If you’re dreaming of a perfect Caribbean beach destination, you’re likely picturing this tiny island off Cuba’s northern coast: Cayo Guillermo. Cayo Guillermo might occasionally be overshadowed by its larger and more-developed neighbor Cayo Coco, but this pristine island is home to some of the island’s most beautiful beaches and, increasingly, Cuba’s most impressive resorts.
This ultimate guide to Cayo Guillermo includes everything you need to plan your perfect trip to the island. From things to do in Cayo Guillermo to where to stay and how to get here, these are the inside tips you need for your stay in one of Cuba’s most beautiful destinations.
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Located off the beachy northern shore of Cuba, Cayo Guillermo is a tiny island off the coast of mainland Cuba called a cay, or cayo in Spanish, that is considered among the best beach destinations in Cuba. It’s a white sand island that has, in recent decades, seen significant tourist growth. However, it retains a much less built-up feel than busier beaches in Cuba like Varadero.
While Cayo Guillermo feels much more wild and undeveloped than Varadero, the island has a wide range of hotels to choose from, scattered along its beautiful beaches. From older tourist mainstays now in need of a refresh to some of the nicest resorts in all of Cuba, there is a wide range to choose from.
The island’s most impressive resort is the Cayo Guillermo Resort Kempinski, famous for having several beautiful underwater bungalows. It’s arguably the most luxurious resort in Cuba.
Cayo Guillermo is accessible to mainland Cuba first via a causeway connecting Cayo Coco to the Cuban mainland near the small town of Morón and then via a short bridge connecting Cayo Coco to Cayo Guillermo. The airport on Cayo Coco makes accessing the island quite easy.
Read More: Cayo Coco: Ultimate Traveler’s Guide
Cayo Guillermo and Ernest Hemingway
From the second you arrive in Cayo Guillermo, you’ll note that the island has a special affinity for the author Ernest Hemingway; the causeway connecting the island to Cayo Coco, called the Hemingway Bridge, even features iron statues of the writer, who spent many years living outside of Havana.
The Hemingway connection is no surprise: Cayo Guillermo featured strongly in the writer’s posthumously published Islands in the Stream. Cayo Guillermo’s most famous beach is also known as Playa Pilar, named Pilar after the writer’s boat.
Does Cayo Guillermo Have Good Beaches?
Cayo Guillermo has incredible beaches. In fact, Cayo Guillermo’s famous Playa Pilar is regularly ranked among the best beaches in the Caribbean, or even the world, for its pristine white sand and impossibly clear, calm waters.
While Playa Pilar is of particular fame, the rest of the beaches in Cayo Guillermo are practically just as beautiful. It seems like any beachfront you find on this gorgeous cay is better than the last one, meaning it is the perfect spot for a beach vacation in Cuba.
Read More: 12 Best Beaches in Cuba
Things To Do in Cayo Guillermo
1. Hit the Beach
Cayo Guillermo is undeniably a beach-centric destination, with most travelers perfectly content with finding a nice spot on the beach and spending most of their days on the island. Pretty much every beach on this island is a great one, so most visitors will have a great time just sticking to the beach in front of their resort.
Whether you’re staying directly along Playa Pilar or not, visiting this most famous beach on the island is a must. Playa Pilar is located at the western tip of the island, between the Cayo Guillermo Resort Kempinski and Iberostar Selection Playa Pilar. The incredible turquoise waters and perfect sand will exceed your every expectation.
2. Visit Isla Media Luna
Looking for a unique excursion in Cayo Guillermo? A visit to Isla Media Luna makes for a perfect day trip that combines all the best things to do in Cayo Guillermo into one fun trip. Excursions to this island, located about a mile off the coast of Cayo Guillermo, are usually by catamaran and involve fun stops for snorkeling and diving along the way.
There is a small restaurant on Isla Media Luna, though most excursions to the island usually include lunch, whether it be at the restaurant or onboard the boat.
3. Get Out On The Water
Get off the sand and into the water to enjoy some of the best things to do in Cayo Guillermo. From snorkeling and diving to kayaking along the shores, there is plenty of ways to enjoy the water in this beachy paradise.
One of the most popular ways to enjoy Cayo Guillermo is by exploring its reefs, whether it be snorkeling or scuba diving. The area actually has a pretty impressive reef system, as well as some other interesting dive sites like caves, walls, and even shipwrecks.
Several hotels in Cayo Guillermo and Cayo Coco have dedicated dive centers, so if your resort doesn’t, you can easily organize an excursion with one of the others.
Kitesurfing is also an increasingly popular sport in Cuba, practiced widely in Cuba’s northern cays. In fact, Cayo Guillermo is considered among the country’s best destinations for kitesurfing. Visit Havana Kiteboarding Club on Cayo Guillermo, located near the Hemingway Bridge, for classes and gear rentals – they’re the best on the island.
4. Visit Cayo Guillermo’s Delfinario
Located on the south side of Cayo Guillermo, the island’s delfinario – or, dolphinarium – is an increasingly favorite destination for travelers looking to get out of the confines of the resort and have a great experience connecting with wildlife. They offer both dolphin shows and opportunities to swim and interact with the dolphins.
Resorts can arrange shuttles or transportation to the delfinario, and usually recommend it to travelers and see to making all the arrangements for the experience.
Where To Stay in Cayo Guillermo
Cayo Guillermo Resort Kempinski
One of the country’s newest and most luxurious resorts, Cayo Guillermo Resort Kempinski offers one of the most impressive luxury experiences travelers can enjoy in Cuba. This brand-new resort gleams with beautiful decor and offers everything from an extensive spa with tons of services to choose from to a gourmet dining experience, much more elevated than what you’ll find in many of the resorts in Cuba.
The resort is set along Playa Pilar, so visitors know they’re in for a trip enjoying one of the best beach destinations in the Caribbean. Watersports options abound, many of which are inclusive for travelers, making for a next-level beach experience.
One of the unique features of the Cayo Guillermo Resort Kempinski is its overwater bungalows, the only ones of their kind in Cuba and exceeding impressive. Every bungalow is luxe, but the largest presidential bungalow is truly palatial. Whether you stay in a bungalow or any of the other rooms or suites in the hotel, you’ll be impressed with every detail of your stay.
Melia Cayo Guillermo
One of Cayo Guillermo’s most beautiful all-inclusive resorts, Melia Cayo Guillermo is a favorite resort for visitors to this beautiful cay. Offering excellent resort installations, including a large beachfront with expansive palm-shaded areas, spa services, tennis courts, and more, it’s no wonder the resort received so many return visitors.
Melia Cayo Guillermo also has a kids club and dedicated adult-only spaces, so it is popular with families and couples alike.
While there are some areas of the hotel that could use a sprucing up, Melia Cayo Guillermo is a very pleasant place to stay and has excellent facilities. It is a relatively smaller resort and doesn’t feel like an impersonal behemoth, which makes for a great guest experience and promises excellent service.
Sol Cayo Guillermo
Another one of Cayo Guillermo’s most well-known resorts, Sol Cayo Guillermo is an intimate, mid-range resort that puts the sprawling resorts of Cayo Coco to shame with its guest experience. The requisite gorgeous white sand beachfront is a hit with visitors, as are pool areas with numerous beach bars.
adult and kid sections make it a favorite both with families and with couples travelers. Areas of the hotel are starting to show some wear and tear, but as this is a mid-range resort, you’ll also get much better deals than you might elsewhere. You’ll also enjoy many of the same great amenities and beachfront of more expensive places to stay.
Getting To Cayo Guillermo
Cayo Guillermo is not directly connected to the Cuban mainland. Instead, it is connected to its much larger neighbor cay, Cayo Coco. Cayo Coco is connected to the Cuban mainland via a long causeway, called a pedraplén, near the tiny town of Morón. Driving the length of the causeway from Morón to Cayo Guillermo takes about an hour and twenty minutes.
Most travelers get to Cayo Guillermo via the airport on Cayo Coco, Jardines del Rey International Airport. While the airport receives a number of international flights with some regularity, it also gets arrivals from Jose Martí International Airport in Havana.
If you’re looking to visit Cayo Guillermo from other cities in Cuba, you’ll likely need to look for a private driver. Alternatively, take a bus to the nearby large city of Ciego de Ávila and take a private car from there. Reaching Cayo Guillermo from Havana by car takes about seven hours, or just two hours from Ciego de Ávila.
Cayo Guillermo – FAQ
Are Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo the Same?
Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo are not the same. While Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo sit next to each other as beautiful, sandy cays along Cuba’s northern coast in the Jardines del Rey archipelago, they are distinct islands.
Both islands share many of the same highlights and attractions, such as beautiful beaches, impressive resorts, and loads of natural beauty that make them some of the most popular beach destinations in Cuba.
How Far is Cayo Guillermo From the Airport?
Cayo Guillermo is about 40 minutes from the nearest major airport, Jardines del Rey International Airport, which is located in neighboring Cayo Coco. Should you want to fly into the international airport in Havana and drive to Cayo Guillermo from there, the distance from Havana is about seven hours.