There are more than 3 600 miles of coast in Cuba. The number of Cuban sandy beaches is said to be about 400, but it happens very often when you are travelling the island that, the minute you least expect it, a white sand solitary beach appears right in front of your eyes and makes you doubt that figure.
Wherever you are in Cuba, the mountains or the city, you will always be no farther than 80 miles from the coast, probably a beach, and sometimes gorgeous, secluded and small beach with crystal clear waters, white fine sand and, near the shore, a virgin coral reef which protects the beach and is home to varied and colourful fish species.
At some places it is possible to swim while watching dozens of tropical fish dwell on the coral reef. Some spots in the reef that fringes the coast have been prepared to let you smoothly into the water, or swimming pool-like ladders have been installed to do it safely. These are non-sand but rocky coastal areas, like Punta Perdiz or Caleta Blanca, at Ciénaga de Zapata. Calm and clear waters inside a bay (Bay of Pigs) and the beautiful seabed are amazing natural sceneries for swimming and snorkelling.
Some Cuban beaches are crowd-free and even totally secluded, giving you the possibility of enjoying them with privacy and realizing that still in the 21st century, there are places that make you feel away from everything, though they actually are few kilometres away from civilization.
1. Las Tumbas beach
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A few people live at Peninsula de Guanahacabibes Biosphere Reserve (Pinar del Rio province), the westernmost piece of Cuba. There is a small tourist village with less than twenty wooden piling cottages, large forests, caves and clear-water cenotes (sinkholes), and 20-metre high cliffs in the south coast. In the north, once you go past a lighthouse built in the 1850 that marks the island’s western end, you will find a line of totally secluded beaches that stretches for several kilometers.
Walking along an untouched and deserted tropical beach for hours, turquoise waters on your left, green forest on your right (there are no dangerous wild animals in Cuba), and totally safe, is a gift that is hardly available these days.
Las Tumbas is a 5-kilometer long beach with a white sand dune bordered by palm and seagrape trees. No buildings and no people on your sight, just natural beauty to be enjoyed with a few friends, or your significant other, or in total solitude.
2. Maguana, Baracoa, Cuchillas del Toa Biosphere Reserve (Guananamo)
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Baracoa was the first village to be founded in Cuba, back in 1511. The small city was built between the sea and some of the highest mountains of the island and remained isolated for centuries: the only way to reach it was by boat and, later, by plane. La Farola, a modern road built in the 1960s, is today one of the greatest scenic routes in Cuba and it takes you safely to the picturesque town.
People go to Baracoa seeking history, cultural heritage (the village preserves La Cruz de Parra, the only surviving cross among the 29 planted by Columbus in the Americas) and nature: this is one of the world’s richest regions in terms of biodiversity. The sea is another feature of Baracoa, this coffee and cacao producing land: you can just take the north coast road, eastward or westward, and take your pick: dozens of small, solitary and beautifully set beaches are available.
Going westward for about 20 kilometers you will get to Playa Maguana, a quiet and crystal-clear water beach protected by a coral reef located 200 meters away from the shore and decorated by coconut trees. The locals go there on weekends to enjoy the waters, but from Monday to Friday is less frequented.
You will enjoy the ride there (rental bicycle, taxi, tourist bus from Baracoa) looking at the mountains and the coast, passing by the Toa’s (the largest Cuban river delta) and meeting hospitable locals who sell “cucuruchos” (coconut cones: rolled dry palm leaves fill with coconut flakes and honey) and pure chocolate balls.
Maguana beach has everything to mesmerize the traveller: warm and crystal-clear green-blue waters, white powdery sand and virgin nature all around, all of this in the most authentic region of Cuba.
3. Jibacoa (Mayabeque)
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Crescent-shaped Jibacoa beach grew popular among Cubans and international travelers in the last few years. It is a small resort area 50 kilometers away from Havana on the way to Matanzas city and Varadero, and it still gives the opportunity to enjoy the beach surrounded by a beautiful natural environment.
This is a nicely-set group of natural white sandy crystal-clear water beaches, where the turquoise-coloured sea is in bright contrast with the coral-white sand, the green of trees and the 100-metres high mountains and cliffs located nearby.
The secret of enjoying Jibacoa is not staying at the “mainstream” beach, where activities such as snorkelling, boating and hiking are available. Just walk towards the east along the coast and you will find small and secluded spots that will make you feel that finally there is a beach just for you in this world.
4. Cocodrilo, Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth)
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The journey to Cocodrilo involves a 25-minute flight from Havana to Nueva Gerona, renting a room there, and getting a permit from the local office of the Science and Environment Ministry (because the south of this island is a Protected Natural Area).
If you are seeking adventure this may be a good choice during your stay in Cuba. At Nueva Gerona you will find people who will put you in touch with a local resident at Cocodrilo, so you can find lodging there. The next step is getting the permit and making a more than one-hour trip by bus to the south of Isla de la Juventud. Cocodrilo is a small fishermen town with a population of no more than 400 people who live a simple life. Seafood abounds, as well as little coves along the coast to enjoy the sea with privacy.
There is a little crescent-shaped beach next to the town, but you can walk a two-kilometre trail (while watching birds such as Tocororos) and get to a solitary beach, 200 to 300-metres long, white fine sand and the clearest waters you have ever seen. It is one of many you will find in the south of Isla de la Juventud.
Cocodrilo was founded by people who came from Cayman Islands. Many years ago the town was known as “Jacksonville”.
5. María Aguilar, Trinidad de Cuba (Sancti Spíritus)
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María Aguilar is a four-kilometre long beach located 15 kilometres west of Trinidad, the beautiful colonial city of central Cuba inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988 and declared World Craft City last July, 2018.
This is a calm-water place most of the year, with the quite charm of a Caribbean beach, nicely thin white sand and green-blue colour waters. A few metres from the shore it is possible to do some snorkelling and watch sea fans and gorgonian corals, little tropical fish and sea sponges.
Lying back on the sand, you can see the Escambray Mountains, the second highest mountain range in Cuba. A splendid beach, a welcoming colonial city from the 16th century and mountains make a great scenery to enjoy before going back to the Caribbean shore.