Cuba is an island paradise with something for all budgets – find out the top 5 beaches for snorkeling, diving or simply relaxing in the sun.
We visited 5 of the most popular & easily accessible beaches on our 30 days in Cuba.
There are many other fine stretches of sand, including the hidden beaches of Playa Jibacoa, the spectacular keys of Villa Clara & world-class diving off Isla de la Juventud & Maria la Gorda.
So take a look at out list of the Top 5 Beaches in Cuba & start planning your Cuban beach vacation today!
#1. Varadero & Playa Coral
People don’t simply keep flying in from the other side of the world to spend their vacation at any old beach. After Havana, Varadero is the top holiday destination in Cuba – and it delivers.
While the sand isn’t as white as in the tourist brochures, it is a very pale blonde. Who cares when the beach is this soft & silky, fronting clear turquoise waters. The beach seems to stretch on as endlessly as the ocean. It’s definitely worthy of a postcard & the #1 spot on our list of Top 5 Beaches in Cuba.
We visited the Western end & the beaches here were beautiful to relax & swim in: the waves are calm & water is warm & shallow. But it can also get quite crowded – kite-surfing is very popular & we even saw a wedding being set-up.
The Western beaches are located in the downtown area, close to restaurants & shops to buy snacks & drinks to take to the beach.
The further east you go, the more exclusive the resorts & guests. Most wristband-wearing tourists are on all-inclusive packages, fully content to spend a week or 2 indulging in their little air-conditioned bubble or lazing at the hotel beach.
What’s more, excellent snorkeling can be found at Playa Coral, just 15km from Varadero – for more information, see our post Playa Coral: Free Walk-in Snorkeling.
A long, thin slice of paradise off the northern tip of Santa Marta, Varadero’s unbroken 20km of sand & surf is easily the best beach in Cuba.
For more information, see our post Varadero: Caribbean’s Best Beach?
#2. Playa Larga & Playa Giron
Playa Larga is best known for the Bay of Pigs invasion, but also has great budget snorkeling & diving opportunities.
The Bay of Pigs dive sites are perfect for new and budget divers.
There are excellent sites along the shoreline from Playa Larga to Playa Giron, and even inland as well. Best of all is that each dive is only CUC$25 inclusive of equipment and transportation.
Tucked behind a collection of administrative buildings is Playa Larga. The sand leaves a lot to be desired, but the water is ideal.
In the morning, the bay is smooth as glass before gentle waves begin to roll in during the afternoon. The water is pristine, and still waist deep 30 meters out.
There are also a large amount of trees along the shore that provide shade. Try to time your visit for a weekday, as what is typically a peaceful retreat can quickly overflow on weekends
For more information, see our post Playa Larga & Bay of Pigs.
#3. Guardalavaca & Playa Pesquero
The coastline of Guardalavaca is a long stretch of tropical beaches with turquoise water. It lies against a backdrop of green fields & rolling hills.
Hotels & beach resorts are found all along the shore.
Guardalava beach is pleasant but nothing outstanding, though we only visited in the twilight after a rain shower. There are some nice rock formations & it looks like it definitely has potential for golden sands & turquoise waters, so go on a clear sunny day to enjoy this beach to the max.
The best beach on the Guardalavaca coast is Playa Pesquero, 18km from Guardalavaca town. The shallow, warm turquoise water is sublime but you share it with many guests from nearby resorts.
Playa Esmerelda & Playa Caletica are other nice beach options closer to Guardalavaca.
For more information, see our post Guardalavaca: Rural Beach Resorts.
#4. Playa Santa Lucia & Playa Los Cocos
Playa Santa Lucia needs some TLC, but that shouldn’t stop you from visiting – there’s excellent diving, shark hand-feeding & the secluded Playa los Cocos made it a great stay for us.
Playa Santa Lucia is little more than 10 feet wide along most of the coast. If you want to sunbathe, then you need to do so in the water. You can walk at least 100 meters out before you have to swim. The water is also pleasantly warm.
There’s a serious lack of tourist infrastructure at Playa Santa Lucia (eg. no casas & 1 hotel) so you’re best off staying at an all-inclusive resort.
The better, but more remote beach is Playa los Cocos located in La Boca. You still have areas with sea grass, but the beach is sublime. And the beach actually exists, with fine sand to relax on. Take advantage of the free shade umbrellas as well.
On the way to Playa los Cocos, look out for flamingoes in the lagoons.
We do hear wonderful things about the dive sites, but cannot verify. The featured dive at Centro Internacional de Buceo Shark’s Friends is a hand-feeding of resident sharks (69 CUC). Let’s hope they are truly friends so that no one gets hurt.
For more information, see our post Playa Santa Lucia: Unloved Beach Resort.
#5. Playa Ancon
This was our least favourite beach in Cuba.
We visited the beach in front of Hotel Club Amigo Ancon – with its Soviet-style building in the background, the atmosphere & surroundings were really unappealing.
The sandy beach felt cramped & there was a lot of sea grass in the water, making swimming really unenjoyable. The water wasn’t that clear or blue either.
However, Playa Ancon may be convenient for travellers on a short vacation as it’s only 15km from Trinidad, with a couple of affordable, all-inclusive resorts right on the beach.
For more information, see our post Playa Ancon: A Bad Day Trip from Trinidad.
*** The Final Word – Whichever beach you choose, dive straight in! ***
What’s your favourite beach in Cuba?
Accessible DIY travel to more distant locations via multiple connections or longer forms of public transport
Visited in June 2016