Cuba’s scenic islands
Like Caribbean nations, Cuba is not made up of only one island: in addition to the main island, there are several archipelagos which are just as big of a tourist magnet like the rest of the country. If you are looking to experience Cuba from a cultural point of view, leaning about its history, people, customs and such, the mainland is definitely the best part of Cuba to visit, but if you are more into beach activities and water sports, Cuba’s scenic islands are the place to be. Many of the most developed tourist facilities and resorts in Cuba are located on the many cayos, or islands, so if this is the facet of Cuba that you want to discover, there are no better destinations for you.
Cayo Largo del Sur
Cayo Largo is the perfect little idyllic Cuban island, peaceful and quiet, and yet one of the most popular resort destinations in the country. Cayo Largo is famous for its pristine beaches, especially the ones on the west side of the island, like Playa Sirena, and Playo Paraiso. Naturalists will also find much to interest them on Cayo Largo, especially in the mangrove forests, or during turtle egg-laying season.
Cayo Coco is part of the Jardines del Rey island chain, whose name (gardens of the king) couldn’t be more fitting for these picturesque islands. Cayo Coco is the perfect destination for simply being idle and enjoying your time off in beautiful surroundings. Although there are few tourist attractions on the island, the beaches are so beautiful, and the atmosphere so calming and serene that you can’t help but completely fall in love with Cayo Coco.
Isla de la Juventud
Isla de la Juventud is the largest one of Cuba’s scenic islands, except for Cuba itself. While this island doesn’t lack any of the beach-paradise atmosphere of the other smaller islands, it offers more opportunities to get to know authentic Cuban culture and not the touristy side presented by resorts. The island is a popular tourist hub though, with many excellent beaches and resorts, and extensive pine forests and lush citrus groves.
Cayo Santa Maria
Cayo Santa Maria is a strange place that wouldn’t be out of place in any of the tropical island regions of the world. The whole island is reserved for tourism, with no locals permanently living on it, and used by five all inclusive luxury resorts. However, the island has breathtaking beaches with fine white sand, and is connected to the mainland through a 48 kilometer long causeway that took a decade to build.
Jardines de la Reina
Jardines de la Reina archipelago is a national park, and one of the largest protected areas in Cuba. Naturally, the island is a magnet for those who like to spend time outside in nature and prefer to avoid overly developed areas. There are many very good diving and snorkeling spots as well on the island.