Jardines del Rey – One of Cuba’s Gems
Yes, it’s true, Cuba looks like a crocodile. It’s a long skinny archipelago made up of 4,000 cays and islands just outside the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico, the largest of the Antilles. It’s got 300 natural white-sand beaches, crystal clear waters, and a captivating, colorful culture full of music, art, and flavors. You’ve heard about travel restrictions, but don’t let the buzz about them hinder your getting-there ideas - just plan your Cuba holidays ahead, ask around, check online and know that Cuba is worth the effort.
There’s so much to do and see in Cuba, and the islands of Jardines del Rey (Gardens of the King), off the country’s Atlantic coast and known as “the Cuban keys” are as good place a place as any to hone in on. Jardines del Rey is located in Cuba’s fruit bowl (so-called due to its rich red soil) in the province of Ciego de Ávila. The area is immortalized in Earnest Hemmingway’s novels “Islands in the Stream” and “The Old Man and the Sea.” Take some time to fish where Papa found his inspiration in its mangroves, everglades, beautiful beaches with crystal-blue waters, and abundance of wildlife – especially birds. There’s also freshwater fishing, eco-safaris, and excursions to the historic military route, La Trocha.
Cayo Coco is isolated from the mainland, connected only by a man-made causeway. Cayo Coco is still-wild, and its beautiful beaches are quiet and serene. Be sure to visit Parque Nacional El Bagá to see butterflies, crocodiles and a fragrant juniper forest; and Parador La Silla and its Laguna del los Flamencos for prime flamingo watching (from April to November).
Cayo Guillermo is famous for its tall sand dunes, water activities, and deep-sea fishing. It’s also where you can see Hemingway’s boat and visit Playa Pilar, “one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.”
Laguna de la Leche (Milky Lagoon) is Cuba’s largest natural lake, named for its glistening underwater lime deposits. It’s a popular freshwater fishing spot, hosts sailing regattas, and is a refuge for flamingos, snooks and tarpons.
Aguachiles de Falla is one of the few swampy areas on the northern coast. Made up of a system of seven lakes and dozens of ponds connected by a web of streams and channels, it’s especially good for bird watching.
Pedraplén is another bird watching spot, where you’ll see wading birds like herons, pelicans and roseate spoonbills just off of this causeway connecting Cayo Coco to the mainland.
La Cueva del Jabali is a natural cave that has been turned into a disco, and also features traditional Cuban dancing and music.
Laguna La Redonda is one of the best places in Cuba for trout fishing, and also hosts an international black bass fishing tournament every year.
In all of these spots in Jardines del Rey, be sure to talk to locals and soak up the Cuban culture - kick back and have a cigar.
Samantha Knowles loves travelling on her own, particularly around Europe and the Americas
Images by #Mau and tgarcia90 used under creative commons license