Chronology of tourism development
The Cayos de Villa Clara archipelago being uninhabited, the events of his "history" basically comes down to occasional visits by fishermen of the area. That is why we have rather dedicated this section of our website to the description of its tourism development. Click the graph-thumbnail to view the growing number of rooms since 1999.
We had the chance to witness first-hand the tourism development of this region since its beginnings. You will find below a detailed chronological summary since the beginning of the construction of the causeway (pedraplen) in 1989 until today. Note that we use the original name of the hotels at the time of their opening, but many have since changed name; these changes appear further down.
We still have online the first version (2002) of our site. We were lucky to withness the beginning of a new destination in Cuba that will become the second most important after varadero! In 2002, there were kilometers of virgin beaches with only one hotel of 300 rooms.
• Start of construction of the causeway "pedraplen" connecting the coastal town of Caibarien with Cayo Las Brujas, Cayo Ensenachos and Cayo Santa Maria (aka "Los Cayos de Villa Clara")
• Inauguration of the 48-km causeway built by the company «Campana de las Villas ». It took 10 years to build.
• Opening of the first hotel in the area, the Villa Las Brujas on the island of Cayo Las Brujas.
• Opening of the first all-inclusive resort, the Sol Cayo Santa Maria. The hotel was ready in 2000 but it opened its doors to tourists only in December 2001. During its first year the hotel served as a training base for future employees of this new tourist pole.
• Opening of the hotel Melia Cayo Santa Maria.
• Opening of the adult-only hotel Occidental Royal Hideaway on the island of Cayo Ensenachos.
• Opening of the hotel Melia Las Dunas.
• The hotel Melia Cayo Santa Maria becomes adult-only.
• Opening of the Beach section of the Barcelo Cayo Santa Maria.
(The project is to built 4 sections: Beach (construction name: matanzas), Colonial (construction name: trinidad), Caribe and Tropical for a total of 2,694 rooms, and then a Palace section which ultimately became the Royalton).
• Opening of the Colonial section of Barcelo Cayo Santa Maria.
• Inauguration of the commercial pueblo Plaza La Estrella.
• Opening of the Caribe section of Barcelo Cayo Santa Maria.
• The Melia Cayo Santa Maria changes back its status for a family resort with a mini-club for children.
• Opening of the luxury hotel Melia Buenavista (adult-only) located at the West end of Cayo Santa Maria (called Punta Madruguilla). There used to be a military post in this area.
• All medical services in the hotels are transferred to the new International Polyclinic located within the Cayo Santa Maria hotel zone.
• The 4 sections of the Barcelo Cayo Santa Maria are divided into 2 separate hotels: the Barcelo Cayo Santa Maria Beach-Colonial and the Barcelo Cayo Santa Maria Caribe-Tropical.
• Inauguration of the comercial pueblo Plaza Las Dunas located a few steps from hotel Melia Las Dunas.
• Announcement of the upcoming opening of a new hotel, the Sirenis Cayo Santa Maria, scheduled for December 2011.
• The adult-only hotel Occidental Royal Hideaway on Cayo Ensenachos changes administration and becomes the Iberostar Ensenachos, it will now be a hotel for everyone (family section and adult sections).
• Inauguration of the Dolphinarium (Delfinario).
• The Tropical section of the Barcelo is now open but changes management for the Canadian hotel chain Blue Diamond Hotels & Resorts. (a division of the Sunwing Travel Group). The Barcelo Caribe section becomes the Memories Paraiso Beach Resort and the Barcelo Tropical section becomes the Memories Azul Beach Resort.
• The Colonial and Beach sections of the Barcelo are now grouped in one hotel called Barcelo Cayo Santa Maria Beach-Colonial, eventually the name will be changed to Barcelo Cayo Santa Maria.
• Opening of the Hotel Gaviota Cayo Santa Maria. This hotel should have been administered by the Spanish hotel chain Sirenis, but the latter withdrew from Cuba. The Cuban Group Gaviota S.A. took charge of the administration and finally included it in its "Playa Hoteles" brand under the name Playa Cayo Santa Maria.
• The Barcelo group leaves Cayo Santa Maria. The hotel is now administered by «HUSA hoteles» under the name HUSA Cayo Santa Maria Beach Resort.
• Opening of the Royalton Cayo Santa Maria, a luxury adult-only hotel, located just a few steps from the Plaza La Estrella.
• The Paraiso and Azul sections of the Memories are now grouped under the name Memories Paraiso Azul Beach Resort, these two sections will no longer be sold separately.
• Opening of 60 new rooms in the Beach sector of the HUSA Cayo Santa Maria (a block located near the Royalton Cayo Santa Maria and the Pueblo La Estrella).
• Opening of the hotel Eurostars Cayo Santa Maria in the Playa Las Caletas sector (construction name was: Punta Piedra Movida).
• Announcement of a future hotel on Playa Perla Blanca, a beach located in the eastern part of Cayo Santa Maria. It will be administered by "Valentin Hoteles" under the name Valentin Perla Blanca.
• The hotel chain HUSA abandons the administration of its only hotel in Cuba. In the interim, it will be managed by the Cuban group Gaviota SA under the name Gaviota La Estrella.
• Announcement of the opening of two new hotels in the Eastern sector of Cayo Santa Maria (near the Valentin Perla Blanca) by the end of 2015, they are: The Warwick Cayo Santa Maria (construction name: Lagunas del Este 1) and the Ocean Casa del Mar (construction name: Lagunas del Este 2).
• Opening of the hotel Valentin Perla Blanca (1st phase).
• The hotel Gaviota La Estrella (formerly HUSA and Barcelo) becomes the Starfish Cayo Santa Maria administered by Blue Diamond Hotels & Resorts (a division of Sunwing Travel Group).
• Opening of the Valentin Perla Blanca Paraiso (2nd phase).
• After only 2 years the Eurostars hotel chain abandons the administration of its only hotel in Cuba. In the interim, it will be managed by the Cuban Group Gaviota SA under the name Hotel Cayo Santa Maria.
• Opening of the hotel Warwick Cayo Santa Maria located on the eastern part of the island of Cayo Santa Maria.
• Opening of the hotel Ocean Casa del Mar by H10 located on the eastern part of the island of Cayo Santa Maria.
• The Hotel Starfish Cayo Santa Maria is now divided into two sections sold separately, the East side keeps the name Starfish Cayo Santa Maria (sold in Canada by tour operator Sunwing Vacations) and the West side is named Starfish Tropical Cayo Santa Maria (sold in Canada by tour operator Air Canada Vacations).
• Opening of the "Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria" (516 rooms). This hotel is located on Cayo Las Brujas (a small island next to Cayo Santa Maria).
• The "Memories Paraiso Azul Beach Resort" is divided into three hotels sold separately. The former Paraiso section becomes the "Memories Paraiso Beach Resort" (666 rooms), the former Azul section was divided in two hotels: the "Grand Memories Santa Maria" (342 rooms) and the "Sanctuary at Grand Memories Santa Maria" (378 rooms, adult-only).
• The Hotel Cayo Santa Maria (formerly Eurostars Cayo Santa Maria) is now managed by Golden Tulip, part of Louvre Hotels Group, and becomes the Golden Tulip Aguas Claras.
• Hurricane Irma hit « Los Cayos de Villa Clara ». Click to read about Irma.
• After only 2 years the Warwick hotel chain abandons the administration of its hotel in Cayo Santa Maria. In the interim, it will be managed by the Cuban Group Gaviota SA under the name Hotel Lagunas del Este I.
• Opening of the "Sercotel Experience Cayo Santa Maria". This hotel is located on Cayo Las Brujas (a small island next to Cayo Santa Maria).
• Opening of the "Hotel Las Salinas Plaza & Spa" in Cayo Las Brujas.
Note that since the spring 2014, Cuban Immigration systematically stamps all passports when entering and leaving the country. And also: Since May 1, 2015, the Cuban Departure Tax is no longer paid at destination. It should now be included in the price of your trip when buying a flight-only or vacation package to Cuba.
In October 2013, the Cuban government announced its intention to eliminate the dual currency system, unique in the world. The Cuban peso (CUP) would become the official currency and the convertible peso (CUC) would be phased out. No official timetable has been announced, although Raul Castro is firmly committed to implementing this economic project as soon as possible. More information to come.
Lily & Normand