Travel Cuba Cayo Santa Maria Melia Buenavista Sunset beach view

Cayo Santa Maria Cuba Ultimate Guide 2023!

Cayo Santa Maria Cuba is the name of one of three small paradisiacal Caribbean islands, or keys that make what is called Cayos de Villa Clara, off the northern coast of the Cuban main island.

Out on Cayo Santa Maria, you find nothing but dreamy beaches and all-inclusive resorts as long as the eye can see!

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Facts About Cayo Santa Maria Cuba

Travel Cuba Cayo Santa Maria bridge to the keys
The Pedraplen over to Cayo Santa Maria Cuba from the main island

Los Cayos, the keys are, apart from Cayo Santa Maria Cuba, Cayo Las Brujas, and Cayo Ensenachos, and they are all interconnected by bridges and causeways.

This small island group is also part of a larger archipelago called the Jardines del Rey (the king’s gardens), consisting of hundreds of islands off the northern Cuban shores.

Cayo Santa Maria Cuba Map!

To put you in the right place on the map, below, Cayo Santa Maria Cuba is number 1.

I also put in some of the most popular and well-known destinations in Cuba like nearby Varadero and the capital Havana, to give you an idea of direction and distance!

Map thanks to Wanderlog, a road trip planner on iOS and Android

The keys are about a one-and-a-half-hour drive from the city of Santa Clara, and in order to get out there, you need to pass a 48-kilometer-long stone causeway running from the main island out to the keys!

Out here in this low archipelago of Caribbean nature, there is nothing but large hotels and all-inclusive resorts.

The first hotel was built on Cayo Santa Maria in 2001, and by 2021, there were 17 large hotels and all-inclusive resorts on the islands.

There is no city center, and no locals are living on the islands, it is simply a kingdom of resorts for tourists who want to experience Caribbean life with beaches, palms, pools, and afternoon salsa with a mojito in hand.

Pro Tip: Get a cute travel duffle bag that has room for your bikini, a pair of shoes, a change of clothes, and the necessities for your beach day! I love this one from Bagsmart!

Travel Cuba Cayo Santa Maria all inclusive resorts pools
Hotel Royalton’s lower pool area and BBQ

Also read: Visit the revolutionary town of Santa Clara

What Is Cayo Santa Maria Known For?

Well, in tourist and traveler circles, Cayo Santa Maria Cuba is mainly known for being a paradisiacal tropical island that is part of the Jardines del Rey archipelago!

Also, for being full of all-inclusive resorts, gorgeous beaches, the long pedraplen connecting it to the main island, and surrounded by healthy marine life!

Cayo Santa Maria Resorts

Travel Cuba Cayo Santa Maria Hotel Melia Las Dunas beach

Cayo Santa Maria’s secluded world of all-inclusive resorts will take care of your every need for a week or two on your holiday.

A lot of large worldwide hotel & resort chains have resorts out there, like Iberostar, Melia, Royalton, and Starfish to mention a few.

Filled with blue pools, nice restaurants and bars, white fine-grained beaches, and someone to serve you at your left and right, this is a bubble of luxury to enjoy for a while away from your own busy life.

Also read: 10 Reasons To Spend Your Honeymoon In Cuba 2023!

Travel Cuba Cayo Santa Maria Hotel Royalton restaurant bbq
The chefs in action at the outdoor BBQ area at Hotel Royalton Cayo Santa Maria

Be aware, though, that if you stay in a secluded all-inclusive resort the whole of your Cuba holiday, you really have not visited Cuba at all!

But for a traveler who is only searching for relaxation, a beach, palms, sun, and some Caribbean TLC, this probably is absolutely perfect!

Travel Cuba Cayo Santa Maria all-inclusive resorts Melia Buenavista sunset
One of the small beaches at Melia Buenavista Cayo Santa Maria

Beaches In Cayo Santa Maria

There are plenty of beaches in Cayo Santa Maria Cuba, and the two other islands in the little island group in all cardinal directions.

There are, however, no free public beaches in Cayo Santa Maria. All the beaches around these three interconnected keys are connected to one of the resorts on the islands.

You can go for a day trip out to the beach on Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Las Brujas, or Cayo Ensenachos, but you need to buy a day pass, pasa dia, in one of the resorts to access any beach areas.

If you do this, you will also get access to all the hotel amenities for the day, including beach sunbeds, pools, pool bars, and restaurants, and all the services the hotels offer.

If you are staying at a casa particular in one of the villages on the main island, this may be a nice way to invest in a day of luxury and pampering without spending your whole holiday on the all-inclusive planet.

Also read: The best places to stay when visiting Cuba

Things To Do In Cayo Santa Maria Cuba!

In each of the hotels in Cayo Santa Maria, there are in-house activities organized every day.

This ranges from yoga in the mornings to salsa classes by the pool to water exercise to shows in the evenings among other things.

Marina Gaviota on Cayo Las Brujas is where all the organized water sports and activities start.

The Marina Gaviota offers different types of day cruises with lovely catamarans, with or without lunch, and stops at the delfinario for a dolphin show and close encounter with the dolphins for anyone who wants that!

Also, you can go scuba diving from the marina and book a day trip for deep-sea fishing if you are into that.

Any hotel you are staying at will be able to help you contact the marina to organize day trips during your stay, or you can contact them via their Facebook page before you get to Cuba!

Also read: Holiday on the paradisiacal peninsula of Varadero

Travel Cuba Cayo Santa Maria things to do dolphinario

Scuba Diving Cayo Santa Maria

There is one scuba diving center in Cayo Santa Maria, which operates out of Marina Gaviota on Cayo Las Brujas.

Whenever you go for a day of scuba diving in Cayo Santa Maria, you will be picked up from your hotel in the morning.

The bus will drive around and collect all the divers for the day and take you to Marina Gaviota.

When you get there, you will sort all your equipment from the dive center, which to me seems very well organized.

The gear was neatly stored, and the equipment I was given was in good shape.

The dive tour was also well organized, pre-dive briefings thorough, a small group of divers with every dive master during the execution, and the attention underwater was good as well.

Travel Cuba Scuba diving Cayo Santa Maria Marina Gaviota
Dive photo: Danny Perez Diaz

Cayo Santa Maria scuba diving center has an almost infinite number of diving destinations to choose from outside the islands in this area.

Most dive spots are normally calm and quiet, with little current and depth from 7-8 to 14-15 meters.

The coral reefs out here seem to be healthy with a lot of life, which is really good news. On a sunny day, a nature dive here really is a zen underwater experience!

For further information, contact Danny Perez Diaz at the Dive Center with Marina Gaviota. Whatsapp: +53 54219563.

Also read: Divine Scuba Diving in Varadero Cuba 2023!

Deep Sea Fishing Cayo Santa Maria

Travel Cuba Cayo Santa Maria scuba diving boat transport Marina Gaviota

In the year 2000, Cayo Santa María was declared a Biological Heritage of the Biosphere Reserve of Buenavista Bay by UNESCO.

It focuses on the preservation of marine life, research, and control of a healthy ecosystem, along with conservation efforts.

You can fish the deep waters surrounding the Cayos de Villa Clara from comfortable and fully equipped powerboats at Marina Gaviota, all organized by an experienced crew of local fishermen.

The area around Cayo Santa Maria apparently is known as a Shadpole paradise of Cuba’s north coast, according to the connoisseurs, and the world-class destination for Shadpole.

Travel Cuba Cayo Santa Maria deep sea fishing

Day Trips From Cayo Santa Maria

There are two different types of day trips you can do from Cayo Santa Maria.

One option is to join one of the excursions arranged by the Marina Gaviota as described above, which is where all the sea-oriented activities on this island triplet are organized.

The other option is a day trip to one of the villages across the bridge to the “mainland”, or the main island of Cuba.

Your hotel can help you organize such a day trip, as they have access to a myriad of guides, taxi drivers, and local Cubans working with tourists in one form or another.

Travel Cuba Cayo Santa Maria Marina Gaviota catamaran cruise

Remember to bring cash for payment, preferably Euros or Canadian dollars.

US dollars are formally not a legal currency in Cuba these days, however, a lot of places accept it anyway.

There is an important revolutionary city, the province capital Santa Clara, which is one and a half hours away.

Also, you can visit the smaller villages of Caibarien or Remedios closer to the keys, and learn about architecture, history, and life in a typical Cuban small-town environment.

Also read: Money in Cuba 2023 Explained!

Travel Cuba Cayo Las Brujas Marina Gaviota catamaran captain
The catamaran captain at work!

Where To Stay Cayo Santa Maria

In Cayo Santa Maria, there are only all-inclusive resorts available, there are no Cubans living on the islands offering Casa Particulares or hostels.

The hotels you can stay at in Cayo Santa Maria are all rather large resorts, all-inclusive options with different specialties and amenities.

There are no other options out here, as there is no city center, restaurants, or bars outside of the resorts on the islands.

You can find different levels of service, amenities, and more or less luxurious options among the hotels that have created small separate worlds here on the keys.

Some of the resorts specialize in adult-only facilities for people traveling without children who prefer a more tranquil poolside experience.

Travel Cuba Cayo Santa Maria all-inclusive resorts Melia Buenavista pool

Across the pedraplen to the main island in the villages of Caibarien, Remedios, and the province capital Santa Clara you can book hostels and casa particulares via Hostelworld or through Airbnb.

From here, you can do day trips to Cayo Santa Maria, getting a day pass, pasa dia, for one of the resort beaches instead of staying in one if you prefer the hostel or casa life!

Cayo Santa Maria Nightlife

As Cayo Santa Maria consists of only large resorts scattered around the three islands consisting of the small archipelago, there is no “nightlife” in Cayo Santa Maria.

The different hotels have shows, bars, entertainment, and activities for their guests, which normally finish at 10-11 p.m. at the latest.

Here, you can participate as an audience or join for a bit of dancing with or without a teacher.

But after at least midnight, all is quiet on Cayo Santa Maria.

Best Time To Visit Cayo Santa Maria Cuba

The best time to visit Cayo Santa Maria generally coincides with the best time to visit Cuba, with a bit of extra emphasis on the weather.

There is a warm Caribbean climate all year round also here, a bit colder and dryer weather in the winter months, and super hot and humid in the summer, which also has the rains.

The wet and rainy season runs from late May through November. A thunderstorm is loud and fascinating in Havana, but it might be a bit more furious out on the unprotected islands.

Although the hurricane season runs from June through November, the fiercest hurricane months are September and October.

With this in mind, the travel advice for Cuba, in general, is still valid also for Cayo Santa Maria. It really comes down to what you prefer.

Travel Cuba Cayo Santa Maria all-inclusive resorts
No complaints about the beach outside Hotel Royalton Cayo Santa Maria

Travel To Cayo Santa Maria

Currently, in January 2023, there is no public transport facilitating travel directly to Cayo Santa Maria Cuba. However, that may change as the number of tourists increases.

For the time being, you can take the Viazul bus to Santa Clara and find a taxi for the last hour’ish from Santa Clara for the rest of the trip.

Cayo Santa Maria Cuba Airport

If you are flying directly, the closest international Cayo Santa Maria airport is the Santa Clara Abel Santamaria (also referred to as Cayo Santa Maria airport).

The Cayo Santa Maria Airport is a small international airport located about 10 km (6 mi) outside the city of Santa Clara, which is also the capital city of Villa Clara Province in Cuba.

This airport has both international and domestic flights and serves mainly the popular beach resort destinations of Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Ensenachos, and Cayo Las Brujas.

You can also visit destinations like Santa Clara city traveling to this airport, as well as the central regions of Cuba such as Trinidad, Playa Ancon, etc. on the southern shore.

If you are traveling with a travel agency on an organized tour, they will probably provide your transport from the airport to your hotel.

If not, you need to find your own taxi onwards!

Distances To Cayo Santa Maria Cuba

Distance and travel time by road from Santa Maria Airport to:

Santa Clara City: ~10 km (6 mi), about 20 minutes
• Cayo Las Brujas: ~100 km (62 mi), about 80 minutes
• Cayo Ensenachos: ~105 km (65 mi), about 85 minutes
• Cayo Santa Maria: ~115 km (71 mi), about 90 minutes
Trinidad: ~88 km (55 mi), about 2 hours
• Playa Ancon: ~118 km (73 mi), about 2 ½ hour

If you travel from Santa Clara city or other destinations in central Cuba, you will need to take a taxi for at least parts of the way out to Cayo Santa Maria.

In January 2022, I paid $60 for a taxi privado, a taxi just for me, from Santa Clara to Cayo Santa Maria, which takes around 1,5 hours.

If you travel from (or to) Havana, you can take the Viazul bus (online tickets available) to Santa Clara and a taxi from there out to Cayo Santa Maria.

Driving time from Cayo Santa Maria airport to Havana is around three and a half hours in a taxi.

FAQ’s Cayo Santa Maria Cuba

Is Cayo Santa Maria Or Varadero Better?

Cayo Santa Maria is a paradisiacal island group that feels “far away from everything”.

Maybe apart from Santa Clara, which is around one and a half hours away and around four hours to Trinidad.

Also, on Cayo Santa Maria, there is no town center or even village; the whole of the island is scattered with large all-inclusive luxury resorts – and that is it.

Varadero is a town on the Hicacos Peninsula that does have a city center, where the award-winning Varadero Beach runs along the whole of the town center.

In Varadero (the peninsula is often just called that), you can choose between accommodation in a casa particular or in one of the luxurious all-inclusive resorts.

Varadero is also situated just over two hours drive from Havana, four from Vinales, two and a half from Cienfuegos, and around four hours from Trinidad.

So now you can decide which place is better for you, Varadero or Cayo Santa Maria!

Is There A Town In Cayo Santa Maria?

No, there is not.

Out on Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba, there is nothing but large, all-inclusive resorts and beaches.

Who Lives On Cayo Santa Maria?

No one lives on Cayo Santa Maria Cuba.

All the people working in the tourist industry out on Cayo Santa Maria travel to work every morning on buses from the nearest town on the mainland.

Almost all the workers on Cayo Santa Maria resorts or tour agencies live in Caibarien over in mainland Cuba.

Cayo Santa Maria Cuba Weather

The weather in Cayo Santa Maria Cuba follows the same general seasons as the rest of Cuba. There is a wet season from around June through October and a dry season from around November through May.

The risk of hurricanes is biggest in August and September, within the wet season.

For the winter months, the temperature can get quite cold in December and January, both in both the air and the water.

You find very few Cubans on the beach in this period, but me being a Viking from the north, I don’t find it particularly cold!

The summer months are high season in Cayo Santa Maria, but be aware that the temperatures in the summer are sizzling hot, and humidity high!

This works for lounging on the beach or by the pool, but exploring can be excruciating in the summer.

My favorite months in Cuba are March through May (June), and the end of August through the start of November. Warm enough to enjoy the Caribbean climate, but not excruciating!

Also read: What Is Cuba Known For? 22 Enticing Things You Want To Know!

Wrap-Up Cayo Santa Maria Cuba

The key takeaway you need to know about Cayo Santa Maria Cuba is that it is a Caribbean all-inclusive resort paradise area.

You can travel straight there for your holiday, and straight back home rested and recuperated, and ready for your life with lots of new energy if that is your holiday goal!

The other thing you need to know is that you will not have been able to experience any of the other amazing things about Cuba if you stay here for the duration of your holiday.

That is fine of course if a beach vacation is exactly what you need!

If you also are curious about other aspects of Cuba, I recommend you read a few more articles to find out how you want to spend your time in the country!

Related blog posts:

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Best Hotel Bookings: Booking, Expedia

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Cuba Visa Online: Easy Tourist Card

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  1. I’ve been to many (most) Caribbean Island, but I haven’t been to Cayo Santa Maria, or Cuba. I love the sound of lazing on prestine beaches and Santa Maria sounds like the perfect spot to escape to for a relaxing beach holiday.

    1. Cuba is a truly unique destination in the Caribbean, apart from the stunning beaches you find on many islands – the history and current situation in Cuba are very different from “anywhere else”! So Cayo Santa Maria is one of a lot of incredible destinations to explore in Cuba – like Havana, Trinidad, and Vinales! 🙂

  2. I hadn’t heard of Cayo Santa Maria before! I love how all of the best activities involve the water! I’m such an island girl, I feel like this part of Cuba would definitely be my vibe!

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