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Cayo Largo: An absolute beach paradise

Cayo Largo: An absolute beach paradise

Most vacationers here fly in from Europe or Canada for a week or so of relaxing on the beach, snorkeling, boozing, and not doing much of anything else. You’re a captive audience, given the distance from the mainland and the relative paucity of things to see and do. Other visitors fly in for one- or two-night excursions from Havana or Varadero.

The main drawback here: No Cubans are allowed and other than the hotel workers, billeted far away from the hotels, you’ll leave with virtually no sense of the country itself. And most of the few services here (a bank, medical clinic, and disco) are five kilometers away in the workers and administrative village: El Pueblo. Choose your hotel carefully. There are only six to pick from. They vary markedly, from the unexciting Hotel Club Cayo Largo to the attractive four-star Sol Cayo Largo, plus there’s a fishing lodge (Villa Marinera) nestled up to mangrove-lined shallows. All the hotels are run on an all-inclusive basis and concentrate along Playa Paraíso, where high surf occasionally makes enjoying the watersports all but impossible.

An excursion shuttle ferries visitors to and from Playas Sirena and Paraíso, twin stunning swathes of white sand that have a beach grill and watersports. And sailboat excursions take you to nearby uninhabited cays sprinkled like diamonds across the sapphire sea, including Cayo Iguana, named for the large population of endemic giant lizards appearing as baked and lifeless as the ground they walk on.
More information about Cayo Largo Geography
Cayo Largo del Sur is also known simply as Cayo Largo, which means large island. It is a small resort island belonging to Cuba, in the Caribbean Sea no more than 25 kilometers (16 mi) long and 3 kilometers (1.9 mi) wide. It is the second-biggest island in Cuba’s Canarreos Archipelago.

Cayo Largo is a limestone island, formed over millions of years from the remains of marine organisms, such as the ones that build coral reefs. Living coral reefs form one more attraction for tourists on this island, although coral bleaching has stressed some reef communities in the Caribbean. The northern coast of Cayo Largo consists largely of mangroves and salt pans. While the water south of the island appears clear enough to reveal the underlying ocean floor, the water on the north side of the island is cloudy. This cloudy water indicates that sediment is washing off the land surface and into the water or is being stirred up from the shallow sea floor.
Vilo Acuña Airport (IATA: CYO, ICAO: MUCL) is the international airport on the island.

History
Christopher Columbus is said to have visited the island on his second expedition in 1494, and Sir Francis Drake may have also stopped on the island during his circumnavigation of the globe. Pirates also likely used the island as a base. Today, pristine beach, scuba diving, and wildlife draw tourists to the island, but few people live there permanently; locals who work in the hotels stay for about 20 days, then return to their families on nearby islands. There are five all-inclusive resort hotels on the island. Flights from Argentina, Italy, and Canada service the island. A large catamaran style ferry provides surface transportation.

Beaches
Cayo Largo is so isolated and quiet that some nude sunbathing has become the habit on and is Playa los Cocos, and on other desolate stretches of beaches (20 km) on this island. Typically, the fine white sand is packed hard on the surf’s edge and allows easy walking.

The beaches on the western side Playa Sirena, and Playo Paraiso are approx a kilometre apart, and one may easily walk between them when the tide is not full. A shuttle ‘train’ service takes tourists from the resorts to these beaches. Sirena in many people’s view is one of the best beaches in the world. Activities on the beach may be curtailed during turtle egg-laying season. The beach has water sports related to the hotels, a restaurant, dolphin attraction, docks for catamaran trips. The lee side of the beach features tidal flats where many very large starfish congregate and other tropical fish are easily viewed.

This map forms part of the excellent Moon Guide to Cuba see www.moon.com/destinations/cuba for more details, ? Avalon Travel   Christopher P. Baker is a professional travel writer and photographer, and leads tours of Cuba for MotoDiscovery and National Geographic Expeditions. His six books about Cuba include MI MOTO FIDEL: MOTORCYCLING THROUGH CASTRO?S CUBA (National Geographic Adventure Press), winner of two national book awards.
? Christopher P Baker
travel writer ? photographer ? moto-journalist ? cuba expert
cpbaker@earthlink.net | www.christopherpbaker.com

Lowell Thomas Award 2008 Travel Journalist of the Year  


  In 1996 Christopher shipped his BMW R100GS motorcycle to Cuba and rode 7,000 miles during a three-month journey to research the Moon handbook to Cuba. His award-winning literary travel book – Mi Moto Fidel: Motorcycling through Castro’s Cuba – describing the journey was published by National Geographic Adventure Press.

Awards
Travel Book of the Year
Lowell Thomas Awards
“This is a wonderful adventure book… a meditation on philoso-phy, politics, and the possibilities of physical love. It has the depth of a novel and the feeling of a great love story.”
Judges, Lowell Thomas Award
also NATJA Grand Priz  


Rave reviews…
“Mi Moto Fidel is a satisfying and complete portrait of Cuba It’s all here: money, sex, politics, geography, history, cigars, marlin, and, of course, Fidel. Serious travel writing is often intricate and complex. Bikers, it seems, do it better.”
Tim Cahill — Pass the Butterworms and Road Fever

“Baker’s kiss-and-tell account of his romps across Fidel’s island offers a bittersweet glimpse of life inside the last Marxist utopia.”
Jon Lee Anderson — Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life

“Chris Baker’s chaotic pilgrimage–by turns sharp-eyed, lustful, poetic, feverish and joyful–brings a tropical nation of 10 million to vivid, pulsating life. The motorcycle proves itself, once again, a brilliant, ice-breaking instrument of true travel.”
Ted Simon — Jupiter’s Travels: Four Years Around the World on a Triumph           April 2013

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