Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba’s gem.
Cayo Santa Maria Cuba is a small island of the north coast of Cuba and part of a larger archipelago named Jardines del ray or the Kings Garden. Not long ago the islands where just sleepy fishing villages but now are part of the most visited tourist destination on the entire island of Cuba. Cayo Santa Maria has two sister islands Cayo Ensenachos and Cayo Las Brujas together they make up a stunning vacation destination for tourist from around the world. Getting there is easy now that the 30 mile causeway has been completed connecting the keys to the mainland of Cuba.
The three keys are part of the larger Kings garden tourist key system with other small islands that include Cayo cruze, Cayo Coco, Cayo Las Brujas, Cayo Guilermo and Cayo Ensenachos. When the entire key system is developed there will be a estimated 32,000 rooms making it the largest tourist destination on the island.
Cayo Santa Maria beach is a spectacular fine sand 8 mile long stretch that is divided into three beaches. Most hotels are located on the Playa Santa Maria the longest beach at almost 4 miles. Most all of the hotels are located on the north side of the Key with the south coast being mostly forest and mangroves.
Getting to the keys is a scenic paradise as you drive over the 46 bridges (7500 ft in total) that connect the keys. The work began on the causeway in 1989 and took a full ten years to complete. Fidel Castro made it very clear that the top priority would be to not disturb the ecosystem and yet developed the largest tourist destination on the island. The causeway has won numerous international awards for its eco friendly approach to mass tourism.
Things to do on Cayo Santa Maria
Snorkeling and Scuba diving
The warm waters of Cayo Santa Maria make it a great year round choice for diving, with a healthy coral reef supporting the abundant sea life. There are plenty of dive shops that will set you up with the gear you need also lessons are provided for beginners. A Catamaran tour is a great way to explore the Buena vista Biosphere Reserve the captain can take you to dive wrecks, drop offs and coral formations all while enjoying a lobster lunch.
If you are a saltwater fishing fan then book a half or full day boat and go after Mahi Mahi, Grouper and Barracuda. Also available is fly fishing in the shallow water of the mangroves where you can catch Bonefish, Tarpon and Mutton Snapper.
Guanayara National Park
Located in the Escamby Mountains a tour bus will take you to the park entrance where you will board four wheel drive vehicles for a pictures drive to the center of the rain forest. Once there you will take a short hike to the El Rocio waterfalls. Next you will have a choice of two hikes one for beginners the other advanced if you are fit you can head down the river for the beginner a walk where you can slide down some cascades. The tour also includes a dip in a river pool, a stop for lunch and a expertly guided tour threw out the park.
A must when visiting the key is enjoying the spectacular sunset off Santa Maria on one of the large Catamarans located at the Las Brujas Marina. Once on board and cruising you will enjoy a Creole chicken or lobster dinner, after dinner hit the open bar and get ready to dance with the crew giving free salsa lessons.
Where to Stay
Given a four and one half rating from Trip Adviser my first choice would be the Royal Cayo Santa Maria, it’s a bit pricy but the beach and location are spectacular.