Jardines del Rey
Exploring the keys
Better known as Jardines del Rey, it is the largest and most numerous of the four that surround the island of Cuba. It is embraced in its northern portion by a barrier reef coral reef more than 400 kilometers long, considered among the most important on the planet along with the Great Australian Barrier Reef and the Great Mesoamerican Reef. Catalogued as the third most important tourist region in the Antillean country, to which popular destinations such as Cayo Santa María, Cayo Guillermo and Cayo Coco belong, it is among the best sites in the Caribbean for ecotourism and excursions.
History of the keys
The archipelago owes its geographical name to the pre-Columbian territories of Sabana and Camagüey located on the margins of the central north coast of Cuba, although some scholars affirm that there were three located in front of its waters, being Sabaneque, historically confused with Sabana, the third. The toponym “Jardines del Rey” (Gardens of the King), however, was given with the Spanish colonization, when Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, in 1514, baptized it in honor of its dazzling natural beauty and the then King of Spain, Fernando, the Catholic; according to chroniclers of the time, this was his response to Admiral Christopher Columbus, who had already done the same with one of the southern Cuban archipelagos naming it “Gardens of the Queen”, in veneration of Isabel de Castilla.
From east to west the main keys of Jardines del Rey are: Sabinal, Guajaba, Romano, Cruz, Mégano Grande, Antón Chico, Paredón Grande, Coco, Guillermo, Santa María, Ensenachos, Las Brujas, Francés, Cobo, Caguanes, Conuco, Fragoso, Lanzanillo, Jutía, Cristo, Esquivel, Sotavento, Piedra del Obispo, La Yana, Blanquizal, Bahía de Cádiz, Cruz del Padre and Blanco.
- Playa Pilar
- Cayo Guillermo
- Recorridos en barco y deportes acuáticos
- Delfinario De Cayo Guillermo
- Isla Media Luna
- Centro de Escalada Rocarena
- Centro de Buceo Coco
- Centro de Buceo Melia Cayo Coco
- Barco con fondo de cristal
- Parque Natural de Bagá
- Cayo Paredón Grande
- Cayo Coco
Situated in the Archipiélago de Sabana-Camagüey, or the Jardines del Rey (King’s Gardens) as travel brochures prefer to call it, Cayo Coco is Cuba’s fourth-largest island, a 370-sq-km beach-rimmed key that is unashamedly dedicated to tourism. The area north of the Bahía de Perros (Bay of Dogs) was uninhabited before 1992, when the first hotel – the Cojímar – went up on adjoining Cayo Guillermo. The bulldozers haven’t stopped buzzing since.
Cayo Paredón Grande
East of Cayo Coco, a road crosses over to Cayo Romano (technically Camagüey Province) and turns north to Cayo Paredón Grande and Faro Diego Velázquez, a 52m lighthouse dating from 1859. This area has a couple of isolated beaches, including much-lauded Playa Los Pinos, and is good for fishing. Get there soon! Its first hotel is in development.