Cayo Santa Maria
Cayo Santa Maria is a small island (about 16 km long by 2 km wide) with pristine beaches and luxury all-inclusive resorts. With its two neighbors, Cayo Ensenachos and Cayo Las Brujas, It is part of the tourist destination called "Los Cayos de Villa Clara" (aka Cayeria del Norte). These islands are located off the northern coast of the Cuban province of Villa Clara, and they are part of a larger archipelago called "Jardines del Rey" (King's Gardens). The “Cayos de Villa Clara” are also part of the UNESCO-recognized Buenavista Biosphere Reserve.
There’s another small group of virgin islets located North-East of Cayo Santa Maria, they are called Cayos Caimanes. There’s a lighthouse on Cayo Caiman del Faro, and we can easily see Cayo Caiman de Mata de Coco in the distance from the hotel Valentin Perla Blanca.
Cayo Santa Maria is only 30 km (as-the-crow-flies) west from Cayo Guillermo and Cayo Coco, two other popular tourist destinations of the King's Gardens archipelago but in the neighbor province of Ciego de Avila. Cayo Santa Maria is a recent tourist destination; the first hotel opened its door in December 2001. About 10 years years later, CSM had already become the second largest beach destination in Cuba, after Varadero; and its development is still going on!
The hotels development was divided in three major projects called (from west to east): Las Dunas (4 hotels), La Estrella (5 hotels) and Lagunas del Este (4 hotels). Despite its fast development, Cayo Santa Maria remains a safe and quiet little place where beach and nature lovers can enjoy an uninhabited and secluded island, but also the comfort of luxury all-inclusive resorts, plus a few markets (such as: PLaza la Estrella and Plaza Las Dunas) for extra services and shopping. A Delfinario (dolphinarium) is also found nearby, and we heard about a project to build a water park (either near the dolphinarium or at the east end of Cayo Santa Maria?), and a golf course in Dolores (a village located a few kilometers from the town of Caibarien).
Cayo Santa Maria is linked to the mainland by a 48 km causeway from the coastal fishing town of Caibarien. This impressive causeway (called Pedraplen in Spanish), which runs across the Bahia Buenavista, was built between 1989 and 1999, paving the way for the tourism development in this region. There’s a 2 CUC toll (per car, each way) to cross the causeway, the toll booth is located at the entrance of the Pedraplen (Caibarien side).
The beaches and hotels are all located along the northern coastline of Cayo Santa Maria. The south coast is mainly dominated by salt marshes and mangroves. There are 7 stretches of beach in Cayo Santa Maria, they are (from west to east): Playa Canon (2.4 km), Playa La Estrella (3.6 km), Playa Las Caletas (700 m), Playa Las Coloradas (1.8 km), Playa Perla Blanca (350 m), Playa Los Delfines (1.2 km) and finally Playa Las Gaviotas (850 m). Most of these beach sections are a continuation of one another, but a few of them are separated by a short rocky area.
Lily & Normand