Welcome to the official guide for Cayo Santa Maria, it is designed to give you a quick overview of the island, some things to do in Cayo Santa Maria, all the hotels on the island and a list of major excursions available. Our guide also caters for those on a limited budget who may wish to stay in cheaper accommodations in Caibarien and visit Cayo Santa Maria simply for a day out, skipping the all-inclusive hotels but, visiting Cayo Santa Maria anyway. As its only 48km from the mainland, this is easily done and the beaches in Cayo Santa Maria are the same for everyone. A brief overview of Cayo Santa Maria hotels is also provided, however by visiting the “Reserve” section there are visitor reviews and more concise details of each hotel, including rate comparisons and multicurrency price checks, ensuring the very best rates direct from the source. You don’t need to book at the “Reserve” section but you will certainly find the more precise information for each hotel useful.
Cayo Santa Maria is linked to the mainland near the city of Caibarien via a 48 km causeway constructed between 1989 and 1999. There’s a 2 CUC per vehicle toll fee, introduced to attempt to finance the road itself. The first hotel on Cayo Santa Maria was the Sol Cayo Santa Maria, operated by the Melia Group since December 2001. All the hotels in Cayo Santa Maria are owned by the Cuban Hotel Group Gaviota and managed by the respective hotel chains shown below. There are currently 10 hotels for a total of 6,785 rooms in Cayo Santa Maria (2014). A limit has been set for 10,000 rooms on Cayo Santa Maria, therefore approximately another 5 hotels will be built then development ceased. The idea is to maintain eco harmony and exclusivity for the island and avoid overdevelopment.
Where to stay on Cayo Santa Maria? Cayo Santa Marias’s 10 hotels are divided into the following capacities: Sol Cayo Santa Maria (300 rooms), Melia Cayo Santa Maria (358 rooms), Melia Las Dunas (925 rooms), Hotel Melia Buenavista (105 Rooms), Playa Cayo Santa Maria (769 rooms), Hotel Memories Paraiso (666), HUSA Cayo Santa Maria (1,308 rooms), Royalton Cayo Santa Maria (122 rooms), Memories Azul Beach Resort (1,386 rooms) and finally the Eurostars Cayo Santa Maria (846 rooms)
What is the main attraction of Cayo Santa Maria?
The primary attraction of Cayo Santa Maria is of course the predictable weather and its 8 miles of virgin beaches. Cayo Santa Maria was designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve due to the region’s exuberant flora, made up of 248 species, including 91 medicinal, 72 timber, 41 resin-producing and 40 ornamental wood species, along with vestiges of pre-Columbian cultures found in caverns near the beach, and beautiful underwater seascapes. If you’re not yet convinced, Cayo Santa Maria is a truly stunning location for a vacation. Flamingos, endemic lizards grace the pristine beaches and coves, along with mollusks and, favorite amongst birdwatchers, the island’s national bird – the Tocoroco – chosen because its plumage displays the exact colors of the Cuban flag. Cayo Santa Maria’s beach itself is one of the most tranquil in Cuba, stretching for 13 kilometers with its extremely fine “true white” sands, with calm crystal clear turquoise waters. The coral barrier reef, the world’s second largest after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, protects the beach from winds, meaning waves are never overwhelming, thus permitting a wide selection of marine life to make this Cuban beach paradise their home. If you’d like to see some of the Authentic Cuba, you can still do this by visiting Caibarien, a small city just 48 KM from the island and an ideal day out to mingle with locals, visit a Paladar or hang out on its trendy Malecon boardwalk boulevard area.
What type of Holiday can I Expect in Cayo Santa Maria?
Cayo Santa Maria’s main asset is its uniqueness. It’s a small island with little in the way of shopping and commerce. Besides the two so called shopping and entertainment “Pueblos” of Pueblo Las Dunas and Pueblo La Estrella, there is little else to separate you from your money. All the hotels are All-Inclusive; therefore, unless you really go crazy on tipping, spending more than the cost of a few Excursions in Cayo Santa Maria is going to be quite a task. Ideally, you will come to Cayo Santa Maria to relax on the beach, snorkeling, swimming and diving. Hang around on your resort or utilize the often free “Resort Passes” to discover an adjacent Beach resort managed by the same hotel chain you are staying at. Melia are famous for this but, Memories and Iberostar have now followed suit with their own all-inclusive day passes. As a place to unwind, laze around and just take in the natural scenery, Cayo Santa Maria is pretty hard to beat. Alternatively, if you’re looking for intense nightlife, tons of activities and attractions, with little downtime between each, you would be better off visiting Varadero or better, Havana.
Which other Islands in Cuba offer a similar experience?
To the east of Cayo Santa Maria there’s Cayo Coco, which is more developed but, also more commercialized. Then there’s Cayo Guillermo next to Cayo Coco, which was the first island in the Jardines del Rey Archipelago to be developed but, its much like Cayo Santa Maria.
Opened in 2011, the Pueblo Las Dunas Village and entertainment center is the second of its type on Cayo Santa Maria after the acclaimed Pueblo La Estrella, which is a short distance away. Equally easy to access on the hop-on hop-off 1 CUC bus, the distances from your hotel are listed below. Prices at both Cayo Santa Maria “Pueblos” should be considered duty free, because they are excellent overall, including the numerous food courts and bars incorporated into each village.
More like a strip mall with character, the Pueblo Las Dunas offers everything from Cigars to clothing and everything in-between. Particularly impressive is the array of handicrafts on offer at the outside markets.
The Marcaribe Discotheque is where people in the know go for a night out, as opposed to their resort disco. More of a true “back-home” type disco, there’s a perfect mix of local Cuban workers mingling with tourists from all of the resorts on Cayo Santa Maria. If you’re tired of seeing the same faces at your disco, head down to Marcaribe!
The other bars are all good and offer a little more lively fun than the typical all-inclusive bar you’ve become accustomed to while on vacation in Cayo Santa Maria. The El Mosquete Bar is a classically designed bar with a mezzanine deck inside, great people watching! Bar Bolera is a state of the art 6 lane bowling alley, with digital readouts and excellent bar with top level spirits along with international beers.
There are two impressive restaurants; the first is the Galeon del Puerto or sometimes called the Barco del Pirata. It’s built inside a full-scale replica of a Spanish Galleon, right in the center of Pueblo Las Dunas. Galeon del Puerto serves all types of food from a simple burger to an excellent steak dinner. Drinks are also served all day and the décor, complete with seating stalls and, Galleon theme throughout, is a true delight. Then there’s the excellent seafood restaurant called the Isla de Tortuga or Tortoise Island, the breaded prawns here are simply fantastic, as is the Lobster or surf and turf special.
If you need a battery for your camera, to print some photos for friends or some emergency photo equipment then the El Fortin Store will probably have it. They’ll also digitize photos for you and transfer images to a pen drive (they sell these), if you’ve run out of disk space. The El Ponton store, just next door to the above, is a general goods store offering everything from souvenirs to clothing, soft drinks and knickknacks you may need. They also have the all-important mosquito repellent, sunscreen towels and beachwear. Outside in the plaza there are a myriad of market stands selling genuine Cuban handmade items (NOT Chinese rubbish). Many of the store owners are the artisans who actually make the items on sale, a real pleasure to see the variety of items and colorful offerings.
The Galleria Las Dunas opened its doors in 2012 showing works of art from the Villa Clara province’s upcoming and experienced artists, in all genres. The manager of the Galleria Las Dunas is Erik Lorenzo; he is very knowledge about all the artworks shown in his gallery. Proper documentation is provided with all artwork sold, including official export papers and certificates of authenticity.
Yhi Spa Aguas Claras
Yes, there’s a Spa and wellness center at Pueblo Las Dunas and, it’s very good indeed. Of course, if you have a Spa on your resort you may wish to skip this paragraph, but for those who don’t, this is an excellent alternative and nice day away from your hotel for some pampering. Conveniently located at the entrance of Pueblo Las Dunas, right between the hotels Melia Cayo Santa Maria and Melia Las Dunas, the “Yhi” name is Melia’s own and the name it uses internationally for all its hotel spas. The Yhi Spa Aguas Claras offers an impressive selection of treatments that will soothe mind, body and soul, as well as a broad hydrothermal circuit and numerous relaxation areas. The Aguas Claras Yhi Spa building is also home to the Yhi Beauty Salon. The name “Yhi” is derived from the name of the goddess of light in Australian Aboriginal Karraur mythology.
Pueblo Las Dunas Gym
The gym offers both machines and free-weight training, numerous of the latest digital treadmills and bikes plus a conveniently located TV to watch something while you pound away. Entrance is 10 CUC for two hours and you get to use the showers at the Yhi Spa. The gym is used by Melia Resort staff also , so you can often strike up an interesting chat.
Pueblo Las Dunas Car, Scooter and Bicycle Rental
If you’ve booked a rent a car in advance, with CubaCAR Cayo Santa Maria, then you can collect it here. The office also rents bicycles and scooters by the hour or per day. This office is considered the main car rental office for Cayo Santa Maria and would also be where you would return a car if you´ve chosen a one-way rental in Cuba.
The Pueblo La Estrella (Star Town) in Cayo Santa Maria is an all-in-one entertainment center designed to give you break from your hotel and try something different. To get to Pueblo La Estrella it’s as easy as getting the Double Decker Bus from outside your hotel (rotates about every 20 mins) and paying 1 CUC fixed cost for the ride. Or, if you’re numerous people, a taxi is also really cheap from any hotel. The La Estrella Pueblo is picturesque village offering many different services so we’ll break these up into categories:
Pueblo La Estrella Restaurants & Eateries
No less than 8 restaurants; Katzura Japanese, Aurora International, Vesubio Italian, Fruits de Mer Seafood, Steak House, Yangtze Chinese, La Casona Creole Cuban, Trattoria Italian. There is also a Mc Donald’s style hamburger joint with adjacent beer garden. The La Crèmerie ice cream parlor has over 20 varieties if you arrive on a good day. The honey house must not be missed and a Cigar Cellar
Pueblo La Estrella Bars and Cafes
There are 2 excellent bars serving cocktails and top shelf booze, plus a Jazz Cafe. The rum house offers over 50 varieties of Cuban Rum.
Pueblo La Estrella Entertianment Center
This little village of Pueblo La Estrella has the following services: beauty parlor, gym, bank (better rates than your hotel), photo center, post office, business center, various stores, jeweler, market stalls in the square during the day, a children’s playground, live music from the center square all day. There’s even a replica church tower which you can climb to the top for a fantastic view and take pictures of the village and the coastline. The bowling and billiard center are quire cheap at just 3.50 CUC entrance fee. The 10 pin bowling with electronic score keeping is a lot of fun for the family, you’ll pay 3.50 pesos each to play.
Pueblo La Estrella Spa, Gym & Massage
The Spa is gorgeous and allows you to use all the amenities if you book a spa time. The pool is surrounded by comfortable nice padded lounge chairs. The spa features sauna, hot tub, cool tub, steam room, showers and massage center. The massage therapists are professional and do a fantastic job; as do the staff who give manicures and pedicures. Prices are reasonable ranging from 15 to 60 CUC.
There’s so much more to do at Pueblo La Estrella, it’s a big place, so we’ll let you discover the rest!
The Dolphinarium is located in Cayo Ensenachos which is about 30 km away from Cayo Santa Maria. The drive will help you to get to know the other island where multiple hotels are located. The Dolphin Show is a real treat for the whole family with over 20 dolphins doing stunning tricks along with sea lions competing for your attention. The Dolphin entertainment area is quite large at 900 m2 and offers 260 seats from which to watch the shows. The Dolphinarium also has a small store for souvenirs and refreshments plus a tiny café-bar. Depending in whether your tour includes it or not there’s a great restaurant that serves a delicious meal of chicken, lobster and shrimp which is not to be missed.
There are two different tours, one if the daytime tour then there is a second nighttime tour which includes drinks and a type of disco at the ends. If you can make it out to the Dolphinarium alone then the cost is only 5CUC compared to some tours that are upwards of 25 CUC, including a combined Catamaran Cruise Tour along with the Acuario Dolphin Tour. The aforementioned meal by itself is 12 CUC.
The dolphin show is truly fantastic; particularly one dolphin which appears to be the most well trained one which does multiple spins (maybe about 5?) before hitting the water again. Kids can go down to the poolside and touch the dolphins and there is a session at the end of the Dolphin show when you can get in and swim with them for an extra 60 CUC.
If you don’t decide to visit the city of Caibarien for a whole day the Cayo Santa Maria Jeep Safari will take you to the city anyway, as it is the place where the Suzuki Jeeps are collected from to take this impressive tour Jeep Safari with a hint of ecotourism thrown in! Remember to bring your license if you want to drive one of the jeeps… These are small jeeps, called Suzuki Jimny, designed for 4 people. If you’re a family of 4 then you can all take the trip in one vehicle, otherwise you can join others in separate vehicles.
The tour begins with a drive on paved road between immense Cuban royal palm trees, through sugar and coffee plantations to a chicken breeding farm where a make-up rooster fight (no killing) takes place. The farm offers an impressive array of animals, from: flamingos to crocs, iguanas, ducks, and peacocks, a real treat for kids. Another area of the farm lets you see pigs and even milk a cow! The Jeep Safari excursion then recommences, including driving on a dirt road for about an 1 hour, this can be quite dusty for those on vehicles behind the lead car! A stop for lunch is at the Rancho Querete, another real farm where lunch is served in traditional Cuban style with succulent pork, sweet potatoes, cucumber, rice with black beans, fruit and coffee.
We then drive onto the Cueva de Valdes where you will have the chance to swim in a river under a picturesque waterfall. Horseback riding is also included, the trip starts from the waterfall and takes about 10 minutes but is quite fun and you can let the kids go it alone if you want as they’re pretty much in eyesight. You will take the paved road back to return the jeep.
The whole trip takes in some beautiful and breathtaking landscapes. The scenery is idyllic and gives you a true feel for Cuba after being on Cayo Santa Maria. This Cayo Santa Maria Jeep Safari excursion starts at 8:30 am till 6 pm. Prices are 75 cuc per adult and 53 cuc for children and it’s well worth the cost.
The Catamaran Cruise from Cayo Santa Maria is sold at all hotel receptions and costs 79 CUC for adults and 36 CUC for children. A bus comes to collect you at your hotel and take you to the marina which is only 10 minutes away. The catamaran cruise is great fun and offers a fantastic experience as it visits neighboring islands, islets small keys. Dolphin’s frequently join the boat and play in its frontal wake, quite a spectacle! The cruise takes you past the American San Pascual ship, close to Cayo Santa Maria, which ran aground. During the Ernest Hemingway years, she served as stranded hotel, resting on the seabed. Then, in the late ’90s, the ship was revitalized and her 10 cabins, bar and restaurant were brought back from the brink and put into service as a scuba diving hotel. Today she is just empty.
Snorkeling is offered near a small key, just above the vibrant reef below, where you can dive into the warm and transparent waters to see some of the sea life, coral and vibrantly colored fish on the second biggest coral reef of the world. There is beach time in a secluded virgin beach where a lobster or chicken lunch is served. The price includes an open bar and music during the journey. The Cayo Santa Maria Catamaran Cruise starts at 9:00 am till 4:30 pm and is well worth the price and great for the whole family.
Caibarien is small city with a population of 38,000 located at the start of the causeway between the mainland and Cayo Santa Maria. Since the city is just 48km from the island it’s a popular day-trip and excursion destination.
Primarily a fishing town it is also the main port for the province of Villa Clara. Caibarien was founded in 1832 from a map designed by Estratón Bauza. In 1878 the town already had stores, churches, schools and newspapers. Caibarien, despite being a small city it has its own Caibarien Airport (ICAO) and provides for some distinctive 19th century colonial architecture.
Caibarien is also known as “La Villa Blanca” (The White Town), the locals say this name stands for its sands and beaches. Caibarien is famous for its “Parrandas” (Carnivals) along with the neighboring Remedios located 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) west of the city.
Many of Caibarien´s buildings have fine wooden porches with a distinctly French influence, and some are pretty grand properties. Life movies slowly in the city with a fair number of horses in town, either with single riders or carts. The sidewalks are ornate affairs made of large stone slabs set in concrete.
Caibarien has little in the way of tourism, meaning visitors can wander around unhindered by hustlers. The highlight of the city is the Malecón which is lined with abundant warehouses originally used during the 19th century for storing sugar cane, most of which are being renovated to accommodate a new fishing zone in the east with a new road, coconut palms and several cool bars and cafés where visitors can sit and admire the view.
The main epicenter of the town is a large square, with an 1850 church and the impressive neoclassical Lyceo (1926), where the Museo Municipal de Caibarién María Escobar Laredo, can be found on the second floor. You’ll find permanent and temporary exhibitions, including the furniture previously owned by María Escobar Laredo, who was one of the founders for the city.
The elaborate gazebo in the center of the main plaza was built in 1915, the largest in Cuba and famous for its excellent acoustics. If you’re in-town you can see some concerts by local bands on Thursday and Sunday nights. Also on the plaza is a store called London City, which was, during the first decade of the 20th century, a custom-made tailor’s store.
Interestingly, much of the local culture is influenced by slavery and African traditions. Like Remedios, Caibarién also has its colorful carnivals called parrandas. Caibarien is the place to be on Christmas Eve when a non-religious celebration is held, first held in 1892 it is said to have begun with the banging of a drum by a 110 year old former slave called Juan de Jimagua. People from the city then followed him plus many other conga players around the town, a tradition still popular today.
Cayo Conuco is a tiny island located 7 kilometers (4 miles) from Caibarien which is joined to the mainland by a stone causeway, the island is a weekend retreat for beach goers from the local community and can be quite fun. Cayo Conuco is biosphere reserve with lots of flora and fauna, and a campsite. You’ll find the ruins of a former cholera hospital, erected by the slaves in the 19th century to quarantine victims of the devastating disease.
The island of Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba has an area of 13 km²or 8 miles², one of the smallest in the Jardines del Rey Archipelago is under jurisdiction of the Villa Clara Province. Jardines del Rey are part of a collection of various islands on the north coast of Cuba.
Cayo Santa Maria is 60km from Cuba’s north coast city of Caibarien and getting to the island is via a causeway called the pedraplen. The journey takes about 50 minutes by car. On the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, the entire archipelago where Cayo Santa Maria is situated includes +2,500 keys and islets straddling the four provinces of Villa Clara, Matanzas, Ciego de Avila and Camaguey.
The first tourist development on the Jardines Del Rey Islands began in the 1990s, on Cayo Guillermo, with the inauguration in 1992 of the Club Villa Cojimar Hotel (now the Hotel Allegro), next came Cayo Coco a year later with the Hotel Guitart Cayo Coco (now the Hotel Colonial).
Since there were no commercial airports on the islands in the 1990s, the Cuban tourism authorities resorted to using the Maximo Gomez airport located in the provincial capital of Ciego de Avila and later built the Las Brujas Airport (BWW) which now serves Cayo Santa Maria. The construction of the pedraplen causeway from the mainland began in 1988 and was completed 10 years later in 1998, its 48kms (29 miles) length connecting Cayo Santa, with it began the explosion of tourism on the latest tourism destination of the King’s Gardens. A 38 kilometers causeway was later constructed to connect Cayo Santa Maria with Cayo Las Brujas.
Cayo Santa Maria is 395 Km (245 miles) from Havana. Varadero is 315 km (195 miles) from Cayo Santa Maria, whereas the closest cities to Cayo Santa Maria are Caibarien (population of 38,200) at 60km (37 miles) and Remedios (population of 46,500) at 68 km (42 miles). The biggest major city is of course Santa Clara (population of 220,000) 115 km (71 Miles).
Though there are no direct flights, to get an idea of just how close Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba is to The Turks and Caicos, the JAGS McCartney International Airport (GDT) in the Turks and Caicos Islands is just 804 km (499 miles) from the Las Brujas Airport (BWW) in Cuba.
Hotel Playa Coco Cayo Santa Maria features 769 sumptuous rooms distributed over low level 3 storey resort and vast beachfront location. Each room provides impressive views overlooking the turquoise sea, beach, pool or the garden.
Hotel Playa Coco Cayo Santa Maria is an all-inclusive 5 star luxury resort managed by the prestigious hotel chain of Gaviota. Featuring several separate buffet offers plus special dinner arrangements at the resorts intimate a-la-carte restaurants. Hotel Playa Coco Cayo boast its own onsite Spa and gym which lead out to sun loungers and parasols by the pool for a rest after your pampering or workout. The kids club features daytime activities around the kids special pool and also unique ecological excursions to discover and learn about Cuba’s rich wildlife. Nighttime entertainment includes traditional Cuban bands and live performances. Free introductory scuba lessons are included for all guests in the pool and those who wish can then take a dive or two on the world’s second largest coral reef of Jardines del Rey.
When you click “Reserve at Playa Cayo Cayo Santa Maria Hotel” you will be comparing rates and availability from all three possible sources:
- All major international suppliers of Hotel Playa Cayo Cayo Santa Maria
- The Cuban tourism ministry
- Direct with Hotel Playa Cayo itself
Our booking process is unique because it shows the best rate from all of these for Playa Cayo hotel in Cayo Santa Maria and the types of rooms available. Our Playa Cayo Cayo Santa Maria rate comparison is an industry first for Cuban Hotels.
Once you’ve compared the rates, finalizing the booking at Playa Cayo Hotel takes just seconds and an immediate confirmation is provided in real-time.
No Prepayment – No booking fees – No Charges
Memories Paraiso Cayo Santa Maria is located in the center of Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba and encircles by lush tropical gardens, white sandy beaches, and turquoise Caribbean seas.
The all inclusive Memories Paraiso Cayo Santa Maria Beach Resort as modeled after Spanish colonial design, making this beautiful vacation hideaway both stunning and picturesque. Memories Paraiso Cayo Santa Maria is an all suite resort, meaning all rooms are large and feature rich wood furnishings and classic styles throughout. The enormous balconies offer breathtaking views of the tranquil gardens and sparkling Caribbean Sea.
Numerous dining options are offered with several different buffet areas along with intimate à la carte restaurants featuring international cuisine.
When you click “Reserve at Memories Paraiso Cayo Santa Maria Hotel” you will be comparing rates and availability from all three possible sources:
- All major international suppliers of Hotel Memories Paraiso Cayo Santa Maria
- The Cuban tourism ministry
- Direct with Hotel Memories Paraiso itself
Our booking process is unique because it shows the best rate from all of these for Memories Paraiso hotel in Cayo Santa Maria and the types of rooms available. Our Memories Paraiso Cayo Santa Maria rate comparison is an industry first for Cuban Hotels.
Once you’ve compared the rates, finalizing the booking at Memories Paraiso Hotel takes just seconds and an immediate confirmation is provided in real-time.
No Prepayment – No booking fees – No Charges