Cayo Largo is the jewel of the Los Canarreos Archipelago, off the southern coast of Cuba. The archipelago includes 300 other cays including the Isle of Youth (the second largest island in the Cuban archipelago). Cayo Largo has 15.5 miles of beautiful beaches with emerald green water. One of them, Sirena Beach, has oolitic sand which always remains cool, no matter how strong the sun. For scuba divers, there are more than 200 sunken ships dating from between the 16th and the 18th centuries in the area. The seabed in the area has 32 scuba-diving sites with fascinating coral formations, tunnels, steep walls covered with gorgonians and multicolored marine life. The water is extremely clear.
Playa Paraiso, or Paradise Beach, is a secluded and gorgeous beach with powdery white sand and turquoise waters. It’s located at the west end of Cayo Largo, between Playa Punta Mal Tienpo and Playa Sirena. Unlike the hotel beaches, the sea at Playa Paraiso is very calm. People like to go here when the sea is more choppy (red flag) in the hotel zone, but also just enjoy this magnificent beach.
Services available at Playa Paraiso include: Palapas (beach umbrellas) and lounge chairs, and a snack bar with a shaded terrace where they serve bottled water, juice boxes, soft drinks, beer, cocktails, and of course, snacks. There is a limited number of palapas and not much natural shade, except for a few trees around the bar, so you may want to get here early or bring your own beach umbrella.
This beach is popular among naturists who usually gather on the east side, toward Playa Mal Tiempo. If you want to enjoy a more secluded area (away from the snack bar), then bringing your own beach umbrella. There is no water sports available at Playa Paraiso, and equipment rentals are in Playa Sirena, about a 20 minutes’s walk west.
Playa Paraiso, Cayo Largo, Cuba is listed as one of the top 20 beaches in the world. Here you can find information on all of the 20 most beautiful beaches of the world. Read our Fernando de Noronha Brazil Vacations guide to start planning your vacation to this wonderful beach destination.
Temperatures here usually average from 71 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. There are two seasons, the dry season from November to April and the wet season from May to October. However Cayo Largo is rather arid, so even during the wet season you will not see a lot of rain. It rarely rains during the day. Showers are usually strong but quick and occur mostly at night or early morning. During the winter months, the evenings may sometimes be a bit cool, so it’s better to bring long pants and a jacket for those chilly nights. The summer months are very hot (86 degrees Fahrenheit +) and humid. The hurricanes season begins officially in June and finishes in November. Historically October and September are more at risk for hurricanes.
Getting to Cayo Largo, Cuba
US citizens traveling to Cuba, no matter how they get there, must qualify for a “licence to travel”. The stipulations for obtaining a licence have changed several times in the last fifteen years in the ongoing tug-of-war between the US government’s conservative and liberal factions over the provisions and enforcement of the embargo, so it’s always worth checking what the latest rules and definitions are at www.treasury.gov or www.havana.usint.gov.
The modern Juan Vitalio Acuña Airport accepts international traffic. Charter flights arrive here from Canada and Europe regularly throughout the year, with greater frequency during the high season. There are also daily flights here from Havana by AeroCaribbean. These are best booked in Havana with any of the many tour agencies. Fares are CUC$108 and run around CUC$137 for the day tour. A taxi from the airport to any hotel on the island costs around CUC$6.
Getting Around Cayo Largo, Cuba
There’s a shuttle that has a route connecting the marina and all the major resort hotels here; fare is CUC$1. Taxis are also readily available on Cayo Largo. A ride anywhere on the island costs between CUC$2 and CUC$10. You can also rent a car or scooter from Transtur (tel. 45/24-8245), which has desks at most of the hotels on the island, as well as at the airport. Rates run about CUC$8 per hour for the first hour on a scooter, and about CUC$3 per hour for each additional hour; it’s CUC$60 per day for a small jeep, including your first tank of gas and insurance.
Do not drive drunk!, not even a bicycle. Cuba has a zero tolerance policy and in the case of an accident, if alcohol is detected in your blood, you are likely to be presumed guilty. Always be careful!
Get an insight into rural Cuban farm life at El Torreon Nursery, which supplies plants to nearby hotels and resorts. The nursery, full of flowers, and trees, also homes animal life including crocodiles, iguanas, and turtles. Speak to one of the guides who will happily show you around and allow you to meet these animals up close. An old stone tower stands tall among the greenery. It cannot be climbed however as it has been damaged.
The beach probably looks much like it did when historians believe that Christopher Columbus sailed to Cayo Largo in 1494 on his second trip to the New World. Playa Paraiso’s powdery sand and pale blue waters are still pristine and the nearby reefs boast some of the best diving and snorkeling in the Caribbean. Sea turtles, iguanas and a wide range of birds can be seen throughout the island.
Cayo Largo’s finest beach is Playa Sirena, where you will find 2 km of powdery white sand. Tourists on day trips from Havana and Varadero are often brought here. Because of the calm seas, nautical activities (kayaks and catamarans) are available. Set back from the beach there’s a ranchón-style bar and restaurant, along with showers and toilets. It is the only Cayo Largo beach with shade.
This is a great day-trip destination. Boat excursions to the beaches leave from the hotels (for around CUC$69 per person). Rico also has a simple beach restaurant that serves lunch (included). Framed by the same glimmering white shores and clear turquoise waters as Cayo Largo but with even fewer people around, this is the perfect place to play beach-worshipper all day long and hide away in picturesque coves.
This beach is located east of Playa Paraiso. Punta mal Tiempo is a long sand point going into the sea, facing the large coral reef. This beach is for people who really enjoy a very quiet and relaxing place. The beach is breathtaking and definitively not crowded. Naturists love this beach as the waters are calm, with a pristine environment.
Visit Sea Turtle Hatchery, whose aim is to protect the endangered species of turtles that call Cuba home. The hatchery collects eggs from vulnerable beaches, raises the baby turtles to a specific point of development, and then releases them safely back into the sea. You can participate in this occasion alongside the experts. Learn about the work undertaken here, or touch some of the turtles swimming in the pools. You can also book a guided nighttime turtle-watching excursion.
Things to Do
Cayo Largo offers a wide variety of water sports. The all-inclusive hotel packages usually include the use of non-motorized equipment to include kayaks, pedal boats, snorkeling gear, small catamarans, hobby cats, and scuba diving.
With all-inclusive packages you can use bicycles for one hour per day per person. This is for all the hotels. It is not recommended to go to the west beaches due to the sandy trails.
The area has great bonefish, tarpon, and deep sea fishing. Avalon has special offers for hotel packages that include fishing. This is the only company I am aware of that provides fishing to thetouristRanchon Lindarena
Sol Cayo Largo
Located in Cayo Largo del Sur, this all inclusive resort is ideal for couples and honeymooners. Feel in contact with a pristine environment and discover the true beauty of Cuba. Located in beautiful, idyllic surroundings and distributed in 2 story bungalows built on stilts over dunes and plants. They have a terrace or balcony with wonderful views of the gardens, the pool or the sea. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Sol Cayo Largo.
Restaurants & Bars
- Las Dunas – The perfect mediator between you and the nature. “Las Dunas” will make discover in the food the hand of an expert chef, and in the fruits, the freshness that demands a good service. Also offers lobster and superior wines. Specialty here is creole. Open every day for breakfast and dinner. Located in the Sol Cayo Largo Hotel.
- El Cayito – The Lobby Bar offers personalized service and the best Cuban cocktails and international drinks ever, including sandwiches from 23:00 to 07:00. Lobby bar open 24 hours a day.
- Las Trina – Las Trinas gourmet restaurant is located in a virtual pristine paradise, where good taste and excellent service will make your visit a memorable event and satisfy even the most discerning palate. Specialty here is international food. Open every day for dinner.
- Ranchon Lindarena – Dinning at the edge of the sea in Cayo Largo is truly a natural luxury. This beach –grill restaurant offers a wide choice of salads, fruits, cold meats and delectable Caribbean specialties. Clients can also request special orders. Specialty here is Caribbean food. Open everyday for lunch and dinner.
- Aqua Bar Sol Azul – Located in the swimming pool area, the Sol Azul bar offers fresh fruit juices, original cocktails and other beverages for guests, especially bathers, who alternate a plunge in the spool with a swim in the ocean. Open daily poolside.
Chiringuito de Playa – Located directly on the fine white sand and facing the ocean, this bar offers select cocktails and refreshing soft drinks which you can savor while you enjoy the warm Caribbean sun. Open daily on the beach.
Hotel Villa Iguana
Hotel Gran Caribe Villa Iguana is the first adults only resort in Cayo Largo del Sur. This brand new all-inclusive sits directly on the stunning white sand beach well-known as Playa Lindarena. Hotel Villa Iguana has 196 rooms, all with terrace or balcony divided in standard and bungalows, with view over the garden, the pool or the ocean. There are 2 choices of restaurants: the “Iguana” buffet which serves breakfast and dinner and the the Ranchón “Bellamar” which instead offers a la carte lunches and dinner. The snack bar “El Carey” is open 24-hours a day and has a good selection of national beers and cocktails as well as a selection of international drinks. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Hotel Villa Iguana.
Restaurants & Bars
- Buffet Iguana – Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a buffet style. Open every day.
- Bar Ranchon Bellamar – Beach bar serving local and international drinks. Open daily.
- Ranchon Bellamar – Serving a buffet lunch and A la Carte dinner. Reservations are required. Specialty is international food.
Hotel Pelicano – Great for Families
Hotel Pelicano Cayo Largo by Gran Caribe Pelicano is located at the west end of Playa Lindamar in an absolutely natural setting, on the beautiful Cayo Largo, in the heart of the Caribbean. It is a true paradise for all water sports enthusiasts, especially divers. Pristine beaches, day and night entertainment programs for children and adults also make this hotel an ideal destination for a family vacation. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Hotel Pelicano.
Restaurants & Bars
- La Yana – Serves A la Carte International dinner nightly. Reservations are required. Dress code is semi formal.
- Los Quelonios – Serves lunch from the grill and an A la Carte Cuban dinner menu. Reservations are required
- Entre Mares – Serves buffet style food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Open daily.
- La Pergola – This is a pizzeria serving lunch and dinner. Reservations are required.
- El Catey – 24-hour bar serving local and international drinks.
- Los Quelonios Bar – 24-hour bar serving local and international drinks.
- Zun Zun – Snack bar open daily serving local and international drinks.