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.