Cayo Largo del Sur is the last hidden gem in the Caribbean. Surrounded by pristine blue waters and an unmatched sense of tranquility, this island is nothing short of a paradise. And yet, it remains relatively unknown to the world for reasons we can’t comprehend. We fell head over heels for this island and came to believe it’s bound to become the next big thing in the Caribbean. With Maldives-like water, Southeast-Asia prices and an untouched atmosphere – what’s not to love about Cayo Largo? If you’re dreaming with a tropical getaway, you’ve come to the right place. Here you’ll find the most curated Cayo Largo Cuba travel guide; with all the information and inspiration you need to plan a perfect holiday!
Introduction to Cayo Largo
Translated to English as “Long Key in the South”, Cayo Largo del Sur is an island located about 80km south of the main island of Cuba, and 180km from Havana. The island is entirely devoted to tourism, which means you won’t find a local village or other type of accommodation apart from the established resorts – but more on that later. Ultimately, this means everyone on the island is either working or visiting. Also, that this is a destination entirely catered for tourism, which has pros and cons!
Boasting the most beautiful beaches in Cuba, Cayo Largo was one of Fidel’s main bets for attracting international visitors to Cuba after the fall of the Soviet Union. The island was inaugurated as a destination in 1982 and although has been popular amongst Canadians, it’s yet to be discovered by the rest of the world. So, if like us, you’re a lover of paradisiacal and out of the beaten path destinations, Cayo Largo Cuba is for you. But plan your trip soon, because this place will likely become popular in the upcoming years!
Best time to visit Cayo Largo
The best time to visit Cayo Largo Cuba is between November and April, when the dry season takes place. The months of May to October are considered the wet season, therefore more prone to rains and even hurricanes in the months of September and October. Although it’s possible to visit Cayo Largo during wet season, it’s really not the most advisable time of the year.
If you’re keen on making the most of your trip, stick to the last half of November, December, January, February, March and the first half of April. We visited Cayo Largo in end of November and had some cloudy days, but no rain. What struck us the most was how calm the island felt, even in high season. There were less than 150 tourists in total, and our butler told us that even though December, especially during the holidays, sees a spike in numbers, it hardly ever gets crowded. What a dream in times of over tourism!
Best things to do in Cayo Largo
For a small island of less than 40km2, Cayo Largo has a surprisingly wide options of things to do. Coming from dark and snowy Sweden, we made sure to spend most of our time swimming in crystal-clear blue waters and exploring the island’s 25km of stunning shoreline. Although spending time at the beach is our top recommendation, there’s actually a few other interesting activities and places to explore during your stay on the island. Here are the best things to do in Cayo Largo Cuba:
1) Visit Cayo Largo’s best beaches
The beaches in Cayo Largo are something else. Imagine Maldives water tones, white sand beaches and no one in sight for miles. They are the proper depiction of a tropical paradise and the place you’ll spend most of your time. To make sure you’ll enjoy the best the island has to offer, I created the ultimate list of best beaches in Cayo Largo, filled with updated information and gorgeous images. Make sure to check the post to get inspired for your trip!
Since the beaches in Cayo Largo are considered an extension of the resorts, they are quite well structured. Expect to find with sub-beds, cozy colorful huts which serve as sun shelters, a restaurant serving lunch and a bar. There’s also the possibility to rent kayaks, small sailing boats and paddle boats. All of that included in the all-inclusive package you’ve booked with your hotel of choice!
While in Cayo Largo, I recommend going on long beach walks. This will give you the opportunity to explore the island’s stunning coastline, which is especially beautiful in the southernmost tip. If you’re a nudist enthusiast, you’ll feel completely comfortable in Cayo Largo. Most beaches have dedicated nudist areas and boast the most nudist-friendly atmosphere I’ve ever experienced in the world. Even if you haven’t experienced going nude before, I’d definitely recommend giving it a try there!
2) Parties at Vila Marina
Twice a week, the hotels organize parties at Vila Marina, the island’s “pueblo”. Drinks are sold separately, and tourists are transported by hotel buses which leave and come back in pre-determined times. We took part in the all-white party during our stay in Cayo Largo, which according to our butler resembled the festival Tomorrowland. Although I must confess this was a wide overstatement from his side, it was fun to join the party attended by tourists and workers and to groove to some latin music!
In this area you’ll find a couple of restaurants, and a marina where boats are docked. It’s nice to visit it, but there’s not much to do or see in the area. Do keep in mind the venue where the party takes place only accepts card and uses unfavorable exchange rates. If you don’t have a card or don’t want to use it, check the bar on the other side of the road which accepts cuban pesos and has a fair exchange rate USD to pesos Cubanos.
Lovers of scuba dives will rejoice finding out there’s a diving center on the island. Also, that diving sites in Cayo Largo tend to be well conserved, filled with sea life, corals and even sharks. Although we didn’t dive, we heard amazing things from a friend we made during our stay at Starfish. He showed us videos and pictures of the dive and they seemed amazing!
Cayo Largo’s dive center is located at the Marina Marlin, close to the Pilot House Restaurant & Marina. I couldn’t find their website, but my friend said it’s possible to arrange dives upon arrival at the island. If you need training, they can come to your hotel and do some exercises at the pool, which is really convenient. According to my friend, the dive cost 90 USD with lunch included!
4) Boat ride to Cayo Iguana and others
It’s possible to join a catamaran trip to the nearby islet Cayo Iguana, which is a natural habitat to hundreds of iguanas. Most of the excursions combine a visit to this islet with a stop at a snorkeling spot or a sand bank, where it’s possible to appreciate the local sea-life and enjoy beautiful sceneries. The excursions range from 30 to 60 USD and can be arranged by the hotels.
There is also the possibility to join a nudist catamaran trip, so make sure to ask around if that sounds like an interesting option to you!
As a remote island, Cayo Largo is a good place to watch the stars. We absolutely enjoyed our nights spent by the hotel’s beach staring at the sky and feeling the sea breeze on our skin. Such precious memories!
6) Turtle conservation project
Hundreds of sea turtles use the coast of Cayo Largo as their reproduction haven. Year after year, they come to the island’s shore to lay their eggs in beach nests. Between April and September, it’s possible to take part in the release of baby turtles into the sea, which are events organized by Sea Turtle Rescue Center. It’s a special moment for kids and adults alike and an unforgettable thing to do in Cayo Largo del Sur. If you’re visiting out of season, you can still visit the conservation center at the marina and learn more about the project and the turtles!
Best hotels in Cayo Largo
There are only beach front all-inclusive resorts in Cayo Largo, which are managed by the Canadian group Blue Diamonds. The sizes and comfort levels of the hotels in the portfolio vary, as well as their star classification, ranging from 3.5 to 4.5. Please keep in mind that this classification is not really standardized and 4 stars in Cayo Largo may feel like a 2.5 in other countries. Still, the hotels are definitely comfortable and offer great services such as butlers, beach restaurants and transportation.
We stayed at Starfish and thought it was a comfortable, but not a particularly charming hotel. If you’re planning on spending most of your days at the beach, I’d say this’s a really good choice, after all the nightly rate is around 150 USD for 2 people with food and drinks included.
However, if you plan on spending quality time at the hotel or plan for a more romantic and special getaway, I’d definitely recommend booking Memories Cayo Largo. This is a more sophisticated hotel close to Starfish, which we had the chance to visit. The pool area is really charming, and the rooms looked quite fresh. For 200 USD a night for 2 people including food and drinks, this really seemed like a great option.
Sanctuary at Grand Memories Cayo Largo is a quite charming adults-only hotel further north compared to Starfish and Memories Cayo Largo. The rooms are wood based, and the pool looks pretty good, not to mention the beautiful beach in front of the hotel. Another good hotel option is Grand Memories Cayo Largo!
How many days to stay in Cayo Largo
We spent 4 full days in Cayo Largo and I must confess I wasn’t ready to leave when the time came. There’s something special about this island, where time seem to stand still, and visitors are invited to reach deeper levels of relaxation. Our days at the beach flew by, filled with walks at the beach, swims in the crystal-clear waters, and in company of good books. I truly would have loved to spend a full week there and I’m convinced there would be enough options to fill our days with exciting sights and relaxing moments!
How to get to Cayo Largo del Sur
It was not easy to figure out how to get to Cayo Largo del Sur from Havana. From early on, it was clear the only way to get to the island as a tourist was by flying with Aerogaviota. What was hard to figure out was how to book the air tickets in advance. All the travel bloggers seemed to have booked the flight to Cayo Largo upon arrival in Havana, but we just didn’t want to take the risk.
So, we spent quite a lot of hours looking for a contact within Cubatur who could support us with that. Gladly, we found Lusmila Lamothe, the most helpful and trustworthy contact one could have hoped for. All communication happened through email and whatsapp (+53 5 3051630) and she was able to reserve our spots in the flight. When we arrived in Havana we went to the office to pay for the tickets and everything went super smooth.
The flight from mainland Cuba to Cayo Largo del Sur was operated by a small airplane and took about 30 minutes. It cost 135 USD per person round trip, with transportation from central Havana to the airport, airport to hotel and vice-versa included. I always get a bit nervous about flying in small planes, but it felt quite safe.
It’s possible to get to Cayo Largo Cuba from Canada, through chartered flights. Most of these flights make a stopover in Santa Maria airport first and then head to different beach destinations in Cuba.
How much does it cost to visit Cayo Largo
Visiting Cayo Largo is not the cheapest thing you can do in Cuba, but it’s a true bargain in our opinion. There are very few other places on Earth where you can delight in such beaches for less than 200 USD a night for 2 people including food and drinks. We actually paid 130 USD a night in Starfish Hotel, which was a very reasonable rate!
Here’s a breakdown of the main costs in Cayo Largo:
- 135 USD per person for a round-trip flight from Havana, including airport pick-up in Central Havana, drop-off at the hotel in Cayo Largo and vice-versa.
- 200 USD a night for 2 people at Memories Cayo Largo, which is quite charming and recently renovated. This is an all-inclusive rate!
- 140 USD a night for 2 people at Starfish Hotel, which is comfortable but not the most charming hotel we’ve stayed. This is an all-inclusive rate!
- There’s a free shuttle from the hotels to the beaches, but if you prefer to ride in private taxis, it’ll cost you 3 USD per person each way.
- Food is included in the hotel rates, but you can order lobster for an extra fee. It cost 20 USD per lobster at the hotel, beach restaurant and Pilot House Restaurant & Marina. This is higher than we paid in other parts of Cuba, but still cheap compared to European prices!
- The boat ride costs 60 USD per person for a 3-hour trip and scuba-dive costs around 90 USD per dive.
Make sure to read our post with tips on how to bring money to Cuba and how to exchange foreign currency.
What to pack for Cayo Largo Cuba
Cayo Largo del Sur is a tropical Caribbean destination. And so, I suggest you pack light and fresh clothes, beachwear, and casual shoes. Aim for beach attire and bring a light jacket, as it gets chilly in the evenings!
For women: you should pack summer and fresh dresses in various styles, from flouncy to long ones. Skirts, linen pants, fresh tops, and shorts are also great items to bring to Cayo Largo. Flat and comfortable shoes should be your way to go, and you absolutely won’t need high heels or heavy makeup.
For men: you can pack linen shirts and fresh fabric shirts, as well as t-shirts, shorts, and fresh pants. Shoes should be casual and comfortable, with no need for fancy items.
You will also need:
- Sun screen with maximun UV protection
- Sun hats
- A beach bag
- Beach towel or blanket
- Long Sleeve UV Sun Protection Shirt
- Beach tent or a beach umbrella
Other items to pack to Ithaca are beach floats, board games, books, and a beach tennis kit.