Varadero and Cayo Santa Maria

By Safie M. Gonzalez

Cayo Santa Maria. Foto:

HAVANA TIMES – The beaches in Varadero and Cayo Santa Maria are some of the best in the world. That’s what people say. They receive millions of visitors almost all year-round thanks to this. There’s no doubt that their crystal-clear waters and white sand are their great attraction.

I remember going to Varadero a couple of times when I was a little girl, thanks to my mother’s cousin who lived there and still lives near the beach. As an adult I have gone very few times. I think the last time must have been about four years ago, with a group of friends.

We hired a bus between a big group of us and went for the day. It was fun, but it was also sad to see the marvellous hotels that we could almost touch, but they were a lot further out of reach than they seemed.

A hotel pool in Cayo Santa Maria. Photo: Safie M. Gonzalez

My visit to Cayo Santa Maria

Just over eight years ago, I had the chance to go and visit Cayo Santa Maria, thanks to some friends of friends who live in another country. I was left speechless, and wondering: how can you live on an island that is full of such natural wonders like this, and not be able to enjoy them?

I was sad for me, for my family, my friends, and for most Cubans on the whole, who live off their wages (like I do) and will never be able to feel this fine sand between their toes.

It really felt like I was in another country. You chould choose the food you wanted to eat, different meals and drinks. I spent the whole day in the swimming pool or at the beach, without any worry on my mind it seemed, at least that’s what my travel companions thought.

However, I wanted the day to be 72 hours long. It was a bittersweet experience, and if it wasn’t for the physical evidence of the photos I took, I’d swear that it was just a beautiful dream, the kind that you never want to wake up from.

A magnificent beach. Photo: Safie M. Gonzalez

Friends coming from other countries never get tired of admiring our country, or rather, our beaches. They are always reminding us that “we Cubans are privileged to live on this island and have such beautiful beaches.”

I would have seemed like a liar, right? If I had told them that this was the first time I was stepping foot on that sand and that I was swimming in such crystalline waters, in the country I live in. No, I didn’t tell them that. I just said yes, with a smile that was already nostalgic for a place that I had been, but would never visit again.

Read more from Safie M. Gonzalez here on Havana Times.

3 thoughts on “Varadero and Cayo Santa Maria

  • The best beaches in Cuba are those that are far away from the tourist resorts.
    Cuba has some great unspoilt beaches and many wonderful aspects which remain entirely unexploited by the tourism industry.
    Long may that be the case.

  • OK, five star hotels could be out of reach for most Cubans, but I’ve been in tree star hotels loaded with Cuban people celebrating birthdays and other anniversaries. And don’t get me wrong, there is many public beaches in Varadero, Trinidad ( Playa Ancón ) and other places, but they just can’t use the swimming pools. I think it’s everywhere like that. In many other countries there are also beautiful places bought by rich people with no access to the public.

  • Cubans tend to exaggerate about Varadero and Cayo Santa Maria. Yes, these are beautiful beaches. But the best in the world? Have you been to Cancún? Maui? Bahamas? Anyway, the beaches are just a part of the experience. The supposed “five-star” hotels are dumps in comparison to resorts in order parts of the world. Lacking food choices, excursiones, and all the other manifestations of opulence, the best you can say about them is that these are hotels are the best in Cuba and that ain’t saying much. Nonetheless, for Cubans who don’t know any better, it really is sad that they can’t even enjoy these mediocre resorts.

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