Cayo Las Brujas, Cuba

Photo: Angsana Hotels & Resorts

A new resort alert: Angsana Cayo Santa Maria just opened last October. So it’s had a few months to get into its groove. The all-inclusive resort is for adults only. There are no screaming kids, whom everyone but their parents seems to hear. Censor-lit paths connect low, two- and three-story buildings. Their rooms are bright, modern, and, as all new resorts should be, energy-efficient. Four restaurants, plus another bar, ensure that you’ll forget all about your recent New Year’s resolutions. Though a spa, a marine lab, and plenty of water sports mean you’ll do more than just eat and drink.

Though its name is Angsana Cayo Santa Maria, the resort actually sits on Cayo Las Brujas. The smaller cay lies 10 kilometers to the west of the popular resort destination. It, too, features soft sand and crystalline waters. The same dense foliage is on one side. A coral reef and uninhabited islets are on the other. But there are no crowds here.

Both cays are part of the Jardines del Rey. The string of islands, which formed atop a coral-reef system, lies in between the Atlantic Ocean, and Buena Vista and Jiguey Bays. Together, they have 22 kilometers worth of white-sand beaches. Spanish conquistadors named them the King’s Gardens in honor of King Ferdinand II in the early 16th century. They became a refuge for pirates, and then a point of entry for illegal slave ships, after that. Today, the islands are connected to the mainland by a causeway. While Caribbean flamingos and equally colorful roseate spoonbills greatly outnumber people.

Angsana Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Las Brujas, and the Jardines del Rey sound like the perfect spots for a winter getaway. There’s only one problem. They’re in Cuba. In 2014, the United States government rolled back regulations against travel to the Caribbean island, which lies only 90 miles south of Florida. Airlines established commercial flight routes. Hotels and restaurants scrambled to open. Tourism soared. Then more restrictions were enacted in 2017. Though it’s still possible to travel to Cuba, it isn’t as easy as it was a few years ago. Nor is it getting even easier over time as so many expected. So this little paradise will have to remain on your ever-growing wish list. For now, let’s slot it into your 2021 travel plans.

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