Salsa music on the beach, old world flavor and incredible authentic food is what awaits you as a traveler to the best Cuban beaches. With over 5,000 km of shoreline, 289 beaches, and hundreds of jaw- droopingly beautiful vistas, it’s hard to decide where to spend your beach holiday in Cuba.
I have to confess…I have never been to Cuba but I heard from close Cuban friends that no matter where you go, you will find clear turquoise waters, fine white or golden sand, and plenty of sunshine. The tip they shared with me is that the best Cuban beaches for you depend on what style of vacation you want to enjoy.
Best Cuban Beaches
Resort Life – Varadero Beach
If you enjoy big-name, all-inclusive resorts, where you can party or be pampered around the clock, you should check out Cuba’s Varadero beach.
Varadero’s narrow, 20 km long stretch of pure white sand is lined by 25 resort hotels, each of which offers restaurants, bars, and entertainment.
You can participate in tons of activities, from snorkeling, scuba diving, deep sea fishing, and other water activities to sky diving, salsa dancing, volleyball, and tennis.
Don’t expect to see the real Cuba from these big resorts. To see the real beauty of Cuba you must venture out of the area to visit its surroundings while enjoying the all inclusive lifestyle.
Varadero is by far the most popular of the Cuban beaches amongst turists, attracting about a third of Cuba’s visitors each year. However, because the Cuban government tries to keep tourists and locals from mingling too much, Varadero doesn’t really feel authentically Cuban.
If you want to know the true Cuban keep in mind that since you’re within the resort compound, you will hardly know you are in Cuba as opposed to some other Caribbean nation.
Unspoiled – Cayo Largo
If you prefer a quieter, less developed beach, you might like Cayo Largo. Cayo Largo is a small island south of Cuba, which can only be reached by a short flight or a 6-hour ferry ride.
Because the island is off the beaten path, it is very quiet with just a few restaurants and low-key resort hotels. The main focus is where it should be: on the beach and the sea!
Why is Cayo Largo one of the best Cuban beaches? Because it is near some of Cuba’s most lush and unspoiled coral reefs making it a perfect diving spot. At this beach you can also see a lot of wildlife from shore or while wading in the shallow waters of the island’s two main beaches, Playa Paraiso and Playa Sirena.
One thing to be aware of on Cayo Largo is that many of the beaches have designated nudist areas.
Authentic Cuba – Playa Santa María del Mar
If you want to really experience Cuban beaches like a local, you should visit one of the beaches near Havana, such as Playa Santa María del Mar. Just don’t eat at the hotel restaurants–their food isn’t that great and you can get better Cuban cooking elsewhere.
If you stay in Havana, you can easily reach this beach in 20 minutes by car. Playa Santa Maria del Mar is a nice, broad sandy beach that bustles with activity on the weekends as Cubans from Havana pour out of the city to enjoy the sea and sun.
The waves will be a bit rougher here than on the south side of Cuba, but still safe for swimming. The beauty of Playa Santa María is that here you can find lots of fun with authentic Cuban people. You can enjoy lots of volleyball games and live bands playing music for salsa dancing.
This is one of the best Cuban beaches for couples or for having a very relaxed vacation. A popular salsa club is also located near the beach. You can dance the night away there. These three beaches are top choices and have beautiful settings, each of them in a very different way.
4-Must Remember Tips When Traveling to Cuba
- Electric Appliances. Until not long ago Cuba didn’t allow you to enter with electric appliances like flat ironing, consoles for videogames, electric razors, etc. This is not the case anymore. Today you can visit Cuba with no issues if traveling with electronics including laptops.
- Don’t Forget Your Medicines, Tampons and Condoms. In Cuba you can’t find any brand of products like the ones you normally buy in the U.S.A., therefore prepare your little medicine travel kit with diarrhea medication, Ibuprofen or any pain killer you normally find in the U.S. as an over the counter product.
Don’t forget your tampons and condoms as they are difficult to obtain there, as well as your sunscreen and mosquito repellent and your favorite cosmetics.
- About Illegal Drugs. Cuba has the death penalty for introducing or using illegal drugs. Avoid trouble by not taking any narcotics or receiving any illegal drugs from anybody as you can face the death penalty.
- You Need a Visa to Go to Cuba. If you are an American you need to know this: “Although Cuba may issue visas upon arrival to U.S. citizens, all travelers to Cuba, including religious workers, should contact the Cuban Interests Section in Washington to have the appropriate type of visa ahead of time and, if required, specific authorization from Cuban authorities.” Check the source at Travel.State.Gov website.
Cuban currency can be confusing for tourists because they have 2 kinds of national currency, the peso nacional and the convertible peso. A Cuban worker gets his salary in both, one portion in national Peso and another in convertible Peso which are way more valuable.
When traveling be aware that dollars can’t be accepted in Cuba. You need convertible Pesos to be able to shop. Furthermore, shops and businesses in Cuba don’t accept credit cards issued by U.S. banks.
If you are from Great Britain or the E.U. you are o.k. to take your currency. Just make sure before departing that you know exactly how the Cuban currency works.
You can exchange your money at the Cadeca or Money Exchange Bureau. Make sure you count your money well and know exactly how many Convertible Pesos you are getting. Ask for a receipt and review again your money against the receipt.