A COMPLETE GUIDE TO CUBA, PLAYA LARGA: LAID-BACK BEACH TOWN FOR BIRDLOVERS

When researching our trip to Cuba, Playa Larga soon came up as a must-see for our little family. We read about the natural reserve of Ciénaga de Zapata and – animal lovers as we are – we couldn’t say no to a trip to see flamingos and crocodiles! We had originally planned on 4 days in Playa Larga, Cuba, but due to the Covid-19 outbreak, we ended up staying no less than 9 nights! However, we tried to keep a low profile with as little social interaction as possible, so we spent a lot of time on the beach instead of exploring everything there is to see.

This small fishing village hasn’t been built up with resorts like many of the other seaside towns in Cuba. In fact, while most beach holiday destinations in the country are very expensive, Playa Larga is the place to be if you want to visit Cuba on a budget. Even a beachfront room is well within the possibilities for just about anybody.

Read on to learn more about our favourite Cuban seaside town and discover why we like it so much!

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CUBA, PLAYA LARGA: GENERAL INFORMATION

From Havana we arranged transport (a private taxi since our Airbnb host in the capital couldn’t find a shared one) and after a trying 2,5 hours (and a lot of baño Cubano stops later for our little one – she was not feeling great at all) we found ourselves in this laid-back seaside town. (And yes, by baño Cubano we mean stopping the car on the side of the road)

Child in the backseat of taxi to playa larga

Playa Larga Map

Playa Larga is situated on the South coast of Cuba, right on the border of NP Ciénaga de Zapata, a varied ecosystem of wetlands, swamps, mangroves, beaches and ocean. It’s home to crocodiles, flamingos and a variety of birds, which makes it a wonderful destination for birdwatchers (yes, we saw many tourists with gigantic photo lenses).

Together with Playa Girón, it’s mostly known for its location close by the Bay of Pigs (famous for the failed CIA-funded invasion in 1961). However, nowadays, most visitors drop by for excellent snorkelling and diving.

The Town

Playa Larga (Matanzas, Cuba) is a rather sleepy small fishing town, but boy does it have that laid-back feeling we love so much. Apart from the main town, there’s also the residential area Caletón, which transformed into the main tourist hotspot and will most likely be the spot where you’ll be staying. The many colourful guest houses give you an instant happy feeling for sure! Oh and saying there are two parts in town, makes it sound a lot bigger than it actually is.

Oh, and the locals love to ride on bicycles here. As Belgians we are used to people using their trusty bike for the daily commute, so we totally felt at home!

Facilities

Apart from casas particulares, you’ll also find lots of restaurants and bars in Playa Larga along with

  • a bank with two brand new ATM’s
  • a bakery: bread is only sold early in the morning and between 5-7 PM. A long bread costs $3 (CUP).
  • a CADECA money exchange office
  • an Etecsa-office (remember this name, it’s where you buy wifi cards or a SIM-card)
  • post office
  • Tiny shop where you don’t need the libreta (the ‘payment’ Cubans need to get their essentials): it’s located at the far end of the little square alongside the side on the backside of restaurant Caletón – if you’re walking down Calle Caletón there’s a restaurant at the corner of the street, there’s a sign that says Casa Ana as well. When you turn left you head towards the marina and the Caletón beach. Let’s see if you can find it with that explanation, ha!

You can walk from the latter (which is situated just before the junction to the main street) to the beach in about 20 minutes.

As there aren’t really any shops, we always bought our drinks (local cola for us and juice for N.) at the restaurants in town. Big bottles of water were available in our casa.

When we got stuck in Playa Larga and it was looking like we were going to run out of sunscreen, an Italian family told us they found some sunscreen and aftersun in a small store in the central part of town (so not in Caletón). However, we eventually just had enough so we didn’t have to go there. They told us the shop had some candy as well if you have a secret or not so secret sweet tooth.

Oh and let’s talk about ice-cream! Apart from the tiny shop mentioned above where you can buy the standard pots of ice-cream, there’s also an ice-cream shop close to the bakery that we’ve seen open every time we passed in the afternoon. The cones were extremely large, so we had lots of dripping accidents oops. The ice-cream was ok. However, there’s a wooden house/shed along the way from Calle Caletón to Playa Caletón that sells cones whenever they have some. As with most things in Cuba, we saw someone walking with an ice-cream, headed over and asked where they got it. Turns out this little house sold the best ice-cream we had on our trip! A scoop was $3 (CUP). You can’t be picky though, at the time we could choose between vanilla and chocolate.

The beach

When people talk about Playa Larga beach, they’ll probably mean Playa Caletón. This – not gigantic but wide enough – stretch of golden coloured sand along with beautiful turquoise waters (if the sun and the wind work along – we’ve seen it as a very strange green as well) is the main feature of this laid-back place.

There are a couple of beach bars and restaurants on Playa Caletón. The first one when you’re coming from the centre of town (sol y caribe) comes with a bunch of palm trees, which is a huge advantage under the hot Cuban sun (especially with kids!). They let you use the sunbeds or lounge chairs if you drink something, but they aren’t pushy and there were even times when we were only there for an hour or so (playing in the sea) and eventually ended up drinking nothing. Be careful with the chairs, though, many have seen better days! Oh and we recommend eating next door, not at Sol y Caribe.

You can walk all the way from B&B El Varadero to the Buena Ventura neighbourhood (if you’re looking for some more secluded places to stay, this is a great spot!), next door to the entrance of the Ciénaga National Park – it’s about a 15 minute walk along the beach.

There’s another beach on the other side of town (if you follow the main big road instead of taking the junction towards Calle Caletón). There are 2 smaller beaches, both aptly named Playa Larga. The second one (the furthest away from town) is in front of the Hotel Horizontes where you can find some sun chairs and umbrellas.

WHAT TO DO IN PLAYA LARGA, CUBA?

Beach and water fun

#1 Playa Caletón

Playa Caletón is the place to be for some beach and ocean action! Or maybe it’s better to say: some laid-back chilling in the sun. This about 10 meters wide stretch of golden sand is the perfect location for a couple of days of family beach fun.

The palm trees along the Sol y Caribe restaurant provide some well-needed shade (and some great views as well), there aren’t that many though! Have a drink at the beach bar so you can use the sun/lounge chairs and spend a couple of hours playing in the sea. The kids will love the calm, shallow water. Oh, and did I tell you the water’s pretty warm? Yay for the Carribean Ocean!

#2 Snorkelling & diving

Nowadays, Playa Larga and Playa Girón are best known for their excellent snorkelling and diving. There are two dive centres in the area. The main office is the International Scuba Center in Playa Girón, but in Playa Larga, you can book your tour at Club Octopus, located at the Western end of Playa Larga beach (not Caletón!) – whereas the Horizontes Hotel is on the other end.

Playa Caletón isn’t the best spot for these activities, so you might want to head out to Punta Perdiz, Caleta Buena or Cueva de los Peces for better views. All the way from Playa Larga to Playa Girón there’s a huge drop-off which resulted in a huge 300 meters high wall filled with coral, marine life, swim-throughs and so on. Because it’s close to the shore (only 30-40m out) you can just swim right up to it.

Dives are available at only 25 CUC per immersion (all gear, guides and transfers included), but a lot of other options are available such as 5 dives for 100 CUC or an open-water course for 365 CUC. Also, if you’re a beginner, you can get excellent guidance for the standard 25 CUC an additional 10 CUC.

If you’re more interested in the best snorkelling in Cuba, you can book the tour for 10 CUC and rent snorkel gear for 5 CUC. Ask your casa to make the arrangements. A bus will pick you up from you casa (usually around 8.30 AM) and will drop you back off in the early afternoon (2PM).

The very clear, warm and cheap diving makes the Bay of Pigs area one of the best locations in the world to learn how to dive or take a PADI-course. Make sure to check out this very extensive guide if you’re interested in the Playa Larga underwater world.

Beach fun and snorkelling outside of town

While these three places are popular spots on the diving and snorkel tours, you can opt to spend the day there independently as well. In all these places, plastic waste is a big problem. In the all-in formulas, the drinks are served in tiny plastic cups which people take into the sea and leave behind. If it’s an option, bring your own cup and take care of our nature <3.

#3 Fish cave / Cueva de los peces

The Cueva de Los Peces is a 70-meter deep cenote that can be found on the island side of the road between Playa Larga and Playa Girón (almost exactly in the middle!). The cave boasts an abundance of underwater life with lots of brightly coloured tropical fish. However, it might get crowded because it’s a popular spot and it can be difficult to get in and out of the water (bring good shoes!). You can explore the more hidden, deeper parts of the cenote while diving.

It’s a special experience to swim into this green pool of water in the middle of the jungle surrounded by birds and worth a trip for that alone. However, it tends to get dirty as lots of tourists feed bread to the fish and leave trash (which is a known Cuban problem). It might also get crowded because it’s a popular spot (come early to avoid the masses) and it can be difficult to get in and out of the water (bring good shoes!).

On the other side of the road is a small beach which is great for snorkelling, although getting in and out of the water can be a little tricky as well (bring good shoes!).

We wouldn’t recommend doing this trip with young children.

PRACTICAL

  • opening hours: 9 AM – 6 PM
  • price: free
  • extra: restaurant on-site, snorkel gear (5 CUC), parking (also for a bicycle)
  • transport: take the shuttle bus, a taxi or go by bicycle
#4 Punta Perdiz

A bit beyond the Fish Cave is another snorkelling chill-out zone. The water has a lovely colour and it’s shallow which makes it suitable for young children. You can pick up your snorkel gear and start snorkelling right from the shore. When it’s low tie, a shallow pool is created which becomes a really nice temperature in the sun and you’ll be able to just see the fish swim by.

For people looking to dive, you can explore a wreck of a US landing craft that went down during the invasion of the Bay of Pigs. Diving is possible for the fixed price of 25 CUC.

Punta Perdiz has a resort-like feel and it’s a great place to spend the day. There’s no beach with sand here – only a rocky shoreline, but thanks to the shallow water, it’s still a lot of fun with kids. There are sunbeds and umbrellas available for lounging in the sun.

PRACTICAL

  • opening hours: 10 AM – 6 PM
  • price: 15 CUC (all-in) or rent sunbeds for 1 CUC
  • included: all-you-can-eat lunch buffet (12h-15h), free drinks & cocktails, sunbeds, umbrellas
  • extra: snorkel gear (3 CUC), parking (also for a bicycle, 1 CUC)
  • transport: take the shuttle bus, a taxi or a bicycle
#5 Caleta Buena

Caleta Buena is a sheltered cove with crystal blue calm water. It’s the perfect place for snorkelling or you can explore the sinkholes and underwater caves while diving (there’s a dive shop as well). The fish is different from the other spots in the area because of the merging of fresh and saltwater.

Caleta Buena has the same resort-like feel as Punta Perdiz and is a fun place to spend the day. Like Punta Perdiz, there’s no beach here – only a rocky shoreline – and therefore less suitable for families with small children who love playing in the sand. There are sunbeds and umbrellas available for lounging in the sun and the ocean is very calm because it’s a closed-off area in the ocean.

PRACTICAL

  • opening hours: 10 AM – 6 PM
  • price: 15 CUC
  • included: all-you-can-eat lunch buffet (12h30-15h), free drinks & cocktails, sunbeds, umbrellas
  • extra: snorkel gear (3 CUC), parking (also for a bicycle)
  • transport: take the shuttle bus, a taxi or a bicycle

Wildlife in the Zapata Peninsula

#6 Crocodile farm (NOT RECOMMENDED!)

The crocodile breeding center… Well, where to start?

The Cuban crocodile is an endangered species and as one of only two natural habitats (the other being in Isla de la Juventud), the criadoro de cocodrilo does a great job in breeding and preserving.

We explicitly asked our casa owners if this was a decent breeding centre and if they treated the animals right. We consider it extremely important to only support projects that guarantee the well-being of animals. They ensured us this was the case and I know for sure that they honestly believed this (because Ana and Giraldo are the sweetest people in the world and animal lovers as well – read our full review of our stay in Casa Ana here).

HOWEVER, this place is a wild animal farm where the crocodiles (and other animals) are stuck in tiny cages, where you can eat crocodile meat and buy crocodile souvenirs and take pictures with baby crocodiles who have their snouts taped closed. Ugh.

The entree ticket is 5 CUC (children under 6 are free) and you can’t spend more than an hour in there if you eat and drink something. We walked to the end (the cage with the adult crocodiles) and back in about 20 minutes. You should also book your own transport. A private taxi will cost you 25 CUC (for a 15-minute drive).

This was a very expensive trip and it left such a bitter taste in our mouths. I feel so sad for those crocodiles. Even writing this more than a month later gets me all worked up again.

#7 Migratory Bird Sanctuary in the Salinas (Flamingos!)

To see the migratory bird sanctuary in the salt flats of the Zapata National Park, we were recommended to head to the NP office on Playa Larga’s main street (at the junction) at 8-8.30 AM. That way we would be able to see if there were any other tourists who wanted to go and we would be able to share a taxi. However, because we arrived a little late, we couldn’t find other people to share with and we ended up taking a private taxi (transport is never included in the tour price) – this was 30 CUC.

The guide joins you when leaving the NP office and you’ll drive straight to the Salinas. It’s a pretty long pothole road, so be prepared for that. It’s about an hour drive to the first lookout point, then you’ll take about 30-45 minutes watching the birds and then comes the drive back.

Bear in mind that we visited during the breeding season, which isn’t in the Ciénaga de Zapata. Therefore, there were very few flamingos (only the young and old ones are staying). Perhaps when there are thousands, you’ll be able to spend more time here. It’s a wonderfully peaceful spot. Do bear in mind that there’s no shade, so it will get hot around noon.

PRACTICAL

  • best time (day): in the morning, try being at the NP office around 8
  • best time (year): November-January
  • price: 15 CUC
  • included: 3-hour tour with guide
  • extra: transport from the NP office (30 CUC/taxi)

#8 Birdwatching

The Zapata Peninsula is a major hotspot for birdwatchers in Cuba as you can see many different endemic species such as the Cuban national bird Tocororo, the Cuban Parakeet, the colourful Cuban Tody and the Bee Hummingbird (Zunzuncito!).

You can go out exploring on your own in town (staying at casa Ana is the perfect spot for bird lovers as they have a huge garden with lots of flowers and birds!) or at the Cueva de los Peces, but you’ll be far better of booking a guided tour. Head out to the Office of the National Park to discuss options. Favourite options are the Refugio de Fauna Bermejas and the Salinas. Check this guide for more information on birdwatching tours.

If you want to bypass the national park guide, get in contact with Adrian from Casa Ana (not the one we stayed at, but the one next door – confusing, I know). He can arrange great birdwatching tours.

#9 Hiking

A lot of hiking trails are set out in the natural reserve. Don’t forget that you need to be in the company of an official guide to be able to enter the NP. Get more information at the National Park Office.

#10 Fly-fishing

You can head out fly-fishing either in the Hatiguanico river or in the Salinas de Brito. You should always be accompanied by a guide (1 guide + 1 fishermen is the maximum capacity). Flat-bottomed non-motorized boats are being used. It’s getting predictable but ask for more information at the NP office.

#11 Sendero Enigma de las Rocas

The Sendero Enigma de las Rocas is a 2 km hike in Gran Parque Natural Montemar. It’s located only 4 km outside of Playa Girón which means you’ll have to arrange a taxi for transport if you’re coming from Playa Larga.

A park guide is mandatory, but they’ll explain lots about the environment and point out various animals. This is definitely the tour you want to do if you want to see animals. You’ll encounter lots of birds – as is usual in this region – but also see snakes, crocodiles and bats. The trail passes past 2 cenotes and you’ll be able to swim in the second one, so bring your swimming gear.

The guide is 15 CUC per person as usual and a taxi that waits for you to go back will cost you 30 CUC.

History & Culture

#12 Bay of Pigs Museum

Discover the Bay of Pigs Museum which is situated in Playa Girón and tells the story of the 1961 failed invasion. It marks an important aspect of Cuba’s history and its relationship with the United States. It’s a great place to spend an hour.

You might expect it to bring a bit of a one-sided story, but it’s surprisingly accurate, just told from the Cuban perspective. You won’t get anywhere with English though, so you want to know at least some Spanish to experience it completely. If not, it’s possible to hire a guide.

The museum features a movie about the invasion and you can see the huge tanks and a Hawker Sea Fury plane which all aid to the visual part of the story.

The admission is 2 CUC but you have to pay another CUC to watch the documentary. The museum is located in the middle of Playa Girón town.

#13 Boca de Guáma – traditional Cuban village

Next door to the crocodile farm you can find Boca de Guáma. Here you can take a boat ride (for a very expensive 12 CUC) over the Laguna del Tesoro – a freshwater lake – and its channels to Aldea Taína.

In about 15 minutes you’ll be brought to an island in the middle of the lake. Here you’ll find the Guáma Hotel which has a unique setting for sure. There’s a reconstructed Taína (indigenous Cuban tribe) village with lots of sculptures from the famous Cuban artist Rita Longa. You’re able to see what daily life looked like for the Taína, but it would be so much more valuable if there would be any kind of explanation.

During the boat ride, you’ll see lots of animals and birds, but it will go at top speed which is a pity.

#14 Playa Girón

Playa Girón is another beach town around the Bay of Pigs. It’s situated about 30 minutes from Playa Larga and it’s well worth a visit for the Museo Girón and a change of scenery in beaches (check out Playa Coco for the white sand feeling!). Overall, Playa Larga has a much nicer vibe than Playa Girón so we’d recommend doing this as a (half) day trip while staying in Playa Larga.

#15 Cienfuegos

Cienfuegos is the largest city in the vicinity and should probably be on your overnight itinerary rather than as a day trip. However, if you’re short on time or if you just prefer smaller towns, spend a day in Cienfuegos to and soak up the city life after a couple of relaxing beach days.

This colonial city is called the Pearl of the South and boasts a lot of stunning architecture where you can still see the French influences. Make sure to check out the shopping street with shops that don’t have empty shelves – trust me, it’s a sight in Cuba!

You can take a colectivo from Playa Larga to Cienfuegos for 15 CUC per person, but try to make a round trip deal and you’ll probably be a lot cheaper off.

WHERE TO STAY IN PLAYA LARGA?

As is often the case in Cuba, the best place to stay is in a casa particular. Apart from the fact that supporting locals and not the government is something you should consider doing all the time on your trip, there really is no other choice in Playa Larga.

The only Playa Larga hotel is Hotel Horizontes Playa Larga and like many other branches of the hotel chain, it has a lot of former glory. The 2,5 out of 5-star Tripadvisor speaks for itself.

However, fear not, staying at a casa particular is lots of fun and I promise you’ll have the time of your life. We stayed at Casa Ana/Casa Gleybis and loved our time there. We’d go back in a heartbeat.

Probably the hardest part of it all is choosing what casa particular to stay in Playa Larga. We found booking through Airbnb very convenient, you get to pay in advance so that’s one worry less (getting enough money out of the ATM is always a bit of a hassle) and the reviews give you an honest review of what to expect. The location for Airbnb Playa Larga, Cuba can sometimes be a little off, but all casas are within easy walking distance of the ocean – it really is a village of only a couple of streets.

Unfortunately for us, travellers, they all get raving reviews. So, how do you choose then? We scouted out a lot of the accommodation in Playa Larga to see how they looked. Now, we didn’t go in, so this list is a combination of the location and outside looks and reviews we found online.

All this casas are available for $15-60 per night.

Casa Ana y Giraldo El Carpintero / Casa Gleybis

This is the place we stayed at during our 9 nights in Playa Larga. We can not recommend it enough. Ana and Giraldo are the sweetest and you’ll feel right at home. The garden is lovely and awesome for birdwatching (the hummingbirds are everywhere!). The breakfast is amazing! It’s only a 5-minute walk to the beach and 1-minute to the closest restaurants.

The price for a bedroom is 16 CUC per night (not including the service cost of Airbnb). You can have breakfast for 5 CUC pp and diner for 10 CUC pp. Ana & Giraldo speak only a little bit of English, but they’ll do everything in their power to accommodate your needs. There’s also free wifi. You can read our in-depth review here!

Casa Alexis y Dignora

We passed by this casa every time we walked towards the beach, it’s another 2 minutes to get there. It’s located just across the wooden ice-cream shed (yay, that way you can keep an eye on the opening hours! Snatch one when it becomes available, they’re yummy!). The place looked big and clean from the outside.

There are 5 bedrooms and 1 of them has a beach view (you can see the little fishermen boats come in in the local harbour). Breakfast is available for $5 and apparently changes every day. You can have dinner for $11 and seems to be extremely good. There’s also free wifi, which is rare in Cuba. The casa owns 2 bicycles which you can use to go to nearby beaches. Oh and it has a more modern design than most other casas (in fact, we only saw something similar in Viñales – usually it’s full on flowers, colours and heavy dark brown furniture).

Casa Josefa Pita

This place was along the road towards the playa, so we passed this casa every day. The abundance of flowers caught our eye and made us wonder what this place was like. Apparently pretty awesome! While the 2 rooms are basic as usual, they offer a large private terrace each and glorious views right on the waterfront (it’s in the cove close to the harbour, so don’t expect a beach).

Snorkel gear is included and breakfast ($4) and dinner ($8-10) is great. The hospitality of the owners is worth mentioning.

B&B El Varadero

This place looked absolutely amazing and according to the reviews, it really is! The location is perfect, on the eatern most corner of Playa Caletón. The beach in front of the casa is rocky, but a couple of steps to the right and you’ll be able to put your feet in soft sand. The view is amazing and breakfast & dinner are served on the terrace overlooking the ocean.

There are 2 rooms which each have their own private terrace as well. Both rooms have a double and a single bed and come with a mini-fridge. There’s also a separate house called “la Casita” available for rent, which is also located right on the beach. The owners speak English and apparently serve fantastic food.

Hostal Danay

If there was one place that looked amazing while we were in Playa Larga, it was Hostal Danay. It took us quite some time to find out the name (in fact, I only found out just now and it wasn’t easy to find on the internet either), but this 2 story beachfront house really stands out – quite literally as well.

We were drawn by the swings and the large decks and the gorgeous location right at Playa Caletón. Just head downstairs and jump into the water. The views must be incredible!

Our research shows that’s not only a pretty face – the hostel is a great stay as well. Host Danay is very friendly as is her father – a chihuahua loving fisherman. Breakfast and other meals are served straight onto the beach. The rooms are basic, as is costumbrary in Cuba, but everything is in decent shape. But you’re heading here for the location and view without a doubt.

HOW MUCH TIME SHOULD YOU SPEND IN PLAYA LARGA?

Now, that really is a tough question. We’re always a big fan of spending a couple days more at a destination, simply because we like to enjoy our time there by doing nothing or sit on a square or something similar. Especially with (small) children, it’s hard to stuff your itinerary, but even before our Little Elf came along, we preferred this more laid-back style of travel.

So, while you could definitely enjoy Playa Larga in 1 or 2 nights, we would definitely recommend spending at least 4. While on your day of arrival you’ll probably check out the town itself, there’s plenty to be discovered the next days. Say you’d like to do a snorkel or divetrip in the gorgeous Bay of Pigs area. Then you’d love a relaxing day at the beach in either Punta Perdiz or Caleta Buena. Of course, some action in the Ciénaga de Zapata National Park as well. Not to mention a stop at the Museo Girón in Playa Girón.

With kids you might want to extend that to 6 or 7 days, so you can have some lazy beach days as well. Caletón, Playa Larga, Cuba is such a great place with safe water fun and lots of space to build sand castles. Playa Larga is such a nice little town with this carribean vibe and colourful houses. You won’t even know where those days have gone by – we certainly didn’t!

BEST TIME TO VISIT

The best time to visit Cuba, in general, is during the dry season from December to April, although February is considered the high-season month, so you might want to avoid that one if you don’t like big crowds. In summer, the humidity can be suffocating and the swarms of mosquitos aren’t the most fun to be around. Hurricane season is from August to early November, so it’s best to avoid the area during these months.

For Playa Larga specifically, there are a couple of months that are better than others.

  • December: this is the best month to see the big flocks of migratory birds returning to the salinas in Ciénaga de Zapata. If you ever wanted to see thousands of flamingos, this is your shot!
  • April: this is the month of the crab migration in the Ciénaga de Zapata (and also in the Pinar del Río peninsula), so if you’ve always wanted to watch hundreds of orange crabs crossing the streets, head to Playa Larga in this month.

We visited Playa Larga in March and had some great but not overly hot weather, but we hardly saw any flamingos and other migratory birds in the salt flats. There were a decent amount of tourists in town, but not so much that it was bothersome.

HOW TO GET THERE

There are 2 ways to reach this beachside town: you can either take the Víazul bus or a (shared) taxi. As most travellers move in a counter-clockwise rotation around the island, the connections coming from Viñales and Havana are the easiest to book. Going to and from Cienfuegos and Trinidad should not be a problem at all. However, reaching Viñales from Playa Larga might be a bit more difficult.

We usually take local transport while travelling but found that to be very difficult in Cuba. Especially with our daughter, we didn’t feel like spending a couple of hours standing in the burning sun to see if we could manage to take a local means of transport. However, if you’re feeling adventurous, check out this guide from the DIYtravelhq, because it is possible to travel like a local in Cuba! – and there’s a big part of me that feels very excited at the thought, but then I think about how we all get when we’re hot, hungry and tired. Yeah. Thanks but no thanks.

Getting to and from Playa Larga by bus

As there is no Cubanacan bus to Playa Larga, your only option is to take the Víazul if you want a direct route into town.

The Víazul bus route from Havana to Trinidad has stops in Playa Larga, Playa Girón and Cienfuegos. However, on the website, it is impossible to book a trip from Havana to Playa Larga for some reason. You can put in Playa Girón as a destination and get off at the junction to Caletón – right in front of the National Park office. From here you can either walk or take a bicitaxi to Playa Larga town (5min walk) or Caletón (20min walk). We booked this route but were unable to take the bus because we were sick. We ended up booking a private taxi instead. As of February 2020, there is only one bus a day on this line in each direction.

The route from Varadero to Trinidad and back also has stops in Playa Larga, Playa Girón and Cienfuegos. The same goes as above, booking a seat from Playa Larga to Varadero, Cienfuegos or Trinidad is possible and the bus will stop on the highway in front of the junction. However, there’s no Víazul office in Playa Larga, so you have to book it some other way (either by booking it in a Víazul office beforehand, online on the Víazul website or through Zunzuncar).

Children age 6 or up pay half of the adult price and little ones are free.

FROMTODEPARTURE TIMEARRIVAL TIMEPRICE
Havana Playa Larga7 am9.45 am13 CUC
TrinidadPlaya Larga7 am
10 am
10.25 am
12.55 pm
12 CUC
CienfuegosPlaya Larga8.30 am
11.15 am
10.25 am
12.55 pm
7 CUC
VaraderoPlaya Larga12 pm14.30 pm7 CUC
Playa LargaHavana1 pm4.45 pm13 CUC
Playa LargaTrinidad9.50 am
14.40 pm
13.25 pm
18.25 pm
12 CUC
Playa LargaCienfuegos9.50 am
14.40 pm
11.40 am
16.40 pm
7 CUC
Playa Larga Varadero10.30 am13.35 pm7 CUC

Getting to and from Playa Larga by colectivo or private taxi

Using a private or shared taxi is the most convenient but also the most expensive way to travel around Cuba. The comfort of such a taxi can vary greatly. Either you get a ‘new’ yellow taxi as we all know them, which is very comfortable and usually has airconditioning or you get a classic. The last one is lots of fun because they’re pretty and cool, but they’re lacking a bit in comfort. Usually, they’re very hot – especially in a shared one!, slow(ish) and bumpy. But hey, you’re in Cuba and riding a 1957 Chevrolet isn’t the worst thing in the world, ok?

If you want to take a (colectivo) taxi from Viñales to Playa Larga (or anywhere on the South Coast), you’ll swap cars in Havana. That way each driver can get home easily – because Viñales to Playa Larga/Cienfuegos/Trinidad is quite the journey. You won’t have to do anything, just let your driver guide you to the new car, sit back and relax!

These are the recent prices of shared and private taxis [march 2020]. You can book all these taxis online through Zunzuncar or you can make arrangements while you’re there. Finding a taxi isn’t all that difficult but make sure to book them (through) your casa at least a day in advance, otherwise you might find yourself stuck.

ROUTEPRICETIME
Havana - Playa Larga - Havana$ 25 pp (shared)
$ 100 (private)
2,5 hours
Havana Airport - Playa Larga - Havana Airport$ 120 (private)3 hours
Viñales - Playa Larga - Viñales$ 40 pp (shared)
$ 160 (private)
4,5 hours
Playa Larga - Playa Girón - Playa Larga$ 5 (shared)
$ 15 (private)
30 minutes
Playa Larga - Cienfuegos - Playa Larga$ 20 (shared)
$ 85 (private)
1,5 hours
Playa Larga - Trinidad - Playa Larga$ 25 pp (shared)
$ 95 (private)
3 hours
Playa Larga - Varadero - Playa Larga$ 30 pp (shared)
$ 100 (private)
3 hours

FINAL THOUGHTS

I think it’s pretty clear what we thought about Playa Larga, no? We absolutely loved this colourful fishermen village. It’s a bit of the beaten track, but still touristy enough to find facilities (to Cuban standards).

Accommodation is plentifull and you’ll have a hard time picking the best place from all those nice options. Finding things to do is not hard, in fact, you’ll probably have to make a selection because there are so many fun things to do in Playa Larga.

Whether you are travelling as a family with kids, as an adventurous couple or are an avid birdwatcher, Playa Larga will offer you lots and in the process, you’ll probably fall in love with the town.

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