However does one find the best beach in Cuba? There are an awful lot to choose from and most of them are fabulous. The longest and most famous is Varadero on the north coast, where you would be hard put to it to walk the length of the beach in a day, especially after all the cocktails that you somehow find yourself drinking en route. A brisk early morning walk soon becomes a late morning saunter, then a wander lunchwards, then a yawny shuffle out onto the beach, then a very stationary session under a shady palm tree. Varadero has white sand, blue sea, masses of good hotels, lots of things to do and even more people to talk to. It’s particularly good for families with small children and the staff of the larger hotels can be relied upon to keep them amused whilst their parents chill out.
Cuba is surrounded by around nine hundred cays (pronounced keys), small islands of the sort that pirates used for burying their treasure. One of the smaller ones off the northwest coast is Cayo Santa María, which is the proud host to Playa Ensenachos. Its beach is extraordinary: a long curve of soft white sand, almost deserted, leading down to a huge expanse of shallow aquamarine water as warm and as clear as air, which gradually deepens to dark blue in the distance. Ensenachos is not only one of the best beaches in Cuba but probably one of the best in the whole Caribbean. The sand has a texture similar to talcum powder and it feels like double cream between your toes when you stroll through the shallows. There’s only one place to stay there: the luxury Iberostar Ensenachos Hotel. Not many people know about Ensenachos...yet. Go soon, while your only companions will still be pelicans.
But it is the final beach, Playa Pilar on Cayo Guillermo that is really the star of the show. When you’re shivering in the bus queue in mid-January, this is the kind of tropical fantasy you longingly conjure up. It is a perfect bliss of rolling sand dunes, a beautiful bay, warm turquoise water and authentic rustic charm unspoiled by deckchairs and morning cocktails. The Meliá hotels on Cayo Coco are the best places to stay (www.solmelia.com
) and from there, when you tire of your morning daiquiri, you can easily visit this very special beach which is the stuff that dreams are made of. Go on, close your eyes for a moment and imagine you’re already there, floating in the shimmering shallows, sucking a mango and knowing that stretching ahead of you is day after day of utter and unmitigated idleness on what is without a shadow of a doubt the best beach in Cuba.