The nearest beaches to Viñales are the two cays, Jutías and Levisa, that lie off the northern coast of Pinar del Río province. Both are easily accessible by car and relatively undeveloped, so if you’re looking for white-sand beaches without the contrived air that’s part and parcel of the all-inclusive resorts elsewhere in the country, the cays are ideal.
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Just off the north coast of this part of Pinar del Río province (a 60km drive north and west from Viñales) is Cayo Jutías, a secluded island hideout that’s relatively untouched compared to most of the other tourist magnets in the region. Besides the road ploughing through the middle of the low-lying thicket that covers most of the cay, the only signs of construction are a wooden restaurant at the start of the 3km of beach on the north side, and an old metal lighthouse built in 1902. The beach itself is admittedly a little scrappy in places and rarely more than 3m wide, but this does nothing to spoil the place’s edge-of-the-world appeal – this may well be the best spot in Cuba to lie back and do absolutely nothing.
On the same stretch of north coast as Cayo Jutías, 50km northeast of Viñales, the lonely military outpost of Palma Rubia is the jumping-off point for Cayo Levisa, more developed for tourism than Cayo Jutías but still relatively unspoilt. This 3km-wide, densely wooded islet boasts some of the finest white sands and clearest waters in Pinar del Río, and unless you take advantage of its diving centre, there’s blissfully little to do here.
The boat moors on a rickety wooden jetty, a two-minute walk from the only accommodation on the island, Villa Cayo Levisa, sprawled untidily along the gleaming white beach. Behind the beach, thick woodland reaches across the island to the opposite shore, forming a natural screen that encourages a sense of escape and privacy.