King's Gardens archipelago
Jardines del Rey (King's Gardens) is the name of an chain of islands located off the northern coast of Cuba. This achipelago is itself part of a larger one called Sabana-Camaguey with over 2,500 small islands stretching for about 450 km (280 mi) along the Atlantic coast of Cuba’s main island, from Punta Maternillos in the province of Camaguey (near Playa Santa Lucia) up to Punta Hicacos (the tip of Varadero's Peninsula) in the province of Matanzas.
The Jardines del Rey extend for 200 km (124 mi) on the south-eastern part of the Sabana-Camaguey archipelago and include, among others, the following keys (from west to east): Cayo Las Brujas, Cayo Frances, Cayo Ensenachos, Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Coco, Cayo Romano, Cayo Paredon Grande, Cayo Anton Chico, Cayo Megano Grande, Cayo Cruz, Cayo Guajaba, Cayo Sabinal.
Note that Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Ensenachos and Cayo Las Brujas, are currently the main tourist destinations of the King's Gardens. But "touristically" speaking, Cayo Coco and Guillermo are known as the “Jardines del Rey” resort, whereas Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Ensenachos and Cayo Las Brujas are known as the “Cayos de Villa Clara” resort.
Other cayos are currently under development, a few all-inclusive hotels are currently being built on Cayo Paredon Grande (aka Cayo Paredon) and on Cayo Cruz; some should probably be ready to welcome tourists by 2018.
The archipelago is connected with the main island of Cuba via three causeways (locally called Pedraplen). The first one connects Cayo Coco to the main island in the province or Ciego de Avila, it was inaugurated on July 26th, 1988. Cayo Guillermo is connected to Cayo Coco via a short bridge. The "Cayos de Villa Clara" (Cayo Las Brujas, Cayo Ensenachos and Cayo Santa Maria) are connected to the mainland by a 48-km causeway inaugurated in 1999, in the province of Villa Clara. There's a third one in the Camaguey province connecting the main island with Cayo Romano and Cayo Cruz.
Note that Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo are served by the Jardines del Rey International Airport (code: CCC) located on Cayo Coco , this airport was inaugurated in December 2002. The “Cayos de Villa Clara” are served by the Abel SantaMaria Airport (aka Santa Clara International Airport, code SNU) located in Santa Clara (the capital of the Villa Clara Province).
The Jardines del Rey archipelago has a great potential for tourism; an extensive development of hotels, resorts and tourist facilities has been a main focus of the Cuban government in recent years. The area would eventually become the most important beach destination (in numbers of rooms), and may even surpass Varadero which is currently Cuba’s biggest beach resort.
Did you know ?
The name "Jardines del Rey" (King's Gardens) take its origin in the sixteenth century when the conquistador Diego Velazquez (1465-1524) named this archipelago in honor of the King of Spain.
These islands were immortalized in the novel "Islands in the Stream" by Ernest Hemingway. The famous writer was a regular visitor to the Jardines del Rey where he loved to fish in the clear waters of the archipelago on his yatch the "Pilar".
Lily & Normand