Sandwiched in between Havana and Matanzas, Mayabeque is one of the two new provinces created in 2010 and previously one half of the province known as La Habana. Its main draws are the relatively secluded beach resorts of Jibacoa and low-key Canasi, along the northern coast, easily reachable from Matanzas if you have your own transport but really quite tricky to get to if you don’t. Marooned inland and nearer to Havana than Matanzas, the Escaleras de Jaruco are even harder to reach, though this isolation is part of the charm of these beautiful forested hills.
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Eight kilometres west of Canasí, tucked behind a barricade of white cliffs, is Playa Jibacoa, a stretch of coastline basking in relative anonymity. Approaching from Matanzas on the Vía Blanca road, the first turning before the bridge over the Río Jibacoa leads down onto the coastal road that runs the length of this laidback resort area. Predominantly the domain of Cuban holidaymakers, the beach is unspectacular but pleasantly protected by swathes of twisting trees and bushes, with an appealing sense of privacy. There are modest coral reefs offshore and basic snorkelling equipment can be rented at the campismos.
Escaleras de Jaruco
Escaleras de Jaruco
Around 25km east of Havana, 20km inland from the Playas del Este, the Escaleras de Jaruco, a small crop of hills west of Jaruco, the nearest town of any significant size, makes for a stimulating detour on the way to or from Mayabeque’s beaches. Covered in a kind of subtropical rainforest, this steep-sided mini-mountain range erupts from the surrounding flatlands. The Carretera Tapaste cuts through the area like a mountain pass, leading past the fantastically located El Arabe restaurant which, despite its erratic opening hours, provides a focus of sorts for the area. In its pre-Revolution heyday, it was undoubtedly a classic, with its splendid Arabic-style interior, balcony terrace with views to the coastline and domed tower, but it’s now as low on food as it is on staff, and there’s no guarantee it will even be open when you turn up; call ahead on t47 87 3828.