The mesmerizing Cuba beaches

I heard a lot about Cuba beaches before I came here and it was all true. The island is located in the Mexican Gulf, its shores are splashed by the Caribbean Sea, so you can immediately picture its landscape – the blue sky, beautiful horizon, crystal clear waters, white sands, and that incredible turquoise sea color.

Maybe a coconut cocktail with a straw? Sure, why not, it’s all there.

Varadero Glimpses of the World
Beautiful Cuba beaches

If you are booking a hotel in Cuba, chances are that you will probably be situated in Varadero, the small peninsula all packed with a variety of accommodations for international visitors. The area is beautiful, it’s not that far from Havana, and Cuba beaches here are lovely.

But if you are looking for the authentic feel of Cuba, this isn’t even close. There is a small settlement in Varadero, but it’s relatively new. One of the reasons it sprung up there is because it’s “close to work” since a lot of Cubans work in tourism (and those hotels) while the public transportation around the island is still not that reliable.

Cuba beaches
Clouds on the horizon

Cuba Beaches

People nowadays rent apartments mostly in Havana but have in mind that buildings in the city are often neglected, and you might find yourself living in a room with plaster peeling from the walls, a lot of humidity, and old furniture. It might be fine, of course, since Havana also offers a wide range of new and modern accommodations. But just be prepared for both options and think twice if you plan to “live like a local”.

One of the hotels in Varadero

For me, a hotel in Varadero was a good choice. It wasn’t hard to go around the island from here, it was possible to book tours with Cuban operators or go by myself. It’s totally safe, people are amazingly friendly and nice.

Swimming pool at the hotel

(And I still can’t grasp the fact that there were people who stayed at Varadero hotels all the time, they didn’t go out ever. It’s such a pity not to see Cuba, not to meet its people, and learn about the culture. I mean, wasn’t it easier for them to book a hotel somewhere closer and to stay there all day, every day? Why did they bother to travel that far and spend all that money on the trip? They “were” in Cuba, but they didn’t see it.)

Small ‘piles’ of sand

Small islands

When I traveled to Cuba, locals were not allowed to come into hotel areas if they were not employed there, so those Cuba beaches were only reserved for foreigners. Public beaches were different.

I was puzzled at the time by such regulations since if you go to “touristy” places, including hotel areas, you were only able to see international tourists and there were no Cuban families on holidays. (It was way before my numerous trips to the Middle East and North Africa that I came across more restrictions on the matter.) Okay, Cubans couldn’t afford accommodations as such anyway, but still, this was such an unpleasant distinction forced upon you everywhere you go.

Villas on small islands

Anyway, there are ways to take small excursions and visit popular places on the island with breathtaking landscapes. As I mentioned earlier, you can book a tour or rent a car and head out there yourself. (More about the means of transportation in another Glimpse.)

But you can also visit a few small islands. There is the famous Cayo Coco in Central Cuba, the natural reserve for flamingos. Or Cayo Largo del Sur on the other side, a small Cuban island with splendid Cuba beaches on the shores of the Caribbean Sea.

Serving drinks on the cruise boat

A day cruise

The truth is that Cuba beaches are so beautiful and that the main island has so much to offer, that you might not have time to consider visiting small islands. Nevertheless, a day cruise is always a good idea. So, I booked one as well.

A big white boat was sailing along the coast and there were so many small areas of sand and greenery on the way. Of course, when going on a trip like this with Cubans, expect a full-day party on board. Music was playing, our guides were dancing, rum was served, and we were sailing through such calm waters. If you are lucky, you might also see dolphins from the deck.

CUBA BEACHES: A lunch break

And so, we stopped at a bay of one beautiful small island with white sands, lush tropical trees, and incredible sea color. The time has come for our lunch break. The beach was gorgeous and we strolled around these untouched parts of white sand, unspoiled by the modern age. A band was already playing at the restaurant, with lovely traditional Cuban songs, and there was a range of seafood to choose from.

I ordered my meal, sipped a soft cocktail, and there, my lobster was served. It was probably the biggest I have seen ever since (and the cheapest).

CUBA BEACHES: Powdery white sand

Attacked by – a fish

Spending time at the beach is always fun. I went kayaking, took a small catamaran cruise at the hotel, etc. I even tried to start my day with an early swim, which I often do when going on summer trips. I got to the beach before 8 am. It was empty. Everything here started according to “the Cuban time”, which means – certainly not before 9. I was a bit distracted by mosquitoes that I didn’t expect at all.

Kayaking at the hotel beach

And so, I plunged in. It was beautiful, only the sea and myself. And then something swam right next to me, I wasn’t able to see what it was. I stopped and said to myself that I was probably imagining it.

But there it was again! I could see that it was a fish, not a small one either, since I tried to push it away, and it felt strong. I remembered even that they said there were barracudas in shallow waters in the morning, feeding. “It can’t be a barracuda, it has teeth,” I thought and ran out of the water like crazy.

The surreal Caribbean Sea color

By then, there was a Cuban beach guard. He came to work, strolling around. I ran out to him, panicking, explaining what happened. The fish probably thought parts of my swimming suit were eatable, he said.

As I was going on and on about how the fish came back numerous times, that it was so persistent swimming around me, Cuban guy just looked at me and said:

“Oh? Then it had to be a male fish, I’m certain!”


The full CubaΒ SERIES


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33 responses

  1. The beaches in Cuba look so beautiful! For some reason I never thought about Cuba as a beach destination but ehat else could it be being at the Caribbean? The day cruise sounds like so much fun! Would love to do it myself!

  2. No question Cuba has some of the Caribbean’s prettiest beaches. I only got to Varadero and Havana when I went, so I’d love to explore the coastline more!

  3. I 100% agree with you that it’s a shame when people go someplace fabulous and stay in the hotel. It seems especially tragic in Cuba where the hotels seem a bit understated and the country is absolutely amazing and mysterious.

  4. Your photos are gorgeous! Those beaches look perfect…and a $5 lobster? I’m all about that! Though, I do like the idea of getting out and mingling with locals as well. Guess it gives you a reason to venture out of the hotel and into some of the other towns/onto the public beaches!

    1. Cuba is perfect for that “mingling”, since people are extremely friendly. The island is safe, so there’s no reason not to go around and explore, right! πŸ™‚

  5. While I was in Central America last year I was so tempted to jump over to Cuba, I met a few people who had traveled there and they loved it. Due to already planning to go to South America I resisted the urge to jump over. However reading through this post I wish I did a little trip haha. Oh well looks like I will have to go soon now πŸ˜€

    1. I did take it as a compliment, and laughed like crazy! πŸ˜€ That was probably the best way to deal with it – the Cuban style – to laugh and not to dwell upon it. “No worries, all’s good” kind of way. πŸ˜€

  6. Your pictures are beautiful. The clean beaches with blue sky make me go crazy and this is exactly our type of place. We would love to visit Cuba and go for cruise too.

  7. Cuba is such an amazing destination. Of late I have been many posts about Cuba. Its such a pity that there are people who don’t go out of hotels. Getting bitten by the fish must have been a scary experience.

    1. It was scary at first, but then it just got hilarious. The fish was… well, just a fish, didn’t hurt me or anything, just wanted to see if I’m eatable. πŸ˜€

  8. The Cuban beaches look so pretty! I’ve yet to go to Cuba but it’s definitely on my bucket list. Funny story about the fish attack. Hope you weren’t hurt or anything. And I like the Cuban guy’s humor! :p

  9. Great story with the fish at the end…the guy’s comment made me Hope it wasn’t too traumatic for you though. Wow, what incredible beaches..white sands, unspoiled and simply spectacular. Cuba is definitively on my bucket list. Great overview!

  10. Haha! I love the fish story! Sounds like you had an absolutely wonderful time in Cuba. I hope I can get there in the next year or two! It’s very high on my list.

  11. I wonder why the story about the security guy sounds so familiar to me πŸ˜€
    As you stated, it is the best way to deal with problems, but it’s not only the Cuban style, but also Turkish style πŸ˜€ πŸ˜‰
    Hakuna Matata!

    1. I guess it shows even more at the coast, right? It might have something to do with the sea being so close! πŸ˜€ The whole of Mediterranean is like that, hehehe.
      Personally, I love the attitude. It makes Turkish people even more friendly. And it’s always nice when people are relaxed like: “Don’t worry, everything’s going to be fine, in sha’allah!” πŸ˜€

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