While in Cuba, whether in the mountains or the plains, city or small town, you will never be more than 130 kilometers from the sea (most likely from a beach).
Along 30 kilometers east of Havana there is a strip of white sand beaches where you can spend a day or an afternoon to be back in the city and have your night off or a walk in La Habana Vieja, the vibrant El Vedado or the Malecón, dance or listen to jazz?
They are beaches just a few minutes from the city centre, but the change of atmosphere is 360 degrees.
Bacuranao is 10 miles from downtown Havana.
It is the first beach when you take the Vía Blanca, the highway that links the Cuban capital with the city of Matanzas and Varadero (from the Havana tunnel, another highway, the Monumental, joins the Vía Blanca before reaching the eastern beaches).
Less than a kilometer long, the strip of fine sand at Bacuranao is about 30 meters wide and is planted with coconut trees.
The beach is frequented all year round by Havana residents, mostly in the spring and summer months (April to September).
It is the most accessible for the inhabitants of Alamar, a suburban neighborhood one kilometer away, so it is often very crowded, although it slowly gets quieter after 6 p.m., when there are still two hours of light left and the water is still warm.
Bacuranao is a few meters from the Vía Blanca.
At one side of the beach there is a small tourist village.
To get there you can take taxis or (much cheaper) several public bus lines: P3 and P11 from El Vedado to Alamar (and then walk to the beach), and the A40, which goes from La Habana Vieja to Guanabo.
Public buses cost less than one Cuban peso (five cents).
From the old train station in Old Havana, there are collective taxis, old American cars known as “almendrones”, which cost 20 pesos, 1 CUC (one dollar) or a little more and are shared with several people.
And for this and other beaches you can use the yellow minibus service, Metrotaxi, with fares of five and ten pesos but which can easily be extended to 2 CUC or more depending on the driver, the time and the day, and taking into account that in Cuba the driver will always notice that you are a tourist, even with a backpack.
Tarará is 18 kilometers and less than 20 minutes by car from the city.
For some Havanese it is the best of the Eastern Beaches.
In Tarará there is an exclusive residential complex built in the 40’s and 50’s, which was later dedicated to social programs of the revolution, a city for students and between the 80’s and 90’s a recovery center for children affected by the Chernobyl accident.
On this Havana beach there is currently a residential centre for tourists, a shopping centre, a café-bar, swimming pools and a marina.
It is the place with everything one looks for in a Caribbean beach: a wide strip of fine white sand, transparent and turquoise waters.
A beach to enjoy privacy in a setting where coconut trees, varied coastal vegetation and tranquility stand out.
The most expensive taxis take you directly to the beach.
You can also take a public bus (A40) or an almond tree, get off at the highway and then walk several minutes on a secondary road.
Playa Mégano, on the east coast of Havana.
Travelling along the Vía Blanca from Havana, El Mégano is the next stop after Bacuranao and Tarará to see that in the Playas del Este each beach seems better and more beautiful than the other.
It is a small beach between Tarará and Santa María del Mar, near the Vía Blanca and with higher waves.
There are beautiful sand dunes covered with very green creeping plants and among them coconut trees that provide shade.
The water is clean, the color blue-green that attracts swimmers so much, and the sand is very fine and white.
It is one of Havana’s favourite beaches for families in the summer.
A warm natural scenery and peace to enjoy in the water or under the rustic umbrellas.
There are services and light meals available at the hotel Villa Mégano, about 100 meters from the beach, and also private houses that offer accommodation and food to travelers.
Santa Maria beach area.
Santa María del Mar, Havana
Santa María del Mar is as beautiful as El Mégano, but with about four kilometers long and four hotels (Blau Club Arenal, Club Atlántico-Los Pinos, Atlántico-Las Terrazas and Tropicoco) that offer a greater variety of services.
There are restaurants and cafes in the hotels, but it is possible to find small stands where drinks and snacks are sold at lower prices, the best option for Cubans and foreigners on a tight budget.
For many Cubans, the strip formed by El Mégano and Santa María is as splendid as Varadero, the most famous Cuban beach, one of the three best in the world according to Tripadvisor users.
To get to Santa María you can also take a taxi from anywhere in the city, but there are cheaper alternatives such as the public bus, the almond trees and the Tour Bus from Central Park, which costs 5 CUC.
Once you have paid the ticket, you can come and go from the beaches at any time between 9.00 and 18.00.
This is also a way to get to the rest of the Playas del Este.
Boca Ciega, Havana
Walking eastward along the sandy shore of Santa Maria del Mar you reach the low mouth of the Boca Ciega River.
On the other side begins the beach of the same name.
Boca Ciega, 1.6 kilometers long, is like a quiet and remote refuge between the two most frequented beaches in this area of Havana’s beaches: Santa Maria and Guanabo.
With very clean waters and fine white sand, its sandy strip is about 30 meters long and there are dunes covered with low green vegetation.
The general atmosphere is one of pleasant tranquility.
Restaurants and private houses offer accommodation, snacks and a la carte meals, and there are always vendors on the beach selling drinks and fruit.
Sunset in Guanabo.
If Santa Maria is the beach of hotels and more tourist atmosphere, Guanabo is where you can combine a day at the beach with an approach to the daily life of Cubans.
It is a small city of about 15 thousand inhabitants, whose history dates back to the 18th century but grew strongly in the second half of the 20th century, when it became a vacation spot where modern residential lots were built.
Guanabo, a 4 kilometer long beach located 27 kilometers from Havana, is today an urban center with private houses for rent, shopping centers and small shops, restaurants, cafes and bars, but also with markets where Cubans buy much of their diet, including vegetables and fruits.
For those who decide to stay, the nightlife offers music, dancing or just a nice time at the table of a café near the sea.
Taxis, almond trees, public buses and the Tour Bus leave from Via Blanca by turning left and taking a steep route down to Guanabo’s main street, which runs for several kilometers about 30 meters from the beach and gives you the opportunity to decide which part of the beach is best to stay.
At the end of Guanabo the main street turns right and connects to Via Blanca again.
One kilometer away is “el paradero”, the final stop of the public bus A40 and the popular colectivo taxis or almendrones that come and go to and from La Habana Vieja.
“El paradero” is in an area known as Brisas del Mar.
La Veneciana, Havana
This is the next strip of beach east of Guanabo, one of the small gems in this collection of sun and beach experiences that are the East Beaches of Havana.
About 800 meters long, secluded and very quiet, you can sometimes see fishermen throwing their nets from the shore.
Frequented by bathers looking for tranquility: single travelers, couples or families.
It may not have the glamour of Santa María or Guanabo, but it satisfies those who seek a Havana beach not only for bathing and sunbathing but also for relaxing, breathing the sea air, resting, conversing or reading.
It is a good option for those traveling with small children.
Sea Breezes, Havana
Conveniently located in a residential vacation development that dates back to the 1950s, it is an area with large spaces between one residence and another.
At times you can even see cows and horses grazing in the fields inland, near the Via Blanca highway.
It is the last white sand beach in the strip known as Playas del Este de La Habana.
Very little frequented, quiet and with a very gentle slope under the waters that makes it low in most of its route, Brisas del Mar is ideal for families with small children and for those who want to get away from the crowds and noise.
Always travelling east, 25 kilometres from Guanabo and 50 from the centre of Havana, is Jibacoa beach.
In this area there is a chain of small beaches of fine sand and turquoise waters, warm and clean, which contrast with the green of the trees and nearby hills about 100 meters high.
Jibacoa, in the shape of a half moon, is for those who want to explore further the beaches near Havana and be in a place where the beach meets nature.
There are hotel facilities on one side of the beach, and opportunities to go hiking, horseback riding or snorkeling and appreciate the colors of the coral reef.
There are camping centers nearby at affordable prices, very convenient if it’s late to return to Havana (or perhaps because the site is too beautiful to spend only a few hours there).
There is a public bus (number 699) that leaves several times a day from Old Havana to Santa Cruz del Norte.
From that small town you can get to Jibacoa faster in a local taxi.
Another option is to take a bus or a taxi from Peñas Altas, “the stop” located at the end of Guanabo beach.
Transfers can be found from hotels in Havana, but at higher prices.
Playa de los Enamorados, Jibacoa, Mayabeque province
An even quieter and more secluded place in the Jibacoa area.
Playa de los Enamorados is in a small inlet that cannot be seen from the Vía Blanca highway.
Ideal for couples and single travelers looking for privacy.
It is possible to find small beaches like this one, of great beauty, if you keep exploring the shore towards the east.
Varadero, province of Matanzas
Varadero is about 120 kilometers from Havana, a little over an hour’s drive on the Via Blanca highway.
Cuba’s most internationally known beach is on a sandy peninsula with more than 30 kilometers of coastline, 22 of which are covered with the finest and whitest sand that can be found, bathed by transparent waters with warm blue-green tones.
It is a great resort resort all year round.
Dozens of hotels, discos, cabarets, shopping centers, marinas and many other attractions make Varadero the number one sun and beach destination in Cuba.
It may be an expensive place, but it is not exclusive.
There are rentals in private homes and there are also cafes, pizzerias, supermarkets and other facilities that can allow you to stay in Varadero, have a good time and enjoy yourself to the fullest without having to pay for a room in a five-star all-inclusive.
It is possible to get to Varadero or the city of Matanzas by bus from the National Terminal, near the Plaza de la Revolución.
Outside the terminal itself there are collective taxis for the price of 5 CUC to Matanzas.
Once in that city, you can take a taxi to Varadero, which is very close, arranging a price with the taxi driver, or even one of the many buses that operate all day long and reach the beach for only one peso (five cents).
If you plan your trip well and leave Havana early, it is possible to be back in the city at night.
A few tips for Havana Beaches
When: For sun and beach activities the best time in Cuba is between the months of May and September, but even in the fall and the weak Cuban winter (November to February) it is possible to enjoy the beach (sometimes, beyond the combination of sun and beach, we look for the experience of walking on the sand, breathing the air and feeling the tranquility while listening to the sound of the sea).
The beaches are more crowded on weekends and during the holiday season (July and August).
Keeping cool: It is appropriate to bring a small fridge or one of those bags that keep the temperature if you throw ice in it.
It is actually cheaper to buy drinks in shopping malls or small stands on the beaches than in hotels and cafes, but the problem is that sometimes they are not very cold.
Protect yourself from the sun: The higher the sunscreen factor, the better.
A sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or 50 will help ensure that the beach experience is not ruined later by skin discomfort.
Don’t overdo it either and avoid too much exposure between 11am and 3pm.
Be informed: Apps created in Cuba can be very useful during your stay in the country.
For example, AlaMesa allows you to locate restaurants by location, cuisine and price range, and Habana Trans shows you which routes to take and how to get there.
They are apps that work offline, very convenient in Cuba.