Cuba is known for many things – rum, cigars, and revolution – but the jaw-dropping beauty of its most impressive beaches is what sticks with most travelers. From major beach resort towns in Cuba to tiny cays with impossibly white sand just offshore from the Cuban mainland, there are plenty of beaches in Cuba to choose from.
As locals, we’ve traveled far and wide to experience some of the best Cuban beaches firsthand – and there are far more than 20 beaches we would love to include in this list! Read on for our recommendations of the best beaches in Cuba to add to your Cuba itinerary.
Best Beaches in Cuba
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 both deserted swaths of sand and well-tended beaches in front of resorts: this is part of what makes Cuba such a universally appealing beach destination.
Here are our top picks of the best beaches in Cuba:
- Best Beach For A Resort Vacation in Cuba: Varadero – Matanzas
- Most Beautiful Untouched Beach in Cuba: Cayo Jutias – Pinar del Rio
- Most Beautiful Beach in Cuba’s Northern Cays: Playa Pilar – Cayo Guillermo
There are many more Cuban beaches that are well worth visiting. Read on for our detailed guide to the best beaches in Cuba and all the details you’ll need to decide which to visit on your trip.
Best Beach For A Resort Vacation in Cuba
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.
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.
2. Cayo Jutias
Most Beautiful Untouched Beach in Cuba
Steer clear of Varadero if you’re looking for an untouched beachfront, and head to Cayo Jutias in the province of Pinar del Rio instead. If you’re looking for a wild, undeveloped beach in Cuba, it doesn’t get any better than this; Cayo Jutias remains totally off the beaten path, free of even a single hotel.
About an hour and a half away from Viñales, Cayo Jutias is a great addition to an itinerary to 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.
The road to get here is quite bumpy, but you’ll be rewarded with mostly empty beaches, pure white sand, and crystal-clear water, perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Wild camp on the beach, or stay at one of the small towns near the bridge connecting Cayo Jutias to the mainland. While accommodations are basic, spending a few days disconnecting in the paradise of Cayo Jutias is well worth it.
3. Playa Pilar
Most Beautiful Beach in Cuba’s Northern Cays
Playa Pilar was made world-famous in part by Ernest Hemingway, who wrote about this particular beach and all of Cayo Guillermo in his Islands in the Stream. In fact, the beach is even named in honor of Hemingway; his boat was named Pilar.
Cayo Guillermo and its most famous beach are easily accessible via the Jardines del Rey International Airport, about 45 minutes away, on the neighboring Cayo Coco. While the cay boasts other white sand beaches in addition to Playa Pilar, none are as impressive or famous as this slice of paradise. 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.
Read More: Cayo Guillermo: Ultimate Traveler’s Guide
4. Cayo Coco
Alongside Cayo Guillermo and its famous Playa Pilar is Cayo Coco, located along Cuba’s northern coast and is arguably Cuba’s most famous cay. Home to some of the best beaches in Cuba, Cayo Coco has long been one of Cuba’s premier beach destinations, and there are plenty of incredible resorts in Cayo Coco to choose from for your stay.
Cayo Coco is also one of the most developed cays in Cuba, with its own international airport – Jardines del Rey International Airport – and a causeway connecting it to the mainland. This makes planning a visit and arriving a breeze.
Cayo Coco’s longest beach, Playa Larga, is a definite contender for the best on the island, while Playa Flamenco is memorable for being home to flocks of pink flamingos. You won’t always catch the flock of pink beauties here, but the beach is always worth a visit.
5. Playa Ancón
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 in Cuba are on the northern coast and on remote, sparsely-populated cays in Cuba.
If you’re looking for a combination of a beach vacation and an engaging cultural/historical trip through one of Cuba’s nicest cities, spending several days in Playa Ancón and Trinidad is a perfect choice. You can also choose to stay at one of the area’s resorts or at a nearby casa particular and make trips into Trinidad if you prefer.
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.
6. Cayo Largo del Sur
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. This southern cay is one of Cuba’s hidden gems: a pure white sand paradise that boasts a number of the best beaches in all of the Caribbean.
While Cayo Largo del Sur is quite a small island, it boasts multiple beaches. Some of the most popular and impressive beaches on Cayo Largo del Sur include Playa Blanca, Playa Sirena, and Playa Paraiso – they’re all just about as close to perfect as you can get!
Of course, to make the list of the top Cuban beaches, you know 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 this tiny 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.
Despite being quite isolated geographically, this skinny strip of land near Cuba’s Isla de la Juventud is home to several resorts and an international airport, which makes visiting a breeze.
The province of Holguin is home to some of the best Cuban beaches, but it’s perhaps best known for being home to Guardalavaca. Guardalavaca has pure white sand, turquoise water, and is surrounded by natural beauty – it’s no wonder it’s considered one of the best beaches in Cuba by locals and visitors alike.
Guardalavaca and its sister beaches, Playa Pesquero and Playa Esmeralda, have turned the Holguin province into one of the most important and highly-visited areas in Cuba. While neighboring beaches are almost exclusively used by guests of some of the most impressive resorts in Holguin, Guardalavaca proper remains a true beach town, with the locally-owned casa particular guest houses and tiny boutique hotels you’d expect from such a coastal spot.
With the Frank País International Airport in the city of Holguin just about an hour away, it’s an easy choice if you’re looking for a convenient beach vacation.
8. Playa Pesquero
Yet another beautiful beach in Holguin, Playa Pesquero is only about 15 minutes away from Guardalavaca. Protected in a curved bay, Playa Pesquero’s white sand and shallow, clear water will make you feel like you’re taking a dip in a swimming pool rather than an ocean – it’s almost too beautiful to believe.
While Guardalavaca maintains a strong “local” feel and presence, Playa Pesquero is quite built up with some of the nicest resorts in Holguin. Choose from hotels and resorts like Hotel Playa Pesquero, Hotel Playa Costa Verde, and the Iberostar Selection Holguin, which is technically located just across from Playa Pesquero on the smaller Playa Estero.
However, the beachfront at Playa Pesquero remains public – as are all beaches in Cuba – so visiting without staying at a resort is always a possibility.
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.
9. Playa Esmeralda
Just a few miles away from Guardalavaca, Playa Esmeralda is another unmissable beach in the province of Holguin. Much more laid back than Guardalavaca, 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 white sand and perfectly flat, crystal water. Off-shore reefs attract plenty of fish which makes snorkeling popular here and guards the beach from waves. Swimming here feels more like you’re in a swimming pool than the ocean.
Don’t skip Playa Esmeralda’s tiny neighbor Playa Las Caletas. Located along the edge of the Parque Nacional Bahia de Naranjo, it feels much wilder than built-up Playa Esmeralda and boasts just as stunning white sand and blue waters.
10. Cayo Santa Maria
One of the most popular resort destinations in Cuba is the white sand Cayo Santa Maria, a serene and still mostly wild island lined with some of Cuba’s best beaches – and nicest resorts! – along the island’s north shore.
Cayo Santa Maria is actually the largest of a chain of smaller cays – including Cayo Ensenachos and Cayo Las Brujas – connected to the Cuban mainland by a singular causeway known as the Pedraplén. These cays all share similarly stunning beaches and are home to a variety of resorts, bed and breakfasts, and casas particulares.
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 cay.
11. Cayo Ensenachos
Nestled along the country’s northern coast, Cayo Ensenachos is one of Cuba’s most beautiful and sought-after destinations for a beach vacation, home to some of Cuba’s most beautiful beaches. This small white-sand island is nestled alongside Cayo Santa Maria and is the last stop on the Pedraplén causeway before reaching Cayo Santa Maria.
Cayo Ensenachos is much smaller and less developed than its larger neighbor, but travelers looking to spend a night on the island can look forward to staying at Iberostar Selection Ensenachos. This beautiful resort even makes our list of the ten best beach resorts in Cuba.
12. Cayo Las Brujas
With shallows, serene waters and stunning white sand, Cayo Las Brujas is one of the offshore islets with the best beaches in Cuba. Like Cayo Ensenachos, Cayo Las Brujas sits along the twisty Pedraplén causeway that connects larger Cayo Santa Maria with mainland Cuba.
While Cayo Las Brujas is still relatively unknown as a destination for travelers, it won’t be much longer until it’s just as famous as its nearby neighbors. Its pristine beaches are the promise of that! Another promise to the tiny island’s big future is its small airport, an important step in transforming Cayo Las Brujas and its neighboring cays into destinations as renowned as Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo.
13. Cayo Cruz
Head across Cayo Coco, cross over Cayo Romano, and continue on to the tiny Cayo Cruz for some of the most incredible Cuban beaches you can imagine. Pristine beaches stretch across most of the northern and eastern coasts of this skinny stretch of sand, meaning that visitors can spend days beach-hopping across this stunning islet, largely undisturbed.
It takes about an hour to trace the coastline from the Cayo Coco International Airport to Cayo Cruz, which means that most travelers will prefer to stay at one of the many resorts in Cayo Coco or Cayo Paredón before reaching Cayo Cruz. Travelers looking for even more seclusion are all the better for it – they’ll enjoy the sands of this still-emerging beach destination as if they had them all to themselves.
14. Cayo Paredón
Just a tiny spit of sand located off the northern coast near Cayo Coco, Cayo Paredón is one of the emerging beach destinations in Cuba, with a brand-new luxury resort to prove it.
With a northern coast lined with dramatic white sand beaches and ultra-clear turquoise waters, it’s just about as dreamy of a Caribbean destination as you can imagine. The best beaches in Cayo Paredón include Playa del Norte (where new hotels and resorts are located!), as well as Playa Los Lirios and Playa Los Pinos.
The new Grand Aston Cayo Paredón Beach Resort now occupies a beautiful section of the white sand beachfront of Cayo Paredón, perfect for those looking for a resort-style beach getaway. However, there are a few smaller and more affordable hotel options available on the island as well.
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15. Playa Los Cocos
Located along Cuba’s northern coast in the province of Camaguey, Playa Los Cocos is one of the best beaches on this part of the island. Long attracting locals to its wide, golden-sand shores, it’s a destination that few foreign visitors take the time to visit – though they should.
It’s a bit of a journey to reach this isolated coastal spot, about a 3-hour drive from the city of Camaguey. Plan on spending the night at one of the simple casa particular guest houses in the area for a totally unplugged long weekend.
Take care in planning a trip to Playa Los Cocos – Cuba has a couple of other beach destinations of a similar name! Cayo Coco is a cay located off the island’s northern shore, another one of Cuba’s premier beach destinations, and is often confused with Playa Los Cocos.
Located almost exactly halfway between Havana and the stunning white sands of Varadero, the white sand beaches of Jibacoa, Cuba are often overlooked by foreign travelers headed off to the plush resorts of Varadero. However, visitors who add Jibacoa to their itinerary are often pleasantly surprised to find that this laid-back beach town has some of the prettiest beaches on the island.
A surprisingly wide, perfectly palm-fringed golden beach awaits visitors here. Just beyond the beach, lush, soaring mountains make for some dramatic views.
The beach is home to Memories Jibacoa Resort, which is one of the main factors in drawing visitors to these lovely shores. While the resort could use a stylistic refresh in certain spaces, it’s one of the nicest affordable adults-only resorts in Cuba – and the added benefit of its proximity to Havana is huge!
17. Playa Caletones
One of the lesser-known destinations to make our list of the best beaches in Cuba is Playa Caletones, hidden along the coast of the province of Holguin and far off the beaten path. This beach is very infrequently visited by foreigners who often head to nearby Playa Esmeralda and Playa Pesquero, but its untouched feel is a big part of what makes it so special.
To reach Playa Caletones, head west from the colonial town of Gibara along the coastline for about half an hour. There isn’t much here, at least at first glance, with little more than a simple restaurant to serve beachgoers. However, connect with locals to discover gems like the nearby cenote – a water-filled sinkhole for swimming – known as Tanques Azules.
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18. Playa Maguana
While the small eastern town of Baracoa – the first city in Cuba founded by the Spanish – might be best known for its historic monuments and colonial fortresses, it isn’t without its own white sand Cuba beach destination worth traveling for.
Located about 30 minutes north of Baracoa, Playa Maguana is a white sand spot popular with locals and travelers alike. While you won’t find many beach amenities here (though there is one small hotel!), you’ll love how hidden it feels. A favorite with travelers to Baracoa, you’ll find frequent shared taxis departing Baracoa, making transport a breeze.
Nearby coastal reefs protect it from getting too wavy, making for perfect conditions for swimming and snorkeling. Rent snorkeling gear nearby or come prepared from Baracoa – you won’t want to miss this!
19. Cayo Levisa
If you’re looking for the most beautiful beaches west of Havana, Cayo Jutias isn’t your only choice! Located between Havana and Viñales, Cayo Levisa is among the most impressive of the northern cays in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province and a favorite excursion from either nearby travel hotspot.
While Cayo Jutias has the benefit of a causeway connecting it to the mainland, this impressive Cuban cay is only accessible via ferry from the Cuban mainland. This might make you think it’s far less popular than Cayo Jutias, but it actually boasts more beach amenities than its neighbor and seems to be just as popular, if not more so.
Cayo Levisa can be a bit difficult to access, but its small hotel (Hotel Cayo Levisa) and dedicated dive shop make it a haven for travelers looking for an off-the-beaten-path beach getaway that is impossible to forget. Despite its growing popularity, it’s still thoroughly off the beaten path – you’ll love this laid-back, wild Cuban beach.
20. Playas del Este
Sometimes 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 working with just a short Havana itinerary.
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. Playas del Este comprises a few beaches, including these:
- Santa Maria del Mar
- Boca Ciega
The nicest beaches in the area of Playas del Este are Marazul or Santa Maria. These beaches have the nicest sand and clearest water. With a good amount of transportation options to get you here from Havana, great places to eat, and even accommodations nearby if you want to spend the night, they’re the perfect beach day (or long weekend) getaway.
These beaches generally 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 if you’re staying in Havana.
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.