The province of Villa Clara is located on the central region of the Isle of Cuba, less than 300 km. (185 miles) from Havana, Cuba’s capital. Both cities are linked by the Central Highway, the National Highway and the National Railroad. Its capital, Santa Clara, has many attractions, though sites like the artificial lake at Hanabanilla, the health spa at Elguea and the north coast with its keys in the Atlantic Ocean also stand out.
From Caibarién, a fishermen’s village surrounded by deep waters home to important lobster farms, a 48 km. road built of stones (called pedraplén), stretches across the sea, linking the main island with keys like Santa María, Las Brujas (which has a small airfield), Ensenachos, Cobos, Majá, Fragoso, Francés, Las Picúas y Español de Adentro, among others.
This important engineering work has 45 bridges to allow the exchange of tidal waters. It’s a very nice ride across this pedraplén because the visitor may see species like sparrow hawks, pelicans, oldsquaws and the astonishing pink flamingos.
The northern keys have several kilometers of excellent beaches and an almost virgin environment. They also constitute a true natural reserve (Fauna Reserve of the Northern Keys) for a unique kind of hutía (cane rat), and a meeting place for flamingo colonies. Besides there are endemic species of lizards, mollusks and birds like the one called arriero, along with a flora comprising 248 species, 91 of them medicinal, 72 timber-yielding, 41 honey-producing and 40 decorative. 29 of them are endemic.
In this key can be seen tocororos (Cuba’s national birds having the colors of its flag), corúas, woodpeckers and sparrow hawks, as well as deer, various kinds of hutías, among which the hutía of Cayo Fragoso stands out, and the blue lizard of Cayo Santa María.
In the keys belonging to the reserve can also be found caves near the beaches, where visitors have the opportunity to see remnants of the island’s pre-Columbian cultures.
As to the sea bottom, west of Cayo Santa María the combination of a rocky seabed with coral reefs lessens the impact of the wind, keeps the beaches from heavy waves and acts as a shelter for dozens of exceedingly beautiful species, making it and ideal site for diving and submarine photography.
All this features have made of these keys one of the most exotic places
in the Caribbean. Some of them have been designated Protected Areas and
one of them, Cayo Santa María, a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.