Opposed to other beaches in Cuba where one can only find tourists, Playas del Este is very popular among the habaneros, who can frequently enjoy these warm waters thanks to their closeness to the city.
The next beach between Bacuranao and El Mégano is a tourist resort called Tarará, 20 kilometers away of Havana. Its marina (Marina Tarará) is the perfect place for those who want to go out fishing or diving.
27 kilometers away from Havana, Guanabo Beach occupies the coastal strip of the town of Guanabo. With 25 kilometers of beaches it is the most visited of the Playas del Este. In the summer, it can gather up to 120 thousand visitors. It has shopping centers, restaurants, bars, nightclubs.
Unlike Santa María del Mar, this little town has no hotels, but there are lots of houses for rent instead. The quality of the sand is pretty good, even if some areas are affected by river mouths and stony bottoms, where one should avoid swimming.
This is by far, my favourite (and IMO, the BEST) beach in the Havana area, and among the Playas del Este.
The beach is long and wide, white-sand and beautiful blue waters with gentle waves- you can go out quite far and still be standing, as there are sand bars.
In peak season (July and August- Cuban vacation time), there are tons of Cubans on the beach, which makes it a great atmosphere. There will also be tons of vendors walking up and down the beach selling all sorts of things like beer and refrescos (1 or 2 CUC each), cajitas (boxes of complete meals like fried chicken, rice, fried banana) for 1 CUC, frozen coconuts with rum (3 CUC), chocolate, crackers, ice cream, grapes etc. If you want to make a day out of it, I would recommend you bring snacks, beer (if you want but drink quick or it'll be warm!) and a couple huge bottles of water. We froze them over night so they kept cool on the beach.
Transport: It is about 20-30 minute drive from downtown Havana... a tourist taxi will charge you 15CUC each way and there really is no bargaining about this. You can probably negotiate an illegal taxi down to 10 CUC. There are maquinas (collective taxis for Cubans) that leave from the park across from the Cristina train station and go to Playas del Este for 20 pesos nacionales but they will never (or rarely) take obvious foreigners unless you have a Cuban ID card (carnet). Don't attempt this unless you and other your friends look Cuban and speak very fluent Spanish (and can fake a Cuban accent!)... continued below...
I have included below more pictures of the various Beaches of East Havana... (Playas del Este).. while my favourite is Santa Maria (beauty, size, water colour, most action) you can also choose Megano or Boca Ciega. Megano was less pretty and more quiet though there was ample parking if you are arriving by your own car. Boca Ciega had a bit more action going on but I found the water quite dirty.
If you continue west along Megano beach, you will arrive at a part that is quite gay-friendly if you prefer to be in that section. Tons of beautiful Cuban gay men (sigh, not fair for us man-loving girls).
Expect there to be a lot of police/military presence at the beach, especially on weekends and during Cuban vacations. They will likely come around and advise you not to leave your belongings unattended (common sense guys!). They may hassle Cubans you are with and ask for their documents and then hang around but that is usually the extent of it. They often have a lighter unlike everyone else on the beach, in case you need one!
The beaches to the East of Havana are only a 20-minute 15-pesos cabride away and they are excellent. Unlike Varadero, there is no resort-atmosphere and the separation between tourist and local doesn't exist.
The water is extremely clear and perfect for swimming
30 minutes from havan there's a beautiful beach called Santa Maria.
We asked our taxi driver to bring us to a not to crowded spot.
When we arrived there, it was quiet, and we had a big spot just for ourselves! It was like being in paradise.
You don't have to leave Havana to enjoy Cuba's beautiful beaches. The Southern beaches in Havana (Guanabo) are just as beautiful as Varadero. You can rent private beach houses for an average of $25-45 US Dollars a day! Just check out the beach house I stayed in.
...from the previous tip...
4- But what about beaches between Cojimar and Santa maria del MAr? Can i find some place then without crowded!
Between Cojimar and Santa Maria there are mainly rocks. But there are lot of places where cubans go to swim because they don?t have cars or bikes to go until Santa Maria. The first beach is Bacuranao, always crowded and where lot of young people use to go. Sergio use to go there a lot when he was younger as he lives nearby. Here U can find some coral reefs and an 18th century Spanish galleon, some 300m from the shore, making this a popular scuba diving spot. I learn to dive here with my dad when I was around 10 years old, it was amazing to see for the first time a sunken old spanish galeon.
Two kilometers east of Bacuranao is Playa Tarar?, a small stretch of white sand that is home to the 50-berth Marina Tarar?/Club Nautico, site of the annual July Old Man and the Sea Fishing Tournament. You can arrange boat rentals, yacht cruises, and diving or snorkeling excursions here. Just 2 km farther east is Playa El M?gano, a quiet stretch of sand. El M?gano is really considered a western extension of the main beach, Santa Maria.
If U like scuba diving and want a lonely beach I recomend U Jibacoa. Is around 45-60min drive from Havana. Is the last beach before geographically speaking Havana city ends. I used to go here a lot to dive with my dad when I had the luck of having a car. Is a great place but can be too touristic. U?ll not find lot of cubans here, is far from Havana.
5- What about beaches on the west side of Havana! From Marina Hemigway to West!
Totally crowded, small, filthy beaches! My advice is maybe to check it out once but no more. People who live nearby go there because to go to Santa Maria or other beach to the east is to far. Maybe after U leave Havana, passing Baracoa, U?ll find a god spot.
There are some questions that in the forums people ask a lot...here are some anwsers...
1- I heard that sea in Havana isn t very clean and that people can get rash if they swim in the sea in the front of Havana. Is that true? I sea on pics that sea in front of Havana isn t so attractive:-) I saw on havana map on net nice beach on east side of Havana.
Yes, U can get rash if U swim right on the malecon. And not only rash, even maybe some bad illness. Some cubans do it, specially kids. U'll see lot of them swimming in some places in the malecon. The bay is nearby so there are lot of questionable trash coming from there.
2- Santa Maria del Mar. Is that the nearest beach?
Santa Maria del Mar is the better beach U can find nearby Havana. Is only 25 min drive from downtown and maybe 10 min more from the Comodoro. If U rent a scooter the time to get there will be at least twice because U cannot cross the bay tunnel with a scooter or bike. U'll need to go through "Via Blanca" an important street that goes from Havana until Varadero. Santa Maria is where I used to go most frecuently with my friends. Is where usually all the young people go. Can be very crowded in summer. But on low season is ok.
3- What about Cojimar? I know Cojimar for it?s Hemigway memorial but nothing more.
Cojimar is ok, but with lot of sharpen rocks and somewhat filthy. So if U plan to swim there take a pair of shoes that will allow U to walk into this sharpen rocks.
20 minutes on car from Havana U'll find Playas del Este, Eastern Beaches. Is just a way to call a 20km all sand and tranparent waters. There U'll find hotels, bars, restorants, souvenirs shops and of course, the beatiful sea.
This place is divided on 4 smaller parts. Megano, Santa Maria or Mar Azul, Mi Cayito and Guanabo.
Megano is more quiet, if U don't wanna be disturbed, better go here. It has a small bar only 30m from the water where U can drink cold refreshments and have some snacks.
Santa Maria or Mar Azul is my preferd spot. Is also the most touristic. So be prepared to get into a crowded beach, with lot of people having fun. There are some hotels nearby that's why is always so crowded. Is also the prefered spot fo the cubans youth, that go there and have lot of fun. U'll find nearby lot of small tents selling drinks, snack or a complete dinner. Prices are high so ask first or U could be deceived.
Mi Cayito. Very well known because it was the usual spot for gays and lesbians. Now days is more for families or couples. Some times it can be solitary and that's why some prefer this spot.
Guanabo...the name is because of the small town lying in the sea shore. The usual place for families spending the day with kids and rum. Take a walk here and take a look to the families all around the beaches. Plenty of bars, shops and places where to hide from the sun.
Enjoy your stay!
The Playas de Este are a string of beaches just outside of Habana city. They are absolutely beautiful, and well-worth the trip. Any taxi will take you out there for about $20, however you can also take the bus out there, which is much cheaper. Bus # 400 from the train station will take you directly there for a few pesos, although it will get extremely crowded. If you take the bus you should also make sure to ask someone on the bus which stop to get off at for the beach (the beach we went to mostly was Santa Maria del Mar). From there it is about a 15 minute walk to the coast, but well worth the trip! On the way back you can catch the bus along the side of the road, and shouldn't have to wait more than 1/2 hour. There are also taxis going back.
Just to the east of Havana is a gorgeous beach with 3 or 4 Hotels. Its only 20 minutes by taxi from Havana...so you can stay overnight or just go as a day out.
when going to Havane don't forget to pay a visit to the beach.
The picture is the beach of Santa Maria, nice one and not too crowded.