Barely Legal – Exploring the Beaches of Cuba

If you’ve spent the majority of your life in America, chances are very high you’ve never been to Cuba.  But if you’re anything like us at Beach Baby, the second the embargo was lifted by good ole Obama, you were chomping at the bit to get on down to the off-limits island.

Cuba is said to be unlike so many other highly developed and modernized islands and vacation destinations, largely because of the longstanding embargo, not to mention the subtle communism factor. From the vintage cars to the architecture, much of Havana, the country’s capital, is said to retain and old-world aesthetic.  That’s surely changing, and fast. Do yourself a favor and salsa your way on down.  The beaches are stunning, the food is fantastic, the culture is vibrant, and the rum and coffee are strong.

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Here are some of our favorite beaches in the newly-beloved Cuba–

Cayo Largo is a resort island that belongs to Cuba.  It’s a vacationer’s paradise, if you’d like a week of all-inclusive eating, drinking, snorkeling, and sunbathing.  The only downside is that Cubans are not allowed on the island, aside from staff.

That’s a bit excessively exclusive for some, and many folks opt to come here for just a couple of days as a side trip from Havana, or elsewhere on the main island.  If you choose Cayo Largo for the long haul, you’re bound to miss out on the spicy flare of Cuba, but you’ll be so blissed out on the beach, you might not find yourself stressing too hard.

Flying down to Cayo Largo:

Playa Paraiso currently ranks as the number 3 in the world, according to TripAdvisor’s Traveller’s Choice award.  We’re pretty sold on this metric at the moment, as the people themselves are voting the top spots in.  Hard to challenge the collective masses.  Unless you ask Fidel. But we digress…

Playa Paraiso

Playa Paraiso is located on the western side of Cayo Largo, and is all you can ask for in a beach.  It’s brimming with white sand and perfect, clear blue caribbean waters.  The beach is a short 3 mile ride from the main hotel strip.  There are some amenities offered, including a snack bar, and chairs and umbrellas to rent, but these can go fast, and shade is a commodity.  We’d recommend bringing your own umbrella and chairs, or showing up nice and early to claim a prime spot.  While many folks stick to the beaches on the hotel strip, Playa Paraiso tends to remain a calm water alternative when the currents get too strong by the resorts. Not to mention this beach is relatively unscathed, and only minimally developed.  It’s the best of both worlds; tranquil with a side of cold beer.

If water sports bug the heck out of you, you’re in luck here. There are no kayaks or snorkeling trips, but feel free to bring your own gear for beach games and prowling the depths of the shoreline.  If you’re staying at one of the nearby resorts, they have a shuttle that runs back and forth to Paraiso.  Watersports are a go at the resorts, as long as the winds and waves aren’t too wild, and that does tend to happen from time to time. But it sounds like some cocktails and an afternoon nap wouldn’t be such a bad alternative around these parts.

Let this bird of paradise show you the way:

Back on the mainland sits Varadaro, one of Cuba’s most historied tourist beach towns.  The 12+ miles of silky white sand beaches here have been catering to the elite and overworked since the late 1800s, yet the area has seen many changes in architecture and culture over the decades.

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From high-rolling beachfront mansions at the turn of the century, through the heyday of music and arts festivals in the beachside city center through the 1990s, the past 30 or so years have seen Varadaro modernized, with an unfortunate loss of the authentic charm it once had. But that can be said for so many paradise getaways, and Cuba still maintains a whole lot of rich culture.  It’s an area lucky enough to have a romantic and story-filled past, and Varadaro is said to pull in 1 million tourists every year.  Hey, if it was good enough for Al Capone, it must still have some swagger.

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With so much beachfront in Varadaro, you can find your own quiet place to relax, or join in the wild festivities, depending on the season.  There is a fine mix of historic mansions, and shiny new hotels and resorts.  There are beautiful natural caves to explore, and watersports, including scuba diving, snorkeling, boating, and fishing.

Getting wild on Varadaro:

Haven’t considered Cuba? What are you waiting for?

 

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