Holidays to Cuba offer an enchanting mix of amazing things to see and do. There’s the vibrant atmosphere and culture of the capital, Havana, where you can join in the fun of carnivals and sway to the music of jazz festivals. There are also charming towns and villages to explore with old colonial Spanish-style buildings and striking vintage cars on the streets.
Cuba also offers miles and miles of the most amazing beaches and quiet islets to enjoy including the beautiful island of Cayo Santa Maria. This peaceful, largely untouched tropical haven is the latest fantastic beach holiday destination to open up in Cuba. It offers the chance to completely relax in natural surroundings and experience a slightly quieter, but no less charming side of Cuban life and culture.
If you’re looking for a relaxed family break where the kids can play and splash about in the sea, or an idyllic romantic getaway, Cayo Santa Maria could be your ideal getaway choice.
Enjoy tropical sunshine, laid-back pace and fantastic views
Cayo Santa Maria is located 43 kilometres off the north coast of Cuba. Meaning there’s a real sense of space, so you can really stretch out, unwind and find own your own private piece of tranquillity.
The island is one of hundreds of small keys and islets which form the picturesque region of the Jardines del Rey archipelago. The name means Gardens of the King and is a pristine haven for many species of wildlife, particularly birds and exotic sealife. In fact, there is so much natural beauty and diversity here that it’s a UNESCO recognised Biosphere Reserve area.
Despite its secluded location it’s an ideal base for exploring the rest of Cuba due to a man-made causeway which links it to the mainland. If you want to explore other interesting parts of Cuba such as Varadero or take a trip to Havana, it’s easy to drive or take a taxi. So if you want to you can vary the pace of your holiday with lots of fun day trips. Or, of course, you can simply sit back in the sun and enjoy the sandy beaches and sun-warmed sea.
Like the rest of Cuba, the weather on the island is hot and tropical with dry sunny days from October to May. This is the most popular time for holidays as even in December and January temperatures are nice and toasty at around 26°C. This makes Cayo Santa Maria the ideal getaway destination if you want to escape the cold, wet days of winter at home.
As it’s a Caribbean island there can occasionally be tropical storms during the wet season, which are usual for the region. The wet season runs from June to September which is also the island’s quietest time for tourists.
Relax on the sand and swim in sun-warmed sea
Playa Santa Maria is Cayo Santa Maria’s main beach, and offers an expanse of over six miles of powdery white sands.
There’s so much space here that you can easily find near perfect seclusion for the ultimate chill-out if you want to. You can take a long, slow walk along the shoreline collecting sea shells and enjoying the scenery as you gaze out to sea. Or you can take a paddle or swim in the clear, turquoise blue water. It’s ideal for little ones to splash about and play too as the water at the shoreline is shallow and calm.
If you want to simply lie back and sunbathe there are areas where you’ll find sunloungers and palm-leaf parasols to shade you. You can snooze for a bit, listen to your top tunes or read a good book while the gentle sea breeze cools you.
There’s lots of beach fun to be had too such as volleyball, dancing and exercise classes to keep you fit and active. If watersports are your thing you’ll find options such as pedal boats and kayaks available so that you can explore the coastline. You’ll get some amazing views of the island from the sea and may even spot some wild dolphins.
Explore the incredible coral reefs and exotic sea life
The coral barrier reefs around Cayo Santa Maria are the world’s second largest. You won’t find anything to rival them outside Australia. They’re literally teeming with a diverse and colourful array of stunning fish, lobsters and other sea creatures. This makes it a fantastic place to get in some amazing snorkelling and scuba diving adventures.
You don’t have to travel too far out to sea to spot some of the amazing sea life either, as there’s plenty to discover just snorkelling. So if you don’t want to scuba-dive you’ll still see some incredible sights such as schools of tiny fish darting below the surface.
For scuba enthusiasts there are excellent boat trips available which will take you out to the best dive spots in the area. You can get up close and personal to some amazing creatures such as sea turtles, graceful angel fish, octopus and big two-metre-long barracudas.
Take in the shopping, eats and nightlife at Pueblo La Estrella
The hub of activities in Cayo Santa Maria is the Pueblo La Estrella mall which has the look of a traditional colonial Spanish village. You’ll find shops where you can get beach essentials like bottled water, buy Cuban cigars and browse for souvenirs. There’s also an outdoor crafts market to explore. You can take your time having a good look and maybe pick up something unique to take home. The kid’s have their own playground too, so they can run around, have fun and make new friends.
If you’re looking for snacks or a meal there are several restaurants to choose from where you’ll find options such as delicious pizzas, grilled fresh seafood and local Cuban style cuisine. For a bit of smooth Cuban jazz to accompany your meal head for Isabel y Fernando. This is the ideal spot for a romantic dinner.
You can spend your evenings sipping cocktails under the stars on warm nights and join in the friendly atmosphere. If you like bowling you can have a fun night and find who’s best at the bowling alley. On the main plaza in the centre there’s regular live music to enjoy. There’s also a small nightclub within Pueblo La Estrella where you can linger until late and strut your stuff on the dancefloor.
Discover Cuba’s fascinating past and see Che Guevara’s monument
Between beach activities there’s plenty to see and do. You can take at look around the magnificent 16th century Iglesia San Juan Bautista de Remedios, which is reputed to be the oldest church in Cuba. Renovated in the mid-1990’s, it’s well worth a visit. The alter is covered in 22k gold leaf and the entire space is filled with stunning carvings, vaulted ceilings and baroque opulence.
The small town of Caibarien is a 50-minute drive away from Cayo Santa Maria and was founded by Spanish settlers in the 19th century. As well as the charming buildings of the original town it’s known locally for its extremely tasty fresh crab. So it’s a great place to go for a delicious lunch. There are amazing beaches here too, so you can also sunbathe and have a swim.
You can visit the famous revolutionary Che Guevara’s monument and museum in Santa Clara. This is a one hour and 40-minute drive away and is surely a must-see in Cuba. The city of Santa Clara is packed with culture and museums where you can discover more about Cuba’s fascinating history. Classical music fans can explore the impressive Museo de Artes Decorativas and art enthusiasts can see some of the finest contemporary Cuban art at the Casa de la Cultura Juan Marinello.
If you want to check out the bustling capital of Havana, this will take around 4 hours 40 minutes by car. This wonderful city is definitely worth the trip. Every corner reveals a picture perfect view and the vibe is truly electric.
Taking your next holiday in Cayo Santa Maria could be your ideal holiday choice and there are lots of amazing deals on offer. You can totally unwind and relax while you soak up the laid-back atmosphere. With the amazing sea life and wildlife it’s a real nature gem and there’s plenty to explore nearby at your leisure.
Have you had an amazing holiday in Cuba and want to tell us all about it? We’re always happy to hear your tips and stories, so let us know in the comments below.