Jardines del Rey is the name of the several islands located in the north central area of Cuba.
These islands are part of a larger archipelago called Sabana-Camaguey with over 2.500 islands about 450 kilometers long. From Punta Maternillos, east of Cayo Sabinal in Camaguey province (near Playa Santa Lucia) up to Punta Hicacos in the Matanzas province (Varadero peninsula). The Spaniards named the archipelago Jardines del Rey in 1513 in honor of Ferdinand the Catholic.
Jardines del Rey is a group of islands stretching over 200 kms in the north-west sector of the archipelago Sabana-Camaguey. The following islands are part of the King's garden : Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Coco, Cayo Judas, Cayo Romano, Cayo Paredon Grande, Cayo Anton Chico, Cayo Megano Grande, Cayo Eusebio, Cayo Cruz, Cayo Guajaba, Cayo Sabinal and many more.
Since most of the islands are located far from the coast, few people have colonized these islands, apart from the privateers and pirates who took refuge to protect against hurricanes. Ernest Hemingway was known to sail these waters aboard his yacht « Pilar » during the Second World War to watch for German submarines. Ernest Hemingway's story is fascinating and closely linked to Cuba.
Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo are the first destinations in this region of Cuba, followed by Cayo Santa Maria and Cayo Ensenachos. The first hotel in Cayo Santa Maria to open its doors was the Sol Cayo Santa Maria in December 2001. There are several thousands of rooms in Cayo Santa Maria.
The island of Cayo Coco is connected to Cuba by a causeway « pedraplen » in the sea inaugurated on July 26th, 1988. The airport of Cayo Coco welcomed its first tourists on December 26th, 2002. Before the construction of the airport on the island of Cayo Coco, travelers arrived at the international airport of Ciego de Avila (AVI). From there, they had to take buses for an hour and half drive to the hotels of Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo. The same problem is happening in Cayo Santa Maria and Cayo Ensenachos in the province of Villa Clara.
For many years now, Cuba has been investing millions of dollars in tourism infrastructure and the King's Gardens are a very interesting potential with such beautiful beaches and turquoise waters. With the Cuban Thaw since the announcements in Dec. 2014, Cuba will need several thousands more rooms to accommodate everyone.
Note that since the spring 2014, Cuban Immigration systematically stamps all passports when entering and leaving the country. And also: Since May 1st, 2015, the Cuban Departure Tax is no longer paid at destination. It should now be included in the price of your trip when buying a flight-only or vacation-package to Cuba.
In October 2013 the Cuban Government announced its intention to eliminate their dual currency system (CUC and CUP). To the best of our knowledge, it seems like no schedule has been officially announced yet for this plan to eliminate the CUC and revalue the CUP; and so far (2016) there's no indication yet about when the CUC will be put out of circulation.
Lily & Normand