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.