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 packed resorts on the Jardines del Rey, 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 swarms 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 the beaches. Set well back from the coastal road and lined by a few hotels, these wide expanses of soft, fine sand are bordered by turquoise waters, a little sullied by seaweed drifting in from the barrier reef, and surrounded by inaccessible mangroves. 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.