Since we are well on the way to becoming “best-buddies” all over again with this beautiful island nation, and after 50 years of government imposed isolation, it may be worth taking a long look at the pros and cons of a yachting vacation to and around this relatively unspoiled vacation island.
For starters, Cuba is undeniably one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean. It offers crystal clear waters, unbelievable beaches, calm waters and nice friendly locals. Some words of wisdom: as of the writing of this page, the US trade embargo is still in force so certain formalities at both ends must be adhered to for US citizens visiting the island. We can help with these, so feel free to call 305-758-2500 or email us.
Where to Cruise?
Currently the only “world-class” marina facility for large yachts is the Hemingway Marina which is a short distance west of Havana. This is not a big deal since the nicest places to visit on a yacht of any kind whether sail or power, are away from the major cities and populated areas. The rule of thumb for a smooth ride is to always move around the island in a counter-clockwise direction.
In fact, some of the nicest areas to visit are on the southern side of the island, which is basically the leeward side. It’s especially recommended that you stay on the Southern side during the winter months, since the northern side is more susceptible to stronger winds and weather.
The little islands (cayos) in the Gulf of Batabano which is part of Pinar del Rio are great stop-off destinations. The larger island (and province in its own right), of Isla de la Juventud is surrounded by small cayos like Cayo Largo, Cayo Cantiles, Cayos Boca de Alonso, and the Isle of Pines Reef that has to be at the top of the list.
East of the city of Trinidad in Camaguey province there is another group of islands called Jardines de la Reina which include the famous Cayos de las Doce Leguas and are truly remarkable.
The best summer cruising areas on the North Coast start East of Varadero, beginning with the Bahia de Santa Clara that has a myriad of small islands and pristine beaches. Traveling along the coast, visit Cayo Cruz and Nuevitas, both are places where Columbus stopped off for repairs during his first voyage to the Indies in 1492.
Where to Start?
For North Coast charters on a smaller US based boat you have some options, the logical starting place is the Florida Keys. You can leave from Key Largo, Marathon or even Key West. In this scenario, give yourself 2 or 3 days to get there and the same amount of time for the return journey. So we suggest make it a two week charter if you’re starting from the mainland.
Some boats in the international charter fleet have announced plans to use Cuba as a base during the season, so it may be possible to fly into Havana and pick up your charter yacht in Cuba. There is a new marina in Key West that caters to larger yachts and this will make a difference since it’s only 90 miles from Key West to Hemingway marina in Cuba.
The Cuban Charter Fleet
As you can imagine, this currently underdeveloped. There are a couple of crewed catamarans that operate out of Varadero, not very modern and worked pretty hard. There are, and have been for some years now, a number of European based bareboat companies that operate along the Southern Coast. Call us at 305-758-2500 for details and reservations.
What to Expect?
- Very friendly and relatively unspoiled locals that have not been overexposed to the tourist trade like the rest of the Caribbean.
- Unsophisticated shopping and facilities.
- Very reasonable prices (while they last).
- Limited and unsophisticated internal transportation.
- Increasing number of restaurants, especially in La Habana.
- Breathtaking beauty of the Cuban countryside and incredible uncrowded beaches away from the popular local tourist traffic.
Cuba has long been known as legendary fishing grounds for tuna and marlin, bringing some of the best anglers in their Viking Yachts to the Hemingway Yacht Club. Named after Ernest Hemingway for his love of fishing and Cuba, it’s one of the nicest marinas in the country.