cuban beaches

The Top 10 Best Cuban Beaches

Cuba is known for many things – rum, cigars, and revolution. By far the best thing Cuba is known for? The jaw-dropping beauty of the white sand Cuban beaches you’ll find across the island.

This is our ultimate guide to the best beaches in Cuba. There are many beautiful Cuban beaches that aren’t on this list – after all, the island is known for having some of the best beaches in the world, so narrowing the top 10 list down is a feat.

As you plan to travel to Cuba, use this as your guide for finding some of the most beautiful and unmissable beaches in Cuba to add to your itinerary.

Cuban Beaches

The best beaches in Cuba range from thriving resort towns to tiny, far-flung islands that sit off the coast of Cuba. You’ll find deserted swaths of sand and well-tended beaches in front of resorts. Whatever you’re looking for as a traveler, there is a perfect Cuba beach for you.

Best Beaches in Cuba

We’ve created an interactive map of the top 10 Cuban beaches for your reference as you read through the article. Click around and check out some of the best beaches in Cuba and how to reach them on your next Cuba trip.

Playas del Este

Honorable Mention

playas del este

Some times the best beach is just the one that is closest to you. In the case of the Playas del Este – in English, “the beaches of the east” – this is their main appeal.

Located to the east of Havana, these beaches are the closest to the city and the most accessible to travelers.

Playas del Este is composed of a few beaches, including these:

  • Marazul
  • Santa Maria
  • Guanabo
  • Boca Ciega
  • Bacuranao
  • Tarará

The most popular – and busiest – of the beaches in the Playas del Este area are Guanabo and Bacuranao – these beaches are super popular with Cubans, though I generally wouldn’t recommend them for travelers.

The nicest beaches in the area of Playas del Este are Marazul or Santa Maria. These beaches have the nicest sand, clearest water, and have a good amount of transportation options, places to eat, and even accommodations nearby if you want to spend the night.

If you’re in need of a quick escape from Havana, and don’t have time to head to Varadero, Playas del Este is a great choice.

These beaches don’t rise to the level of the best beaches in Cuba – after all, this island is known for having some of the most pristine beaches in the world, so that’s a pretty high bar. However, you’re still bound to have a fantastic beach day here.

Varadero Beach

varadero beach

Named one of the best beaches in the world by TripAdvisor, Varadero beach on the Hicacos peninsula in the province of Matanzas is one Cuban beach you just can’t miss. Varadero is the closest nice beach to Havana – if you have more than an hour to spend traveling from Havana for a great beach, Varadero is your destination.

Varadero is also the resort capital of Cuba. Here you’ll find plenty of options for accommodations at all price ranges – from luxury to basic rooms for rent. There are at least a dozen all-inclusive hotels here, popular with Cubans and foreigners alike.

While Varadero is a resort town and has all you’d expect from one – plenty of restaurants, cafes, and bars, plus more tourists and higher prices, don’t count it out because of that if this isn’t your style of travel.

The beach at Varadero is long – over 16km of white sand – and mostly public, so it’s quite easy to find a relatively empty spot.

When I’ve traveled here, even during high season, I’ve found spots with a bit of privacy away from the tourist crowds in front of and near the resorts.

Varadero has something for everyone. With the ease of getting here from Havana, its own international airport, buses to and from cities around the country, and a range of accommodation, food, and activity options, this beach is one of the best.

Read More: Ultimate Guide to Varadero, Cuba

Playa Ancón

playa ancon

Located just outside of Trinidad, Playa Ancón is one of the most famous beaches in Cuba. It is also widely considered the nicest beach in Cuba on the south coast of the island – most of the other best beaches are on the northern coast and keys.

If you’re looking for a combination of a beach vacation and a cultural / historical trip through one of Cuba’s nicest cities, Playa Ancón and Trinidad are a great choice.

Proximity to Trinidad also means you’ll find all the beach amenities you’ll need for an easy trip – places to eat, resorts where you can rent daybeds, and more.

In addition to having crystal clear water and gorgeous white sand, Playa Ancón also has reefs offshore that make it a snorkeling destination as well.

While you can easily snorkel from the beach, head to nearby Cayo Blanco, a small offshore island, for some of the best snorkeling – you can even snorkel on some shipwrecks. TriSub offers snorkeling and diving trips, including to Cayo Blanco, for everyone from beginners to more experienced divers.

There are buses between Ancón and Trinidad throughout the day, and private or shared taxis are quite cheap.

You can also choose to stay at one of the area’s resorts or at a nearby casa particular and make trips in to Trinidad if you prefer. 

Guardalavaca

guardalavaca

Well known for having some of the best Cuban beaches, the Holguin province is home to many beaches you wouldn’t want to pass up. Guardalavaca is by far the jewel. Guardalavaca has pure white sand, turquoise water, and is surrounded by natural beauty.

It is popular with both Cubans and visitors alike, and a contender for the very best Cuban beach.

If you’re looking to take a break from the sun and sand, head a few miles to the west of the beach and you’ll find the Parque Nacional Bahia de Narajo.

This is a major ecotourism destination in Cuba. Here you’ll find several types of endemic birds and other species. You can also swim with the dolphins along the shoreline!

Guardalavaca beach and its sister beaches – read more about them next! – have turned the Holguin province into one of the most important and highly-visited areas in Cuba.

The beautiful Guardalavaca beach and the hotels that have sprouted up around it bring visitors from around the world looking for a relaxing getaway, so it you’re looking for a beach vacation this might be the perfect destination for you.

With the Holguin airport just about an hour away, it’s an easy choice.

Read More

Playa Pesquero

playa pesquero

Yet another beautiful beach in Holguin, just about 15 minutes away from Guardalavaca, Playa Pesquero is a must-visit when you’re on this side of the island.

Located just a few miles off the main highway between the capital city of Holguin and Guardalavaca, it’s easily accessible and well worth a stop. 

Just like neighboring Playa Esmeralda and Guardalavaca, you’ll enjoy some of the clearest water you’ve ever seen, plus plenty of beach activities, and opportunities for snorkeling offshore.

The beach is surrounded by beach resorts, including the Playa Pesquero, the Hotel Playa Costa Verde, and the Iberostar Selection Holguin, which is technically located just across from Playa Pesquero on the smaller Playa Estero.

You’ll have plenty of options when choosing where to stay here and how to enjoy the beach.

What to Pack for Cuba

Check out our Ultimate Cuba Packing List to help you pack for your trip – we’re sharing exactly what to bring to Cuba and what we never travel without.

Playa Esmeraldas

playa esmeraldas

Just a few miles away from Guardalavaca, Playa Esmeralda is another unmissable beach in the province of Holguin. Much more laid back than Guardalavaca beach, Playa Esmeralda is arguably even more beautiful than its more famous neighbor.

This is the perfect Caribbean beach you’ve pictured, with a massive stretch of whie sand and perfectly flat, crystal water.

Off-shore reefs attract plenty of fish which makes snorkeling popular, and guard the beach from waves, which makes swimming here feel more like you’re in a swimming pool than the ocean. The beach is closed in on either side by craggy rocks, which makes for stunning outline for sunsets.

Don’t skip Playa Esmeralda’s tiny neighbor Playa Las Caletas. While this beach belongs to the Hotel Paradisus Rio de Oro, it is public any anyone can visit.

You’ll need to be a guest at the hotel to make use of the beach’s services, but it’s a mostly quiet and relaxing spot well worth a visit.

Cayo Jutias

cayo jutias

One of the northern keys extending into the Gulf of Mexico from the western Pinar del Río province, Cayo Jutias seems to be rimmed with some of the best beaches in Cuba.

Between the key’s main Playa Jutias and the famous Playa de las Estrellas for its abundance of starfish, you could easily spend a few days just beach-hopping here.

While many of the other most beautiful Cuban beaches have been developed and are home to the country’s most luxurious resorts, Cayo Jutias remains off the beaten path.

The road to get here is quite bumpy, but you’ll be rewarded with most empty beaches, pure white sand, and crystal clear water perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

About an hour and a half away from Viñales, Cayo Jutias is a great addition to an itinerary with this must-visit Cuba destination. While there aren’t direct buses between these popular destinations, you can easily find private transportation for this short journey in Viñales.

Read More

Cayo Coco

cayo coco

Perhaps Cuba’s most famous key, Cayo Coco is located along Cuba’s northern coast, and is home to some of the best beaches in all of Cuba. This stunning key has some of the finest sand in Cuba, extremely white and fine, plus shallow and clear water perfect for swimming.

It’s no wonder that it’s so popular with visitors from around the world, and one of the most visited destinations in Cuba.

Cayo Coco is also one of the most developed keys in Cuba, with its own international airport – Jardines del Rey Airport – and causeway connecting it to the mainland, as well as neighboring keys Cayo Guillermo and Cayo Romano. This makes planning a visit and arriving a breeze.

With so many beautiful beaches lining the shores of Cayo Coco, it makes it difficult to narrow down just one in particular to make this list.

The longest beach, Playa Larga, is a definite contender for the best on the island, and well worth a visit if you find yourself here.

Another, Playa Flamenco, is memorable for being home to flocks of pink flamingos. While you won’t always catch them here, the beach is always worth a visit. 

Cayo Santa Maria

cayo santa maria

Not to be confused with Playa Santa Maria – part of the Playas del Este just a few miles east of Havana – Cayo Santa Maria is a serene island lined with some of Cuba’s best beaches along the island’s north shore.

Cayo Santa Maria is actually the largest of a chain of smaller keys – including  Cayo Ensenachos and Cayo Las Brujas connected to the mainland by a singular causeway, the Pedraplén.

These keys all share similarly stunning beaches, and home to a variety of resorts, bed and breakfasts, and casas particulares. Together they’re generally known as Cayo Santa Maria.

If you’re looking for even more to do while in Cayo Santa Maria, consider taking a catamaran to the nearby Cayo Francés. Catamaran excursions here are very popular day trips, and let travelers snorkel at the popular Crucero del Sol dive site on the south side of the key.

Cayo Guillermo

cayo guillermo

Yet another one of the northern keys in the Ciego de Ávila province, Cayo Guillermo extends into the Atlantic off of Cayo Coco via the Hemingway Bridge.

This stunning spot of pure white sand has always been renowned for having some of the best beaches in the world, but was made famous by Hemingway’s Book “Islands in the Stream.”

Cayo Guillermo stood out to Hemingway as one of the most beautiful spots in Cuba. It’s also one of the best underrated Caribbean islands to visit, still off the beaten path, but not for long.

Cayo Guillermo is growing in popularity, and quickly!

Today Cayo Guillermo is easily accessible via the Jardines del Rey international airport airport about 45 minutes away on Cayo Coco. Despite being such a small key, there are multi resorts around the island along the incredible beaches that surround it.

While you can’t go wrong with any of the beaches you’ll find here, Playa Pilar stand outs as a clear favorite.

Think pure white sand and aquamarine water. Iberostar and Kempinski both have hotels that front this long stretch of perfect beach.

With more than six miles of reefs that line the coast, you’ll have plenty of opportunities for snorkeling as well as enjoying the pristine sand and warm waters here.

Cayo Largo del Sur

playa paraiso

Playa Ancón may be the most beautiful beach on the south side of mainland Cuba, but Cayo Largo del Sur is home to some of the best Cuban beaches off the coast.

Despite being quite isolated geographically, this skinny strip of land between mainland Cuba and Cuba’s Isla de la Juventud is home to several resorts and an international airport, which makes visiting easy.

Of course, to make the list of the top Cuban beaches you known there is stunning clear water and white sand here, but Cayo Largo del Sur has so much more to offer.

Visitors can also go deep sea fishing – some of the best charters in Cuba leave from the island – or learn about the turtles that nest here at the Centro de Rescate de Tortugas Marinas, and watch babies hatch from a respectful distance.

While quite a big island with multiple beaches, every corner of this key seems to be rimmed with some of the most beautiful beachfront you’ve ever seen, which makes it difficult to narrow down one beach here being better than any of the others.

Some of the most popular beaches with visitors include Playa Blanca, Playa Sirena, and Playa Paraiso.