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Most visitors to Cayo Largo spend most of their time sprawled out on the 25km (16 miles) of uninterrupted white-sand beach. While the beaches fronting most of the hotels here are some of the finest to be found in the Caribbean, both Playa Paraíso and Playa Sirena on the western end of the island deserve special mention. Protected from the prevailing southeasterly trade winds, these beaches are broad expanses of some of the finest white sand to be found, and they are fronted by calm, clear Caribbean waters of postcard-perfect blue hues. Most of the beaches here are clothing optional, and the large number of European and Canadian visitors to Cayo Largo make topless and nude sunbathing quite common. Shade can be at a premium here, so you'll want to park your towel or beach mat close to a coconut palm, or under a beach umbrella or one of the thatched-roof palapas that are spread around. Be forewarned, demand usually far exceeds supply. If you have a portable beach umbrella or shade device, I highly recommend you bring it to Cayo Largo. The marina runs a basic restaurant and grill on Playa Sirena, and you can also rent Hobie Cats and windsurfers there. Playa Paraíso is almost entirely undeveloped, with a few thatched-roof A-frame structures on the sand for shade.

Full- and half-day boat trips, either on large sailing catamarans or converted fishing boats, are a popular activity here. The trips usually include a stop at Cayo Iguana, a small island with a large population of endemic iguanas, as well as some snorkeling on the barrier reef. These trips often stop at a spot called the piscina natural (natural pool). This slightly submerged sandbar is a beautiful and protected spot for a refreshing swim. These trips cost from CUC$69 to CUC$73 per person, including lunch. Most of the all-inclusive resorts on the island allow guests unlimited use of small sailboats, catamarans, and windsurfers. You can rent a larger cruising sailboat for the day, or even overnight, from the marina. Boats go for between CUC$250 and CUC$600 per day, with a skipper and crew.

Right beside the marina is a small turtle breeding and protection project, La Granja de las Tortugas. You can visit the facility and usually see various young turtles in holding tanks or protected nests. The farm is open daily from 9am to 6pm; admission is CUC$1. Between April and September, the folks here occasionally offer nighttime trips to see the nesting turtles lay eggs. Inquire at your hotel or at the farm for details.

There's great bonefishing on the shallow flats and mangroves all around Cayo Largo. Tarpon, permit, Jack Crevalle, snook, and barracuda are also plentiful. Serious fishermen should contact Avalon (www.cubanfishingcenters.com), which offers 7-day packages, or contact the marina (tel. 45/24-8212; nautica.marina@repgc.cls.tur.cu). With rich coral reefs, steep walls, and numerous wrecks, Cayo Largo has excellent scuba diving and snorkeling, and unlike two of the island's nearby celebrated dive spots, María la Gorda and Isla de la Juventud, you can actually stay in a very comfortable hotel here. Scuba-diving and snorkeling trips are run by the International Dive Center at the marina here (tel. 45/24-8214; buceo.marina@repgc.cls.tur.cu), but can be booked by any hotel on the island. A two-tank dive trip costs CUC$60, with a full equipment package costing an additional CUC$15. Avalon has opened Villa Marinera (www.cubandivingcenters.com), a new dive center with accommodations. Whale sharks can be seen around October and November and at a new dive site, Cayo Blanco, it's possible to dive with dolphins.


Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.