QUICK GUIDE TO PLAYA LARGA, CUBA

Playa Larga, a small fishing village on the Cuban coast, is the gateway to the Cienaga de Zapata National Park. A varied ecosystem of wetlands, mangrove forests, coral reefs and underwater canyons, it’s home to a massive variety of colourful birds and tropical fish.

And, unlike most Cuban beachfront towns, Playa Larga is not fronted by sterile hotels. Instead it’s a product of local invention. Playa Larga-ians have converted their homes into accommodation and terraces into bars, creating an altogether cooler vibe.

Here’s a quick guide of our favourite things to do in Playa Larga and some tips on the best ways to chill out.


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WALK & WATCH

WILDLIFE

Surrounding Playa Larga, the Ciénaga de Zapata National Park offers some stunning wildlife encounters. You can visit up to three distinct eco-systems, but you will need a guide. Guides and transport can be organised at the Ciénaga de Zapata National Park Office. / Hours: 8:00 – 16:30 | Location: On the main, just north of the junction to Playa Larga | Guides: CUC$15 per person. | More: See our guide to Ciénaga de Zapata

BERMEJA FOREST RESERVE

The Bermeja Forest Reserve is home to 20 of the 28 colourful species endemic to Cuba including the bee humming bird. Get a guide and take a walk spotting these colourful creatures.

ZAPATA WETLANDS

Head into the Zapata Wetlands and discover a swathe of pink in the form of thousands of flamingos. Organise a boat trip at the park office and have your camera ready.

SENDERO ENIGMA DE LAS ROCAS

Take an educational half-day walk through the Enigma de las Rocas to find endemic birds, creepy bats, crabs and a weird crocodile fish. There’s a swim in a cenote at the end.

WALK & WATCH

WILDLIFE

Surrounding Playa Larga, the Ciénaga de Zapata National Park offers some stunning wildlife encounters. You can visit up to three distinct eco-systems, but you will need a guide. Guides and transport can be organised at the Ciénaga de Zapata National Park Office. / Hours: 8:00 – 16:30 | Location: On the main, just north of the junction to Playa Larga | Guides: CUC$15 per person. | More: See our guide to Ciénaga de Zapata

BERMEJA FOREST RESERVE

The Bermeja Forest Reserve is home to 20 of the 28 colourful species endemic to Cuba including the bee humming bird. Get a guide and take a walk spotting these colourful creatures.

ZAPATA WETLANDS

Head into the Zapata Wetlands and discover a swathe of pink in the form of thousands of flamingos. Organise a boat trip at the park office and have your camera ready.

SENDERO ENIGMA DE LAS ROCAS

Take an educational half-day walk through the Enigma de las Rocas to find endemic birds, creepy bats, crabs and a weird crocodile fish. There’s a swim in a cenote at the end.

SWIM OR NOT

EXPLORE THE WATER

In addition to bird spotting, Playa Larga has a variety of aqua-inspired activities. Explore stunning blue seas, deep eerie cenotes and crocodile infested waters.

SNORKEL AND DIVE IN BAY OF PIGS

The turquoise waters of the Bay of Pigs are inviting enough, but just a few meters offshore lies a coral reef, a few sunken ships and a mass of tropical fish. Join a tour or simply walk off the shore with your own mask. / Pick-up: 9:00ish to 14:00ish | Cost: 10 CUC transport, 5 CUC snorkel and fin rental | Organise through your accommodation.

CUEVA DE LOS PECES

Not tempted by the sea, then just a few meters inland is a small but very deep cenote. It’s decent for a dip and snorkelling but it’s really the preserve of divers who can disappear into its maze of underwater caves. / Pick-up: 9:00ish to 14:00ish | Cost: 25 CUC per tank for diving | Organise through your accommodation.

CRIADERO DE COCODRILOS

There are more dangerous things in the water here than colourful fish. This crocodile breeding facility offers tours of its program aimed at preserving two species of crocodile that only 50 years ago were almost extinct. / Hours: 9:30 – 17:00 | Location: Carreter a Playa Larga just north of town | Cost: CUC$5

SWIM OR NOT

EXPLORE THE WATER

In addition to bird spotting, Playa Larga has a variety of aqua-inspired activities. Explore stunning blue seas, deep eerie cenotes and crocodile infested waters.

SNORKEL AND DIVE IN BAY OF PIGS

The turquoise waters of the Bay of Pigs are inviting enough, but just a few meters offshore lies a coral reef, a few sunken ships and a mass of tropical fish. Join a tour or simply walk off the shore with your own mask. / Pick-up: 9:00ish to 14:00ish | Cost: 10 CUC transport, 5 CUC snorkel and fin rental | Organise through your accommodation.

CUEVA DE LOS PECES

Not tempted by the sea, then just a few meters inland is a small but very deep cenote. It’s decent for a dip and snorkelling but it’s really the preserve of divers who can disappear into its maze of underwater caves. / Pick-up: 9:00ish to 14:00ish | Cost: 25 CUC per tank for diving | Organise through your accommodation.

CRIADERO DE COCODRILOS

There are more dangerous things in the water here than colourful fish. This crocodile breeding facility offers tours of its program aimed at preserving two species of crocodile that only 50 years ago were almost extinct. / Hours: 9:30 – 17:00 | Location: Carreter a Playa Larga just north of town | Cost: CUC$5

LEARN

UNCOVER HISTORY

Playa Larga and the nearby Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs) have a firm place in Cuban history. Spend some time discovering the regions chequered past.

RECONSTRUCTED TAÍNO VILLAGE

Only accessible by boat, Hotel Guamá has been built in the image of a Taíno village. Spread across a number of small islands it tries to recall the time before the Spanish arrived when local indigenous tribes ran their own lives. / Location: Ferries and speedboats run from Boca de Guamá | Cost: CUC$12

BAY OF PIGS MUSEUM

Just half an hour drive east of Playa Larga, the Bay of Pigs Museum details the failed CIA sponsored invasion of Cuba. The museum plays the victory for all its worth with tanks, planes and guns on the lawn and detailed information boards inside. / Hours: 8:00 – 17:00 | Cost: CUC$2 | Information boards and tours are in Spanish only

PLAYA LARGA TOWN CENTRE

A stroll around the streets of Playa Larga will uncover the remnants of the Cuban – American conflict: an old tank, Fidel statues and a number of murals detailing the invasion and Fidel’s glorious victory.

LEARN

UNCOVER HISTORY

Playa Larga and the nearby Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs) have a firm place in Cuban history. Spend some time discovering the regions chequered past.

RECONSTRUCTED TAÍNO VILLAGE

Only accessible by boat, Hotel Guamá has been built in the image of a Taíno village. Spread across a number of small islands it tries to recall the time before the Spanish arrived when local indigenous tribes ran their own lives. / Location: Ferries and speedboats run from Boca de Guamá | Cost: CUC$12

BAY OF PIGS MUSEUM

Just half an hour drive east of Playa Larga, the Bay of Pigs Museum details the failed CIA sponsored invasion of Cuba. The museum plays the victory for all its worth with tanks, planes and guns on the lawn and detailed information boards inside. / Hours: 8:00 – 17:00 | Cost: CUC$2 | Information boards and tours are in Spanish only

PLAYA LARGA TOWN CENTRE

A stroll around the streets of Playa Larga will uncover the remnants of the Cuban – American conflict: an old tank, Fidel statues and a number of murals detailing the invasion and Fidel’s glorious victory.

RELAX

BEACH CHILLING

So many of Cuba’s beaches are fronted by sterile 1960’s hotels with noisy bars and dreadful clubs. But the fishing village of Playa Larga (Caleton) is a fine exception. Here you can soak up a relaxed bohemian vibe.

PLAYA LARGA & PLAYA MAQUINA

Playa Larga has a few stretches of sand, but if you want an afternoon on the beach then join the locals just east of town. Alternatively, head 3km further to the white powdery sands and turquoise waters surrounding Playa Maquina.

SOL Y CARIBE ON CALETON BEACH

In the evening, congregate with the locals at Sol Y Caribe beach bar on Caleton beach. Pull up a chair, grab a mojito, sit back under the swaying palms and listen to the musings of the band ebb and flow in the breeze.

DINE AT A CASA PARTICULAR

At Playa Larga, locals are adapting to the lifting of restrictions on private businesses. Casa particulares in prime locations have the best food in town. Pop in to see Alexis and Dignora at the Gran Hostel and ask if they have something from today’s catch they can whip up for dinner. You won’t be disappointed.

RELAX

BEACH CHILLING

So many of Cuba’s beaches are fronted by sterile 1960’s hotels with noisy bars and dreadful clubs. But the fishing village of Playa Larga (Caleton) is a fine exception. Here you can soak up a relaxed bohemian vibe.

PLAYA LARGA & PLAYA MAQUINA

Playa Larga has a few stretches of sand, but if you want an afternoon on the beach then join the locals just east of town. Alternatively, head 3km further to the white powdery sands and turquoise waters surrounding Playa Maquina.

SOL Y CARIBE ON CALETON BEACH

In the evening, congregate with the locals at Sol Y Caribe beach bar on Caleton beach. Pull up a chair, grab a mojito, sit back under the swaying palms and listen to the musings of the band ebb and flow in the breeze.

DINE AT A CASA PARTICULAR

At Playa Larga, locals are adapting to the lifting of restrictions on private businesses. Casa particulares in prime locations have the best food in town. Pop in to see Alexis and Dignora at the Gran Hostel and ask if they have something from today’s catch they can whip up for dinner. You won’t be disappointed.

HOW TO

PRACTICALITIES

The town is a fishing village where home owners are slowly adapting their houses to allow guests. So, don’t expect a wide range of facilities. Here are a few tips to help.

CASH

There is no ATM in Playa Larga so bring cash with you. If you need money, the CADECA exchange office will give you CUC for EUR OR USD or you can charge a non-US credit/debit card. / Hours: 8:00 – 14:30 Mon – Fri; 8:00 – 10:00 Sat

ESSENTIALS

There is a small supermarket next to Casa Tiki restaurant that supplies the normal array of Cuban essentials – expect things to be different prices every day.

WIFI

There is no retailer in Playa Larga that provides ESTECA WIFI cards, so bring a stash with you. Your casa particular host may be able to help, otherwise, there are lads roaming the bus stop in Playa Girón who will sell you one.

HOW TO

PRACTICALITIES

The town is a fishing village where home owners are slowly adapting their houses to allow guests. So, don’t expect a wide range of facilities. Here are a few tips to help.

CASH

There is no ATM in Playa Larga so bring cash with you. If you need money, the CADECA exchange office will give you CUC for EUR OR USD or you can charge a non-US credit/debit card. / Hours: 8:00 – 14:30 Mon – Fri; 8:00 – 10:00 Sat

ESSENTIALS

There is a small supermarket next to Casa Tiki restaurant that supplies the normal array of Cuban essentials – expect things to be different prices every day.

WIFI

There is no retailer in Playa Larga that provides ESTECA WIFI cards, so bring a stash with you. Your casa particular host may be able to help, otherwise, there are lads roaming the bus stop in Playa Girón who will sell you one.

WHERE TO STAY IN PLAYA LARGA

Thanks to an abundance of locals trying to get into the lucrative private accommodation market, there’s plenty of casas particulares to chose from in Playa Larga. Here are some of our picks:

BUDGET / CASA CARIBE STAR

Overlooking the local harbour, Casa Cariba Star is perfectly located between the shops and restaurants of Playa Larga and the beach bars of Caleton, both of which are a very short walk.

MID-RANGE / HOSTAL ENRIQUE

This hostel, one road back from the lovely Caleton beach and in the middle of the village, has large air-conditioned rooms, decent food and terraces to enjoy the sea breeze.

MAP / THINGS TO DO IN PLAYA LARGA

All the locations in this guide are included on our map so you can hit the ground running in Playa Larga. Just click on the star to save this map to your places in Google maps.

PLAYA LARGA PLAYLIST

It’s hard to find a beach in Playa Larga that isn’t swaying to the Afro-Cuban tunes that make the country such a vibrant place to visit. Even on our trips out to the national parks, dusty old radios crackled to the sounds of Cuban music.

WHERE TO NEXT?

Firstly, if you found this guide useful, follow us on Instagram to stay up to date with our travel plans.

Secondly, if you are travelling around Cuba then check out our getting around Cuba post. Otherwise here’s some more reading from us you might enjoy.

SWIMMING AT EL NICHO

HIKING IN VIÑALES VALLEY

TRAVEL TIPS FOR CUBA

If you have any questions please leave them in the comments section below – we will always reply. To keep up to date with our travels, sign up to our monthly NEWSLETTER.

Playa Larga is the gateway to the Cienaga de Zapata National Park, a varied ecosystem of wetlands, mangrove forests, coral reefs and underwater canyons. Here's our guide to seeing the best of Playa Larga, Cuba.

Playa Larga is the gateway to the Cienaga de Zapata National Park, a varied ecosystem of wetlands, mangrove forests, coral reefs and underwater canyons. Here's our guide to seeing the best of Playa Larga, Cuba.

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