CAYO SANTA MARIA is a small key, 16 km (10 mi) long by 2 km (1.2 miles) wide, located in the Bahia de Buena Vista off the north coast of the main island of Cuba, in the western part of the « Jardines del Rey » (King's Garden) archipelago. This archipelago is part of the UNESCO-recognized Buenavista Biosphere Reserve. CSM is part of a tourist pole of 3 cayos: Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Ensenachos and Cayo Las Brujas (a.k.a the Cayos of Villa Clara).
Cayo Santa Maria is in the Villa Clara province but is located only 30 km (18.6 mi) as-the-crow-flies west from Cayo Guillermo and Cayo Coco, which are two other popular tourist destinations in the nearby province of Ciego de Avila.
We had the chance to visit Cuba more than 50 times and know quite well this beautiful and safe Caribbean destination. Cayo Santa Maria is one of the its most recently developed tourist poles, the first hotel opened its door in Dec. 2001.
Cayo Santa Maria is connected to the mainland by a 48 km (30 mi) causeway (called Pedraplen in spanish). The construction of this dike took 10 years (1989-1999) and the work was done by « Campaña de las villas ». The beaches and hotels are all located along the northern coastline of Cayo Santa Maria. The south coast is mainly dominated by marshes and mangroves.
Click to see a panoramic view of the hotels and services in Cayo Santa Maria.
An important fact to take into consideration when choosing Cayo Santa Maria is that the sea condition could be rough and choppy, so it's not unusual to see red flags on the Cayo Santa Maria beaches. If you are looking for a flat and calm sea, you could then consider going to one of the other keys in the Jardines del Rey archipelago, such as Cayo Ensenachos (its neighbor), Cayo Guillermo, or Cayo Coco. They all have gorgeous beaches, but we found the beaches in Cayo Ensenachos (Playa Megano and Playa Ensenachos) to be the most beautiful we've seen around Cuba.
What's new in « Los Cayos de Villa Clara » ?
† Hotel Gaviota La Estrella (formerly known as HUSA and initially Barcelo) has become Starfish Cayo Santa Maria administered by the Canadian Hotel chain Blue Diamond Hotels & Resorts (owned by the Sunwing Group). So Blue Diamond now manages all the hotels of the original Barcelo project. Barcelo Caribe/Tropical became the Memories Paraiso Azul Resort, Barcelo Beach/Colonial became the Starfish Cayo Santa Maria, and Barcelo Palace became the Royalton. This complex of 3 hotels totaling 2,816 room now makes Blue Diamond the most important managing partnerin Cayo Santa Maria. The second one is Melia Hotels with 1,688 rooms.
† The adult-only hotel Valentin Perla Blanca opened its doors as scheduled in November 2014. The second phase of the project (under the name Paraiso, exclusive in Canada to Sunwing Group) is expected to open on March 1st, 2015.
† Two other hotels are still under construction and located in the « Lagunas del Este » sector (between Hotel Eurostars and Valentin), they are the Warwick Cayo Santa Maria and the Ocean Casa del Mar by H10. They will both have approximately 800 rooms and are scheduled to open in late 2015.
† The construction on the neighbor key "Cayo Las Brujas" has started. It's a project of five new hotels totaling 2,682 rooms. Click to discover our website dedicated to Cayo Las Brujas.
† Other future projects in Cayo Santa Maria include a golf course and a water park. These projects have not started yet.
Cayo Santa Maria's main attraction is its 13 km (8 mi) of magnificent beaches and turquoise waters, making it the perfect spot for long walks on the beach, swimming in crystal-clear waters, or just relax under the sun! Most of the resorts are located on the longest stretch of beach (6 km / 3.7 mi) called Playa Santa Maria; the others are on the eastern part of Cayo Santa Maria (Lagunas del Este and Playa Parla Blanca).
The tourism industry in CSM started in late 2001 with the opening of the first hotel, the Sol Cayo Santa Maria. Since then 10 other resorts were built. In a short period of time CSM became the second largest tourist pole in Cuba, after Varadero, but despite this fast development, Cayo Santa Maria remains a safe and quiet little island.
It was obvious that the 10-year effort required to built the 48-km causeway connecting CSM to the main island of Cuba would not have been for only 1 or 2 hotels. Cuba needs more rooms! Especially now when we can expect for the US embargo to maybe be lifted in a near future, and already witnessing the re-establishment of full diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States.
The land and all hotels in Cayo Santa Maria are owned by the Cuban government, as well as all hotels in Cuba. In Cayo Santa Maria all properties belong to the Gaviota Cuban Group, but joint ventures and administation contracts are given to international hotel chains (such as Melia Hotels International, Eurostars, Blue Diamond and Valentin) to help manage, promote and expand tourism in Cuba.
Please note that since the spring 2014, Cuba authority systematically stamps all passports when entering and leaving the country. Note that the departure tax remains unchanged at 25 CUC per person (in cash only).
The Cuban President Raul Castro announced in October 2013 the beginning of the process that will put an end to the two currencies circulating for 19 years on the island. It is important not to bring Convertible Peso (CUC) outside Cuba. More information to come!
Visit our website that chronicles the chronological steps on the lifting of the US embargo against Cuba.
Our cayosantamaria.info webiste is online since the spring of 2002. Hundreds of webpages and thousands of photos are included, and it's updated very regularly. We're now proud to say that it became THE biggest and most visited website about this Cuban destination. We hope you find here everything you want to know about hotels, beaches, excursions, and more... Enjoy!
Normand & Lily