With over 250 different beaches to choose from it’s a little more difficult than simply plopping down in the sand. Cuban beaches range from insect-infested mangroves to city “beaches” to the idyllic blue-water white-sand paradises we love. So it’s important to know which beach is your personal paradise and which is your personal hell.
The northern coast of the island has laid claim to the “best” beaches. It’s the Carribean side so you get the warmer, crystal clear, and in many cases completely still water. That being said there are a few beaches on the South side of the island that caught my attention. So don’t write it off completely.
Here’s a breakdown of the best beaches in Cuba and how to determine if it’s the right beach for you.
The Malecon-City Beach
There may not be any sand on this stretch of water but the sheer convenience of an accessible shoreline right off Havana can’t be discounted. Restaurants, a walking path, and art shops line The Malecon in hopes of luring tourists inside. You’ll get some great food and breathtaking views of the sunset over the water but no swimming here.
Cayo Jutias- Best Beach For Exploring
This is tied for my favorite beach on the island. Named for a species of tree rat native to Cuba there are mangroves and plenty of trees for shade on this beach. Just a two-hour taxi ride outside of Vinales it makes for a great day trip. (Unfortunately, no Jutias were spotted, just a whole lot of crabs and lobster).
Varadero-Ultimate Beach Town
This is technically a collection of beaches but really it’s just one ENDLESS stretch of blindingly white sand. The water is so still it might as well be bath water. Oh, and carts serving Pina Coladas in Pineapples are drifting about town, perfectly suited for drinking on the shores. My only problem with this beach city is there are NO trees of any kind on the beach. Just endless white sand. Seriously bring your sunglasses and find a beach umbrella quick or you’ll burn to a crisp instantly.
This is both a Cuban and a local favorite when it comes to beach days. So maybe I’m crazy. But I prefer a beach with some foliage and things to do other than sunbathing.
Playa Ancon-The White Sand Beach
This beach sits just a 15 min. ride outside of dreamy Trinidad my favorite Cuban city. But unless you’re desperately craving a beach day it’s not really worth the trip. Known for being one of the better beaches on the Southern coast of Cuba, its no Varadero. The water is often choppy and clouded and the beach can get a little crowded because of it’s close proximity to a large hotel and the town of Trinidad. I don’t recommend the restaurant at the beach either. It’s a state-run restaurant and the food was definitely not freshly cooked.
I don’t mean to rag on this beach. If you’re looking for a nice warm stretch of sand on relatively still water you’ll enjoy yourself, I just felt like there were better options on the island.
Playa Maguana- The Hidden Gem of Eastern Cuba
Not many people***make it to the Eastern side of Cuba. It either involves around 19 hours total on a Viazul bus, a very expensive 12-hour taxi ride (good luck finding a driver), or a flight on VivaCuba. VivaCuba Airlines is a very small airline with unreliable routes and flight times that are canceled on a whim regularly. So this beach remains relatively isolated. But for the long-term or very determined traveler, it’s doable. The eastern coast is full of golden-sand tropical-paradise beaches that you’ll have all to yourself if you can make it there. Head to Baracoa and then work your way around the coastline.
***People includes us! We booked a flight on VivaCuba knowing there was a possibility it could get canceled and due to the tragic plane crash that occurred just before our arrival, it did. So I haven’t yet seen these beaches just heard about their charm.
Playa Giron-Snorkel Haven
This is my other favorite Cuban beach town. Also known as the infamous Bay of Pigs this area is about 2 hours west of Cienfuegos and is home to the best snorkeling Cuba has to offer. If you’re a diver this will be your beach of choice too. Picture perfect palm trees, beaches protected from the waves, and plenty of coral reefs easily accessible from the shore. This beach also had plenty of beach puppers and kittens to keep you company too.
Unless you are planning your entire Cuban vacation around a single beach these are the most easily accessible. Some tourists fly into Cayo Largo or venture out to Cayo Cocos but these beaches are resort towns only and both very far from typical Cuban vacation stops. The beaches there are stunning but having to compete with all the other resort go-ers for your spot on the sand dulls their appeal a bit.
Visit Cuba and you’re likely to find at least one beach that suits you.