are particularly aggressive.
25 km (15.5 miles) south-east of Playa Ancon there’s Cayo Blanco, a tiny island that can be reached by boat from Marina Trinidad. The beach is small, but the deep-sea incredibly clear and perfect for water sports.
Boat tours to Cayo Blanco can be booked in one of the many state agencies in Trinidad and they include transportation to the Marina and back, the boat ride, lunch and drinks.
Go to Cayo Blanco only in perfect weather conditions. If it is overcast or windy, the boat won’t stop to allow you swim at the coral reef and you will miss out.
Playa Santa Lucia
Around 112 km (69.6 ,miles) from Camaguey, this is a beautiful beach that stretches for 20 km (12.4 miles), and a perfect diving spot thanks to one of the most easily accessible reefs. The beach lacks tourist infrastructure, but the nearby all-inclusive resorts are a good option if you want to spend a few days in the area.
Reaching Playa Santa Lucia from Camaguey is a bit of a hassle. There is only one public bus per week, and supposedly a train from Camaguey to Nuevitas, after which you’ll have to take a taxi. When I visited trains were not an option. Given the circumstances, the best way to get there from Camaguey is by private transfer.
Not far from the beach there is a lagoon with beautiful flamingoes.
Playa Los Cocos
At the end of Playa Santa Lucia and near La Boca, Playa Los Cocos is a sugar-white sand beach with the clearest emerald waters you may hope for. At times, you may see the flamingos in the lagoon at the back of the beach.
This small island off the north coast of Camaguey province can be reached by car through a causeway (pedraplen). It’s 25 km (15.5 miles) west from Santa Lucia, and completely quiet and relaxing. The nicest beach in Cayo Sabinal is Playa los Pinos, with clear turquoise waters and beautiful sand.
Playa los Bajos
Playa los Bajos is east of the lovely Gibara, in the province of Holguin, and can be reached via a short boat ride that leaves from the Enramada, right out of Gibara, towards Playa Blanca – it’s another 3 km (1.8 miles) east to get to Playa los Bajos.
One of the nicest Cuban beaches, Playa Caletones is located 17 km (10.5 miles) west of Gibara. It’s a small beach with incredibly fine sand and waters you will want to swim in.
There is no public transportation to get to Playa Caletones, so you’ll have to hire a taxi or rent a bike.
Playa Pesquero is home to four luxury resorts – it’s the kind of place you can go to treat yourself. Expect to be served a fresh coconut water any time you feel thirsty. The beach itself is white and sandy, with clear blue waters.
Guardalavaca has one of the best beaches in Cuba and is one of the most popular tourist destination in the country. It’s a nice 1.5 km (0.9 miles) stretch of white sand and blue waters perfect for snorkeling, lined with trees and tamarinds. Despite its popularity among both locals and tourists, it has retained its character. On the beach, you can rent snorkeling equipment too.
Guardalavaca can be reached by car from Holguin.
Not far from Guardalavaca town, Playa Esmeralda is one of the nicest beaches in the Caribbean, with clear waters, fine white sand and palm trees under which you can lay for shade. There are a couple of luxury hotels in the area, and nature reserves nearby.
Playa Siboney is located 19 km (11.9 miles) from Santiago, it’s a favorite of the locals and one of the nicest Cuban beaches. The village itself is rather rustic, but the beach is pretty: sandy, with inviting waters and lined by palm trees. A few kiosks on the beach serve very cold fresh coconut – perfect on hot days.
The easiest way to get to Playa Siboney is by taxi, from Santiago. You can visit it on day trips of the area that also go to Parque Baconao.
Playa Cazonal is one of the best beaches in Cuba in terms of what it offers. It’s quite popular with the locals, who go there knowing they will find shade under the trees, and warm waters where you’ll want to swim.
In the province of Guantanamo, this is one of the best beaches in Cuba, popular with the locals and now also with tourists. Yet, you can still find some peace there. It’s a perfect tropical beach, incredibly well-kept with a long stretch of fine golden sand, transparent waters with an easily reached reef.
About 5 km (3.1 miles) west of Playa Maguana there is one of the most remote Cuban beaches – chances are if you visit you’ll have the beach to yourself.
Playa Maguana and Playa Nava can be visited on the same day. You will need to hire a taxi to get there, as they are a bit of a way from Baracoa. You can book it here.
20 km (12.4 miles) from Baracoa, this is one of the easiest beaches to reach in the area as you can simply get there by bike. The best part is that it’s even less known compared to others in the area. And an added bonus is that located on the beach there are several good restaurants serving delicious seafood.
The Best Beaches In Cuba Located In Cayos
Located on Cayo Guillermo, Playa Pilar easily qualifies as one of the best beaches in Cuba. It’s a long, white, sandy beach with clear waters, perfect for long walks, water sports (especially scuba diving thanks to the abundant marine) and relaxing. There are some nice bars and restaurants on the beach.
If you opt to visit Cayo Guillermo, make sure to visit the flamingos colony – there are some 12,000 flamingos which gather on the island to feed and they certainly are quite a sight.
Located on Cayo Largo (also referred to as Cayo Largo del Sur and part of the Canarreos archipelago), Playa Paraiso has incredibly fine sand, and the water is clear and shallow. Getting there is time consuming and costly, but worth it.
Another great beach in Cayo Largo is Playa Sirena, a 20 minutes walk from Playa Paraiso, with an easy to reach coral reef perfect for snorkeling.
Playa Los Flamencos
Playa los Flamencos, in Cayo Coco, part of Jardines del Rey islands, is best known as Cayo Coco beach, taking its name from the coco (white ibis) birds that populate the island. It’s a white beach with incredible waters perfect for snorkeling.
To get to Cayo Coco, you can fly directly into Jardines del Rey airport from mainland Cuba. The island is connected to Cayo Guillermo Cayo Romano.
Playa Las Gaviotas
Located in Cayo Santa Maria this postcard-perfect beach is one of the best sand beaches on the island that is not connected to a resort. It’s located inside a nature reserve which you can reach by car. You will have to pay a fee to park your car (that’s unless you have a local driver) and then walk along a short trail to get to the beach.
Another great beach in Cayo Santa Maria is Playa Perla Blanca. It takes a bit of an effort to get there, but it is worth it.
Cayo Las Brujas
One of the closest islands to mainland Cuba and accessible by a causeway, Cayo las Brujas is part of Los Cayos de Villa Clara (together with Cayo Ensenachos and Cayo Santa Maria) and is one of the most easily accessible, even financially – thanks to a selection of budget friendly accommodation options. Its beaches have fine white sand and clear waters and are perfect for a relaxing day.
Are you planning a trip to Cuba? Make sure to read my other posts:
- The Most Fantastic Things To In Do Cuba: The Ultimate Guide
- The Best Cuba Travel Tips
- How To Get The Visa For Cuba In 8 Easy Steps (Also For Americans)
- 27 Absolutely Unmissable, Fun And Quirky Things To Do In Havana
- 10 Fabulous Day Trips From Havana
- A Great Guide To Viñales Cuba
- A Great Guide To Cienfuegos Cuba
- Trinidad, Cuba: The Most Complete Guide
- A Short Guide To Camaguey Cuba
- A Great Guide To Baracoa Cuba