Sometimes visitors arrive in Havana looking for the ‘city beach’ and get a little disappointed...you need to jump in a car for up to half an hour to encounter a proper stretch of sand, where there are no hotels ‘on the beach’. Las Playas del Este are the white-sand beaches that snake east, and they are a great place to soak up Cuban life.
For white-sand swathes dotted with plump palms, lapped by palest turquoise waters, head to Santa Maria del Mar, the most honky tonk and family-happy of beaches. It is a heady mix of tourists, families, busking musicians, hawkers, and jineteras or jineteros (ladies and gentlemen of the night – and day also, to be fair). The LGBT community congregates on Mi Playita and kitesurfers rule the waves at Tarara.
The beach is an excellent spot for home-cooked snacks. Eat lobster with fried plantain from the beach shacks. Classic bites on offer include tamales: corn mixed with pounded pork and served in the husk tied up with a string; coconuts filled with coconut water and Havana Club; or pan con lechón: pounded, roasted and pulled pork on baby-bum-soft buttery white bread with caramelized onions and a mojo sauce. Lard is used in the baking process. It’s not what you’d call lean cuisine. Our favourite hawker on the beach is the wizened girl with a pineapple on her head calling “Piñaaaaa! Piñaaa! Una buena piña!”
Hate the general public? If you want a sunny, sandy day without the crowds, Cuba Private Travel can arrange it. We provide a strong tent or sun shelter, huge mats and an icebox with lunch and beers, then chaperone you to one of the wild beaches west of Havana. During the week, most are empty, and you can have a whole little bay to yourself. Or, on a quiet beach west of Havana, we have a beautiful little wooden beach house in an artists’ community frequented by Cubans in the know. An expert masseuse, reflexologist, mani-pedicurist and facialist will pamper your body and soul while you lie back and listen to the lapping sea. Local fisherman drift by and when you are hungry we whistle them over so that you can choose your catch, cooked up by your own private chef.
The Cuba Private Travel team has access to the very best in Cuban art, music, literature, dance, environment, history and architecture as well as Cuba’s most outstanding beaches and accommodation. By listening to you, the independent traveller, we are able to create tailor-made travel itineraries for your vacation that take you to the heart of Cuba’s culture, landscape and people. Cuba Private Travel’s bespoke itineraries are fully U.S. Treasury Department compliant and include access to personal guides, experts, interpreters and, of course, a 24-hour concierge.
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