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The Ultimate Cuba Surf Guide

Cuba is an island nation that has over 4,000 isles making up the archipelago surrounding the mainland. Just off the coast of Miami, Florida, the country is neighbors with Jamaica, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos, and Haiti.


Because of where Cuba sits in the ocean, depending on what shoreline you’re standing on you could be looking out at the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, or the Atlantic Ocean.


This combination makes for a wide array of beaches and waves, aka the perfect spot for surfers of all levels to check out. 





Cuba Surf Guide


Waves in Cuba

Waves in Cuba tend to be hollow but heavy once they reach a certain height. This makes for quick, steep take-offs and endless possibilities for getting barreled.


Certain surf spots have the luxury of a bare ocean floor while others will be blanketed in Cuba’s beautiful – but sharp – coral reefs.


Another thing to be mindful of is the shark population that inhabits the island. Sharks aren’t uncommon, so like any other surf session, it’s safest to paddle out in the daylight with a group. 

Surf Culture in Cuba


Due to a strained relationship caused by the Cold War, Americans were banned from entering Cuba for over half a century.


While the prohibition was lifted back in 2014, United States citizens are still not allowed to visit the country for individual tourism.





Guests making the journey need a reason such as governmental business, professional research/journalism, athletic competitions, religious activities, etc.


Despite these tensions and restrictions, the people of Cuba are very welcoming towards U.S. travelers, excited to share their scenic land and rich culture – which actually does not include surfing. 


Beginning in the mid-1900s, before surfing became wildly popular, the Cuban government outlawed pretty much all water sports, in fear that people would try to flee to America by crossing the Atlantic 90 miles north to Key West.

For decades, local surfers were incriminated and to this day have to be careful of paddling out ‘suspiciously’ far.


For foreigners though, this isn’t an issue – just beware that the whole “surfing isn’t just a sport, it’s a lifestyle” notion doesn’t really exist here. 



Gear Needed to Surf in Cuba

Water temperatures never stoop below the mid-70s and can get up to 87°F in late summer. So, save some room in your carry-on and leave your wetsuit at home! The most you’ll need is a rash guard and maybe reef shoes if you’re feeling extra cautious. Packing boards will always depend on the location and forecast, but your best bet in Cuba will be a durable short board. 





The Best Surf Spots in Cuba


Playas del Este


Playas del Este, or “Eastern Beaches” is located towards the top left of the main island in the country’s capital, Havana.


The water off of the shoreline here is mainly the Gulf of Mexico, which becomes active with strong northeastern winds.


This break can be mushy, but in the proper conditions, you’ll have your pick of rights, lefts, and even some A-frames.


The beach itself is gorgeous with the same white sand and swaying palms you’d find in Key Biscayne. 


Boca de Yumuri


Boca de Yumuri is at the other end of the island in the bottom right corner.


The break here comes in westward from the Atlantic Ocean and is best in the winter when big groundswells tend to roll through.


During peak season the waves are tall and super heavy, made perfect for carving and top-to-bottom surfing.


The spot itself is one of the coolest on the island without question; the beach here is surrounded by lush cliffs and sits at the opening of Yumuri Canyon, hence the name which means “Mouth of Yumuri”. 


La Setenta


La Setenta neighbors Playas del Este on the northwestern side of the country. The break here is similar to Playas and is the most lively throughout the wintertime.


These waves come from a reef break that’s set right below the town of Havana, which makes a neat view from the water.

With the right swell and wind, La Setenta can offer steep, powerful lefts and rights for a fun, exciting session. You just have to be super careful about the jagged bottom here. 

 

Gibara

Gibara is a little fishing town that sits at the northeastern end of Cuba, on the left side of a tiny bay called “Bahía de Gibara”.


The area sort of sticks out into the ocean, so coastal fronts are facing north, east, and south, which make for a variety of waves all in one location.


In the ‘colder’ months, the spot is known for crazy barrels that break left over a nice mix of reef and sand. 


What To Do in Cuba When the Waves Are Flat




In a nation with scenery as beautiful as Cuba’s, it’d be pretty tough for visitors to run out of things to go do and places to go see.


Island hop, hike Viñales Valley, tour the Cuban Art Factory, visit Castillo del Morro, explore Gran Parque Natural Topes de Collantes, and so much more!


The Bottom Line: Surfing in Cuba

While surfing in Cuba can be pretty unreliable and even non-existent in the spring, summer, and fall, you can definitely find some firing breaks come winter.


So, if you ever happen to be in the area with special government permission, take the opportunity to pack your board and check out the waves above. 

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