Luxe Dhawa resort marks expansion of Cuba’s Cayo Santa Maria

Cayo Santa Maria is one of Cuba’s newest beach resort destinations, and it’s where a Singaporean hotel chain has chosen to debut its first property in Cuba — and in the Americas.

The Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria is a Banyan Tree Hotel, a brand known for its attentive, personalized service and contemporary, luxurious decor. The Dhawa, which opened its doors in March 2017, is an all-inclusive property located directly on the beach of Cayo las Brujas in Cayo Santa Maria, a cay off Cuba’s north-central coast.

Cayo Santa Maria is quickly becoming one of Cuba’s most popular beach resort destinations. It remains relatively development-free, aside from its secluded all-inclusive resorts, so it’s ideal for anyone looking for that “deserted island” feel.

The cay — only 16 kilometres long and 2 km wide — offers 13 km of unspoiled white-sand beaches, connected to the mainland by a 48-km causeway, which makes for a scenic drive with the sea on both sides. (It’s a 90-minute drive in total from the Abel Santamaria Airport in Santa Clara.)

Cayo Santa Maria is part of the larger Jardines del Rey (King’s Garden) archipelago, which includes Cayo Las Brujas, Cayo Ensenachos, Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Coco, Cayo Paredon Grande and Cayo Cruz. In total, there are more than 500 tiny islands and cays dotting the archipelago.

With plenty of development underway, this region is expected to become the largest beach resort destination in Cuba — with more hotel rooms than tourist hotspot Varadero. The cays, featuring pristine reefs with healthy corals, are part of the protected Buenavista Biosphere Reserve.

Already receiving accolades from the Canadian market, the Dhawa is ideal for couples, families and groups looking for personalized service and casual yet contemporary flair in a secluded setting (handicapped facilities are available). The hotel also offers packages for honeymoons and weddings.

Wi-Fi is available in all guestrooms — a mark of distinction in Cuba, where Wi-Fi is often only available in the lobby area of hotels and resorts. Along with an international buffet, the Dhawa serves up “destination dining,” with restaurants featuring French and Italian cuisine, as well as Cuban-style barbeque.

Reflecting the relaxed vibe of Cayo Santa Maria, guests can chill out on the resort’s half-mile of private sandy beach with a mojito in hand or take in a variety of activities, from hobby-cat sailing to joining a group luau by the beach under the stars.

Though it’s hard to leave that white-sandy beach, there’s plenty to see off the resort: Guests can tour the nearby cities of Remedios and Santa Clara to learn more about local culture, take a jeep tour to local rum and cigar factories or explore corals reefs on a snorkelling tour aboard a catamaran. Guests can also swim with dolphins at the Cayo Santa Maria Dolphinarium, or discover the world’s second-largest coral reef on a scuba-diving adventure; there’s world-class fishing and sailing in the nearby Marina Gaviota las Brujas.

The Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria is a Banyan Tree Hotel, a brand known for its attentive, personalized service and contemporary, luxurious decor.

As originally published in the Toronto Star.

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