Cuba Destinations: Cayo Santa Maria

Cayo Santa Maria, part of the Jardines del Rey archipelago, is a small island sixteen kilometers long and two kilometers wide. It’s bordered by a coral shelf about 400 kilometers long – ine of the largest coral reef in the world (number one is the Great Barrier Reef in Australia).

The island offers some of the most popular all-inclusive resorts, catering to visitors of all ages, in the area. Its longest beach stretches for over ten kilometers, perfect for long walks, the turquoise waters of the Atlantic lapping at your feet. Meanwhile, there’s great diving and snorkeling on the nearby coral reefs.

The Cayo is connected to the Cuban mainland by an almost 50km-long causeway called a "pedraplén" , which was completed in 1996. Included in the pedraplén design were 45 bridges to allow the passage of tidal waters, an improvement over the earlier Cayo Coco causeway.

A recent addition to the attractions here is “El Pueblo La Estrella” , a small village built to resemble a colonial town. An electric train shuttles between the hotels of Cayo Santa María and Iberostar Ensenachos to the Pueblo. It features 3 restaurants in replica buildings from Caibarién, Remedios, Santa Clara, and Trinidad . There is also a modern nightclub, a SPA, beer/burger bar, piano bar, ice cream bar and bowling alley (with bar and pool tables), shops and a crafts market.

A visit to Remedios , the 2nd city closest to Cayo Santa María, makes a wonderful day trip. This small colonial city is one of the first original settlements in Cuba and is famous for its December carnival called Las Parrandas .

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