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Dubbed ‘the Cuban keys,’ the tiny islands of Jardines del Rey [the King’s Gardens], strung off Cuba’s Atlantic coast, are immortalized in Ernest Hemingway’s novel, Islands in the Stream. Mangroves and everglades, flamingos and roseate spoonbills, sun-bleached sand and turquoise waters make this little corner the perfect retreat.

Linked to the mainland by a causeway, Cayo Coco is Cuba’s most popular beach destination after Varadero. The cay boasts 22km of white-sand beaches, the perfect backdrop for water sports such as windsurfing, sailing, snorkeling and fishing.

Much smaller, Cayo Guillermo is famous for its sand dunes, which are among the tallest in the Caribbean, its deep-sea fishing and its connection to Ernest Hemingway. Here, you can fish where Papa Hemingway fished, and see his boat docked at its namesake beach.

The keys are in the province of Ciego de Ávila, Cuba’s fruit bowl thanks to its rich red soil. The provincial capital of the same name is a friendly ‘city of porches’ and home to one of Cuba’s best municipal museums. Recommended activities include freshwater fishing at Laguna Redonda or Laguna de la Leche, Cuba’s largest natural lake; and excursions to the historic military route, La Trocha, and weekend the rodeo on Isla Turiguanó.

Doze under the royal palms, snorkel, swim and sunbathe on these glorious tropical beaches.

Playa Flamingo

With its turquoise waters and shimmering white sand, this undeveloped Cayo Coco beach will feel like your own little secret. Your only encounter may be with the graceful pink birds this beach is named after.

Cayo Coco

Cuba’s fourth-largest island has nine beaches across a 22 km stretch of pristine white sand. The vegetation-rich cay is home to 150 different species of birds, including the ever-graceful flamingo.

Playa Pilar

It’s hard to imagine a more spectacular beach than this one, on the western shore of Cayo Guillermo. Towering dunes of the fine, soft sand are among the tallest in the Caribbean.

Cayo Guillermo

Connected to Cayo Coco by a causeway, Cayo Guillermo spans 13 square km, with 6 km of sun-kissed beaches. The sport fishing here is unrivalled anywhere in Cuba.

Cayo Sabinal

This is the southernmost and least ‘discovered’ island of the Jardines del Rey, situated just north of the Bay of Nuevitas.

Jardines del Rey is one of the most popular destinations for water adventures in the Caribbean. Its sun-drenched beaches provide a perfect backdrop for windsurfing, sailing, snorkeling and deep-sea fishing.

Boating and sailing

Marlin Marina

Book a boat tour or simply watch the ships roll in and out of this international port on Cayo Guillermo.

Por la ruta Hemingway

Visit the keys that Hemingway mentions in his beloved novel, Islands in the Stream.

Boat adventure

Weave through Cayo Guillermo’s mangrove channels on a two-hour eco-tour.

Fishing

Marlin Marina

Cayo Guillermo was famous for deep-sea fishing even before Hemingway ’discovered’ it. Experience the same thrills by booking an excursion from this marina.

Marina Marlin Aguas Tranquilas

Set off on a deep-sea fishing trip from this marina near Meliá Cayo Coco.

La Redonda

The trout and largemouth bass are plentiful in this 4-sq-km natural lake, the site of an international black bass fishing tournament every year.

Scuba Diving and snorkeling

Marlin Marina

Head down to this Cayo Guillermo dive centre to book your undersea adventure in the key’s stunning, crystal-clear waters.

Marlin dive center

This bustling Cayo Coco dive centre is located on the west side of Hotel Tryp. It services a 10 km diving area, and offers open-water certification courses.

Although primarily known for sun, sand and surf, Jardines del Rey and the rest of Ciego de Ávila Province offer an abundance of attractions inland as well, including a real rodeo, a shimmering white lagoon and a reclaimed nature park.

Excursions

Aguachales de Falla

One of the few swampy areas on the northern coast, this area is a system of seven lakes and dozens of ponds, connected by a web of streams and channels. Several species of duck make their home here, as does the Aguachales de Falla Hunt Club.

Isla Turiguanó

This is cattle-country, complete with cowboys, horses and rodeo shows every weekend. While you’re on the island, be sure to stop by El Pueblo Holandés, a charming town modeled after a Dutch village.

Laguna de la Leche (Milky Lagoon)

Shimmering underwater lime deposits give Cuba’s largest natural lake its name. A refuge for flamingoes, snooks and tarpons, the lake is a popular fishing spot. It also hosts sailing regattas.

Eco-Safari

Travel by jeep to Redonda Lake for a day that includes a boat tour, horseback riding, a hike up Cunagua Hill and a visit to a crocodile-breeding farm.

Jardines del Rey boasts many carefully preserved natural attractions. Go flamingo-watching at Parador La Silla, or venture over to Cayo Coco’s Parque Nacional El Bagá to marvel at the butterflies, crocodiles and aromatic juniper forest.

National Parks

Parque Nacional El Bagá

What was once an airfield on Cayo Coco’s has been converted into a 769-hectare nature park filled with lakes, mangroves, juniper forest and over 130 species of birds. Take a tour along winding trails to see the netted butterfly garden and crocodile enclosure.

Nature

Pedraplén

This causeway offers plenty of bird-watching opportunities. Watch out for wading birds like herons, pelicans and roseate spoonbills just off of this road connecting Cayo Coco to the mainland.

Parador La Silla

You’re certain to see a flock of pink flamingos flying overhead here at sunrise and dusk. Prime flamingo-watching season is April to November, when they congregate at the Laguna de los Flamencos.

Ciego de Ávila has more than spectacular beaches to explore. The municipal museum in the provincial capital is one of the best in Cuba.

Sports

Bolera – Cuba Libre

Situated in Cayo Guillermo between the Iberostar Daiquiri and Meliá Cayo Guillermo Hotels, this recreational complex offers a variety of activities for your amusement, including bowling, mini golf, billiards, arcade games for kids, mini jockey and mini soccer. There’s also a cafeteria.

Tren Turístico en Cayo Coco

Make a family excursion aboard this train to explore Cayo Coco. The trip includes a tour through Sitio La Güira farm, complete with stories about the local history, animal shows, a drink, a visit to Playa Flamingo, Cayo Coco’s prime flora-and-fauna-spotting site and a ride through the Cueva del Jabalí.

Tren turístico en Cayo Guillermo

Grab the kids and hop aboard this train for a fun-filled tour through Cayo Guillermo’s hotels and on to Playa Pilar. The adventure is available daily with two departures (9:00 am returning at 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm returning at 4:00 pm).

Nightclubs and Bars

La Cueva del Jabalí

Hosted in a natural cave, this place features a cabaret show and bar.

Restaurants and Cafes

Ranchón Las Coloradas

With a seafood specialty, there is an additional bar-parrillada (grill restaurant) at the Parque Natural El Bagá.

Ranchón Playa Flamenco

Eat exquisite seafood, drink cold beer, swim and more.

Restaurant Sitio La Güira

The food here is fresh and plentiful, set in an old reconstructed charcoal burners’ camp.

Shopping

There are shops in all Cayo Coco and Cayo Guilermo Hotels, except for Oasis Playa Coco. There are also shops at Morón and Ciego de Ávita hotels.

The stores sell different ranges of items including tobacco, beverages, alcohol, perfumes, clothing, beach items and souvenirs.

Clínica Internacional Cayo Coco

Takes care of health issues that may affect visitors, offering medical and nursing services, clinic laboratory, X-rays, ultrasound diagnosis, electrocardiography, specialized vital support, pharmacy and ophthalmology. Open 24 hours.

Talassotherapy Cayo Coco

Feel the stress melt away as you indulge in a rejuvenating seaweed wrap, mud mask, therapeutic massage or purifying water treatment at this spa overlooking the sea.

Festejos Populares del Municipio de Morón

First two weeks of June.

La Redonda

The trout and largemouth bass are plentiful in this 4-sq-km natural lake, the site of an international black bass fishing tournament every year.