Cuba Beaches and Cenotes

27.07.19 02:34 PM By Putri


Well, I wasn't really gone gone, but I was annoyingly busy this past month and skipped my weekly schedule of giving unsolicited advice posting absurd stories about our latest adventure. Apparently, I suck at keeping schedule (this is probably why my period is never regular, my unpunctualness comes from within).  

This post is my last post about our adventure in Cuba and it's about my favourite part of the trip: beaching. While other blogs about beaches in Cuba are mostly emphasizing the blue water and white sandy beaches, and encouraging women about body positivism while displaying contradictory pics showing thigh gaps and flawless curves, this post focuses on more important interesting things like where to get the best Pina Colada at Coral beach or which restaurant serves stir-fried (sustainable) crocodile meat at Playa Giron.

And while we are at it, I wonder if I am the only one who has a compulsive bikini shopping???. I mean, as soon as I think I am gonna be traveling where there will be a water body I could dip myself in, I would go shop compulsively for bikinis, ONLINE. If it looks cute on the pic, I buy them, even if it means taking the risk that my butt cheeks might shimmy their way out of my bikini bottom thanks to online measurement ill-fitting.  

Okay, before I got distracted and end up sharing stories about my petty saga  on finding the perfect bikini (if it even exists), let's just get on to the business, shall we!

Coral Beach - Eastern Coast

Our first beach trip was to Coral beach, about 2 hours from Havana. Coral beach is known for its beautiful corals, hence the name, which makes it one of the best places to do snorkeling in Cuba. You can always go to this beach by yourself but we preferred to have a guide from Varadiving with us for safety reasons. 

The road to get to the Coral Beach from Havana was beautiful. We even went across the highest bridge in Cuba, the Bacunayagua Bridge. The bridge is 110m above the ground so it’s hella high. The valley floor beneath the bridge is covered by lush greenery and the view from this bridge was breathtaking (in a literal sense for those who are afraid of heights like myself). 

Did I mentioned that Varadiving provided us an Audi convertible as our means of transportation? Well, they did! We drove all the way to Coral beach with the rooftop down, letting the wind caresses our hair and the bugs smash to our face

Note to self: keep your mouth shut while riding a convertible especially when passing tropical swamps on a high speed

The ride was enjoyable, we got to see the rural areas with stunning view. The thing is, it is not obligatory in Cuba for passengers on the backseat to have the seatbelt on.  So yeah, our seatbelts weren't functional since no body seemed to be using it. I was a bit worried that I would tumble out of the car easily when the car hit a bump on the road, especially considering the speed we were on.

What I love the most from Varadiving apart from their punctuality is they know the good spots that are not very touristic-y.  So instead of taking us to private beaches (read: commercial) area of the beach with restaurants and all, they took us to an abandoned site of an old restaurant on an unbeaten path and it was perfect. 

Altho the area had no changing/washing room whatsoever, the beach was clean and empty. You don’t need to be self-conscious that anybody would see your jiggly belly when you are changing in the open, apart from the one local who lives there and whose life is better than all of us; Juan El Gato. 

Ladies and gents, please meet Juan El Gato, the local resident of Coral beach. He spends his day laying in the Caribbean beach under a palm parasol next to a coconut pinacolada, judging people in their bikinis.

This empty beach is also the place where you can get the freshest pina colada in Coral Beach area, sold by a street vendor on a motorbike. His pina colada is different from those sold in Havana. In Havana, you will have your pina colada served inside a pineapple, but his pina colada is served inside a fresh coconut. So, imagine this, authentic Cuban rum mixed with fresh coconut water and fresh pineapple puree, served cold in a coconut in a hot sunny day. It’s like taking a gulp from heaven. 

Saturn Cave  or Saturno de Cuevo - Eastern Coast

The awesomeness of Coral Beach area does not end at the beach, y’all. There is an underground pool filled with rainwater and water from underground rivers hid inside a cave called the Saturn Cave or Saturno de Cuevo, just 15 minutes away from the beach. This kind of natural freshwater sinkhole is commonly known as cenotes, especially in Mexico. 

The cave at first looks like somewhere you shouldn’t go. The opening of the caves are mostly covered with vine-y plants and the steps leading down to the bottom of the cave where the pool is are slippery.

Once you get to the cave tho, you’d forget how the cave looks like somewhere people would throw animals and other sacrificial objects at. The water is extremely clear with extreme visibility. You’d want just dive in right away. The bottom of this cenote is literally covered by limestone stalagmites and the deepest part can reach up to 22 meters deep, or so I told. 

Although the water is so very clear, I strangely didn’t see any living form, somehow. I can’t recommend this place as a snorkeling spot. However, it is a very nice place to just relax and take a dip. Taking a dip in a fresh water after swimming in the ocean is really refreshing. There are facilities attached to this cave, like a restaurant, outdoor shower, and indoor bathroom complete with a changing room. 

Playa Giron, Bay of Pigs - Southern Coast

 A day before our departure day from Cuba, we managed to have our second beach trip to Playa Giron. Playa Giron, or worldwidely known as Bay of Pigs, was one of the landing points of the American troops when they try to invade the country in 1961. Nowadays, this area is known more as one of the best snorkelling and diving spots in Cuba. The water is super clear with shades of sapphire and turquoise.

Different from the Coral beach, Playa Giron doesn’t have a typical white sandy beach, it has a rocky beach instead, which hard on your bum when you try to relax on it. But the good news is, the underwater live is awesome, so as long as you stay in the water, your bum will be okay. Why would you stay on the beach anyway when the water is this amazing? I mean, I would definitely move in here if I have gils. 

Playa Giron is also known for its shipwreck that decorates the floor of the sea. This shipwreck is one of the main playgrounds for divers to explore. On a clear day tho, you can see it without even have to dive that deep. 

Cueva de Los Peces

Just like Coral Beach, Playa Giron also have a cenote located not far from it called as Cueva de Los Peces. In fact, it's literally just across the street from where we snorkelled at Playa Giron, we might as well visit it. Boasted as the deepest freshwater pool in Cuba with 70m of depth, Cueva de Los Peces offers another off-the-sea experience for diving lovers.

For those non-divers like myself, I was pretty happy being able to take a dip in this cenote. Although it is so deep and I couldn’t see the bottom of it and made my imagination went wild of what might be lurking beneath the water resulting in a brief anxiety attack, the water stays warm and enjoyable.

Afterward, we were taken to a local restaurant, Luly & Yeikel. A humble-but-clean restaurant where you pay 15 CUC for all-you-can-eat seafood and alligator meat, plus a jug of freshly made orange juice. The menu that day consisted of a bowl of mixed-seafood tomato soup, a plate of each fried fish fillets, crab, shrimp, and alligator meat (which by the way, has the consistency of chicken white meat, and a slight taste of fishiness). And as side dish, we had rice, fresh salad, and black beans.  It was the best deal ever! 

The essentials

Ideal for: first time snorkeler to avid divers

Agent or solo: IMHO, it is always best to have a pro to guide in open water for safety reason, plus they can take you to the best spots to stalk see fishes.

Local agent we used: Varadiving, and ask for Lazaro. He is a pro diver, knowledgeable, patient, and speak English well. He knows his stuff.

Insider tips: Always bring water shoes when you plan to get into an open water. You don’t want to step on a sea urchin by accident or cut yourself on a coral. Try not to swallow the millennia-old water from the cenotes. I felt mentally sick thinking that I have swallowed prehistoric bacteria in the water after I accidentally took a gulp of the water of  Saturno de Cuevo.