Cut off from the mainland by the Bahía de Nuevitas, 10km north of Nuevitas town, are Camagüey’s north-coast beaches. The remote resorts of Santa Lucía, and Cayo Sabinal to the west, make perfect retreats for those seeking sun and sea holidays. While Santa Lucía derives an infrastructure of sorts from the knot of all-inclusive hotels arrayed along the beachfront, Cayo Sabinal is castaway country – with only the most basic accommodation, it virtually guarantees solitude. Those wishing to explore completely virgin territory should head for Cayo Romano in the far western reaches of the province.
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Hemmed in by salt flats on the northern coast, 128km from Camagüey, SANTA LUCÍA is one of Cuba’s smaller beach resorts. Much more low-key than the hectic resorts on the northern cays, it’s perfect if you want to park yourself on the sand for a fortnight, soak up some rays and indulge in a few watersports, but those looking for a more well-rounded destination may find it lacking. The road up here from Camagüey passes through the idyllic pastoral countryside that typifies this region, with lush grazing meadows, cowboys herding their cattle and meandering goats impeding the traffic, the air thick with clouds of multicoloured butterflies. Less appealing are the clouds of mosquitoes that descend at sunset. Now that laws have been relaxed and Cubans are easily able to stay in the hotels (if they have the funds), the resort has a less contrived feel. The downside is that there has been an influx of escorts staying in the hotels and jineteros on the beach.
The resort, such as it is, consists of little more than a beach strip lined by a few hotels, set well back from the coastal road, while the surrounding vicinity is restricted by marshland. The town, which you pass en route to the hotel strip, has nothing to offer tourists, and you will quickly get the impression that you’re out in the middle of nowhere with nothing to see or do away from the sun and sea.
The beaches are wide expanses of soft, fine sand bordered by turquoise waters, if a little sullied by seaweed drifting in from the barrier reef. There are five excellent dive sites catered to by a competent dive centre. As with many resorts in Cuba, the scene revolves around the all-inclusive hotels, most of them set in attractive properties and all with friendly staff. Non-guests are free to access the beaches.
Cayo Sabinal and around
Cayo Sabinal and around
Twenty-five kilometres west along the north coast from Santa Lucía, Cayo Sabinal could not be more different – a deserted white-sand beach cay that’s so paradisiacal it’s almost eerie. The reason it’s yet to be discovered by the masses is its geographical isolation, hidden away at the end of a 7km stretch of notoriously bumpy dirt-track road, part of which forms a causeway across the bay, flanked by foaming salt marshes; there’s no public transport, and very little general traffic makes it this far.
All the beaches are on the north side, accessible by signposted turnings off the single main road, itself bordered by thick vegetation. The longest beach is pearl-white Playa Los Pinos, where the sea is a clear, calm turquoise and wild deer and horses roam through the woodland that backs onto the sand. Occasionally a group of holidaymakers arrives by boat from Santa Lucía, but otherwise it’s a top choice for a couple of days’ total tranquillity. Just 2km further west, smaller Playa Brava has similar soft white sands. Playa Bonita, another 3km west, has a lengthy stretch of coral reef perfect for snorkelling, as well as 3km of pure white sand.