In one corner – Havana is famous for music, rum, cigars, colonial buildings and young people eager to please turistas. In the other corner – the beaches of Cuba are about the best anywhere.
It’s often been thought to be an “either/or alternative”; beach resort or Havana. But one approach to settling a discussion of a couple of years ago was to do both. Only a dozen miles down the coast from the big city are beaches as terrific as those a hundred or more miles away: Playas de Este.
This long strip of white sand and turquoise waters has traditionally been associated as a place for locals. And for sure, what accommodations the place has are really designed to provide a distraction for Cuban burócratos y soldiers, not tourists. The hotels are at a standard likely to only be acceptable to the most adventurous of travelers, although the beaches are world class. But if the objective is to keep both sides of the eternal debate happy, the East Havana beaches offer a perfect compromise. They’re within easy commute distance from old Havana.
About the beaches…
On a busy day, expect all the beach chairs to be taken; tip a few CUCs to the guy on the beach and you’ll suddenly have one found for you. Bring your own flip-flops, towels, sunscreen and soft drinks. There is a store off the beach with cigarettes and such.
The beach bars serve their normal fare of Cristal and rum with occasionally edible pollo and pork. One good feature is that the beach bars offer higher caliber cocktails.
The musical groups come out at mid afternoon and are of a high standard. Bathrooms are less so; forget any hopes you may have of finding toilet paper: consider yourself lucky if the toilets aren’t plugged.
Getting to the beaches – from Havana is but a half an hour. The affordable alternative will require either a willingness to chance an often-crowded Cuban bus (3-5 CUCs return from Parque Centrale) or to negotiate with a taxi driver. Typically they’ll ask for 20, but will settle for 10 or 15, especially if you offer them a return trip at a later time. Either way, you’ll be whisked on your way through the tunnel under the harbour, then east to the far suburbs of Havana.
Playas de Este isn’t for those seeking resort creature comforts. But if you and your honey are looking to keep each other happy, Playas de Este offers smiles all around.
The author of this article is also the author of Mojito, a novel about Cuba, is available on our Bookshelf. Click here.