palm trees at Playas del Este beach in Cuba

Visiting Beaches Near Havana, Cuba: A Guide for Americans

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If you’re planning a trip to Cuba, you’ve probably heard the bad news: lounging around all day in the warm Caribbean waves is, unfortunately, off limits for Americans. But there is good news too—it’s possible to sample the crystal clear waters lapping at the shores of the beaches near Havana—and elsewhere—as long as you do it in the right way.

In this guide, we break down everything you need to know about how to plan an authorized trip to a Cuban beach, as well as transportation options, beach activities that meet the U.S. travel regulations, and other ways to stay cool on your trip to Cuba.  

Where Are Havana’s Best Beaches?

There are no beaches in Havana proper, but just to the east in an area known as Playas del Este—literally ”Beaches of the East”—there are several miles of beautiful beaches with the white sand and palm trees that you imagine when you think of the Caribbean. 

As we mentioned above, if you’re a U.S. citizen then visiting the beach is not so simple, due to the travel restrictions. But first let’s break down the different beaches, and then we’ll explain how to make a visit conform to the rules so you can add it to your itinerary. 

You can’t really go wrong anywhere along the Playas del Este stretch, but there are distinct areas with different features to note: 

For the pure Caribbean beach experience, Playa MarAzul and Playa Santa Maria del Mar right next door can’t be beat. With calm waters and a wide sandy beach area, their perfect for lounging and attract a decent crowd of mostly tourists. There are food and drink vendors nearby and the beach bus from Havana makes a stop right in front of them. 

Playa Santa Maria del Mar also includes “Mi Cayito”—an area of beach known for being LGBTQ friendly.

Just to the west are Playa Tarará and Playa Megano, which have a more local crowd and are close to the small beach town of Tarará, which has passable food options and a few vacation rentals. 

East of Playa Santa Maria del Mar are Playa Boca Ciega and Playa Guanabo, which run along the coast of the larger town of Guanabo, where there are numerous food options and vacation rentals. 

For more information and exact locations of these beaches, download our Beaches Near Havana map from our collection of curated Google maps and check our guide to using Google maps offline in Cuba

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Visiting the Beach Under Current U.S. Travel Restrictions 

The U.S. restrictions on Cuba travel specifically cite leisure time at the beach as an activity that is NOT authorized, because it’s considered a tourist activity, and “tourism” is prohibited for Americans. 

Some Americans choose to omit their beach time from their official itinerary, but even though they rarely get caught, we recommend adhering to the rules and planning beach related activities that meet the requirements instead. 

As a U.S traveler, your itinerary must consist of cultural activities that support private businesses and directly engage with Cuban locals, so visiting the beach is simply a question of planning an activity that meets this requirement and happens to take place at the beach. 

Incorporating a Beach Visit into Your Activities 

Because of the travel restrictions, making a beach visit happen requires planning. Luckily, there are lots of beach related experiences that can be booked online and include the necessary cultural engagement element. Here are a few: 

Snorkeling to a shipwreck in Bacuranao: About 30 minutes outside of Havana there is a small beach called Playa Bacuranao which is not as nice as Playas del Este but is close to an amazing shipwreck just off the coast. 

Jeep Safari Day Trip: This tour includes snorkeling, horseback riding and exploring the countryside in Matanzas province, about 2 hours east of Havana. 

Snorkeling at the mouth of the Rio Canasí: The Río Canasí is about an hour east of Havana. This tour includes snorkeling and a visit to a local home for lunch. 

Horseback Riding on the Beach: This tour takes travelers to an undisclosed beach east of Havana for horseback riding, swimming and lunch. 

Paddle & Kayaking near Havana: This experience takes travelers kayaking and paddleboarding on the rivers and beaches near Havana. 

Snorkeling and Reef Clean Up at Playa Bacuranao: Explore the shipwreck at Playa Bacuranao and help keep the beach and reefs clean. 

Dive Adventure at Playas del Este: Scuba diving experience in a less touristy area of Playas del Este. 

Jibacoa Snorkeling Adventure: This experience takes travelers to Playa Jibacoa, a fantastic beach about an hour from Havana that is mainly reserved for a large resort complex, but has a beach area where locals can swim and explore.  

Hiking and Snorkeling on the Río Canasí: This experience combines hiking and snorkeling in a beautiful natural area along the coast about an hour east of Havana.

Santa María del Mar Cultural Beach Excursion: If you want a more straightforward beach experience, this is it. Beach chairs, towels, drinks,a stop at the Morro Fortress along the way—all in a classic car with a guide to accompany you. It’s a bit light on the culture, but as long as you engage with your guide and make it a genuine educational experience, you’re not breaking the rules!

More Beach Tour Options

In addition to these specific offerings, most of the local Cuban tour providers are happy to create a customized day tour, taking into account your status as a U.S. traveler. Below is a list of some options—if you are interested in other tours they offer, you can save money by contacting them directly and asking if they can incorporate a beach-related cultural excursion as well. 

Beyond Roots

Locally Sourced Havana Tours

Cuban Adventures

Vintage Car Tours

Getting To and From the Beach

Getting to Playas del Este requires a taxi or bus ride, and takes about 30-40 minutes. We recommend booking a taxi through the host or concierge at your accommodation, but if you’re out and about and decide you want to see the beach, you can hail any taxi and expect to pay around 30 USD one way. 

You can also take the Beach Bus which runs on a loop, picking up passengers at Parque Central every hour and stopping at several beaches along Playas del Este. The bus costs $10 USD. 

Booking Lodging? Taxis? Activities? Restaurants?

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Accommodations at the Beaches Near Havana 

Another way to have some beach time is to stay at a rental in Guanabo or Tarará, which are walking distance to the beach. You’ll still have to plan cultural activities during the daytime hours, but in your down time and before and after your activities, you can pop over to the beach for a quick visit. Here are some vacation rentals that we recommend: 

Oceanview Villa: Simple, great value, and just a few blocks from the beach in Guanabo. 

Casa El Ancla: Just a 1 minute walk to the  beach in Guanabo, with everything you need.  – 

Villa with a Jacuzzi: Just a 3 minute walk from the beach. 

Villa El Eden: A nice B&B close to the beach in Tarará. 

Other Ways to Stay Cool During Your Trip 

In addition to the beach, there are other ways to stay cool during your trip. You might consider accommodations in Havana with pools, like Voya Boutique Hotel. Or if you’re planning to visit Trinidad, you can plan a waterfall hike in Topes De Collantes or Parque El Cubano

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