Playa Pilar Cuba: The Perfect Day Trip in Cayo Coco

Playa Pilar Cuba: The Perfect Day Trip in Cayo Coco :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

Cuba is known for its beautiful beaches and while it may not be the first thing you think of, Cayo Coco is covered by lush green forest and is a thriving habitat for a variety of species. With 38 kilometres of shoreline to explore, it’s easy to find a spot to enjoy the sand between your toes. However, Playa Pilar is one of the top beaches in the entire country. If you find yourself staying at one of the resorts in Cayo Coco, you’ll want to plan some time for a day trip to Playa Pilar. 

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Shoreline of Playa Pilar Towards the Western Point :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

Just How Breathtaking is Playa Pilar?

How to Get to Playa Pilar Cuba

Playa Pilar Cuba is located on the western tip of the island. As the island is mostly an ecological reserve, minus the hotel resorts on the northern side, it’s very easy to navigate. Depending on where you’re staying, you can take a taxi to Playa Pilar which can cost as low as $10 from the resorts on Cayo Guillermo like the Gran Muthu Imperial or upwards of $40 to resorts further east such as Memories Flamenco. 

However, another great and economic option is the hop-on, hop-off Jardines Del Rey Bus Tour. For just $5 USD, it will take you to and from Playa Pilar! It’s a little slower as it does stop at several resorts, but this double-decker bus has an open top meaning you’ll enjoy some great views of Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo!

SOMETHING TO NOTE: Be sure to keep your bus ticket in a safe spot as you will need it to board the bus to return or you’ll need to pay again.

Chances are your return trip will be quicker than your departure as the hop-on, hop-off bus only stops at resorts where people boarding are staying. They’ll ask you which resort you’re heading to when you board so be sure to pay attention as they don’t wait long to allow you to disembark!

Things to Do in Playa Pilar

Playa Pilar is the perfect mix of natural beauty with a splash of amenities. There are no shops or marrkets, just a few necessities which is what makes it a perfect Cayo Coco day trip. It’s somewhere you can stay for a few hours and you’ll have plenty of time to experience everything it has to offer.

Explore the Beautiful Beach

Why else would you come to Playa Pilar if you’re not going to enjoy the beach?! Plus there’s no question that Playa Pilar is one of the best beaches in Cuba and it would honestly be a sin to come to Cayo Coco and not experience it!

Named after Ernest Hemingway’s yacht, “Pilar”, this 1000-metre-long paradise features some of the finest sand I’ve ever had the pleasure of feeling between my toes. The beach itself is fairly wide with a slow grade that will allow you to walk out for hundreds of metres before you can’t touch the ground. I was absolutely blown away by the colour of these turquoise waters. It’s almost too blue to be true!

One thing to note is that there’s very little shade along Playa Pilar. It’s one of the reasons why there are so many beach chairs with covered awnings. However, they have a rental fee of $10 for the day. If you’re planning on staying put the majority of the day and soaking up the sun, then the $10 is most likely worth it. Or if you have room in your bag, you can always bring a small sun shelter with you like this one and use that cash towards some eats or drinks!

Pina Colada in a Pineapple with Playa Pilar in the Background :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

Best Piña Coladas in Cayo Coco

Indulge in a Piña Colada Pineapple

There is no better way to enjoy a pina colada than in a pineapple, especially when it’s made fresh beachside! While you won’t find it on Google and I honestly have no idea if it even has a name, the Playa Pilar Beach Bar as I will dub it is a must-stop when visiting this Cayo Guillermo beach.

The Playa Pilar Beach Bar is connected to the boardwalk you follow to access the beach from the main road, Carretera a Playa Pilar. When facing the water, it’s located at the western edge of the boardwalk. Just follow the stairs from the beach and you’ll quickly be greeted by rows of pineapples! Each piña colada pineapple is $10 which you can savour from their elevated seating, giving you fantastic views of the entire beach.

INSIDER TIP: If you’re planning on having more than one, save your pineapple as refills are just $5! If you’re travelling with someone, split a pineapple between you two and you’ll save even more!

Also for those of you looking to curb your drinking or who don’t drink at all, you can get them non-alcoholic. They’ll cost the same but honestly, they’re so delicious you won’t even care. These are easily the best piña coladas in Cayo Coco!

Grilled Lobster, Shrimp, rice and Veggies :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

Example of a Langosta Grille Dinner from Lenny’s on Cayo Coco

Eat at the Playa Pilar Restaurant

As most of the accommodations in Cayo Coco are all-inclusive resorts, chances are you won’t have food for this Cuban adventure. Therefore you’ll eventually be hungry if you plan on spending the full day at Playa Pilar. Luckily, there’s a restaurant for when you need to fill your stomach.

Here you can enjoy one of the must-eat meals when visiting Cayo Coco and that’s the grilled lobster or langosta grillé. Served with rice and a menagerie of vegetables similar to what you see above, the meal will set you back $30 but considering how expensive lobster is here in Canada, this is a decent price and worth it in my books. You can also opt for the slightly cheaper “Mar y Tierra” meaning sea and land where you’ll enjoy some lobster, shrimp and chicken. 

If lobster isn’t your thing, other dishes include shrimp, beef, fish and chicken so chances are you’ll find something to enjoy. Vegetarians and vegans will have a tough time here, however they do offer side orders of grilled vegetables and fries so you won’t go hungry.

A Taste of the Snorkelling in Playa Pilar :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

A Taste of the Snorkelling in Playa Pilar Cuba

Go Snorkelling

With these crystal clear waters, it will come as no surprise that Playa Pilar is home to some superb snorkelling. The surrounding area of Jardines del Rey (aka the “Kings Gardens”) has a stunning coral reef that spans from Playa Pilar all the way to Cayo Paredon Grande towards Cayo Romano.

There are certainly fish to be seen close to shore as I saw a small school of translucent, minnow-like fish just a few steps into the water. However if you’re looking for some stellar snorkelling and to admire the incredible beauty of the reef, you’ll need to get out further into the water. You could try your hand at swimming though the reef is a fair distance from shore.

If you walk west down the beach towards the tip of Playa Pilar, you’ll see the Marlin Dive Shop. Also known as the Coco Diving Centre, here you can hop on a boat tour which will take you to a fantastic snorkelling destination off the coast of Cayo Media Luna. What looks like remnants of a shipwreck have been reclaimed by nature with numerous corals growing and a plethora of fish making this area their home. I couldn’t believe my eyes with how many different species I saw in such a short time! Afterwards, they’ll take you to the small island where you’ll find a restaurant to enjoy some great eats – all for $40.

If you’re looking to snorkel in Cayo Coco and don’t have an excursion booked from your hotel, I highly recommend this. While you’ll only spend about 30-45 minutes snorkelling, the price and variety of fish you’ll see make it 100% worth it! This was hands down the highlight of my Playa Pilar day trip.

Playa Pilar Boardwalk with Beach in Background :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

So Many Beautiful Views in Playa Pilar

Tips for Visiting Playa Pilar

If you’re like me then you’ll want to make the most of your days of adventure. While visiting Playa Pilar is pretty straight forward, there are a few things you can do in order to ensure you experience everything this Cuban destination has to offer!

Take the First Bus of the Day – Yes it will mean an early start which can be a bummer on vacation, but this beach is worth it. You’ll get to enjoy Playa Pilar while it’s still quiet as it gets busier and busier by the busload. This also means you have more options for heading home as the buses are more limited in the afternoon with the last bus departing at 5:45 pm.

Be Ready and Waiting for the Bus – The Jardines Del Rey Bus is a well-oiled machine… and it waits for no one. I recommend waiting in the lobby of the resort you’ll be departing from at least 10 minutes before the scheduled departure time. It does not wait around so if you’re not there ready to board, it will take off just as quickly as it arrived!

If You Love to Snorkel, Do the Excursion – It may cost $40 but when you’ll already be spending $30 or more at the restaurant, then the added $10 to snorkel is 100% worth it. This is honestly some amazing snorkelling where you’ll see so many fish of all shapes and sizes. It’s easily been one of my favourite snorkel adventures to date! You will also enjoy a sunshade chair for the entire day included in the price and this alone costs $10 per person. So in traveller math, you’re snorkelling for free!

As With Most of Cuba, Cash is King – You will see the odd credit card machine but they can be hit and miss as to whether or not they will work. If your chip or swipe doesn’t work, ask them to punch in your credit card number and that may help the transaction go through. Or, save yourself the hassle and pay in cash.

During my week in Cayo Coco, visiting Playa Pilar was one of the highlights of Cuba. The softness of the sand with the brilliant blue waters topped with the impeccable snorkelling makes it a destination I will never forget. I say it deserves a spot on the “must do Cuba” checklist and while the trip from Havana to Playa Pilar is not feasible at 7 hours, it just reinforces the fact that Cuba deserves multiple trips to fully appreciate this beautiful country!

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