Introducing Cuba’s first gay-friendly beach: Mi Cayito

Posted: 11-Aug-17 10:37

Whilst not openly or officially a gay beach, there is this one coastal stretch in Havana where sexual diversity is embraced, respected and even celebrated. You’ll find it on Playas del Este, wedged between the popular beaches of Santa Maria del Mar and Boca Ciega, close to the point where the river meets the sea. Grossly overlooked in tourist guides and rarely mentioned, Mi Cayito is a safe haven for members of the LGBT community and a beautiful one at that.

Introducing Cuba’s first gay-friendly beach: Mi Cayito

Once Cuba was a very “macho” place where homosexuality was not only frowned upon but even punishable with jail terms, at least when it came to public displays of affection. Nowadays, with the daughter of president Raul Castro advocating for gay rights and sponsoring the city’s first ever gay parades, the atmosphere is completely different, and the gay community feels safer and prouder than ever.

That’s not to say you won’t still find individuals fiercely opposed to the idea of homosexuals being acknowledged and respected, generations of homophobia can’t change in a heartbeat, yet homosexuality is more tolerated in Cuba than it ever was, and no one will be pointing fingers now, at least not in the beach I’ll quickly introduce you too.

Tiny it might be, a little bit unheard of perhaps, but magnificently beautiful, serene and colourful it also is. This fringe of pristine white sands lapped by turquoise blue waters is popularly referred to as Mi Cayito (translating as “My Little Key”) and is frequented by the city’s gay and lesbian community. It’s a naturally-blessed spot, wedged between the larger beach stretches of Santa Maria del Mar and Boca Ciega. Close to the point where the Boca Ciega river meets the sea and adjacent to a “Paisaje Natural Protegido” (National Protected Landscape) Mi Cayito sits just a stone’s throw away from hotels like Laguna Itabo, Club Bravo Arenal and Hotel Atlantico. It’s a sandy haven where like-minded (and open-minded) individuals mingle with utmost respect for each other, regardless of genre or sexual preference.

You won’t find it in tourist guides, but most “habaneros” know of it. It’s the capital’s favourite and only unofficial gay beach, and one of the country’s very few, so it deserves attention. With Cuba opening itself up to the world, it’s worth mentioning how local minds are now opening up to the idea of sexual diversity, and this beach is a perfect example.

Mi Cayito is the perfect place to immerse in a microcosm of Cuban society whether or not you’re gay, bisexual or transgender. You don’t have to be an outsider while you’re at it either, there’s no need for awkwardness; you can join a volleyball match (you don’t have to be gay to be part of the fun), watch mini parties in full swing and chat to locals. Weekends see the largest groups of LGBT members take over the beach, mainly men who come to hang out with friends, chill out with their partners and unwind without feeling discriminated, judged or ogled at.

But this beach is not just popular among gays and lesbians, because it feels quaint, quiet and secluded whilst often being less crowded than the rest of Havana’s eastern beaches, which means you’re also likely find heterosexual couples and even a few families scattered here and there, probably not mixing with the LGBT community but certainly not scorning it either.

Next time you’re in Havana, if you want to stop at its first gay-friendly beach ask your taxi driver to drop you off here. In the unlikely event that your driver weren’t to know the exact whereabouts of Mi Cayito just tell them to drop you in Boca Ciega, and from there asking directions will have you reaching your final destination in no time. The journey from downtown Havana is about 45 minutes and will cost you around 15 CUC. There is a small restaurant called Las Palmitas next to Mi Cayito’s parking lot, serving cheap and flavoursome burgers, a variety of snacks and a decent selection of drinks. You can also hire sun loungers and umbrellas for 3 and 4 CUC respectively. 

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