Playas del Este#8 in Best Things To Do in Havana
Price & Hours
After a couple of days touring the capital, you may find yourself in need of a break from the hustle and bustle. If so, seek a side trip to Playas del Este, a set of beaches located about 11 miles east of Havana. This 5-mile stretch of shoreline starts at Bacuranao and ends at Playa Jibacoa, with about six other picturesque beaches with turquoise-colored water in between.
If you're looking for peace and quiet, Bacuranao and Playa Tarará are your best bets, although the latter requires a small entry fee. For livelier (and free) atmospheres, look to Playa Boca Ciega or Guanabo, where you'll find the highest concentration of locals. Mi Cayito and Boca Ciega are popular with LGBT travelers while those with families will likely enjoy the amenity-clad Playa Santa Maria, where the majority of the area's resorts are located. Playa Jibacoa is also considered a peaceful beach, but unlike the other resort beaches, it offers more things to enjoy than just water sports rentals. On land, visitors can traverse trails from the beach to the nearby backcountry; underwater there are coral reefs to explore. What's more, Havana Club rum is made in the town in which Playa Jibacoa resides.
The majority of travelers who visited Playas del Este found the beaches to be beautiful and relaxing, with a good mix of locals and visitors. Others, however, mentioned some of the beaches were dirty, with trash scattered throughout and no garbage bins. But that all depends on where you go. The more resort-equipped the area is, the cleaner the beaches will likely be. It's important to note that unlike other beach resort areas in the Caribbean, these beaches aren't busy year-round and can be quiet outside of the summer months. Recent visitors also noted that weekends can be packed, and suggest that if you want more sand to yourself, you should visit during the week.
To get to Playas del Este, it's best to take a taxi or get a ticket to the hop-on, hop-off bus, which stops in the Santa Maria resort area. Visitors can also grab the T3 public bus at Parque Central in Havana, but keep in mind the last bus back is at 6 p.m.
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#1 El Malecón
To tourists, Old Havana may be the city's heart and soul, but to Cubans, it's El Malecón. Technically speaking, El Malecón is a 5-mile-long boulevard that stretches along the water, with Havana Bay on one side and the edges of Old Havana, Vedado and Central Havana on the other, depending on where you are. But metaphorically speaking, El Malecón is both a meeting point and place of refuge for locals looking to catch a breath of fresh air after a long day or night.
During the day, you're likely to see some residents along with a tourist or two, but at night, especially come sundown, is when you'll see flocks of Cubans holding loved ones close as they watch the sunset, crowds of young people laughing and drinking, fishermen waiting for a catch or even a small dance party. And sometimes, you may not see anybody at all. On particularly stormy days, waves crash up against El Malecón and much of the sea spills onto the roads, making for a great photo op.
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