The Best Beaches in Cuba: Discovering the Caribbean’s Untouched Paradise

cuba best beach

When you think of Cuba, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? 

For many people, adventurers and tourists who like to travel the world, and beyond the classic cars of the 1950s, it’s probably an image of pristine white-sand beaches and crystal-clear oceans.

Cuba’s best beaches offer an oasis of tranquility where you can relax and enjoy nature. 

From Playa Giron to Playa Pesquero; from Varadero to the paradise of Cayo Guillermo; from south to north and from east to west, here are Cuba’s best beaches. If you plan to travel at some point to the island or repeat a visit this you should know.

Whether you are looking for a quiet getaway or a party atmosphere, here are the best beaches in Cuba.

Paraíso Beach

Surely you have heard little about Playa Paraiso since it is not one of the best known resorts on the island of Cuba.

However, this is somewhat contradictory because Paraiso is one of the most beautiful beaches of this Caribbean island, full of coves where you can cool off from the intense heat.

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paraiso beach cuba
Playa Paraíso is one of the most beautiful beaches in Cuba and is almost virgin.

We are talking about one of the most paradisiacal sites in Cuba, located in Cayo Largo del Sur, a small island that has become one of the most exotic destinations in the Caribbean in its own right.

Cayo Largo del Sur is a place far away from the Cuban center made up by Havana Varadero Santiago de Cuba and other bustling places full of tourists eager for strong emotions.

Cayo Largo and its best beach, Playa Paraíso, are the ideal place for visitors looking for peace and relaxation and to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big cities or crowded tourist centers.

In this beach located in Cayo Largo del Sur, visitors can admire a very clean coastline of deep white sands and waters reminiscent of bright turquoise.

An interesting fact is that in 2016 Playa Paraiso, in Cuba, was ranked among the best beaches in the world. Specifically, it was placed in third place in the world ranking. That is no small feat.

One of the most striking aspects of Playa Paraiso is the notable absence of hotel infrastructure near the beach, which gives it an aspect of virginity much sought after by tourists seeking calm and a natural space little invaded by hotels and human activity.

The truth is that this beach of great quality has hardly changed over the years, something very difficult to say about other tourist centers -in Cuba or in the area, such as Cancun or Punta Cana- that have seen over the years a boom in the movement and tourist activity that has changed the physiognomy of the landscape and also of its beaches.

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young tourist in Cayo Largo beach, Cuba
A young tourist floats peacefully in the waters of Cayo Largo, Cuba.

On the Internet it is easy to find testimonies of tourists who have visited paradise beach 25 years ago and when repeating the trip today say that the beach remains the same as in their memories, which they find surprising and at the same time very attractive. In that sense, paradise beach is a place to remember and relive memories of a beautiful and paradisiacal past.

How many beaches in the world can boast of not having changed over time? We do not have accurate statistics, but there are very few, and Playa Paraíso is one of them. That is, perhaps, its fundamental value, beyond the obvious beauty of the landscape and the quality of the sands and waters of this beach.

The absence of hotel infrastructure nearby creates among tourists who visit Playa Paraíso the impression of staying on a virgin beach, as virgin as that island in Daniel Defoe’s famous novel Robinson Crusoe.

Varadero Beach

Previously I told you about Playa Paraiso, a beautiful hidden and little known place in Cuba. Now we are going to the other extreme of popularity.

Now I will tell you about Varadero, the most popular beach resort in Cuba and the best known internationally. Its fame is more than justified and you will see why. 

girl with red bikini in varadero
A tourist in a red bikini enjoys the beaches of Varadero.

To begin with, we are talking about a very, very long beach. Varadero is located on the Hicacos Peninsula, in the province of Matanzas, in northern Cuba and relatively close to the capital, Havana, another major tourist destination.

If you have looked at the map you will realize that Varadero is a long beach, almost 25 kilometers long, with hardly any interruptions. A segment of magnificent beaches, with large banks of white sand, a straight line that runs along the entire northern coast of the Hicacos Peninsula.

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Due to the length and narrowness of this peninsula, visitors staying here are never more than 300 meters from the beach. That’s great!

Is Varadero the best place to get to know Cuba and the Cubans? The answer is absolutely no.

Varadero, despite being a popular and world-known destination, is not a place that we can identify as truly Cuban. Therefore, it is not the ideal place to get to know the traditions and customs of the island. 

Is it a first-class beach? Yes, but it is not the best place for a visitor to experience the essence of what it means to be Cuban. 

Varadero is one of those archetypal towns where the tourist industry has made its mark and altered everything, including culture and society. 

luxury hotel in varadero beach
Varadero has many luxury hotels very close to the beach.

Varadero bears little resemblance to the rest of Cuba, which has been much harder hit by the economic crisis. It is a fantastic area for leisure and pleasure, and is arguably the best sun and beach resort in the Caribbean, that’s for sure.

If you like diving, Varadero offers many opportunities. Currently, the Hicacos Peninsula has more than thirty dive sites. 

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However, Varadero offers a wide variety of possibilities for those interested in practicing other water sports, such as fishing, sailing and snorkeling. 

There are also quieter activities that allow you to safely observe the seabed and the abundant marine life in the surroundings, such as a quiet ride on glass-bottom boats. You would like that, wouldn’t you?

Varadero is a place with a varied and extensive hotel industry. There are hotels of all kinds, some very expensive and exclusive and others more economical, but there is also what is known as the Varadero village, a small village full of private houses. 

The inhabitants of Varadero usually work in jobs related to the tourist industry: they rent rooms, cars or work in one of the numerous hotel institutions on the peninsula.

Varadero is an excellent place to meet local Cubans and also other tourists from all over the world who visit the place to see one of the best beaches in the world. Do you want a place to make new friends and get to know other cultures? Varadero may be the right place.

Varadero is a small city with numerous museums and art galleries, as well as nightclubs, restaurants and places to see exciting cabaret shows.

Varadero’s beaches are stunning, always clean and free of dangerous seaweed and sargassum. In addition, the weather there, including the water temperature, is great most of the year.

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Walking along the coast at sunset, according to many visitors, is beautiful. In Varadero you can see incomparable sunsets.

Visitors to Varadero often use the terms “spacious,” “beautiful,” “clean,” “family-friendly,” “pristine” and “safe” when describing the place.

One detail you’ll appreciate: Varadero came in second place overall in the Travellers’ Choice awards, released by travel website Tripadvisor, in 2019.

When the awards were given, only the Brazilian resort of Bahia do Sancho was more popular among tourists than the Cuban resort of Varadero. The quantity and quality of comments on Tripadvisor were used to determine the final ratings.

Varadero, which has more than 20 km of excellent quality beaches, welcomed some two million foreign visitors annually before the pandemic. Today, the peninsula is home to more than 21,000 hotel rooms, 80% of which are classified as premium accommodations.

Fifty-two percent of foreign tourists arriving in Varadero are returning visitors, according to official Cuban figures.

Los Flamencos Beach (Cayo Coco)

One of Cuba’s most impressive beaches, Los Flamencos Beach, also known as Cayo Coco Beach, is surrounded by opulent all-inclusive resorts.

Geographically, it is part of the Jardines del Rey archipelago, which is a group of islands in north-central Cuba.

More than 20 kilometers of white-sand beaches can be found in Los Flamencos, as well as in Varadero. Unlike Hicacos, the coast is less developed and there is less tourist infrastructure, which can be attractive for many visitors.

The beaches of Ciego de Avila attract visitors not only for the stunning scenery of the area. Along with the captivating beauty of the sand, seabed and seas, there is a great diversity of birds and colorful fish that seduce nature lovers.

One of the most striking avian attractions in the area are the pink flamingos, which live in abundant and lively colonies. 

The flamingos have become one of the most distinctive features of the Coco and Guillermo Cays, the main tourist destinations of the Jardines del Rey archipelago.

There is scientific evidence that assures that the largest colony of pink flamingos in Latin America and the Caribbean resides in the northern region of the provinces of Ciego de Avila and Camagüey, which constitutes an incomparable natural wealth.

Writers and poets who like to spend the night in those areas of the northern coast of the Cuban province of Ciego de Avila, some 500 kilometers east of Havana, have been inspired by these captivating birds to create.

Did you know that Hemingway wrote about flamingos and their beauty in his unfinished book Islands in the Gulf? And he didn’t make anything up, he knew what he was talking about.

American writer Ernest Hemingway sailed these waters in the past. Aboard his yacht Pilar, he sailed the seas of the impressive Jardines del Rey archipelago. The famous writer and journalist chased Nazi submarines during World War II.

Pilar Beach

Playa Pilar is considered by many locals and visitors to be the most beautiful beach in Cuba. It is hard to say for sure, but there is no denying that it is one of the most attractive and pleasant beaches in the area.

Playa Pilar is located in Cayo Guillermo, not far from Cayo Coco, among the group of idyllic islands in north-central Cuba.

Cayo Guillermo, if you look at the map, is west of Cayo Coco. It is a slightly smaller key than its neighbor. Guillermo is a quiet and relaxed island where the beach we are talking about here is located.

For those who want to disconnect and live a quiet experience, go fishing or just snorkeling without interruptions, Playa Pilar is one of the best options.

Another notable feature of Cayo Guillermo is the colony of more than 12,000 flamingos that congregate there to feed.

During the migratory season, this unusual bird of large size and strange appearance is capable of making extensive trips throughout the continent. A curious feature is that they have only one chick per pair and these are born and raised in the wetlands of northern Cuba. 

The chicks are born grayish white with some black spots on the body, but as they grow they acquire a beautiful and characteristic pink color that attracts a lot of attention.

Watching these birds eat or take flight is a wonderful spectacle that attracts thousands of people every year to the northern Cuban islands.

Photographing the flamingos and the sunset at Playa Pilar will be an unforgettable experience if you are an avid nature photographer.

Although Cayo Guillermo is much smaller than neighboring Cayo Coco, its four kilometers of almost virgin beach and the stunning sand of Playa Pilar will be enough to satisfy your needs and desires.

This place is one of those places where you feel a total calm and the desire to stay forever, on the shores of the Caribbean Sea.

Las Salinas Beach of Las Brujas Key

Cayo Las Brujas is one of those places of which you will undoubtedly see photos and videos on the Internet in the always delightful but time-consuming task of examining, studying and preparing your vacation in Cuba.

At first glance, this Cuban key does not seem like a very unique or unusual place compared to the others. All in all, Cuba has a large number of keys with stunning beaches, doesn’t it?

Why would anyone choose Cayo Las Brujas instead of other more well-known tourist destinations such as Varadero or Cayo Coco?

Well, there are people who do want to find a quieter place, away from those famous beaches frequented by the vast majority of tourists. In that aspect, Cayo Las Brujas offers an incomparable advantage over the rest.

The northern part of Las Brujas has two kilometers of white sandy beaches, a sand so fine that it is a pleasure to walk along the coast barefoot.

The quality of the sand is complemented by the purity and the beautiful turquoise blue color of the water. Near the coast there are wonderful coral reefs that are very attractive for diving and snorkeling lovers.

There are also very interesting options for windsurfing fans. But if you are more leisurely, you can also opt for a catamaran ride, excellent to admire the beauty of the site and relax.

When you check on the Internet the comments about the beach and hotels in Cayo Las Brujas, you will find many tourists who ended up surprised because they found there, on that little island, the best place to relax and rest during their stay in Cuba.

One of the points that you may be interested in observing and touring is the causeway that connects Cayo Las Brujas with the main island of Cuba, one of the most outstanding engineering works in Cuba.

The Villa Las Brujas Hotel is attractive for those guests with sober and quiet tastes. The facility has small cabins of two and three rooms. It is a relatively small and spacious hotel where you will feel at ease and at ease.

Lodging, a la carte dinners, buffet breakfast, snacks, parking, cab pick-up and domestic and foreign beverages are the services offered by Villa Las Brujas beach hotel. 

In short, the keys of Villa Clara are a natural wonder where you can experience the charm of nature. The hotel is excellent for families and couples.

One recommendation we make now is that if you are lucky, and put some extra money, you can get one of the hotel rooms with ocean views. 

Another personalized recommendation is to always opt for one of the rooms located on the second floor. It is from there that the best views can be appreciated.

Beaches of Cayo Santa María

When you look at the map, Cayo Santa María looks like a small place and it really is. It barely occupies a little more than twenty-one square kilometers of surface.

However, that small place is a miniature paradise that includes a thirteen-kilometer-long stretch of beach, a white line of top-quality sand that can be observed even from Google Earth.

For many connoisseurs and specialists in beach tourism, the beach of Cayo Santa María is perhaps one of the best in the continent and not only in the country.

Among the beaches of Cayo Santa María we can mention several such as Playa Cañón, Las Gaviotas, Los Delfines, La Colorada, Las Caletas and Perla Blanca, all of them with striking names.

Cuban naturalist Antonio Núñez Jiménez tells a curious anecdote in one of his books. He says that bathing in the waters of Cayo Santa María was one of the greatest pleasures he enjoyed during his trip around the island of Cuba.

Núñez Jiménez highlighted the quality of those waters and said at the time that perhaps only Varadero, Cayo Guillermo and Cayo Ensenachos can compete with the tropical paradise that Cayo Santa María represents. Few people knew the beauties of Cuba as thoroughly as Núñez Jiménez.

The beauty and quality of Cayo Santa María’s beaches was also highlighted by historic leader Fidel Castro, who compared the place to the famous Varadero.

In 2018, officials from Cuba’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (CITMA) assured that several stretches of Cayo Santa María beach would be named “environmental beaches.” 

The “environmental beach” recognition, a designation of international value and endorsed by United Nations agencies, recognizes both good tourism and environmental management and management of a given beach.

The waters and hotel facilities of Cayo Santa María usually receive multiple positive comments from commentators and users of the tourism portal TripAdvisor.

Cayo Santa María’s hotel facilities are more modern than those of other keys where tourism arrived earlier, such as Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo, north of Ciego de Avila, which we have already mentioned in this post.

Ancon Beach 

In case you don’t know, although Cuba is considered a Caribbean country, and indeed it is, the Cuban coast bathed by the Caribbean Sea is the southern coast.

However, it is on the north coast where the best beaches of the island are usually located. This has its geographical explanation, but I won’t overwhelm you here with such explanations.

The fact that the bulk of Cuba’s best beaches are in the north of the archipelago does not mean that the south is devoid of very attractive beaches.

Perhaps the best beach in southern Cuba, or what is the same, on the Cuban coast bathed by the Caribbean Sea, is located in the center of the island, south of the province of Sancti Spíritus.

I am referring specifically to Ancon Beach, located a few kilometers from another great Cuban tourist attraction, the beautiful colonial city of Trinidad, a World Heritage Site.

Have you ever seen a perfect sunset that looks like it was made in Photoshop? Well, lying on the sand of Ancon beach you can watch and photograph, if you prefer, the best sunsets in the Caribbean, and I’m not exaggerating.

The proximity of Ancon to Trinidad is one of the main attractions of this beach, so you can spend most of the day next to the blue water and white sand, and at night take a leap to the city of Trinidad and enjoy its nightlife: bars, cafes and nightclubs.

Saetía Key

We head to eastern Cuba, which also has spectacular beaches like those of Cayo Saetía, a place where nature has been preserved to the detriment of the growth of hotel infrastructure. And we should be grateful for that!

Cayo Saetía belongs to the province of Holguín, located in the north of eastern Cuba.

Saetía is known as the place where, in addition to enjoying an excellent natural environment and beautiful beaches, visitors can go on safaris -yes, there are safaris in Cuba, believe it or not-.

In the 1980s, Cayo Saetía became a hunting reserve. Species such as zebras, buffaloes and antelopes, which are not native to the country, were introduced there. 

As there are no natural predators of these animals, safaris, organized from time to time, make it possible to control the populations of these animals.

However, if you are not interested in hunting, photographic safaris are more frequent in Cayo Saetía. And you will not only be able to photograph zebras, wild buffalo and antelopes in the wild, but also animals native to Cuba, such as the huge iguanas and the friendly conga hutias.

The hotel infrastructure in Cayo Saetía is quite scarce, because Cuban authorities have tried to keep the island as a more natural and less developed tourist area. Saetía has practically only one hotel, managed by the Gaviota group.

The place can be reached by road, although many tourists usually arrive by catamaran, directly from the nearby beach of Guardalavaca, one of the most important tourist centers in the country.

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