Cuba is the westernmost island of the Greater Antilles, located just 90 miles from Key West, Florida, around an hour of flying time.
If island hopping is your dream vacation, then sailing around Cuba is perfect as the archipelago has 4,000 cays and islets. Your backdrop includes agricultural valleys with tobacco fields, colorful city architecture and coral atolls. Cuba’s atolls boast white stretches of sand, clear water for snorkeling and a bounty of marine life living among healthy reefs. On land, monkeys and iguanas are waiting to greet you.
It’s popular with sailors for its favorably warm climate, steady winds, natural beauty, joyful atmosphere and friendly people. When Christopher Columbus discovered the island in 1492, he said: “This is the most beautiful land one has ever seen.”
The beauty of the archipelago
The gorgeous Cuban coast and off-lying islands are ready for you to discover and Archipelago de los Canarreos is within easy reach of the base at Cienfuegos.
Cuban cities such as Trinidad and the capital, Havana, are protected by UNESCO World Heritage and renowned for their bright architectural richness and scenic beauty – you’ll get the opportunity to visit both on a Cuba yacht charter.
You can learn to dance the rumba or salsa or take a ride in a retro classic American car from a bygone era. The famous Havana Club rum can’t go without a mention too! The island has a reliable marine infrastructure and about 20 marinas and nautical centers all around Cuba gladly welcome yachts under all flags and offer a range of services.
Day 1: Explore Cienfuegos with its striking and brightly-colored French colonial architecture flanked by palm trees, wide streets with covered sidewalks and a vibrant waterfront. Head to Parque Jose Marti, a large square home to great street food, shops, free Wi-Fi and a bandstand. Walk Punta Gorda, dine at the nearby restaurants and watch the sunset. Take a taxi for an hour further inland to the El Nicho waterfalls, where you can swim in the less busy lower pool. As you head to Guano del Este, keep a look out for Jagua Castle at the entrance to the bay and dolphins. Guano del Este features a strange-looking lighthouse and sandy beaches with coral in shallow waters.
Day 2: Spend the day at Cayo Largo, a small limestone cay which was popular with pirates wanting to hide their treasure. You can anchor off Playa Sirena, which is a fabulous beach fringed with palm trees and amazing snorkeling, although the waves are invigorating. Make sure your camera is ready, as photos taken here will be the envy of all with its glittering turquoise waters and plenty of soft white sandy beaches to choose from. Try Playa Paraiso, which was rated by TripAdvisor as one of the top 25 beaches in the world, or, if you want seclusion, head west of Sol Cayo Largo.
Day 3: Spend the day exploring Cayo Largo in the morning. Animal lovers can visit the Sea Turtle Hatchery, Centro de Rescate de Tortugas Marinas, which is part of a major conversation program. Keep watch for the resident iguanas too. After lunch head to Quinto Canal, about 30 minutes away, where you can bathe in a natural pool off a sandbank that is calm and warm. Sail onwards 40 minutes to the Cayos Los Ballenatos coral reef, which is great for snorkeling and has vibrant underwater marine life. You’ll spot plenty of tropical fish and perhaps even sea turtles. You can head back to Quinto Canal or Cayo Largo overnight.
Day 4: After breakfast make for Cayo Rosario, an uninhabited island except for a healthy population of iguanas. This is a popular diving and snorkeling location because of the richness and variety of fish and sea creatures. If you want to relax on the beach, you’ll find a stunning, large stretch of pink sand that wraps the lower part of the cay. You can spend hours looking at the shells and beachcombing.
Day 5: Set sail for Cayo Estopa and enjoy the beach, lazy swimming and snorkeling. In the afternoon, sail to Cayo Rico with its light pink sands, healthy coral and fantastic shoals of tropical fish – you might even see large starfish and rays. This is a wild island with just one small seafood restaurant near the jetty, which is popular and reasonably priced if you want fresh lobster. As you relax on the beach, you can watch the iguanas scuttling around and they love eating fruit.
Day 6: Head back to Cayo Largo to relax on one of the many beaches. Dine at the beach grills (ranchóns) at lunch time where you can order shrimp and lobster. You can also find a la carte restaurants, which are open in high season. If you are there on a Friday, you can take part in the weekly fiesta for a small fee. Sail onwards to Cayo Sal and explore the cay.
Day 7: Head back to Cienfuegos before 10am to disembark.