Described by Christopher Columbus more than 500 years ago as "the most beautiful land which human eyes have ever seen", Cuba has never ceased to fascinate visitors due to its exuberant natural beauty, warm and affectionate people, rich culture and beautiful colonial cities. Because of its location, Cuba is one of the most privileged islands in the Caribbean regarding its biodiversity, state of conservation and high number of endemic species.
There are more than 300 fine sand beaches in the country, with warm placid waters free from pollutants and covering approximately 600 km of the national territory. Many are found in the more than 4000 neighboring pristine keys which offer an exceptional product.
Villa Clara Keys are a capricious cluster of some 500 islands, strewn along a sea of varying shades of blues and greens off the northern coast of the central province of Villa Clara and close to the second largest coral barrier reef in the world. It's a tropical paradise with more than 17 km of fine-white sand beaches.
Villa Clara Keys, covering more than 77 844 hectares, are a veritable wildlife refuge and provide a habitat for some 248 species of plans. The most precious jewels are Cayo Las Brujas, Cayo Ensenachos and Cayo Santa Maria, renowned for their immaculate landscape of incredible beauty, with sugary-white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters, fringed by autochthonous vegetation and connected to Caibarien, a small fishing town on the Cuban mainland, by a 48 km causeway stretching over the sea -accorded an international prize for its harmonious combination of nature and engineering in an area declared a World Biosphere Reserve- thus enabling visitors to access the keys directly from Santa Clara City, site of the international airport.
There is a small air terminal in Cayo Las Brujas for the operation of small and medium size aircrafts.
Villa Clara Keys, located approximately 300 km from Havana, are part of the Jardines del Rey archipelago, the largest archipelago surrounding Cuba which extends 465 km along the northern coast of the country.
A site of legends, it is said that this island, maze of singular biodiversity, was once a haven for pirates and buccaneers ready to pounce on ship passing along Cuba's shores.
Cayo Las Brujas takes its name from an old legend about a young couple whose love was thwarted by a jealous uncle, who in turn is the namesake of another islet: Cayo Borracho, which means drunkard. The remains of the San Paulo, a ship that ran aground many years ago, can be observed a mile away from the key. Built in San Francisco, California and launched in 1919, the ship evokes the presence of American writer Ernest Hemingway in the area. From its deck, Cuban painter Leopold Romañach found inspiration for some of his famous marine landscapes.
Cayo Ensenachos is the smallest of the three keys but it's a refuge for 22 endemic plants and 39 wildlife species. Shaped like a horseshoe, the islet was originally an aboriginal settlement. The beach is always calm due to the position of the key which prevents the large waves from hitting the shore with force.
Cay Santa Maria is also known as the White Rose of Jardines del Rey. The key was named after the flagship of Christopher Columbus's fleet on his maiden voyage to the New World. Legend has it that this strip of land-some 13 km long and 2 km in width- is haunted by the spirit of Rosa Maria Coraje, a woman who hid aboard a ship in a desperate attempt to find both paradise and her beloved. She landed on the key and managed to survive hiding in the marshes, among the mangroves and feeding on fish, until she finally discovered her dearly-loved in a neighboring key.
Villa Clara Keys are a challenge to fantasy, as one is quickly captivated by this pristine paradise by simply breathing its cool sea breeze. If this Cuba destination has captivated you, make sure to read our next article concerning Villa Clara Keys hotel accommodations, so you can ensure that your vacation in Cuba will truly be a memorable experience.