cayo coco cuba

Cayo Coco: A Local’s Guide for Travelers [2024]

If you’re looking for the best beaches in Cuba, look no further than Cayo Coco. Tucked along Cuba’s northern coast, Cayo Coco is a white-sand islet that is home to some of the best beaches in the country, many of which are even considered among the best beaches in the Caribbean.

As locals, we’ve explored countless beaches in Cuba – but the beaches in Cayo Coco just can’t be beaten. In this ultimate local guide to Cayo Coco, you’ll find all our favorite travel tips and recommendations for making the most out of the Cayo Coco travel experience, a guaranteed highlight of your Cuba itinerary.

cayo coco beach
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Cayo Coco

Located along Cuba’s northern coast, Cayo Coco is a large white-sand cay that is home to some of the most popular places to visit in Cuba among travelers. Cayo Coco’s pristine beaches have been drawing visitors here for decades; it now boasts some of the most prestigious resorts in Cuba.

While Cayo Coco is renowned in Cuba for its untouched beaches, clear waters, and stunning resorts, there’s a lot more to discover here than just the beachfront. Visiting Cayo Coco is one of the best things to do in Cuba, offering travelers an unparalleled experience in one of the most picturesque parts of the country.

Read More: 7 Best Resorts in Cayo Coco

Where Is Cayo Coco?

Cayo Coco is part of the Jardines del Rey archipelago, composed of some of the most well-known cays in Cuba, like Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Romano, Cayo Santa Maria, and Cayo Las Brujas, among others. While other cays in the area are famous, Cayo Coco is the most well-known in the archipelago and has the longest history of tourism in the region.

Cayo Coco is also part of Cuba’s province of Ciego de Ávila and is connected to the mainland by both a long causeway and via its own international airport, known as the Aeropuerto de Jardines del Rey.

What is Cayo Coco Known For?

In addition to its stunning beaches, Cayo Coco is known for being one of the most built-up of Cuba’s cays, giving travelers the convenience of an international airport directly on the island and a number of exceptional resorts to choose from. Other than Cayo Largo del Sur, it’s the only cay in Cuba with such easy direct transportation from the rest of the island and abroad.

melia cayo coco
kmiragaya / Depositphotos

Cayo Coco Beach

Due to Cayo Coco’s distinction as one of the largest cays in Cuba, the island isn’t home to just one beautiful beach. In fact, Cayo Coco boasts a number of what are considered some of the best beaches in Cuba.

While most resort guests tend to stick to the beach facing their resort, you can freely explore the other beaches on the island. In fact, we recommend it! A bit of beach hopping will give you a great picture of just why Cayo Coco is among the most popular beach destinations in the country. These are the most impressive beaches on the island.

Best Beaches in Cayo Coco

Playa Larga

Cayo Coco’s longest and most impressive beach is the famous Playa Larga. Not to be confused with the Playa Larga located on the Bay of Pigs on Cuba’s southern coast, this Playa Larga is home to impossibly fine white sand, tranquil water, and all the beach amenities and water sports opportunities you could ask for.

Pullman Cayo Coco Hotel is one of the best resorts in Cayo Coco and is located just around the corner from Playa Larga. Technically the hotel is located on Playa Las Coloradas, but it feels like an extension of Playa Larga.

You’ll also find some other resorts directly facing Playa Larga, though we recommend Hotel Pullman Cayo Coco as the very best of them!

Read More: 7 Best Resorts in Cayo Coco

Playa Flamenco

Stretching nearly two miles (3 km) in length, Playa Flamenco is no second fiddle to its larger neighbor. This unspoiled beach is another one you’ll want to visit during your time in Cayo Coco. Nearby mangroves make the beach scenic and feel untouched despite boasting some of the best resorts on the island.

Melia Jardines del Rey and Memories Flamenco Beach Resort are two of the best resorts on the island, and they’re both located directly on Playa Flamenco. You can’t go wrong with a stay at either of these spots on this pristine beach.

Other Beaches in Cayo Coco

If you’re looking for a more off-the-beaten-path experience in Cayo Coco, consider visiting the undeveloped beaches of Playa Los Esteros and Playa Dorada.

Neither of the beaches has any development on them, meaning you should come prepared with towels, food, and drinks you’ll need for a beach day. For many travelers, excursions to these still-hidden beaches on the island are their favorite beach experiences in Cayo Coco.

cayo coco hotels
vitaldrum / Depositphotos

Things To Do in Cayo Coco

You’re in for much more than just a typical beach vacation if you’re looking for more things to do in Cayo Coco! These are some of the activities that we always recommend to travelers looking to get outside of the bounds of their resort during a visit.

1. Go Birdwatching

Cayo Coco has a decently-sized tourist infrastructure, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t untouched natural beauty here! In fact, the island is a great spot for birdwatching, making this one of the most popular things to do in Cayo Coco.

One of the most popular and well-respected birdwatching guides in the area is Paulino Lopez Delgado, who has been running birdwatching tours in Cayo Coco for a number of years. He does a great pointing out common species like flamingos and much harder-to-spot birds as well, many of which are endemic to Cuba.

Not only that, but he’ll also give you a tour of Cayo Coco in his vintage Chevy, which is a highlight of the excursion for many travelers! Paulino provides all the scopes and binoculars you could need for the excursion and can create half-day or full-day birdwatching packages depending on your interest.

Read More: 7 Best Resorts in Cayo Coco

Travel Essential

Don’t think about traveling to Cuba without a good VPN (Virtual Private Network). Using a VPN while connecting to the internet is an easy way to keep your personal information safe from hackers and trackers. We’ve used NordVPN for years and couldn’t recommend it more – it’s a must for safety online, especially in Cuba. 

2. Party at La Cueva Del Jabali

If you’re looking for a party in Cayo Coco, ditch the hotel bar and head to La Cueva del Jabali. This lively bar and club is located inside a cave, which makes it a totally unique experience. Not only is the setting unique, but the party is infectious, making this the best spot on the island to let loose.

Get ready to dance and party here. The evening dance show includes performances by locals but gets everyone out of their seats and onto the dance floor. Without giving too much away before you visit yourself, the show includes everything from fire-eating and sword juggling to more classic Cuban dance traditions. It’s a lot of fun!

3. Go Scuba Diving or Snorkeling

While Cayo Coco’s white sand beaches mostly have sandy bottoms, there are plenty of areas around the cay that offer opportunities for snorkeling and scuba diving. Many of the larger resorts on the island even offer their own dive centers, though the dive center at Melia Cayo Coco is by far the best.

If you’re already a PADI-certified scuba diver, jump on an excursion to visit everything from coral reefs and the deep dropoff walls around the cay to some impressive nearby shipwrecks that will make you feel like a true explorer.

If you’ve never given scuba a try before, Melia Cayo Coco also offers lessons for beginners and “exploratory dives” on the reef that promise to be the perfect opportunity to give scuba a try.

Of course, snorkeling is also an option! Snorkel in front of your resort in Cayo Coco, or enjoy a snorkeling excursion to even more impressive snorkeling spots a bit further away from shore.

Travel Insurance

Cuba requires that all travelers have proof of a comprehensive travel insurance policy in order to enter the country. Check out our guide to travel insurance for Cuba for more details. We recommend these brands for Cuba travel insurance:

  • Visitors Coverage: Coverage for Cuba travel available to citizens of all countries, though not currently available to residents of New York and Maryland in the United States.
  • Insubuy: Coverage for Cuba travel available to citizens of all countries and states of the United States.

4. Sample the Best of Cuba

If you’re itching to sample some of Cuba’s most famous products like rum, tobacco, and sugar while visiting Cayo Coco, consider adding an immersive tour to your Cuba itinerary. Nexus Tours offers an excellent Rum, Cigars, and Sugar tour that might be perfect for you.

Stops on the excursion include visits to local art galleries as well as a historic sugar mill to learn about Cuba’s history of cultivating sugar and the crop’s use in the production of rum. The tour also includes a delicious lunch at a local farm.

These excursions start and end in Morón, Cuba, which is the mainland Cuban city where you’ll take the causeway to access Cayo Coco. If you’re looking for the perfect way to start or end your Cayo Coco trip, this might be it!

5. Try Kite Surfing with Cuba Kite

While most of Cuba’s resorts offer water sports from jet skiing and sailing to kayaking and snorkeling, Cayo Coco is also home to its own kitesurfing school for travelers looking for another way to experience adventure on the island.

Located just a short drive from the airport and not far from the resorts in Cayo Coco, Cuba Kite offers everything from individual kite surfing lessons for beginners to complete kitesurfing excursion packages to travelers looking for an entire vacation planned around the sport.

Start on the beach if you’re a beginner, or head straight for the waves. Keep in mind that this isn’t surfing like you’ll find in Oahu, Hawaii, but that makes it all the better for beginners. Introductory lessons make it easy to try this fun watersport in a safe way, with experienced guides leading you from start to finish.

memories flamenco cayo coco
Memories Flamenco Cayo Coco – Courtesy of Blue Diamond Resorts

Where To Stay in Cayo Coco

Unlike beach towns like Varadero and Ancón near Trinidad, Cayo Coco doesn’t have much of a permanent population living on the island due to its relatively remote location. This means that you won’t find any of the “casa particular” guest houses or locally-run boutique hotels as you’ll find throughout the rest of Cuba.

Instead, Cayo Coco is very hotel and resort-centric. We created a complete guide to the best resorts in Cayo Coco – make sure to check it out before you book! – but these are some of the best hotels and resorts in Cayo Coco.

Memories Flamenco Beach Resort ($$)

Located on the award-winning Playa Flamenco beach, Memories Flamenco Beach Resort is a stunning resort that puts its lovely beach front and center for guests. Spacious rooms offer impressive ocean views and unforgettable sunsets.

The resort has undergone a number of improvements and refurbishments to make it better than ever, though it’s still an affordable option for travelers looking to experience Cayo Coco on a budget. Great food, friendly staff, and plenty of opportunities for kicking back and relaxing by the pool or the ocean make it a favorite.

Reviews and Bookings: Memories Flamenco Beach Resort

Pullman Cayo Coco Hotel ($$ – $$$)

If you’re looking for a luxury resort in Cayo Coco, the Pullman Cayo Coco Hotel is calling your name. Smaller than many of the other resorts on the island, Pullman Cayo Coco Hotel offers a more boutique experience with personalized attention and planning from staff and the seclusion you’re craving in a romantic beach getaway.

The resort’s pools and the beachfront offer an abundance of beach chairs and plenty of cabanas for lazy days by the sea, and watersports and activities add some adventure to your stay.

Reviews and Bookings: Pullman Cayo Coco Hotel

Best Places to Stay in Cayo Coco

Melia Cayo Coco ($$)

One of Cayo Coco’s most beloved adults-only five-star resorts, Melia Cayo Coco is a favorite destination tucked away on the white sand of the island’s most impressive beach. With 250 rooms beachfront and lagoon-facing rooms, four restaurants and bars, and incredible installations throughout the hotel’s expansive property, there is plenty to love here.

While some areas of the resort could use some cosmetic refurbishing, the resort shines and stands out from the pack for its stellar location, friendly service, and great food.

Reviews and Bookings: Melia Cayo Coco

Sol Cayo Coco ($ – $$)

Adjacent to Melia Cayo Coco, Sol Cayo Coco is yet another one of the island’s most beautiful and sought-after resorts. While certain areas of the resort could use refurbishing, it has plenty of beautiful lounges, cabanas, restaurants, and bars to choose from, making it a favorite with many guests returning year after year.

Sol Cayo Coco is a family-friendly resort that offers a kids’ club and activity spaces that families will enjoy while still having plenty to offer for the adults-only crowd. Sol Cayo Coco offers direct access to not just one but two of Cayo Coco’s most beautiful beaches: Playa Mojito and Playa Las Coloradas.

Reviews and Bookings: Sol Cayo Coco

cayo coco
vitaldrum / Depositphotos

Getting to Cayo Coco

As the most well-known cay in Cuba’s Jardines del Rey archipelago, Cayo Coco offers a number of ways to access the island to make it as easy as possible for travelers to enjoy all the island has to offer.

Cayo Coco Airport

Most travelers arrive in Cayo Coco via the international airport, Aeropuerto Internacional de Jardines del Rey (Jardines del Rey International Airport), located on the eastern side of Cayo Coco.

Just a quick 10-minute drive from most resorts, this airport is relatively well-served, receiving around 50 international and domestic flights per week. Notably, the airport offers many direct flights from Canadian cities.

Driving to Cayo Coco

Alternatively, the island is accessible via a causeway connecting it to the mainland city of Morón in the province of Ciego de Ávila. To drive across the causeway to the resort area of Cayo Coco usually takes about an hour, though reaching the resorts in Cayo Coco from the province’s largest city of Ciego de Ávila usually takes around 1.5 hours.

While Ciego de Ávila doesn’t offer much to interest travelers, it’s well-connected to the other major cities in Cuba by bus and taxi, making this transportation option more convenient than most travelers may think.

Cayo Coco – FAQ

Which Is Better – Varadero or Cayo Coco?

While Varadero and Cayo Coco both boast some of the best beaches in Cuba, they’re extremely different beach destinations, which makes comparing them a challenge.

While Cayo Coco is more resort-centric, Varadero offers a range of accommodation options, including affordable rooms for rent and guest houses. Varadero also has much more to offer than Cayo Coco outside the bounds of the resorts. Varadero’s proximity to Havana also makes it easier, and usually more affordable, for travelers to visit.

However, Cayo Coco boasts a wider range of resorts situated on different beaches and a more remote, relaxed, and laid-back feel than busier Varadero. It’s also just one of Cuba’s many cays to choose from, with spots like Cayo Guillermo and Cayo Santa Maria also offering great, similar options for travelers.

What is the Best Time of Year to Visit Cayo Coco?

The best time of the year to visit Cayo Coco is in the winter months, between late November and the end of April. These months tend to be slightly cooler and drier, meaning travelers can expect calm seas and clear skies for the duration of their vacation.

Traveling during the offseason, from May to early November, means visitors will enjoy lower prices at hotels and resorts and less-crowded beaches. However, these months can be much rainer in Cuba. Cuba is located within the hurricane belt in the Caribbean, meaning that hurricanes (usually between the months of July to October) are a possibility.

Do Locals Live in Cayo Coco?

There is no significant permanent population living in Cayo Coco. Despite being home to a significant tourist infrastructure, including the island’s own international airport, Cayo Coco doesn’t have towns or cities. Instead, workers who serve the tourism industry generally commute across the causeway from the Cuban mainland.

Carley Rojas Avila

Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Home to Havana and Explorers Away. She is a serial expat and traveler, having visited 40+ countries and counting. Carley has written for publications like Travel + Leisure, MSN, Associated Press, Weather Channel, Wealth of Geeks, and more. Find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.