Whilst known as a city of vibrance, color, and excitement, Havana might not be the first place we think of when we imagine beaches.
Of course, being a Caribbean island, this should go without saying, but somehow there still isn’t the same public image of beach relaxation when we think of the city.
However, Cuba has some of the best beaches in the world, and Havana itself plays host to some of the best beaches in the country.
But before we get into those, let’s look a little at the history of tourism in Cuba, and how it has affected the image we have of the country.
Tourism & Cuba
Throughout the modern history of Cuba, it is safe to say that the country’s relationship with foreign tourism has been a complex one.
Tourism in Cuba has always been somewhat restrained and controlled, namely due to the strict influence of the Castro administration, which employed “enclave tourism” to ensure tourists were sectioned in specific resort complexes, and kept separate from the main populace of the country.
Between 1992 and 1997, any form of contact between foreign tourists and Cuban nationals was strictly forbidden, to the extent where it was de facto illegal during this period.
2000 & Beyond
However, with the advent of the 21st century, and the start of the “special period” in Cuba’s modern history, tourism boomed on the island, with the country documenting profits of $2.1 billion dollars in 2003 alone.
2011 was a record high for the country, recording over 2 and a half million tourists within one calendar year.
With this increase in openness, and the popularity and widespread love the island has, specifically from tourists in North America, Canada, and Europe, conversations have been had within the government, discussing the potential the country had for various tourist activities – such as mountaineering, caving, diving, and hiking.
Despite apprehensions about the corrupting influence of tourists from Capitalist countries, Fidel Castro acknowledged as far back as 1991 that such a small country couldn’t continually survive on their own limited resources, and that whilst the threat of capitalism was a risk, the benefits of funding, technology, and investment were important to acknowledge.
Since the advent of the 21st century, continual investment from foreign countries has helped develop and sustain the thriving tourism industry in the country, through the creation of hotels and tourist complexes.
Havana: The Best Beaches
Now onto our main topic: the 5 best beaches in Havana, Cuba.
As can be expected from an island bordering on both the Caribbean sea and the Gulf of Mexico, Cuba has some breathtaking beaches, but what are the best ones, and what makes them special?
5. Playa El Salado
At number five on our list, but by no means least, the beach at Playa El Salado is not only a breathtaking natural beauty spot, but also has the reputation of being one of the saltiest beaches on the island.
This is due to specific ocean currents, which bring in more salt from the deeper parts of the ocean and onto the shallows of the beach.
This has been proven to have great health benefits, and is especially beneficial for the skin, making it a popular spot for tourists and the health conscious alike.
Despite being a little further away from Havana than the other beaches on this list (requiring a 30 minute journey by car), Playa El Salado is a quiet, clean, and beautiful gem tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
4. Playa Bacuranao
The closest beach to Havana on this list, Playa Bacuranao is a beautiful location, and a popular diving and snorkeling spot, due to the coral reef just off the shore.
This beach is not only popular amongst tourists and ocean lovers, but also for locals, namely workers who, after a long day at work, want nothing more than to find some peace, quiet, and relaxation from the grind of daily life.
And what better place to find it!
Despite the sand being slightly more rocky on this beach, as a result of the coral, the beach remains popular amongst tourists and locals alike for its close proximity to the city, the unusual exploration opportunities of the coral reef, and the general beauty of the area.
3. Playa Guanabo
Located near the village of Guanabo on the outskirts of Havana, Playa Guanabo is a favored spot amongst locals and tourists alike, thanks to the quaint rusticness of the local village and the sheer beauty of the beach itself.
The area is perfect for spending a nice day with family and friends, exploring the local markets and stores, playing or relaxing on the beach, and enjoying some dinner in one of the local restaurants.
Come nightfall, the village also has plenty of great bars, and despite being by no means a party spot like Havana itself, it is a great place to drink, dance, and have a pleasant time with loved ones.
A quiet, hidden gem, this village and the beach it gives its name to really feel like the authentic heart of Cuba and the Cuban people.
2. Playa Boca Ciega
Another beach popular amongst locals, Playa Boca Ciega is a quiet and laid back natural beauty spot away from the frantic masses of the crowds in Havana.
Feeling almost like a different world from the other nearby tourist beaches, the area is less touristy, as it hasn’t been developed in the same way similar areas have, and there are considerably less amenities nearby.
However, this has several benefits, namely a quiter, more relaxed environment, cheaper food and drink, and a more rustic, wholesome experience.
So if you are looking for authentic, natural beauty, then this might be the spot for you.
1. Santa Maria Del Mar
At number one on this list, Santa Maria Del Mar is the most famous party beach in Cuba, and is renowned for its lively music, frequent tourist parties and events, and its younger, urban clientele.
This is a much busier beach than the others on this list, and at peak times it can be difficult to find a spot big enough to lay down.
That being said, if you are looking for that classic, Cuban sense of vibrance and excitement, then this might be the beach for you.
Whilst still technically being part of Havana (at only a 20 minute drive away), it feels very much like its own resort, and the hotels nearby are a popular choice for tourists, due to its proximity to the city, and for the amenities nearby.
For quieter times, the best times of the year to visit are October and May, when the weather is still glorious, but the crowds are much smaller.
And there we have it, everything you need to know about the best 5 beaches near Havana.
Each and every one is renowned for its natural beauty and breathtaking scenery, so why not go check them out for yourself? You definitely won’t regret it!