Escape To…Cayo Santa Maria


What do you get when you combine 1 Caribbean island with 0 residents and 10 kilometres of sand? A…

  • Escape To…Cayo Santa Maria

    Cayo Santa Maria

    Question: What do you get when you combine 1 Caribbean island with 0 residents and 10 kilometres of sand?
    Answer: A little-known paradise called Cayo Santa Maria.

    Cuba’s best-kept secret packs in white beaches that stretch for miles, clear waters that skim neon-bright corals, and the kind of backdrop that gets you noticed by UNESCO. No wonder the Cubans kept schtum about it for so long. Here’s a rundown of this castaway’s vital statistics…

    10 kilometres of sand

    The powdery ribbon skirts the island’s north coast, and is as pristine as they come. It’s split into sections, with a handful of luxury hotels dotted along one stretch, and nothing but glossy palms lined up along the rest.

    30 minutes’ walk

    At 2 kilometres wide and 13 long, this place is practically pocket-sized – you can walk from one side to the other in under half-an-hour.

    6,500 underwater species

    From sponges to sea turtles, crustaceans to corals, Cayo Santa Maria’s underwater world is teeming with all creatures great and small. No surprise, then, snorkelling’s big news in these parts.

    498 years in a name

    The island is part of the Jardines del Rey archipelago, a cluster of islands off Cuba’s north coast. The name translates to ‘Gardens of the King’, and was given in honour of King Ferdinand II of Aragon in 1513.

    48 kilometres of tarmac

    Granted, it doesn’t sound very glamorous, but the island’s giant causeway makes getting to the mainland easy – the drive across only takes about 40 minutes.

    5,475 days to mature

    That’s how long it takes for a bottle of Cuba’s coveted rum, Club 15-year-old Gran Reserva, to reach its prime. Fortunately you won’t have to wait that long, though – just pick one up from a souvenir shop.

    25 degrees Celsius

    Like the mainland, Cayo Santa Maria has a plum spot alongside the Tropic of Cancer so, as well as average temperatures that hit the mid-twenties, you get balmy sunshine pretty much year-round.

    248 types of plant

    Lined with mangroves, fruit trees and coconut palms, the south coast is bursting with greenery. As for fauna, everything from pink flamingos to blue chameleons calls this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve home.

    1 hour from Havana

    1 weekly flight. Thomson Airways flies to Santa Clara from Gatwick. From there, it’s about a two-hour drive – via the causeway – to Cayo Santa Maria.

    0 permanent residents. Yep, you heard us right – nobody calls this place home. Which means you really can say you’ve got the place to yourself.

Author: Osman Khan