Cuba Beach Holidays
Castaway coral cays, dreamy gold-dusted coves and picturesque peninsulas offering miles of beachy bliss ཿ find your own slice of paradise on Cuba's exquisite coast.
From £819 per person
Beaches of Cuba
Castaway coral cays, dreamy gold-dusted coves and picturesque peninsulas offering miles of beachy bliss - find your own slice of paradise on Cuba's exquisite coast.
As the largest island in the Caribbean, Cuba has a galaxy of glittering beaches fringing its tropical shores. Sandwiched between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, the country's sun-drenched sandy coastline and little offshore cays are a heavenly haven for beach lovers at any time of year.
Where to go on the island largely depends on your personal vision of paradise. From classic Caribbean resorts with wide bleached sand beaches or little exclusive enclaves surrounded by pristine nature to secluded Seychelles-style cays with just a smattering of accommodation or colourful beaches with a more Cuban vibe, there are destinations to suit all tastes. Pale powder-soft sand and cerulean water is ubiquitous. In fact, though Cuba's unique culture is often the main attraction for visitors, the island is also said to boast the best beaches in the Caribbean, easily rivalling those of other sand, sea and sun getaways like Barbados and the Bahamas.
Classic Caribbean holidays with rum cocktails delivered straight to your sunlounger, uninterrupted azure vistas and guaranteed sunshine are surprisingly affordable in Cuba and there are a few major resorts offering brilliant beaches and a wide range of places to stay.
For coconut palms and lashings of rum, Varadero is the country's premier beach destination set on the Hicacos Peninsula, a long sliver of land that unfurls into the warm currents of the Caribbean. Blessed with no less than 25km of palm-lined wide white sand, this is Cuba's original beach resort. It was established by American entrepreneurs in the 1950s, who built hotels and second homes in the area to take advantage of the powder-fine beach, blue-green vistas and the relaxed attitude towards gambling and drinking of pre-Communist Cuba.
Nowadays Varadero has the widest range of accommodation in Cuba, including international resort chains like Sandals and Melia, and every amenity imaginable from beach massages and refreshment stops to aqua aerobics and volleyball. Three marinas and two diving clubs also mean it's a fantastic place for aquatic pursuits of all descriptions. Around two hours' drive east of Havana and with its own international airport, Varadero is also the most accessible of Cuba's beach resorts from Havana.
Much further east on Cuba's north coast, Playa Santa Lucia is another mainstream beach destination on a smaller scale than Varadero, though its silky ribbon of sand is almost as long. With just four resorts and counting, you can always find a peaceful sunbathing spot, and Santa Lucia's golden-white coralline sand remains cool even in the hot sun. The glistening aquamarine water here is nearly always tranquil, protected by a large offshore reef, making it ideal for a pleasant swim. Not far from the main highway that runs the length of the island, Santa Lucia is easily accessible by road and also has its own small airport. Travellers looking for a relaxing beach break with a more local Cuban feel could try renting a room in the nearby seaside town of La Boca.
With sand as pure as the driven snow dappled with sunlight streaming through high shady palms and exotic greenery, Playa Guardalavaca in Cuba's north-eastern Holguin province easily delivers on the Caribbean dream. Though it is on the package holiday radar and can be easily reached via the province's small airport, it has a more distinctly Cuban feel than some of the island's purpose-built resort areas. The colourful beach attracts a mix of tourists and natives, with hammocks strung between the trees and vendors hiring out snorkelling gear and selling snacks in the shade. Guardalavaca is a hub for all kinds of watersports and the incredible coral reefs lying just offshore are well worth exploring with a mask and snorkel. To enjoy the serenity of the setting, you can head to the much quieter eastern end of the beach.
Visitors in search of more sybaritic pleasures can find some exclusive and extravagant beach enclaves around Guardalavaca where you can be pampered and waited on hand-and-foot. Pristine Playa Esmeralda, 5km to the west, is backed by a natural park and overlooked by the luxury all-inclusive Paradisus Rio del Oro eco-resort and spa, considered one of the best five-stars on the island. Further west, the stunning crescent-moon bay of Playa Pesquero is a private resort that's postcard-perfect, while the little shallow bay of Playa Turquesa, bordered by dense forest, is one of the region's most scenic.
Lesser-known Jibacoa is another seaside town with a more authentic Cuban flavour that's a favoured holiday spot for islanders. Small but perfectly-formed, the area is about an hours' drive east of Havana and its 10km-long sandy coast includes a beautiful little cove. Picturesque limestone cliffs add a dramatic edge to the scenery, not-to-mention great views from the top, and the area has a smattering of accommodation options - low-key beach bungalows and an all-inclusive resort.
Alternatively, travellers staying in Havana can take a short jaunt to Playas de Este and chill out on sparkling tropical beaches with the soulful Cuban capital on the near horizon. Encompassing a flush of beaches from Tarara to Guanabo, the area's most picturesque beach is Santa Maria del Mar and there is usually a good blend of locals and tourists sharing the beach with the odd pineapple-seller or string quartet. Havana Bus Tours offers convenient day round-trips departing from Park Central, and there are a few mid-range hotels and casas particulars, including Villa Megano and Hotel Blau Arena, if you want to spend longer at the beach.
If you are looking to add a splash of colourful Cuban culture to your seaside sojourn, Playa Ancon could be the perfect spot. Considered the best beach in the south of the country, its arc of bleached sand is framed by lush landscapes and it is just 12km from the UNESCO-listed colonial gem of Trinidad.
Adventurous types can head to the quirky bay-side town of Baracoa on Cuba's isolated far-eastern tip and explore a stretch of coastline that famed explorer Christopher Columbus considered the most beautiful place in the world. Bahia de Baracoa is one of Cuba' most striking beaches - velvety black sand and teal-blue sea against a backdrop of verdant green mountains. A stay in a nearby 'casa particular' will ensure you have a uniquely Cuban experience.
Castaway coral cays
Sprinkled with little string-of-pearls islands, Cuba's northern and southern waters offer travellers a chance to experience desert island bliss akin to the castaway coral cays of the Maldives or the Seychelles. Skimming the central northern coast, the Jardines del Rey archipelago has the most accessible cays, connected to the mainland via long causeways, with some of the newest and best hotels in Cuba. A trio of coral islands north of Villa Clara province, Cayo Las Brujas, Cayo Ensenachos and Cayo Santa Maria are rising stars among Cuba's constellation of beach destinations. These once-uninhabited cays are part of a UNESCO-protected Biosphere Reserve with more than 80 species of native flowers and wildlife, so they have been carefully developed for tourists while holding on to their precious natural beauty.
Linked to the mainland, Cayo Santa Maria is chief among these islands with virgin beaches of the purest white sand accented by a few first-class all-inclusive resorts and all the amenities a visitor could need. Travellers looking for total serenity and luxury can book a stay at the Melia Buenavista, an adults-only resort on a private peninsula surrounded by idyllic coves. For families looking for a little more stimulation, there's a dolphinarium nearby and a water park in the works. To the east, the tiny island of Cayo Ensenachos has two breathtaking beaches at Playa Megano and Playa Ensenachos with an away-from-it-all air and crystal-clear sheltered water that's perfect for swimming.
On the eastern tail of the Jardines del Rey, long swathes of smooth white sand and iridescent blue water greet visitors to the most famous of the islands - Cayo Coco - untouched before tourist development took hold around 10 years ago. This little coral cay gently shelves into translucent turquoise waters and its shores are hugged by rich reefs, making aquatic activities such as snorkelling and kite-surfing popular. The island is easily accessed via a highway to the mainland or a little airport, and a dolphinarium, boat adventure and jungle tours make it an appealing destination for families.
Just east, Cayo Guillermo has a more castaway feel than its neighbour, with just a few hotels and a beach so memorable that American writer Ernest Hemingway made it the setting for the climax of his novel Islands in the Stream. Backed by the highest sand dunes in the Caribbean, Playa Pilar was named after Hemingway's yacht and is completely untouched by the modern world. This pristine palm-tufted beach looks out over azure-hued water to another tiny emerald cay, making the view all the more wonderful.
An escapist idyll made real, Cayo Levisa is a hidden gem west of Havana, which was also a favoured bolthole of Hemingway. Isolated on Cuba's north-west coast, you can reach it by boat from Palma Rubia and stay in a small selection of low-key beach bungalows. Pure paradise can be found in the chain of cays off the south coast of Cuba too, but, with the exception of Cayo Largo del Sur, the islands are difficult to get to. Clothed in mangroves, coconut palms, fragrant jasmine, ferns and wildflowers, Cayo Largo del Sur is a remote retreat with large creamy slices of sand that has been solely developed for tourism. The island's best beach, Playa Sirena, is nothing short of sensational and ranks among Cuba's most idyllic, with a broad expanse of powder-fine sand stretching for 2km.
Cayo Largo's waters are entirely undisturbed with pristine reefs and a kaleidoscopic array of fish, as well as resident turtles and dolphins, which can be experienced from around 33 dive and snorkelling sites. In the summer months, you can join the night watch to glimpse sea turtles nesting on the island's north-west tip. Most visitors arrive via 30-minute internal flights from Havana and stay at one of a clutch of beachside hotels.
From heavenly escapism to beaches brimming with local authenticity, Cuba offers the best beach experiences in the Caribbean and, if you are willing to go the extra mile, it's still possible to discover a piece of paradise to call your own.
Get InspirationAll about where to go and what you can do
The sultry climate and breathtaking scenery of Cuba makes it a top destination for a classic Caribbean getaway - a completely relaxing holiday where every detail is taken care of for you. Take your pick of the best all-inclusive beach hotels in Varadero, Cayo Coco and Cayo Santa Maria or sample more than one location on a twin-centre holiday and you can enjoy amazing facilities all included in the price.
Havana exudes time-worn charm and character - from the crumbling Art Deco and Spanish colonial architecture of its skyline to the lively culture, cafes and dance halls found in its streets. A fusion of influences has sparked magic, creating music and dance found nowhere else. And a truly unique, paradoxical history woven into the very fabric of the city makes it a destination in its own right.
Silky-soft sand lapped by iridescent blue water and warm sunshine streaming through tufted palms gently swaying in the tropic breeze - it's the archetypal Caribbean dream - and it really exists in Cuba. There are beaches here to suit everyone - check into a private enclave on a pristine sandy bay or book a beautiful retreat on one of Cuba's Seychelles-style coral cays, stay in a quirky seaside town with a distinctly Cuban feel or choose a classic Caribbean all-inclusive holiday.
Cuba has a special, undeniable romantic touch that few can resist. The element of romance in Cuba runs far deeper and beyond the allure of tropical sun-kissed beaches and idyllic keys - from the passionate attitude of fun-loving locals to jaw-droppingly beautiful architecture, sleepy towns that time forgot and a revolutionary zest for life, Cuba is definitely a destination to fall in love with as much as with each other. Find out just what you and your partner can look forward to on a romantic holiday to Cuba.
Master the art of Salsa in Cuba and step into a world of smooth moves, intoxicating rhythms and hip-swinging nightlife that will enhance your experience on the island and give you a real insight into its warm and vibrant culture. From the capital Havana to the thriving beach resort of Varadero, travellers can find sensational Salsa instructors and sizzling dance spots throughout the country.
Swim with dolphins, discover other-worldly landscapes, explore historic castles or ride in vintage cars and steam trains - just a few of the many exciting activities on offer in this incredibly child-friendly destination. With calm, clear waters, marvellous beaches and plenty of all-inclusive hotels, Cuba is the ideal place for a tropical family getaway.
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