Cayo Santa Maria

Idyllic Beaches and Spectacular Snorkelling

Set off the northern coast of mainland Cuba, Cayo Santa María is a popular alternative to busy Varadero, providing a more exclusive though often slightly-pricier paradise island option. 

Its 8-miles of sand are talcum-soft and talcum-white, dotted with fat little palm trees, and the water is the palest shade of aquamarine.

The northern coast of the islet plays host to a number of luxurious all-inclusive resorts while the south is mainly dominated by forests, salt marshes and mangroves.

Cayo Santa María is one of the Caribbean's best snorkelling sites, boasting 20-miles of colourful coral gardens where fish, turtles and dolphins come to play. The conditions are perfect with a shallow reef and spectacularly clear water.

With over 50kms of spectacular beaches, Cayo Santa Maria remains largely development-free, making it ideal for those wishing to simply relax and unwind. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of fun activities and entertainment programs on offer at the island’s all-inclusive resorts - from volleyball, water aerobics, and salsa lessons, to snorkelling, diving and catamaran excursions.

The southeast of Cayo Santa Maria also has a lot to offer, forming part of the UNESCO Buenavista Biosphere Reserve, a protected wildlife refuge where visitors can observe Cuba’s rich variety of flora and fauna. Indeed, nearly 200 species of birds live on the island, including herons, ibis, pelicans, cormorants and oystercatchers. Hike along Sendero Aguada Baga, visit the virgin Las Gaviotas beach, uncover secluded coves and visit the island’s furthest point, Punta Amanecer.  

Diving enthusiasts can book an excursion with the Marina Gaviota Dive Centre on Cayo Las Brujas, just a few minutes’ drive from Cayo Santa Maria. There’s also a boat trip that takes place every Monday to Thursday, where you can snorkel around the magnificent reefs of the Cayos de Villa Clara (the archipelago that makes up Cayo Santa Maria, Ensenachos and Las Brujas).

Another highlight is the brand-new Dolphinarium near Cayo Ensenachos, which can be reached by taxi or hotel transfer. Watch a spectacular water show with dolphins and sea lions, or dip in for the once-in-a-lifetime experience of swimming with these incredible mammals.

Cayo Santa Maria is home to 20 all-inclusive luxury hotels, kitted out with bars, restaurants and paradise swimming pools. 

Our favourites include Royalton Cayo Santa Maria, a sumptuous, chic and unique adults-only 5* resort. Every space, facility and amenity at Royalton Cayo Santa Maria has been strategically designed to elevate and exalt the quality of their service, with a laid-back, relaxed and romantic Caribbean feel.

We also recommend Hotel Playa Cayo Santa Maria, a popular 4* beach resort with seven bars, five restaurants and plenty of on-site entertainment. You can find six swimming pools (two exclusively for children) dotted around its lush foliage-filled grounds as well as gym, Finnish sauna, Turkish sauna and clubhouse.

Sol Cayo Santa Maria is an excellent value 4* hotel. Surrounded by fabulous tropical gardens, with a lagoon pool, jacuzzi and relaxation beach huts, it’s perfect for families and couples alike.  

All the resorts on Cayo Santa Maria are part of the islet’s all-inclusive resorts. Hotels offer a choice of buffet and a variety of a la carte restaurants.

La Zorra y el Cuervo
La Zorra y el Cuervo

All the hotels on Cayo Santa Maria offer an in-house discotheque as well as high-quality late-night entertainment. Some hotels even hold beach parties once a week!

Cayo Santa Maria also plays host to a few nightclubs, open from 23:00 to 02:00 each night. The nightclubs are dotted around Plaza Las Dunas, Plaza La Estrella, and Plaza Las Terrazas - the island’s three entertainment ‘pueblos’ (villages). These three ‘pueblos’ also hold sensational street parties and live shows each week, where visitors can dance under the stars into the early hours of the morning. 

Cayo Santa Maria is communicated with the Northern coast of Cuba by a 13 km causeway, making it easily accessible by car or coach. The drive across the causeway is scenic and surreal, as the road is flanked on either side by the glistening Caribbean Sea.

Cayo Santa Maria is a 90-minute drive from Santa Clara and Abel Santamaria Airport, a 3-hour drive from Trinidad and Cienfuegos, and a 4-hour drive from Havana. Wherever you choose to travel from to Cayo Santa Maria, our holiday specialists will be able to provide you with a hassle-free transfer service.

We recommend a minimum of 4 days in Cayo Santa Maria, giving you plenty of time to soak up the sun and enjoy the crystal-clear waters of this paradise island.


Cayo Santa Maria is best combined with a couple of Cuba’s highlights, such as Havana, Viñales, Trinidad or Cienfuegos. For some multi-centre itinerary inspiration, take a look at our Enchanting Cuba or Highlights of Cuba tours.

Those looking to explore Cuba’s diverse beachscapes will enjoy our Contrasting Beaches Tour, covering Havana, Bay of Pigs, Trinidad, Cayo Santa Maria, and Varadero. This beach-focused itinerary will get you well-acquainted with the Caribbean Sea!

Those with a little less time on their hands should consider a City & Beach Holiday, combining the best of both worlds - with a few days in Havana (for music, dancing, architecture and history), followed by a relaxing stint on the beach.  

In general, we recommend visiting Cayo Santa Maria towards the end of your stay in Cuba, so you can relax and unwind before your trip back home.

Discover Cayo Santa Maria on Your Holiday