The islet, located off the coast of the province of Villa Clara, in the north of the island, belongs to the archipelago Jardines del Rey and forms with Cayo Ensenachos and Cayo Las Brujas a small group called “Los Cayos de Villa Clara”.
Cayo Santa María in a few words
Contrary to the other big Cuban seaside resorts, Cayo Santa María, nicknamed the “Rosa Blanca de los Jardines del Rey” for its white sand beaches, opened to tourism only relatively late, at the end of the 1990s.
The tourist development of the island was thus thought in a more elegant and respectful way of the environment than in Varadero or in the Bay of Pigs.
However, the development of the Cayos de Villa Clara resorts continues at a frantic pace and endangers the fragile ecosystem of the neighboring Buenavista Biosphere Reserve.
Here, as in many Cuban resorts, the vast majority of tourists are Canadian (85%), but Cayo Santa María attracts a growing number of international visitors.
How to get to Cayo Santa María
There are several ways to get to Cayo Santa María.
The Cayos of Villa Clara, including Cayo Santa María, are linked to the main island by a pedraplén, a 48 km long road built on the sea.
It is possible to go to the island by car.
A checkpoint monitors the access to the archipelago: travelers must pay an entry and exit fee of 2 CUC per car to use the pedraplén.
If you do not have a car, it is possible to book an excursion to Cayo Santa María at the Cubatur agency in Santa Clara.
You can also find cabs offering the trip from Caibarién (30 CUC), Remedios (35 CUC) and Santa Clara (70 CUC)
The Cayos de Villa Clara also have a small airport, located in Cayo Las Brujas, which receives flights to and from Havana.
From there, most of the hotels on the island offer a shuttle service.
Otherwise, it is possible to get to your hotel from the airport by cab.
The nearest international airport is Santa Clara.
Getting around Cayo Santa María
The Panoramic Bus Tour, an open multi-stop bus, runs daily between Cayo Las Brujas and Cayo Santa María.
Count 2 CUC per person for the trip.
Hotels in Cayo Santa Maria
Cayo Santa Maria has a handful of large all-inclusive resorts.
Here, it is difficult to find a cheap option, all hotels are in the same price range.
Among them, we recommend three in particular: -The Melia Buenavista (reserved for
adults) -The Royalton Cayo Santa María (reserved for adults)
-The Grand Memories Santa Maria, a little cheaper than the two previous options (children are welcome)
What to do in Cayo Santa María?
Large of 18 km2, Cayo Santa María has 13 kilometers of beaches, located on the north coast, and it is indeed its most beautiful asset.
In the south, the island is covered with mangroves and forests sheltering numerous endemic species.
You will have understood it thus, Cayo Santa María is a destination 100 % idle: one does not pose his suitcases here to discover the true face of Cuba, but rather to offer himself a relaxing stay to oneself with thousand leagues of the daily worries.
The beaches of Cayo Santa María
There are nine of them, even if they seem to be only one, about 13 kilometers long:
- Playa Matamoros
- Playa Madruguilla
- Playa Canon
- Playa La Estrella
- Playa Las Caletas
- Playa La Colorada
- Playa Perla Blanca
- Playa Los Delfines
- Playa Las Gaviotas
All the beaches of the island are public and it is possible to access them freely.
The deckchairs are reserved for hotel guests.
For the anecdote, the only naturist beach in Cuba is located east of Playa Canon.
Playa Las Gaviotas is part of a protected wildlife reserve: no hotel can be built there, but it is possible to swim.
Diving and nautical activities
The diving center of the Marina Gaviotta as well as the agencies Catamaran Crucero del Sol, Sea Tour, Boat Adventure and Caguanes Tour propose each one of them boat excursions to discover the sea beds off Cayo Santa María.
They include the round trip transfer between your hotel and the marina.
Count 30 to 100 CUC for the adults according to the type of boat which you will choose (catamaran, speedboat…), approximately half less for the children.
The diving center, located at the Marina Gaviotta, on the nearby islet of Cayo las Brujas, offers many excursions for all levels (an introductory session in the pool is mandatory for beginners).
For all reservations, the transfer from your hotel in Cayo Santa María to the marina and back is included.
Prices vary from 45 CUC for one dive to 240 CUC for 10 dives (equipment included).
The diving center of Marina Gaviotta also offers fly fishing and sea fishing excursions of 4 to 8 hours.
Prices vary from 115 CUC per person to 650 CUC per boat (4 participants maximum) depending on the type and duration of the excursion
Here again, the transfer between your hotel and the marina is included, as well as equipment, drinks, a snack and/or a meal.
Wildlife refuge Cayo Santa María
The extreme southeast of Cayo María is home to a wildlife refuge, a protected area away from the major tourist complexes.
It is possible to get there by car, by cab, or to book an excursion to visit the reserve accompanied by a guide (ask your hotel).
The refuge is crisscrossed with hiking trails inviting you to discover the fauna and flora of the island.
It is also here that you will find the Playa Las Gaviottas, as well as a small cove, the Ensenada de Santa Maria.
Delphinarium of Cayo Santa María
Opened in 2011, the Delphinarium of Cayo Santa María is one of the largest and most modern in Cuba.
On site, it is possible to attend shows featuring dolphins and sea lions.
Count 5 CUC for admission per adult, 3 CUC per child.
For 69 CUC, it is also possible to swim with dolphins for half an hour.
The Panoramic Bus Tour stops at the Delphinarium.
It is also possible to go there by cab.
NB: as always with this kind of structure, it is difficult to be sure that the animals are well treated and we cannot guarantee it.
Tourist centers of Cayo Santa María
Cayo Santa María has three tourist complexes: -Plaza la Estrella -Plaza Las Dunas -Plaza las Terrazas You will find many shops, bars, restaurants, but also spas and artisanal markets.
It is also where the nightclubs of the island are located
Near Cayo Santa María
Cayo Ensenachos and Cayo Las Brujas
Cayo Ensenachos and Cayo Las Brujas are the two other islets forming the Cayos de Villa Clara.
Here, the recipe is the same as in Cayo Santa María: large hotel complexes, fine sandy beaches, snorkeling, diving and relaxation.
The Panoramic Bus Tour connects Cayo Santa María and Cayo Las Brujas several times a day.
Capital of the province of Villa Clara, Santa Clara is especially known for being the “city of Che”.
Ernesto “Che” Guevara won the mythical Battle of Santa Clara in December 1958.
His body was buried there in 1997, after being repatriated from Bolivia 30 years after his death.
It is to visit the Mausoleum of Che that many tourists stop in Santa Clara.
The Monumento a la toma del tren blindado, or simply Tren Blindado, also commemorates
Che’s victory over President Batista’s troops.
Today, Santa Clara is a lively and animated city: it is good to stroll in the shopping streets and the surroundings of the Leoncio Vidal Park.
45 kilometers from Santa Clara, Remedios is a pretty colonial town that has remained on the fringe of the island’s tourist development.
It is nevertheless one of the oldest towns in Cuba: its main church is even the 2nd oldest church in the country.
It is the ideal place to discover another face of Cuba, more raw and authentic.
Remedios is also known for its Parrandas, a colorful and lively festival during which the whole town meets in the streets to celebrate Christmas.
Nestled on the coast, Caibarién is a small fishing port located at the entrance of the pedraplén, the road leading to Cayo Santa María.
Here, there are no tourist monuments, except for the few colonial buildings in the center, the statue of a giant crab that has become the emblem of the city, and the Malecon lined with palm trees.
But Caibarién is a welcome stop for visitors who are curious to discover the Cuban way of life, a thousand miles away from the big resorts of the neighboring islets.