• Photo: Nikolpetr | Dreamstime.com

Cayo Largo

If a carefree, quiet beach vacation is what you're looking for, secluded Cayo Largo, encircled by a coral reef, is ideal. Add in 20 km (13 miles) of pristine, white-sand beach bordering an endless turquoise Caribbean sea and all-inclusive hotels that cater to your every need, and you have Varadero without the crowds and without the frenzy. Though contact with Cuban life and culture is limited, you'll meet lots of Italians and Canadians, who enjoy direct flights to this popular getaway island. In fact, four of the hotels are exclusively Italian. Although the island is more expensive than the mainland, it has the added attractions of a couple of designated, clothing-optional (CO) beaches, a gay-friendly vibe, and a first-class marina that caters to every activity in, on, and under the water. The only caveats are the seas here can be rough and mosquitoes do accompany sunsets, so come prepared. The major hotels are grouped fairly closely together along the south coast, but there are still miles of undeveloped beachfront and close-in keys to explore, on foot and by boat.

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