Beaches, Diving & Other Watersports

The spectacular beaches around Guardalavaca are this resort area's main attraction. Tracing the coast are more than 1,200km (746 miles) of pure white beaches lined by royal palm trees, framed by exuberant vegetation, and fronting some of the clearest, most inviting waters of Cuba. The best beaches are Esmeralda, Pesquero, Yuraguanal, and Guardalavaca -- all of which have major hotels lining them -- and small Don Lino. Many of the beaches are long and wide expanses of sand, but the jagged coastline is also peppered with tiny coves that are nearly private. Near the gentle arc of Esmeralda is a series of tiny cove beaches that in practice are almost exclusively for the guests of the Paradisus Río de Oro hotel.

Guardalavaca has a dozen excellent dive sites, including Canto Azul, Laberinto, Cuevas 1-3, Sierena, and Pesquero Sponges, and is well-known for its abundant and vibrant sponges. Eagle Ray (tel. 24/43-0316; is on Playa Guardalavaca, and Sea Lovers Scuba Diving Center (tel. 24/43-0132) is on Playa Esmeralda. They offer dive packages and diving gear rental. Certification programs are also provided with several dive packages; a single dive costs CUC$45 and an open water course costs CUC$365. It is recommended to go direct to the dive centers to book as hotel reps take a large commission cut. Transfers from the hotels are included in the price.

The most popular watersports are sailing, kayaking, wind surfing, canoeing, and pedal boating. Most of the hotels have their own catamarans and other vehicles and facilities for watersports. Marina Internacional Puerto de Vita (tel. 24/43-0445) operates catamaran cruises around the coral reef beyond the cays for either a half- or full day. Marlin, behind La Roca (tel. 24/43-0491), has a wide range of watersports programs, including seafaris with snorkeling to Playa Pesquero, and yacht rentals for sportfishing. Other excursions that can be booked from tour desks include a seafari to Cayo Saetía (CUC$69), a snorkeling trip on a catamaran (CUC$59), a speedboat adventure (CUC$29), a trip to Fidel Castro's birthplace at Birán (CUC $89), and ultralight flights (CUC$150).

Note: While masks are new and tend to fit well, the snorkels these companies use tend to be cheap and do not fit well; bring your own if you plan to do a lot of snorkeling.

Parque Natural Bahia De Naranjo

The Bahía de Naranjo, about 5km (3 miles) west of Guardalavaca, is a 1,000-hectare (2,471-acre) nature park of mangrove swamps and thickly wooded wilderness. Within the park, visitors can take boat rides. There are plenty of man-made attractions to round out the more ecologically oriented offerings. The aquarium at Cayo Naranjo, a sliver of an island reached by boat, isn't really a large-scale aquarium in the traditional sense; it's part of a parque recreativo (tourist complex), but it does feature tropical fish as well as a daily marine show at noon and, best of all, an opportunity to swim with dolphins for CUC$79, which includes transport and guide from the hotels. While we are normally fairly appalled by the conditions of most dolphin attractions, including others around Cuba, this place has some of the largest natural ocean pens you'll find anywhere. You'll also find watersports and a seafood restaurant with an Afro-Cuban show. The park is open daily from 9am to 3pm.

On Dry Land

One of the most popular activities on dry land here is horseback riding. There's plenty of wide-open terrain and wonderful sea views to be enjoyed. However, be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen as protection from the often-brutal sun here. Most hotels can arrange a riding excursion for you. There are stables in front of Hotel Club Amigo Guardalavaca (tel. 24/43-0780).

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.