Relaxing and other things to do in Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba: a 2018 guide

Relaxing and other things to do in Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba: a 2018 guide

Last Updated on June 22, 2020 by Laura Cooper

There isn’t any question why Cayo Santa Maria is known for its white sand beaches and relaxing atmosphere. This part of Cuba, the largest cay off the northern coast of the island,  is home to a long stretch of white-sand beaches, flamingo colonies, and scuba diving and snorkelling just offshore. As the island’s newest area for resorts and vacations, Cayo Santa Maria is synonymous with rest and relaxation. Your list of things to do in Cayo Santa Maria may be short, but you’ll leave this island paradise feeling refreshed.

Cayo Santa Maria is attached to mainland Cuba by a palm-fringed causeway, making this Cuba all-inclusive vacation hotspot more isolated. Your rest and relaxation await.

White sand beach with turquoise waters, one of the things to do in Cayo Santa Maria

Beach in Cayo Santa Maria

Cayo Santa Maria’s location as a cay off the mainland Cuba makes it the perfect beach-lined destination: this vacation hotspot is an island in itself. The beaches feature warm, stunningly turquoise waters and bright white sand. The area is known for its 13-kilometer stretch of beach, which is broken into 5 sections or 5 “playas.”

There’s little to see in the Cayo Santa Maria area, and with a 90-minute ride from the Santa Clara (SNU) airport and a 48-kilometer causeway connecting Cuba to this archipelago, the majority of visitors to Cuba take advantage of the laid back, relaxing atmosphere for a week of soaking up the sun and unwinding.

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Things to do in Cayo Santa Maria

Cayo Santa Maria proper is limited in terms of things to do and excursions. While many of the resorts in the area, the oldest being built in 2001, offer plenty of activities from on-site spas to water and land sports, Cayo Santa Maria excursions normally take travellers out of the area.

Resorts like the Iberostar Ensenachos, a top seller in the area, offers 5 swimming pools, scuba lessons in the pool, catamaran rides, and more.

Cayo Santa Maria Excursions

For those looking for Cayo Santa Maria excursions, a visit to Santa Clara, the capital of Villa Clara province, is a possibility. The city is known for its revolutionary landmarks, meaning visitors will have a cultural and historical experience and lesson upon visiting.

Scuba diving is popular in the Cayo Santa Maria area, though dive sites are not PADI-certified. Coral reefs here are shallow, and the diving is good for beginners. Water visibility is good as it’s known for clear waters.

stretch of perfect beach cayo santa maria

Other common things to do in Cayo Santa Maria include a list of popular sites to visit in Santa Clara. Don’t miss the Che Guevara memorial and museum. The memorial and museum complex often hosts talks, exhibitions, political rallies, and other events in the Santa Clara community. Other monuments throughout Santa Clara, offering a great Cuban history lesson, are the train memorial for the derailment and death of troops led by Che in 1958, and multiple independence/freedom fighter statues in parks throughout the city.

Beyond airport transfers and transportation to your Cayo Santa Maria excursion, transportation is not necessary or needed in the northern section of the island, as options for destinations to travel to are limited. Excursions will include transportation from your resort.

Dining in Cayo Santa Maria: is the food good?

Food in Cayo Santa Maria is limited to the resorts and all-inclusive offerings. There are no chain restaurants off-site. Travellers will find several dining options in Santa Clara, however, although some of these restaurants are in hotels. Options range from Cuban dining to seafood, and plenty of “snack bars” or cafeteria-style.

If you’re looking for a restaurant known for its dining, consider the Melia Cayo Santa Maria, Royalton Cayo Santa Maria, or Iberostar Ensenachos. Though Cuba is not typically known as a foodie destination, the higher star-rating resorts typically have food on par with other Caribbean destinations.

Cayo Santa Maria temperature and weather

A perfect year-round destination, Cayo Santa Maria temperatures hover in the high-20s, with a few-degree fluctuation depending on the season. The area is known for its calm waters as the surrounding coral reefs off-shore tone down strong winds and waves, making the Cayo Santa Maria beaches perfect for swimming.

Cuba is in the hurricane belt, meaning vacations to the area might be cheaper mid-June through mid-November due to the risk of storms. Inclement weather during hurricane season in Cuba is a possibility.

The majority of people looking for Cayo Santa Maria travel stay for 7 days. Vacations during Christmas, March Break, and Easter holidays tend to be in high demand, meaning travellers may pay steeper prices and need to book early.

sailboat perched on sand at edge of water that is turquoise green

Travel Style

Cayo Santa Maria vacations are most commonly all-inclusive vacation, meaning your flight, airport transfers, meals, room accommodations, and most daily activities on-site at the resort are included.

The majority of Cayo Santa Maria excursions will need to be booked in-destination, meaning you can’t book ahead of time from Canada. This is important to note when planning your currency to take to Cuba: Canadian cash should be taken and exchanged to the Cuban Convertible Peso, or Cuban tourist currency, once in-destination. ATMs are few and far between on the island.

Note that proof of travel health insurance is required for entry to Cuba. More Cuba travel tips for first-time visitors can be found here.

Getting to Cayo Santa Maria

Flights from Canada to Cayo Santa Maria arrive at the Santa Clara airport (SNU), approximately 1.5 hours from Cayo Santa Maria and the resort district on the island and across a causeway from mainland Cuba. Direct flights from Toronto are available depending on the season to the Santa Clara airport and are approximately 3.5 hours. Year-round service for Cayo Santa Maria vacations is available year-round from most gateways, though direct flights may differ by season. Vancouver sees service to Cayo Santa Maria from October through May.

With an all-inclusive package, your transfers between the airport and your resort are provided for arriving and leaving the destination.



  1. Sounds great

  2. My son and fiance are desperate to go on vacation Dec 19-25, but have budget of $1100 at most per person. Want good food and beautiful beach and ability to go off resort. Any recommendations???

    • Hi Nancy! Sounds like you’re going to have a great vacation away. Try our trip matchmaker: you can put in where you’re flying from, your budget, and preferences (ie. beach and food) and have some matches come up for your criteria.

    • Don’t go for the food…

  3. Where is located?

  4. Be live experience turquesa is a great resort with an amazing beach and beautiful water. The food or great and filling. coffee is good. Best price around!

  5. It’s in varadero…

  6. I was wondering if a person can rent a moped, on the island. Staying at Cayo Santa Maria

    • Renting a moped is available however be warned, any traffic accident and you may find yourself in a unique judicial system that may see you held on the island for a very long time. Many tourist take the risk however should an accident happen, you are immediately taken for a blood sample, any sign of alcohol and you are in trouble, it is not like Canada where >05 is acceptable, zero is expected. The moped are not maintained at the North American standard, the tires are often bald and should you be caught in a sudden rain storm, good luck!!

      • Why are you drinking and driving? Are you an idiot?

  7. Hi I love it but missing 1 thing. Is there dance club for at nite

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