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The beach destination “Cayos de Villa Clara”, which includes the islands of Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Las Brujas and Cayo Ensenachos, is currently one of the most active area in Cuba for tourism development. There should be more than 10,000 rooms on these three cayos by the end of 2018. Every hotel on Cayo Santa Maria is resort-style and All-Inclusive (meals, snacks, drinks, daily activities, evening entertainment, non-motorized water sports). Every property (buildings and services) belong to the government-owned "Grupo Gaviota", however joint ventures and administration contracts are awarded to several international hotel chains (such as Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts, Melia Hotels International, Blue Diamond, Sercotel, Valentin, Warwick, H10, Iberostar) to manage and promote many of these hotels.

Tourism development started first on Cayo Las Brujas in 1999 with the opening of the first hotel in this region, the Villa Las Brujas. The next hotel to be built was the Sol Cayo Santa Maria, the latter became the first all-inclusive resort in the province of Villa Clara. The construction of the Sol Cayo Santa Maria was completed in year 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. Since then many other all-inclusive resorts were built on Cayo Santa Maria, plus another one on Cayo Ensenachos. The next island to be developed is Cayo Las Brujas with five new resorts. Find here the detailed chronology of tourism development in the Cayos of Villa Clara. In a short period of time Cayo Santa Maria became the second largest beach resort in Cuba (in total number of rooms), after Varadero.

Every hotel is located along the northern coast of Cayo Santa Maria, while the southern areas are mainly covered by marshes and mangroves. The hotels are all oceanfront but have been built a little back behind the dunes; the beaches are accessible via several raised footbridge for a minimum impact on the dunes' flora and fauna. The dunes also serve as a natural protection against hurricanes, thus minimizing damages to hotels.

Hotels sorted by total roomsThe size of the hotels vary from approximately 100 up to almost 1,400 room. Most of them cater to everyone, couples, families and singles; but there are also a few of them which are adult-only properties, such as: Melia Buenavista, Royalton Cayo Santa Maria, Sanctuary at Grand Memories Santa Maria and Valentin Perla Blanca. The Royalton Cayo Santa Maria and the Melia Buenavista are rated by travelers as the best hotels in Cayo Santa Maria in ©TripAdvisor.com and ©Monarc.ca. The Royalton Cayo Santa Maria was even awarded “Most appreciated hotel in all Cuba”. Congratulations!

Click to see an areal view showing the position of the hotel and services on Cayo Ensenachos.

Click to see an areal view showing the position of each hotel and services on Cayo Las Brujas.

Click to see an areal view showing the position of each hotel and services on Cayo Santa Maria.

There's another all-inclusive resort, the Iberostar Ensenachos (formerly Occidental Royal Hideaway), on the neighbor island of Cayo Ensenachos. It's a one-island/one-resort concept, something rarely found in the Caribbean's, more common in places such as The Maldives. This hotel used to be adult-only during the Occidental administration, it's now for everyone.

On the other island of the area, Cayo Las Brujas, there's currently only one small and intimate eco-hotel, the Villa Las Brujas, located on the gorgeous Playa Salina beach. But this little hotel will soon have neighbors; Cayo Las Brujas is currently undergoing an extensive tourism development with five new all-inclusive resorts currently under construction, for a future total of 2,773 rooms on this cayo.

Chart of growing numbers of rooms in the Cayos de Villa Clara since 1999 Click this thumbnail to see a chart of the growing numbers of rooms in the Cayos de Villa Clara since 1999.

During our first trip to Cayo Santa Maria in January 2002, when the Sol Cayo Santa Maria was the sole hotel on a desert island, we were told about the project to build around 10,000 hotel-rooms in the area, in the next 10 years or so. It was very hard to believe back then, but 14 years later they have almost achieved this goal, and will even surpass it!

It is expected that the sprawling development of the total "Jardines del Rey" (King's Gardens) archipelago, which includes the following islands: Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Las Brujas, Cayo Ensenachos, Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Paredon Grande, Cayo Cruz, Cayo Sabinal, etc., should eventually include more than 32,000 hotel-rooms. The archipelago is currently (2016) at about 40% of this total number of rooms, so there are still several new hotels to be built and perhaps other cays to be developed in a near future.

Visit also the King's Garden Islands section of our website to learn more about the other destinations (cayos) of this vast archipelago which is connected to the main island of Cuba by two causeways (called pedraplen in Spanish).

Lily & Normand
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