The keys located to the north of the Villa Clara province are becoming increasingly well known to tourists from all over the world as they find excellence in those brief spaces of land and sea, a place enhanced by the beauty of nature, where legends of love, pirates and fabled encounters live on.
Situated in the geographical area known as Jardines del Rey (Kings' Gardens), the more than 500 islets covering more than 77, 855 hectares, are located about 20 miles off the north coast of Villa Clara, in the vicinity of the second largest coral reef in the world.
Due to their natural attributes, the best known keys in the area are Las Brujas, Ensenachos and Santa María, which together cover 10 miles of natural beaches and are home to many diverse species of flora and fauna.
Some 187 miles from Havana, the capital city of Cuba, these three islands can be reached easily enough by plane, but also by land through a 30 mile long causeway, internationally praised for its harmony between nature and engineering in an Biosphere Reserve area.
The airstrip for small and medium size planes is in Las Brujas Key, a place said to be used as shelter for pirates and privateers, although many also refer to the legend of a young girl who fled with her lover to this place attempting to escape the wrath of a jealous uncle. The angry uncle has also been memorialized in the naming of a nearby key, Borracho or “Drunk”.
Also in close proximity to the keys is the San Pascual ship, a relic of naval engineering which was built in 1920 over in the shipyards of San Francisco, California, which served as headquarters of the U.S. Navy during World War II. The ship has been beached in the keys since 1993 and is currently being inserted into a tourism project as the old boat holds memories of the presence of American writer Ernest Hemingway in Cuban waters and the frequent visits of well-known Cuban painter Leopoldo Romañach, who painting from the deck of a ship, found the inspiration for some of his amazing seascapes.
Cayo Ensenachos is the habitat of 22 endemic flora and 39 fauna species. Centuries ago, it was the settlement for native communities. Its horseshoe-shaped geography prevented large waves from hitting the shore, allowing Ensenachos to have calm water beaches.
The highlight of this area however is unquestionably Cayo Santa María, named as the White Rose of Jardines del Rey, which is eight miles long and almost one mile wide.
Brujas, Ensenachos and Santa María started to become tourist novelties for visitors from all over the world whom enjoy first class accommodations in the Royal Hideaway, Melia Cayo Santa María, Melia Las Dunas, Sol Cayo Santa María and Villa Las Brujas hotels, and more recently in the Sol Ways of the Sirenis chain.
In all, the keys have 4,973 rooms available, with more than 90% of them having a five-star rating.
Rest and healthy entertainment lovers will find a perfect balance between pleasure and nature. It is a place where visitors can appreciate many species of reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds and mammals, many of them endemic to the area.
This picture is complemented by a complex system of channels between the keys, which provide the opportunity to develop tourist programs such as bird watching and water sports activities in addition to sun, sand and sea.
Experts predict that these keys will become a highly sought after luxury tourist destination in the Caribbean in the near future.
Cuba's Tourism Fair
Cuba's International Tourism Fair will take place from May 8 to 11 in the cays north of Villa Clara, with Argentina as a guest and family tourism as the main feature, taking into account the development potential of this modality in both Cuba and the rest of the Caribbean area.
After welcoming 2,716,317 foreign visitors in 2011, a 7.3% increase over last year, Cuba intends to proactively seek to create a diverse tourism industry in 2012. One that besides counting on sun and beaches to attract guests, may also take advantage of the historical and cultural heritage of the area paired with natural elements of the island and the healthy lifestyle of the locals. The goal is to set a new record of 2.9 million foreign tourists traveling to Cuba in 2012.
Cuba plans to prioritize the rehabilitation and revitalization of a number of hotel facilities in its main tourist area (i.e., Varadero, Havana, the cays north of Villa Clara, Jardines del Rey, Cayo Largo, Santiago of Cuba and St. Lucía), so as to improve the quality of services and enhance the preservation of the environment.