The best cays in Cuba are sun and beach paradises. In these times of so much stress due to the coronavirus pandemic, these sites help us disconnect from everyday problems. Swimming in transparent waters, watching flamingos, diving among corals are just some of the activities you can do in places where there is barely any Internet signal.

In the Cuban archipelago there are many cays or keys, distributed along the east, center and west of the country, so selecting the five best cays in Cuba is not so simple. PanamericanWorld invited you to get on a bicycle, car or the means of transport you prefer to embark on this long journey.

The White Rose of the King’s Gardens

To the north of Villa Clara, a province located in the center of the country, is Caibarién, a tiny yet noticeable municipality on international tourism maps because it is the starting point of one of the most spectacular engineering works in Cuba: a causeway (pedraplen), 48 kilometers long, the longest in the world, which connects the island with three fundamental cays: Las Brujas, Ensenacho and Santa María, which make up the so-called “Rosa Blanca de los Jardines del Rey” or the White Rose of the King’s Gardens”.

This monumental work took years to complete and is well-known around the world because it was designed and executed to not damage the region’s marine and terrestrial ecosystem. In other words, you move, by car or bus, on tons of rocks deposited into the sea, divided by 46 bridges that enable the flow of water.

Cayo Ensenachos, a destination coveted for its spectacular beaches

Cayo Ensenachos. Photo: Iberostar

We reach Cayo Ensenachos (Ensenachos Cay), very famous for two of its beaches: El Mégano and Ensenachos. Here the stillness is almost absolute, combined with a sea of green and blue shades that make this place one of the most sought-after destinations. In addition, one can appreciate the fauna of the region, with endemic species, such as the hutia rat.

Along that same causeway we find Santa María, the largest of the cays in the region, due to its almost 18 square kilometers of surface area. Its coast features extensive beaches, among which Perla Blanca, Las Caletas, Cañón and Cuatro Puntas stand out. Here there are more hotels in operation and the waves are a little sturdier.

The cays of Villa Clara can be reached through direct flights to the airport located in Las Brujas, although larger planes must land on the “Abel Santamaria” airport in Santa Clara, the capital of the province. From there tourists travel by bus to the cays.

Related article: Cuba Unknown: the World’s Largest Causeway Links Caibarién with Cayo Santa María

Flamingos and Corals in Cayo Guillermo

Cayo Guillermo. Photo: Travelnet Cuba

We leave Villa Clara and move a bit to the east, to the province of Ciego de Ávila. To the north of this location, after Jardines del Rey, also through a causeway, we find some of the best cays in Cuba. The first is Cayo Guillermo with 13 square kilometers.

This site is famous for its proximity to the second largest barrier reef in the world, its colorful pink flamingos found throughout the place, and Playa Pilar, declared one of the best beaches in the country, which took its name from the yacht used by American writer Ernest Hemingway to tour it.

The Fabulous Beaches of Cayo Coco

We move on to Cayo Coco (Coco Cay), perhaps the most famous of all cays, with more than 26 kilometers of fabulous beaches, among which Los Flamencos, Jaula and Las Coloradas. It is inhabited by quite a few flamingos and named after an exotic bird, the White Ibis, which lives in the area, although it is popularly called “pájaro coco” or coconut bird.

Diving in Cayo Largo del Sur

Diving in Cayo Largo del Sur. Photo: Viajes Karamba

The area of cays to the north of Cuba is undoubtedly spectacular, but the region of Cayo Largo del Sur (South Largo Cay), at one end of Los Canarreos archipelago in the Caribbean Sea, some 177 kilometers from Havana, is probably even more appealing.

The area is 24 kilometers long and the cay can only be reached by air. It is surrounded by coral reefs and its pristine beaches are very striking. Among the most outstanding are Lindamar, five kilometers long, Sirena beach, Los Cocos and Paraíso. Water sports lovers can enjoy several options here, especially diving in the reef area.