More than a million Canadians choose to visit Cuba every year and no other country sends more. It could be its riveting history, its timeless ambiance or the honest warmth of its people, but let’s be real, we go for the year-round sunshine, unbeatable value and its bevy of breathtaking beaches. If you’ve yet to go or are looking for an alternative to your usual spot, here are five of the very best beaches in Cuba.
Playa Los Flamencos (Cayo Coco)
Cuba’s central north coast is a series of islands and sandy spits holding protected wetlands, an ocean full of marine life, all-inclusive beach resorts and not much more. One of these idyllic islands is Cayo Coco and its 3 km beach, Playa Los Flamencos, said to be the setting for Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. Cayo Coco is quiet, defined by its colonies of flamingos and ibis, and powdery white sand perfect for strolling and lounging on. Bring the kids. The sea is swimmable with gentle lapping waves and the beach offers plenty of room for sandcastles.
Playa Paraiso (Cayo Largo)
Cayo Largo is an uninhabited island paradise off the south coast in the warm Caribbean Sea. Apart from resort activities, there is little here to distract you from relaxing and enjoying its beautiful beaches. Playa Sirena holds most of the resorts (and action) but a quick walk at low tide brings you to Playa Paraiso (Paradise Beach). This raw, undeveloped yet naturally-blessed beach was ranked the 3rd Most Beautiful Beach in the World in 2016 by Traveller’s Choice. It’s famous for having some of the calmest waters around, a large congregation of starfish, and just off-shore, some of Cuba’s best dive sites.
Varadero Beach (Varadero)
Cuba’s most popular destination, and for good reason, Varadero offers visitors a great introduction to Cuba. Besides its vast array of accommodations, Havana is just two hours away by car, making Varadero perfect for those looking to visit the capital as well as enjoy some quality beach time. The beach itself is a stunner, stretching out for 25 km, interrupted only by the tourable DuPont mansion and the region’s only golf course. This is Cuba’s liveliest beach, as well as the most touristy, but that takes nothing away from its dazzling perfection.
Playa Pilar (Cayo Guillermo)
Divers know Cayo Guillermo well. Numerous dive sites just off Playa Pilar have been drawing scuba enthusiasts for years, and since it’s been connected to Cayo Coco by a causeway, sunseekers are beginning to take notice, too. Another gorgeous island in the Jardines del Rey archipelago, Playa Guillermo is known for its crystal clear shallow waters, impressive sand dunes and for its 12,000 flamingos. Sheltered by a ribbon of coral reef, it’s the perfect place to snorkel and laze around in deserted bliss.
Playa Guardalavaca (Holguin)
One of the best things about the most popular beach in Holguin is that it’s public and open to everyone, giving it an air of authenticity. Its backdrop of lush rolling hills and swaying palms adds just the right amount of texture, and its coral reefs provide access to limitless water activities. Not as secluded as the islands in the north and not as touristy as Varadero, Guardalavaca feels just right, and thank goodness. While the beaches of nearby Esmeralda and Pesquero are nice, Playa Guardalavaca gets our vote.