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About five kilometers east of Caibarién, a fabulously scenic, 50-kilometer-long causeway departs the coast road and leaps from tiny cay to tiny cay, ending at Cayo Santa María, 45 kilometers from the mainland. Eleven kilometers of beaches run along its north shore, shelving into a coruscating lagoon with a coral reef beyond. The cay is in the midst of major development, with several hotels plus shops, a 30-berth marina, nightclub, and other ancillary services slated, all under the umbrella of Cubanacán. The long-term plan calls for 10,000 hotel rooms on Cayo Santa María and neighboring Cayo Las Brujas.
There’s a faro at the end of the road, about three kilometers beyond Sol Cayo Santa María resort. Most of the beaches are the private reserve of the hotels, but day visitors can gain access for a fee. The nearest beach—and a fine option—is that at Villas Las Brujas. Here you can snorkel in turquoise waters as warm as bedtime milk; colorful tropical fish abound.
There’s a toll booth checkpoint to enter and exit (CUC2 each way). You’ll need your passport. No Cubans are permitted.