February 18, 2014
Enjoy life in the slow lane with a chilled out break in Cuba. Soft, white sand, water as turquoise as it is crystal clear, palm trees silhouetted against the horizon, balmy breezes… For those who are on the verge of booking a spontaneous Caribbean holiday, consider stopping off in Cuba. After getting a local massage in Havana, you can continue the pursuit of wellness at one of these top 10 paradisiacal spots. From remote diving coves to unspoiled island getaways, the best beaches in Cuba are certain to cure any lingering malaise.
On Cuba’s northern tip, and just 140 km from Havana, Varadero is one of the country’s most popular beach spots for tourists, lined as it is with expansive spa resorts and hotels. Despite the crowds, it’s still very possible to have a chilled out time here. The 20 km beach is a pristine stretch of fine white sand, peppered with beach bars and restaurants that can cater to your every need.
Far out in western Cuba, Maria la Gorda is famed for having some of the finest scuba and snorkelling conditions in the whole country. Situated within the Peninsula de Gunanahacabibes Nature Preserve, the area is host to dozens of diving points, and a wide array of creatures that call the coast (and its thriving coral reefs) home. After a diving session, wind down with some beach time on a nearby stretch of deserted sand.
For visitors hoping to stay in the vicinity of Havana, not to worry: the Playas del Este beaches are located within easy reach of the city, and are one of the best destinations in Cuba for yoga retreats. Comprising six separate beaches, this 24 km piece of coastline is popular but less built up than some of the country’s main resort destinations. Those looking to commune with nature should visit Tarará Beach, where diving opportunities are plentiful, while locals can be found frequenting nearby Guanabo.
While this small island, located off the Cuban mainland, isn’t actually an ‘Island of Youth’ as its name suggests, we think its uncrowded beaches and wild nature combine to make travelling here a truly restorative experience. Relatively free of tourist infrastructure, this beautiful little spot is one of Cuba’s least-trodden corners. Go diving for treasure (rumour has it that buccaneers used to call this part of the world home, at least for a time), before settling into the island’s uniquely languorous pace.
A teeny tiny island that’s only accessible by boat, Cayo Levisa is the definition of secluded. Given its petite size, the majority of the islet is made up of glittering beaches. Part of the Los Colorados archipelago, the water here is crystal clear and shallow, making it ideal for wading and snorkelling. See as well if you can schedule a daytrip to nearby Cayo Paraiso, which was a favourite of Hemingway’s.
While Cayo Largo is a popular resort destination, the fact that the small island lies off the southern coast of the Cuban mainland means that the numbers of visitors are kept in check. It’s eminently possible to soak up the best luxury offerings here, while also having free rein to scuba dive, try your hand at deep-sea fishing, and even explore the beaches on horseback. Just note that the island is also home to a handful of designated nudist beaches.
Wild Marea del Portillo, located in the remote Granma region of southern Cuba, is a beach unlike any others. Its dark sand, frothy waves and windswept appeal make it feel rugged and secluded – perfect for bodyboarding, horseback riding, and other more active pursuits. The picturesque Sierra Maestra Mountains in the backdrop complete the scene.
Between Cienfuegos and Trinidad, Playa Ingles is one of those most coveted of finds: a near-deserted Cuban beach. Well off the tourist path (the coastline area is only accessible by car), the locals-preferred spot is often empty of all visitors. Take in the tranquillity of the beach and, if there’s time, explore the surrounding inlets. Odds are you won’t see another soul.
Have you explored any of the best beaches in Cuba? Which is your favourite? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.
Written by Claire Bullen