Updated: Jul 26
Welcome to the land of wild flamingos. You’ll see hundreds of them, if not thousands, walking through the lagoons that lead out to Cayo Coco. Cuba is well-known for its cayos (cays), strings of some of the most picturesque archipelagos in the world. Surprisingly, there are about 4,000 of them dotting the coastline.
Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Santa Maria are just a few that lure travelers with their powdery sand and cerulean seas. They range from completely uninhabited to fully built out with all-inclusive resorts that cater to thousands of tourists each year. The coral reefs in Cuba are so well preserved because the island hasn’t experienced the over-tourism that many other tropical nations have, making this a snorkeling and scuba diving paradise.
How to get to Cayo Coco, Cuba
Jardines del Rey Airport (CCC airport code) is the closest international airport, and if you fly in, it’ll only take you 20 minutes or so to get to your hotel. Most resorts have shuttles that are included in your all-inclusive package, but if not, it’ll cost you about 20 CUC to take a taxi. If you’re driving from Havana, get comfy because it’s going to take you six to seven hours depending on how many times you stop. The Autopista will take you the majority of the way, to Sancti Spiritus, where you will hop on the Carretera Central heading towards Moron and out to the cays.
If you’re traveling from Camaguey by car, it’s much closer at just under three hours. You’ll head northwest on Carretera Central to Ciego de Avila, a drive that’ll take you about an hour and a half. When you get to Ciego de Avila, you’ll head east on Avenida Antonio Guiteras to Morón. You’ll know you’re almost there when you see the long stretch of highway that goes virtually into the ocean. There’s only one road that goes in and out of Cayo Coco and it is insanely beautiful to drive it. The lagoons are full of brightly colored, wild flamingos and you can see them for miles around.
Why you should visit Cayo Coco, Cuba
It’s hard to imagine beaches more beautiful than in the Jardines del Rey region of Cuba. They are so quintessential paradise it almost seems as if they aren’t real. There are few places we have been that have actually taken your breath away (Positano, Italy was one of them) and Cayo Coco was another. If Heaven had a beach, it would look like these cayos.
White, sugary sand lines the shoreline and you can wade into the warm turquoise water all the way up to your chest without being battered by the waves. This is where the sky meets the sea and you often can’t tell where one begins and the other ends. The sunsets and sunrises are soft sorbets of pinks, oranges and yellows. Many people don't know beauty like this really exists outside of Photoshop. If all you planned to do on vacation was count your footprints in the powdery sand, that is reason enough to visit Cayo Coco. But don’t worry, there are plenty of things to do in Cayo Coco besides sitting in a beach chair and drinking in the surroundings, you’ll find them below.
Where to eat in Cayo Coco, Cuba
The good news is, most hotel packages in Cayo Coco include all-you-can-eat at their expansive restaurants and buffets. The bad news is, those buffets can be hit or miss and are often not designed with your inner food critic in mind. That doesn’t mean the food isn’t good, just picture giant pans of hot food and soft-serve ice cream machines.
If you want something a little more intimate and less cafeteria-style, there are a couple places that are worth leaving the resorts for, and we recommend you try at least one. Lenny’s Bar & Grill may sound a little too “Margaritaville” for those looking for an authentic experience, but you won’t regret it. The open-air restaurant sits right along a private cove called Playa Prohibida and serves freshly grilled seafood and cold drinks.
Ranchon las Dunas is a great option that you don’t have to leave the beach to find. It sits right along the ocean, sandwiched between the big resorts TRYP Cayo Coco and Sol or Melia Cayo Coco. If you’re out walking along the beach, you’ll likely stumble upon this thatch-roofed restaurant looking for a cold beer. Get excited, because that beer will only cost you about a buck so you might as well get comfortable, have a few cold ones and order lunch while you’re at it.
Here it is again, that fresh lobster and shrimp recommendation, but if seafood isn’t your thing, you can’t go wrong with the pork and yellow rice. And don’t forget, you can always ask the staff which dish they think is the most delicious.
What to do in Cayo Coco, Cuba
There are lots of things to do within the resorts themselves. Many people come to Cuba to party, and the resorts take note of that sentiment and do it up with nightly concerts, salsa lessons, dance parties and pool parties. Music is a huge part of Cuban culture, so you’ll find it nearly everywhere you go. From the DJs at the pool parties to live salsa bands and trios at the restaurants, you’ll get a good mix of music from all over the world.
Never in a million years did we think we’d be surrounded by Canadian hockey fans blaring ACDC during the playoffs, but it happened. If you want to check out a nightclub nearby, La Cueva Del Jabali is a unique place tucked into a cave where you can dance the night away. If you want more of an authentic cave tour experience, check out the caves in Viñales.
And let’s not forget the water sports. You’re right in the middle of the Caribbean and there’s no shortage of aquatic fun to have. There’s deep sea and fly-fishing excursions in the neighboring Cayo Romano and kite surfing right along the beach near the hotel TRYP. If you’re looking for an adventure that is fun for the whole family, there are glass bottom boat tours that will only cost you around 20-25 CUC per person. You’ll watch the captain dive for starfish, feed the fish and you can snorkel right off the boat.
Looking for a beach that's not lined with mega resorts and the tourists that come with it? Take a closer look at our Santa Lucia, Cuba travel guide.
More things to see in Cuba
Ashley Oñoz-Wright has been a travel writer and editor based in Las Vegas, NV for the last ten years. Her work has been featured in Manifesting Travel, Modern Luxury, Sophisticated Living, Greenspun Media Group, Vegas.com and LasVegas.com. She holds a degree in Sociology & Anthropology from DePauw University.