The largest island in the Caribbean, Cuba has no shortage of coastline or spectacular beaches. But one of Cuba’s loveliest playas isn’t actually located on the mainland and is still something of a secret, even for frequent visitors. The aptly named Playa Paraiso –“Paradise Beach”– is located on Cayo Largo del Sur, a small resort island just off Cuba’s southern coast.
The beach probably looks much like it did when historians believe that Christopher Columbus sailed to Cayo Largo in 1494 on his second trip to the New World. Playa Paraiso’s powdery sand and pale blue waters are still pristine and the nearby reefs boast some of the best diving and snorkeling in the Caribbean. Sea turtles, iguanas and a wide range of birds can be seen throughout the island.
Like the rest of Cuba, Playa Paraiso has long been off limits to US visitors. The Obama administration’s loosened travel rules have recently been tightened, and only certain types of structured trips to Cuba are allowed for Americans.