The northern cays form one of Cuba’s newest major tourist resorts, the first hotel having opened here – on what were until then virgin islands – in 1999. Set on a network of dozens of small islets, only three of which have been built on, Cayo Las Brujas is the most suitable for non-package visitors; the other two, tiny Cayo Ensenachos and the largest and most distant Cayo Santa María, almost 15km in length, are largely the exclusive domain of hotel guests.
The drive down the 48km causeway from just outside Caibarién to the islands is quite spectacular, and is half the fun of a visit. The dark, deeper waters nearer the land give way to shallow turquoise around the cays, then become almost clear as the network of islets increases in number and complexity. The sea is dotted with mangrove colonies, while herons and cormorants swoop overhead and the occasional iguana basks in the sun on the hot tarmac. The solid rock causeway is broken up by around fifty small bridges, which allow the currents to flow through and provide drivers with distance markers; development on the cays begins just after bridge 36.