Cayo Levisa, Cuba: A Local’s Guide for Travelers [2024]

One of the most gorgeous beach destinations in Cuba is infrequently visited, even less so now after the closure of its only hotel. However, the tiny island of Cayo Levisa, perched just off of Cuba’s northern shore, is a stunner worth of inclusion on any list of the best beaches in the entire Caribbean.

As locals, we’ve had the chance to explore a number of Cuba’s best beaches – and we can confidently say that the sands of Cayo Levisa are among them. Read on for our local tips to get to this remote island, how to enjoy a stay, and why it is worth a visit, even as a quick day trip from Havana.

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Cayo Levisa

Head two hours east of Havana and you’ll hit the famous resort town of Varadero, but head two hours west and you’ll find Cayo Levisa, just a speck on the map in comparison to Varadero but no less lovely.

For travelers who can’t bear the thought of sharing the sands with many other travelers, Cayo Levisa is the perfect untouched, undeveloped beach for a memorable beach day in Cuba. Accessible only by once-daily public ferry from the small coastal village of Palma Rubia, Cayo Levisa is one of the dreamiest cays in Cuba, and a popular day trip destination for travelers.

There is little that awaits on Cayo Levisa other than white sands, which is just what makes it so attractive to most visitors. A small restaurant and dive shop are among the few amenities on the island, though the basics like beach chair and umbrella rentals, as well as bathrooms and showers, make for a convenient beach day.

Cayo Levisa is located just off the northern coast of the Pinar del Rio province of western Cuba, known to travelers primarily as being home to the stunning Viñales ValleyThat being said, it’s one of the most popular day trip destinations from Viñales and is most easily visited by booking a day trip from Viñales or splitting the cost of a private car with other travelers.

Reviews and Bookings: Pre-Book Transportation from Viñales to Cayo Levisa

Is Cayo Levisa Worth Visiting?

While the closure of the island’s only hotel makes Cayo Levisa exclusively a day trip destination, the untouched sands of Cayo Levisa are well worth the visit. While the 30-minute ferry from the Cuban mainland to Cayo Levisa makes transport more challenging, it’s well worth it to enjoy one of the country’s most beautiful beaches with relatively few other intrepid travelers.

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Cayo Levisa vs. Cayo Jutias

It’s a question we get from tons of travelers – is Cayo Levisa or nearby Cayo Jutias the better choice? Well, it all depends on what you’re looking for! Both islands feel a world away and are among the most impressive beach destinations in Cuba, so you can’t go wrong with either!

Cayo Jutias is connected to the Cuban mainland by causeway, making it much easier to visit; accessing Cayo Levisa means taking a ferry. Cayo Levisa is much closer to Havana and makes for a better day trip option from Havana, though both islands are about equidistant from Viñales and are both popular day trip options from here.

Things To Do in Cayo Levisa

1. Enjoy the Beach

It’s all about the beach in Cayo Levisa, meaning that if you’re visiting the island you’re certainly looking forward to spending plenty of time on the sand or in the sea. Beach chair and umbrella rentals are a must, with just a smattering of shady areas along the palm-fringed shores.

Cayo Levisa’s most impressive and longest beachfront is on the island’s northern shore, where to former Hotel Cayo Levisa welcomes intrepid guests looking to spend a few days in untouched paradise. While the hotel never reopened after the pandemic, the small restaurant, dive shop, and beach amenities here mean you won’t have to bring much to enjoy it for the day.

2. Go Snorkeling or Diving

Here’s one important way that Cayo Levisa has Cayo Jutias beat: the snorkeling and diving spots that sit just off the shores are infinitely more diverse and much more appealing. In fact, Cayo Levisa is considered one of the better dive spots in Cuba (though the real divers always head to Jardines de la Reina first).

Rent snorkeling gear and any other necessary equipment from the dive shop near the “busy” section of the beach on the island. The better dive spots are on the northern side of the island; in addition to the standard array of corals, sponges, and sea fans at this particularly healthy section of reef, numerous wrecks from centuries past make for particularly exciting dives.

3. Hike to Punta Gorda

Cayo Levisa is already a destination you’ll feel like you have all to yourself, but if you want to explore the island even further, head to Punta Gorda beach on the island’s untouched point. While reaching Punta Gorda is pretty straight forward, and a nice trek around the island’s shore, make sure to bring anything you’ll need with you – this beach is truly undeveloped!

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. 

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Where To Stay Near Cayo Levisa

You might read elsewhere that Cayo Levisa has one small hotel – unfortunately, the basic but convenient Hotel Cayo Levisa has been closed since the pandemic. Now, there are no places to stay overnight on Cayo Levisa, meaning that most travelers must either visit as a day trip from Havana or Viñales.

The vast majority of travelers that visit the island take the day trip from Viñales, spending a night or two at one of the numerous casa particular guesthouses in Viñales. In our opinion, this is the very best way to visit Cayo Levisa.

Looking for somewhere closer to stay? There are few basic but welcoming casa particular guesthouses in Palma Rubia that can be great options if you’re looking for something easy and authentic. We’d recommend Villa Nena Trujillo and Casa Mario y Antonia.

Read More: Where To Stay in Viñales, Cuba: Ultimate Accommodation Guide

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.

Getting to Cayo Levisa

Cayo Levisa is not connected to mainland Cuba like nearby Cayo Jutias is, meaning that the only way to access the island is by ferry. The ferry departs from the small coastal town of Palma Rubia daily between 9 AM and 10 AM (usually closer to 10 AM) and takes about 30 minutes to reach the island.

The ferry returning from Cayo Levisa to Palma Rubia only departs at 5 PM, meaning you’ll need to plan to spend the entire day on the island. Please note – since Hotel Cayo Levisa has shuttered, there is now just one daily ferry service to and from the island. However, with the beach amenities there, you won’t mind it!

Most visitors head to Cayo Levisa as part of a day from Viñales. Book transportation from Viñales in advance online (affordable and convenient!) or chance it to see if you can split the fare with other travelers in Viñales.

Reviews and Bookings: Pre-Book Transportation from Viñales to Cayo Levisa

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.