Playa Pilar

Ciego de Ávila Province

This much sought-after strip of sand is regularly touted as Cuba's (and the Caribbean's) best beach, courtesy of its diamond-dust white sand and rugged 15m-high sand dunes (the largest of their kind in the Caribbean). However, the recent construction of a huge four-story resort within sight of the beach has made a massive dent in its splendor. What was once special now seems ordinary.

Resort development aside, the sea at Pilar is warm, shallow and loaded with snorkeling possibilities. One kilometer away across a calm channel lies the shimmering sands of Cayo Media Luna, a one-time beach escape of Fulgencio Batista. There are excursions to the key (CUC$25), plus kayaks and aquatic bikes for rent, all arranged at the small office (open 9am to 3pm) along the sand from the rustic beach restaurant, Ranchón Playa Pilar.

The hop-on, hop-off bus from Cayo Coco stops at Playa Pilar six times daily in either direction during peak season (two to four times otherwise). And yes, the beach is named after Hemingway's fishing boat, Pilar.