Before I booked I didn’t realize that Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo are essentially just hotel strips. No town, no shops, and no Cubans – except, of course, for those working at the resort. There were plenty of excursions, but with a baby in tow, I prefer to do our own thing on our own time, and not have the worry of throwing a busload of people off schedule. Plus, it’s enough to stay put in a resort for a week, we want to do at least a little exploring by ourselves. So I’m glad I read about Playa Pilar, or Pilar Beach, before we went.
There’s a public bus that goes from resort to resort along Cayo Coco and then Cayo Guillermo, ending up at Playa Pilar. The fare is 5 CUC (roughly $5 USD) return, and kids are free. We were expecting a large coach, which all the tourists were carted around on, but when a 16 passenger van pulled up I gulped at our large beach bag and stroller. Somehow it all fit and we were on our (very bumpy) way. (*Note* the public relations person at our hotel mentioned that if the bus fills up at the resorts previous to yours, they simply won’t stop at your resort. You have no way of knowing if this will happen! Ours was 4th from the top so we took our chances.) The ride from Cayo Coco took about an hour.
Once you leave the bus, you walk along a wooden bridge for a fair bit, and when you come to the end, this is what you see:
The sand is so very soft, and even though it was quite windy on the day we went, the slope into the water is so extensive that by the time the waves hit the shore they’re very gentle. Apparently, on calmer days, small catamarans and glass bottom boats are there to take you out to the reef. Unfortunately we brought our lifejackets and snorkel gear for nothing. The wind was cool, but that made the water seem warmer.
Lounge chairs are 1 CUC for the day (approx. $1 USD). The washrooms and showers are very clean. Bring your own or tip the lovely lady for some toilet paper. My almost-9-month-old found the sand quite delicious (in spite of my best efforts!), but there’s a restaurant there in case you fancy a snack, a beer, an ice cream, or a coffee.
You’re given a schedule for the return bus trips to the resorts. I was a little concerned about what would happen if there were too many people to fit on the bus back, but the woman assured me that we’d be fine. Sure enough, a large coach came for the final departure at 5pm, and we returned back at our hotel by 6.
The beach at our resort was lovely, but Playa Pilar was a great little escape for the day.