Cayo Santa Maria
Exploring Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba
Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba is a 21.4-square-kilometer cay (63.8 percent is emerged land and the rest is swamps and submerged lands occupied by mangrove forests) located in the middle portion of the Jardines del Rey archipelago (Sabana-Camagüey), north of Cuba’s central region. From an administrative point of view, it belongs to the municipality of Caibarién in the Cuban province of Villa Clara. Internationally it is recognized for the beauty of its natural environment and the existence of numerous hotels of high standard.
Together with its similar Ensenachos, Las Brujas, Francés and Cobos, among many others (around 500), it is part of the insular subsystem Cayos de la Herradura, being the most important biologically and superficially. It is linked to the island of Cuba along with Las Brujas, Ensenachos, Majá and Español de Adentro -in the vicinity of Caibarién– by a 48-kilometer roadway (the Pedraplén Caibarién-Cayo Santa María) that deserved the international Puente de Alcántara award for the best Ibero-American civil work in terms of special care for the environment in its layout and execution.
Due to its particular isolation from the large island of the Cuban archipelago (approximately 28 km), until recently Cayo Santa Maria was known only to fishermen from the northern coast of the island, although archaeological remains of aboriginal settlements and more recent human groups have been found, which denote its use for charcoal extraction and subsistence cattle ranching.
It would not be until the construction of the pedraplén that links it to the big island, which would be accessible to present generations from the hand of tourism, but be surrounded, since ancient times, a unique atmosphere of legend and mystery in which love and piracy are combined, as the alleged burial on one of its beaches of the treasure of Mazzarelli and Tambasco, reckless pirates of the eighteenth century, or the story of Rosa María Coraje desperately trying to find her fiancé through their sandbanks.
In addition to the extensive and beautiful beaches that focus the tourist offer and the natural green of its preserved environment, several are the attractions of the region, such as the neighbors Cayo Las Brujas and Cayo Ensenachos, the Aquarium Delfinario Cayo Santa Maria, the Marina Gaviota Las Brujas, the ship San Pascual, the fauna refuge Cayo Francés, the national parks Los Caimanes and Caguanes, as well as the patrimonial cities of Remedios (cradle of the parrandas) and Sagua la Grande (jewel of the eclectic and neoclassical, cradle of the most universal of the Cuban painters, Wifredo Lam; of the considered father of modern urology, Joaquín Albarrán; and of the bolero singer Antonio Machín), port of Caibarién (native land of the composer Manuel Corona, author of anthological themes such as Santa Cecilia and Longina) and historical of Santa Clara (known for the epic of the young Argentine-Cuban guerrilla Ernesto Guevara de la Serna and the benevolent Marta Abreu, benefactor of the city).
It is also possible to visit the World Heritage Cities of Trinidad and Cienfuegos, the nicknamed Villa del Yayabo (Sancti Spíritus) and the mineral-medicinal water spas of San José del Lago (Mayajigua) and Elguea, the Topes de Collantes Natural Park, El Nicho, the Hanabanilla intramontano lake, the Mogotes of Jumagua (second formation of its type in importance of the country, where the strict local endemic known as Palmita de Jumagua lives), the cavern Martin Inferno (possessor of one of the biggest stalagmites of the orb) and the blue hole, Ojo del Mégano (deepest submarine cave of Cuba), among others.