Cuba, the largest Caribbean island, is a wonderful place for a sailing adventure, drawing a growing number of visiting yachts each year with its old-world charm, fascinating history and vivacious lifestyle. With a pleasantly warm climate, friendly and hospitable people, many scenic vistas along its coast, and steady winds, the westernmost island in the Greater Antilles archipelago offers plenty to see and experience on a Caribbean cruise. Situated 145 km south of Key West, Florida, Cuba is the third most visited tourist destination in the Caribbean, behind the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
Yacht charter is a popular way of visiting the island, both because sailboats offer a lot of flexibility in planning an itinerary and because the local infrastructure levels and accommodation options still lag behind the enormous demand and finding a place to stay is not always easy. However, Cuba has plenty to offer to visitors, with numerous spots along the coastline perfect for sailing, swimming, scuba diving and various beach activities, as well as a rich musical tradition and many unique cultural peculiarities.
Cuba enjoys a subtropical climate and has two distinct seasons. The best time to visit is from November to April, when the cooler, dry season provides good sailing conditions with steady trade winds. The weather throughout the rest of the year is mostly rainy, humid and quite hot. The hurricane season lasts from June to November and peaks in late summer. The southern coast of Cuba is more sheltered, with little variation in weather, and offers comfortable sailing conditions for most of the year.
Cuba has about 20 marinas and nautical centers along its coastline. However, visitors can only enter at one of the designated ports of entry. These are Marina Los Morros in Cabo San Antonio, Marina Hemingway in Havana, Marina Gaviota in Varadero and Marina Puerto Vita on the north coast and Marina Santiago in Santiago de Cuba, Marina Cienfuegos in Cienfuegos, and Marina Cayo Largo in Cayo Largo del Sur. Other popular anchorages, including Baracoa, Maria La Gorda and Manzanillo are not ports of entry.
Yacht traffic is quite heavy in the northern marinas, so it is advisable to reserve a berth prior to arrival. The marinas on Cuba’s southern coast are smaller and even more crowded, so chartered boats may need to get on a waiting list before docking. The busiest southern ports are situated in Cienfuegos and Trinidad, where many charter companies have their bases. Marina Hemingway with the National Yacht Club is the island’s largest marina. Situated west of Havana, the marina offers a range of amenities for sailors, including a laundry service, showers, pool and jacuzzi, a small hotel and several restaurants serving Cuban and Spanish cuisine. Havana is only a short taxi ride away.
Sailing itineraries typically take travellers either southeast or southwest of Cienfuegos, the island’s main yachting hub. The south-easterly route, with stops at Trinidad, Cayo Blanco de Casilda and the Jardines de la Reina archipelago, is taken by those looking to explore the country’s culture and history, as well as enjoy the warm tropical sun. The anchorages at Cayo Bréton, Cayo Caballones and Cayo Cuervo are beautiful places to go swimming and snorkelling.
A south-westerly sailing itinerary is ideal for those simply looking to explore the tropical islands and amazing beaches in the Canarreos Archipelago, with popular stops including Cayo Guano del Este, Cayo Largo del Sur, Quinto Canal, Cayo Rosario and Cayo Estopa.