cayo largo del sur

Cayo Largo del Sur: A Local’s Guide for Travelers [2024]

Located far from the mainland of Cuba, the tiny, sandy island of Cayo Largo del Sur barely surfaces from the Caribbean Sea, revealing pristine white sands along crystalline waters. Despite being easily among the most sought-after destinations in Cuba for travelers, is the distance to Cayo Largo worth the trip? We certainly think so!

As locals, we’ve visited plenty of pretty beaches in Cuba, but Cayo Largo del Sur is home to what are undeniably the very best beaches in Cuba. Read on for our local tips on where to stay in Cayo Largo and all the best things to do in Cayo Largo for the ultimate beach vacation.

cayo largo cuba
ggfoto / Depositphotos

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Cayo Largo del Sur

Located off of Cuba’s southern coast in the Canarreos Archipelago, Cayo Largo is actually closer to Isla de la Juventud, the second-largest island that makes up part of the nation of Cuba, than it is the mainland of Cuba.

However, its pristine white sand beaches mean that it’s worth the visit. In fact, the tiny island is home to two of the very best beaches in Cuba – Playa Paraiso and Playa Sirena.

Given its remote location, accessing Cayo Largo del Sur can be a bit more challenging than it would be to visit the beaches of Varadero or Holguin. Most travelers visit by way of the island’s Vilo Acuña Airport, which receives flights from the mainland and a few select international destinations. New international flights are making it easier than ever to access the island.

Visiting Cayo Largo del Sur

Before the 1980s, Cayo Largo del Sur was little more than a tiny white sand island south of Cuba, home to no permanent residents and infrequently visited. When Cuban tourism and the eager hospitality industry identified the island’s tourist potential given its natural beauty, that all began to change – fast.

As hotels sprung up along the beachfront and an airport brought easier access to the island, this untouched cay quickly transformed into one of Cuba’s most coveted travel destinations. Today, the island remains one of the most popular destinations for travelers visiting Cuba in search of beautiful beaches and white sand shores.

With Blue Diamond Resorts announcing its acquisition of the tourist infrastructure of the island, Cayo Largo is now experiencing a major renewal of interest from travelers excited to see what this hidden gem has to offer. With the first few newly-renovated properties reopened at the end of 2022, Blue Diamond Resorts’ leadership has already been a game-changer in tourism on the island.

Is Cayo Largo Worth Visiting?

Cayo Largo del Sur is well worth a visit. Though it takes a bit more planning and preparation to arrive at this remote cay, the natural beauty, great resorts, affordable excursions, and incredible activities offered here make the trip unlike any other.

This tiny cay boasts some of the most stunning beaches in the Caribbean, and with its growing popularity and increasingly easy accessibility from the rest of Cuba and beyond, the time is now to plan your visit!

cayo largo del sur cuba
ggfoto / Depositphotos

Beaches in Cayo Largo del Sur

Cayo Largo del Sur is known as one of the best beach destinations in the Caribbean and certainly among the best places to hit the beach in Cuba. Despite being such a tiny cay, Cayo Largo del Sur has a number of Cuba’s best beaches.

These are some of the island’s best beaches – a trip to the cay isn’t complete without visiting all of them:

Playa Paraiso

Playa Paraiso – or, Paradise Beach – truly lives up to its name with powdery white sand and perfectly calm, blue waters. Despite being the most famous beach in Cayo Largo del Sur, it never feels crowded, even at the height of the travel season.

Playa Paraiso has a beach bar for drinks and lunch, as well as easy access to umbrellas and beach chairs if you’re ready to find your spot on the sand for the day. You can rent or bring your own snorkeling equipment, though with the sandy bottom under the waves, you’re not likely to see much other than tropical fish and fresh starfish here and there.

Playa Sirena

Just 20 minutes north of Playa Paraiso is another one of Cayo Largo’s most famous beaches worth a visit: Playa Sirena. Yet another beach to crack the list of the top beaches in Cuba, Playa Sirena is truly impressive and worth a visit, even if you’re staying on the other side of the island.

Perfectly white sand and calm turquoise waters, as far as the eye can see, make this an impressive spot that feels like it’s been pulled straight from a postcard.

Playa Sirena has a good amount of beach amenities available including beach chair and umbrella rentals, and a restaurant and bar on site. You’ll also find vendors renting water sports equipment and snorkeling gear, so there is plenty to do here beyond just relaxing on the sand.

Read More: 12 Best Beaches in Cuba

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. 

Things To Do in Cayo Largo del Sur

1. Go Diving From Marina Marlin Cayo Largo

Beneath Cayo Largo’s tranquil turquoise waters lies an unexpected abundance of marine life. In fact, Cayo Largo is known as one of the best places to scuba dive in Cuba for its proximity to incredible reefs and even a number of shipwrecks.

Most hotels on the island book travelers on excursions with the dive center located at Marina Marlin Cayo Largo, making them the go-to dive instructors and guides on the island. Whether you’re looking for diving courses if you’re not yet certified or a special dive to memorable destinations, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.

2. Visit the Sea Turtle Hatchery

One of the most popular things to do in Cayo Largo del Sur is to visit the island’s sea turtle hatchery. Just one block from the island’s marina, you’ll find the sea turtle hatchery, a must-visit destination if you’re looking to get up close and personal with these gentle creatures.

Go on the journey with staff to learn about the process of raising the turtles from the time they hatch until they’re a bit older when they are re-released into the wild. You’ll see everything from tiny hatchlings to large turtles, depending on the season. You can even handle them!

3. Spot Crocodiles At the El Torreon Nursery

If getting closer to some slightly more dangerous wildlife in Cayo Largo sounds a little bit more your style, consider taking an hour out of your itinerary to visit El Torreon Nursey to spot some crocodiles. Also known as “Vivero Torre,” this spot has grown into a tourist attraction primarily because of its crocodiles, but it offers a great window into local flora and fauna beyond just its most famous residents.

The nursey’s operator offers excellent tours to spot crocodiles in the mangroves, as well as other animals like iguanas, turtles, and more. Visiting is also a great opportunity to get to learn more about the plants on the island, including trying the aloe from the property, sold fresh.

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.
grand memories cayo largo
Grand Memories Cayo Largo – Courtesy of Blue Diamond Resorts

Where To Stay in Cayo Largo del Sur

Cayo Largo del Sur offers a total of eleven resorts and hotels to choose from – and at different price points. It can even be a relatively accessible vacation destination for travelers. The island is an exclusively resort-focused spot (no casas particulares here!); these are the resorts in Cayo Largo del Sur we recommend you choose from:

Grand Memories Cayo Largo ($$ – $$$)

One of the nicest all-inclusive resorts on Cayo Largo del Sur, Grand Memories Cayo Largo is a hand-down favorite with guests on the island looking for an all-inclusive experience with all the bells and whistles of a five-star resort, with a white sand beachfront to steal the show.

Rooms have been recently refurbished, and many offer incredible ocean views from private patios overlooking some of the best beaches on the island. The resort also offers dedicated adults-only swimming pools and family-friendly pools, as well as a spa, clubhouse, kids club, and sports courts. It makes planning a multigenerational trip a breeze.

Reviews and Bookings: Grand Memories Cayo Largo

memories cayo largo
Courtesy of Memories Cayo Largo

Memories Cayo Largo ($$)

One of the recently renovated properties on the island to reopen with a new look in November 2022, Memories Cayo Largo is one of the best resorts on the island. With 296 newly-renovated rooms and three restaurants, the resort has tons to offer travelers and even return visitors.

Memories Cayo Largo is a popular destination, but it never feels overly crowded, meaning no need to fight over beach chairs or pool loungers. If you’re looking for a little more privacy, or you’re traveling with a larger group, consider staying at the Memories Villas instead! These laid-back ocean-view villas nestled along the coastline are a great way to enjoy the island as if you had it all to yourself.

Reviews and Bookings: Memories Cayo Largo

starfish cayo largo
Starfish Cayo Largo – Courtesy of Blue Diamond Resorts

Starfish Cayo Largo ($$)

Yet another one of the recently renovated resorts in Cayo Largo del Sur, the beautifully redone Starfish Cayo Largo is a great option for travelers with families. With five different dining options, dedicated swimming pools for adults and families, and a kids club, it’s hands down the best family resort on the island.

Not traveling with the family in tow? Don’t count out Starfish Cayo Largo. While it has a lot of great amenities for children and teens, you’ll find plenty of travelers here without kids as well, as the resort has plenty to offer for all ages.

Reviews and Bookings: Starfish Cayo Largo

Getting to Cayo Largo del Sur

While getting to Cayo Largo del Sur can be a bit more of an endeavor than it is to get to Havana or another one of Cuba’s largest cities, it’s a journey that is well worth the trip!

The island’s Vilo Acuña International Airport receives regular flights from Havana and Varadero, meaning that many travelers can add Cayo Largo to their Cuba itinerary without much of a hassle. While flights aren’t on a daily basis, service from other cities in Cuba shows signs of expanding soon.

You’ll also find an increasing number of international flights available directly to the island. Interestingly, Cayo Largo del Sur receives direct flights from many Canadian cities, making this a popular direct trip for Canadian travelers.

While 99% of travelers reach Cayo Largo del Sur by plane, it is possible to reach the island by boat. However, most travelers who reach the island by boat have access to their own vessels or arrange private excursions. It’s possible, but not very common! For most, flying straight to the island is the only true option.

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.