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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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Author: Osman Khan
Published: October 19, 2011
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