On the northern coast of Cuba, right in the Jardines del Rey archipelago is a small, quiet key called Cayo Guillermo. Cayo Guillermo faces the Atlantic Ocean and was once inhabited by charcoal producers and fishermen. Due to its strategic position on the Atlantic coast, deep-sea fishermen populated the place in the 1960s while looking for a bigger catch. Today, Cayo Guillermo is famous for its 5km of shallow turquoise waters, and pristine white sands that lure in eco-tourists, sun seekers, and water babies. One of the most beautiful beaches in Cuba, the Playa Pilar, is located just 7km away from Cayo Guillermo’s resort area. The island also features lagoons that provide excellent vintage points for bird watching.
Here is a luxury traveler’s guide to Cayo Guillermo:
Things to do
1. Delfinario Cayo Guillermo (adult/child per session $110/60)
Opened in 2012, Delfinario is governed by Palmares and located in the mangroves, west of the marina, in the southern side of Cayo Guillermo. The facility is easily visible from the main road. Once you enter the Dolphinarium, you can enjoy the dolphin pool that is accessible through a 110m long footbridge. So far, there are 4 dolphins: Juanma (from Varadero); Wendy (from Cienfuegos); and Yoyi and Ricky. These mammals are extremely affectionate and possess exceptional intelligence.
2. Green Moray Dive Center Cayo Guillermo Cuba ($310)
This is a global Scuba Diving Center based at the Melia Hotel. The center uses the latest Scuba-pro equipment and has well trained, professional guides. It has a depth of about thirty meters, with the shallow end being ten meters. These depths make it easy to see and interact with lion fish, moray eels, sting rays, nurse sharks, barracuda, and turtles. A 5-day package includes all ancillary costs, dive suits, and equipment.
3. Kiteland Park Kite Training School Cayo Guillermo ($66 per hour)
For those who are interested in Kitesurfing, you can head to the Kiteland Park Cayo Guillermo, which provides all the training and equipment you will need. The gentle breezes and tranquil waters of Cayo Guillermo make it easier to pick up this thrilling sport. Beginners can start surfing comfortably within just twenty minutes, propelling against the crystalline waters as they take in this gorgeous Caribbean scenery.
Places to Stay
Playa Pilar ($74 per person per unit)
This high end contemporary oceanfront hotel is relatively new, but it is already making a great impression among sun seekers. This is primarily due to its stunning views and family friendly atmosphere, featuring a supervised kids club and a water playground – the only one in the area. The accommodations come with 24 hour room service, air conditioning, a terrace or balcony, and flat screen TVs. There are complimentary everyday activities as well, which include dance lessons or Tai Chi classes, and non-motorized water sports such as windsurfing and snorkeling.
Iberostar Daiquiri ($55 per person per unit)
Superb for families and couples, Iberostar is a relaxed setting on the beach that is great for chilling out. It has standard rooms that can accommodate up to three adults, featuring a balcony/terrace, full bathroom, hairdryer, mini-bar, safety deposit box, satellite TV, individually-controlled air conditioning, and beds plus sofa bed. On request, there is a single parent room, superior ocean view rooms with a shower room, and rooms for sole use.
Places to Eat
1. Ranchon Las Coloradas Bar & Grill
This restaurant offers excellent views of Playa Las Coloradas, the most gorgeous beach in Cayo Coco. It is a great place to relax, featuring Cuban musicians and Ranchon Las Coloradas just a few steps away from Melia Cayo Coco. You can easily access the area by foot, since Playa Las Coloradas is a mere 2 1/2km of dense sand, suitable for walkers. So far, there are three hotels in the area. This restaurant is managed by the Cuban Company Catec, and was established several years ago. If you are more of a wine person than beer, you can always purchase a bottle of Entre Rios at your hotel shop for around 4 CUC. Keep in mind that there is a small bathroom situated a short distance from the restaurant.
2. Ranchon Playa Flamenco
Ranchon Playa Flamenco is a nice restaurant with excellent views of the beach. It is situated at the central part of Cayo Coco. It comes with a toilet, a bar, a dining room, several chairs, and a dozen installed sun-beds. The restaurant is situated a few steps from the Pestana Cayo Coco in the west, while in the east is the hotel Melia Jardines. It is managed by the Cuban group Palmares, offering a menu of chicken, pork, fish, shrimp, and grilled lobster, among others. These are accompanied with several types of drinks and beers. The hotel is open everyday from 10 in the morning until 5 in the evening.
3. Sitio La Guira (Ranchon Los Marquez)
Located just around La Guira, this restaurant is a reflection of the Cuban countryside with a number of small huts reminiscent of the old coal workers that populated the area in the early 1900s. Children can have fun at the amusement park while adults can admire the animals roaming about or do a horse ride. The site does not charge any entrance fee, but you will have to pay for your food and drinks at the bar. You can even rent a hut for a night at 17 CUC, which includes breakfast.
You can identify the site from the main road leading from Cayo Coco to Cayo Gullermo. It can be accessed through a panoramic bus, which pays 5 CUC per person, by foot, or via a scooter if you are staying at the accommodations in Playa La Jaula. Previously there was a Dotto Train transporting people to the location, but it does not travel there anymore. It only passes through the hotels in Playa Las Coloradas and Playa Larga. While in the restaurant, you will enjoy superb views of the vibrant garden in the site. The idea behind the site is to showcase the Cuban countryside. The drinks and meals provided are more elaborate when compared to other restaurants.