Cayo Largo, The Perfect Place to Unwind in Cuba
Text and Photos by: Roberto Campos
In a world where recreational travel is a priority for many people, Cuba has the perfect place for leisure tourism: Cayo Largo del Sur, a small resort island off the south coast of the Cuban mainland.
The renowned travel website TripAdvisor has named Paraíso Beach, in Cayo Largo, as one of the world’s 25 most visited beaches, according to a poll of thousands of tourists who have visited the spot.
Once an isolated Cuban location, Cayo Largo features particularly colorful surroundings, with beautiful beaches and secluded sites where environmental protection efforts are encouraged, making it an ideal place for tourism.
It combines history, magic and great recreational options, including activities such as underwater photography and hiking.
Largely consisting of plains, the area, which is only a few meters above sea level, has a land surface of 38 square kilometers, its longest stretch being 27 kilometers. The Marlin Marinas and Navigation Business Group plans to increase the number of nautical leisure activities and new projects, mainly those related to diving on keys such as Cayo Largo.
Marlin business group’s sales manager in Cayo Largo del Sur, Ángel Tornes, told Cubaplus that their plans include Marina Colony, of the hotels with the same name, in the special Cuban municipality of Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth), in the Canarreos Archipelago.
He added that tourism-related activity started in Cayo Largo in 1982 after the first hotel was built (Hotel Isla del Sur), which included an incipient marina service . The key hosted the fifth edition of the International Underwater Photography Festival, Fotosub 2015, held this past May.
Tornes said that in Cayo Largo del Sur, Marlin currently has a fleet of 22 crafts, and another six in Colony Marina, as well as an international port that can accommodate 30 vessels drafting up to 3m.
The inclusion of Colony Marina facilitates the organization of interesting programs such as The Route of Galleons and the Route of Indians, which connect Cayo Largo, Colony Marina , and the sea town of La Coloma, in the Westernmost province of Pinar del Río, allowing for a greater variety of diving options in Cuba. Similarly, Cayo Largo del Sur has a sea turtle protection program, while Colony Marina manages another program involving tourists in the protection of manatees, ensuring that the leisure industry goes hand in hand with environmental protection.
Colony Marina offers a comprehensive project that welcomes each year 300 students from the United States and the United Kingdom, who go there to dive and participate in scientific and eco-friendly activities. For such nautical activities, the key has seven Cuban Gran Caribe hotels, some run by foreign firms. The hotels are Playa Blanca, Isla del Sur, Coral, Soledad, Linda Mar, Sol Pelícano and Sol Cayo Largo, with about one thousand rooms in all.
The largest hotel is Sol Pelícano with 307 rooms, followed by Hotel Playa Blanca with 306. The latter hosted Fotosub 2014.
Canada and Italy sent the largest number of tourists to Cayo Largo del Sur, followed by the United Kingdom, France and Germany, with a rise in the number of tourists from Russia and visitors from other countries, including Switzerland, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and Poland.
Cayo Largo’s international airport receives direct flights from Milan and Rome (Italy), Toronto and Montreal (Canada), with visitors coming from Buenos Aires, Argentina, during the high tourist season (November- April).