Cayo Jutías is the best beach in Cuba from all what we saw. It’s wild, remote, full of life…Its turquoise waters turn pink at sunset, although that is something not many people know. Its white sand is overwhelming at first glance. Paradise for those who know where to look for it. And from now on, for everyone who reads this post.
From home we found some beautiful pictures but none showed its real nature.
BUT, WHAT IS A CAYO?
A Cayo is a sandy, low-lying island that is formed on coral soil. It is very common throughout the Caribbean and the Antilles Sea.
To reach some of them it is necessary the use of boats. However, others are so close to the coast that they can connect naturally or through bridges and roads, with the main island of Cuba.
The ecosystem in the islands is usually very fragile due to the small extension of them. Cayo Jutías for example owes its name to a large rodent called “Jutía” that inhabits the Cuban trees, and now is almost extinct.
During travel arrangements we considered whether to go to this island or to Cayo Levisa. Both are accessible from Viñales.
Finally, with only 15 days to visit Cuba we chose Cayo Jutías for the following reasons:
- We were told in our “casa particular” that Cayo Jutías is more beautiful than Cayo Levisa, more exotic and even more natural. Cayo Levisa has a big resort on the beach, so there are people constantly.
- We would save time and money by going to Cayo Jutías since to go to Cayo Levisa we had to take a Ferry.
- Although they told us that it was impossible to sleep in Cayo Jutías, our plan was trying to stay there overnight. Therefore, we did not know if we would use one or two days of our trip, leaving us without time to see both.
HOW TO GET TO CAYO JUTiAS
Finding a shared taxi that takes you to Cayo Jutías from Viñales is very easy. At the door of the station of Viazul of Viñales there are taxi drivers who offer a seat for 15 CUC round trip. Simply you have to agree with them the day before for the time of departure and the price.
What we found impossible was to find one who would not mind returning after sunset. The road to Cayo Jutías is in very bad conditions. So bad that they had to finally remove the entry ticket to the beach because tourists complaints were heard. It was unthinkable that they charged for crossing a bumpy road full of holes.
That’s why taxi drivers, who must sustain their cars over 30 years, cannot risk suffering a breakdown by driving in the dark on those roads. If you are lucky, some will wait until 6 in the afternoon. Most, at 4 o’clock have already left the island. In any case it is not enough to enjoy the best time of the day in Cayo Jutías, the incredible sunset.
Despite having booked a round trip, something inside me knew that we would not return with the taxi driver at 6. I smelled the adventure, even though Dani had already resigned himself to missing the sunset.
Top things to do in cayo jutías – THE best BEACH IN CUBA
LANDING IN CAYO JUTÍAS
We arrived at Cayo Jutías about 10 in the morning after an hour and a half packed in a shared taxi. The beach was very nice but to be honest, it was not what we expected. The blue water and the white sand were full of people. A snack bar, two bars and plenty of hammocks and parasols eventually completely destroyed my concept of perfect beach.
If you like crowds on the beach, you will enjoy like a child on this beach. But of course, it was not what we were looking for. A little disappointed we went to the shore and from there we saw hidden in some bushes a small tent. The surprise was big since until that moment we had thought that you could not camp in Cuba. We went eager to talk to its occupants.
They turned out to be two very nice Spanish girls who were going to travel through South America during the following 4 months. And they confirmed to us; of course in Cuba you can camp. They had been doing it all over the island for a month and they had not had any problems.
At that time we regretted a lot of not having carried a tent. Luckily they told us, during the night some guards watched the beach bars and that if we asked them they would tell us where we could sleep. They believed that they had a tent to lend.
Emotion overflowed me. Especially since I had told to the incredulous Dani that they were not going to return to Viñales that day and now we knew that I was right. But the good news did not end there. They did not say that at the end of the Cayo, towards the southwest, there was a beach with giant starfish.
THE ROUTE to the secret beach
At once we headed on our path with the dream of finding that distant beach we had been told about. As soon as you leave the beach bars behind the landscape changes radically. Entanglements of dead mangroves made it difficult for us to cross. I will never forget those grayish trunks breaking the waves.
Despite the extreme beauty of the environment, walking in these conditions can be a real challenge. Sometimes the mangroves forced us into the water until it covered our knees.
Sometimes a road loomed inland, away from the coast. There we passed near a lagoon where millions of crabs moved out of our way with a loud roar.
The worst part was spent across a thick Pine forest where mosquitoes almost devour us. More than anywhere else in Cuba, if you are going to do this route, bringing mosquito repellent is vital.
Many times we found small beaches that tempted us to forget the idea of giant starfish and to stop going there.
THE PARADISE – THE BEST BEACH OF CUBA
However, after an hour of walking and when we were about to give up, the path cleared and we entered paradise. Without a doubt the best beach in Cuba.
A paradise to ourselves, where the only sound was the waves of the sea.
As soon as we entered the water we found what we were looking for. Starfish like we’ve never seen before.
DO NOT KILL THE STARFISH
I already know that starfish are beautiful but please do not take them out of the water to take pictures since they can die. It is the same sensation as if someone took us under the water, with the subsequent suffering.
Starfish are animals that need to be inside the water to breathe. Out of the water they die intoxicated. In addition, the constant handling to which they are subjected by tourists can cause death by stress.
Be responsible and do not take a starfish out, respect for the environment and conservation is key, specially in sensitive areas like this where tourism is becoming more popular.
We toured the immense beach several times in total solitude and under a scorching sun. If you come to this beach do not forget your sunscreen because there is no shadow.
We found a beautiful empty giant shell.
As we swam we saw and felt crabs of considerable size. We also saw some jellyfish but luckily they only appeared at the end of the day.
On the way back it went much faster, I guess because the mosquitoes did not show up.
where to stay IN CAYO JUTÍAS
BRIBING THE NIGHT GUARDS
We arrived at the main beach about 5 in the afternoon and to our surprise, it was practically deserted. There were only our taxi companions, with whom we had agreed that we would leave at 6.
There were also the girls we had met in the morning and who told us that the night guards had arrived.
Before the bar closed we bought a bottle of Havana rum (8 CUC) to bribe the night guards.
It really was not a necessary thing to do. The guards thought it was great to have company for that night. I got the feeling that every day there is an explorer who refuses to leave paradise in the afternoon and asks for asylum.
They kindly told us that without any problem they welcomed us but the tent was broken, and that we would have to sleep in the bathroom of the bar.
Still with plenty of time to catch the taxi back, we did not think about it anymore. We prefer to stay and watch the sunset and sleep in the bathroom than missing the whole show.
SUNSET AT CAYO JUTÍAS
We couldn’t believe that we had managed to find a place to sleep in Cayo Jutías, so we went looking for the best place to watch the sunset.
And it could not be other than the dead mangrove. It was close enough to the beach bar so we did not have to walk back in the darkness. Also, to see the roots become pink with the lights of the sunset was an experience that we were dreaming since we set foot on that beach.
The only problem was the thick clouds that threatened to ruin the show.
However, when the show began the clouds parted giving us one of those unique moments in life.
AROUND A BOTTLE OF RUM
The sun went out and we went back to the beach bar. This time closed to the public.
We all dined together; the guards, the Spanish girls who were still camped and us. We shared the rum and we had a great time telling anecdotes of our trips before the astonished eyes of the guardians delighted to know the life outside the island.
We also took the opportunity to learn more about their customs and it truly ended up being a wonderful evening. We found it amazing that they worked as night guards and that they did not even have a miserable flashlight. Of course we end up giving them ours.
While we finished the bottle of rum Dani went to do some night photos, since there was no population nucleus nearby the sky was covered in a beautiful blanket of stars.
THE RAREST place WHERE WE HAVE SLEPT
When Dani returned, we asked the guard to show us where to sleep. He told us to take two hammocks and put them in the bathroom of the bar. He also lent us some towels and pieces of cloths to cover us with. I did not sleep the whole night, but, nevertheless, I do not regret the experience at all.
What we regret was not having carried a tent. If we had, we would have slept on the beach of the starfish. And of course, we would have lit a fire, as it was done before according to an old bonfire.
Sleeping outdoors is not recommended either, as flea-biting mosquitoes, as the ones we saw in Playa Ancón, are the real killers at night.
If I have something clear is that when I return to Cuba it will be with a tent. In this country, it seems essential a thing like this if you want to enjoy all its nature.
THE BEACH OF THE EAST
The next morning we had breakfast in one of the bars. We were charged for two natural papaya juice and two cheese sandwiches 8 CUC.
Then we had to decide whether to visit the beach of the starfish again or go across the other side of the beach; towards the east.
Although the starfish beach was tempting us to go back again we wanted to explore all of Jutías Key so we started walking towards the other beach.
The landscape is different from the one you find in the other direction. The mangroves are greener but at the same time there are more people.
If you walk a little bit you will find the parking. Over there, taxi drivers often wait until it’s time to pick up their passengers back. At one point, the vegetation no longer allows to advance, being the route that you can do much shorter in this direction than towards the other beach.
This beach is considerably less crowded than the main beach. However, it cannot be compared in beauty or nature to the beach at the end of the cayo.
If you do not feel like walking the time needed to get to the beach of the starfish, but you do not want to be surrounded by other bathers, I recommend that you come to this one.
Also, although there are no bars here, there are places that sell you food. For example, Dani bought a freshly caught lobster that was cooked on hot coal for 9 CUC. He said it was the best lobster he had ever tasted.
THE RETURN TO CIVILIZATION
We had no way to return to Viñales since the agreement with the taxi driver was to return the previous day. So at 4 we went to where we had left the taxi to see if there was someone else with a free seat. Or even better, if a tourist with a rental car did not care to drive us back to Viñales.
Do not worry about the taxi. In 3 minutes we found a Swiss couple who offered to take us to Viñales.
My advice to those who want to sleep in the Cayo is that you negotiate with taxi drivers’ only one way price Viñales-Cayo Jutías.
When we returned to our private house in Viñales, the woman asked us worried because we had not gone back to sleep the day before. When we told them the story they nicknamed us as the Hermits of Cayo Jutias.