CAYO SANTA MARIA (+ Cayo Las Brujas and Cayo Ensenachos)
Cayo Santa Maria is a small island of 26 sq.km (10 sq. mi) located off the northern coast of the main island of Cuba and is part of a small group of islets called "Los Cayos de Villa Clara" located at the western end of the "Jardines del Rey" (King's Gardens) archipelago. Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Las Brujas and Cayo Ensenachos are connected to the main island of Cuba by a 48-km (30-mi) long causeway (called pedraplen in Spanish).
How did it all began?
On November 4th, 2001, Cayo Largo was hit hard by Hurricane Michelle (category 4). The hotel Villa Capricho was totally destroyed, and the other hotels suffered several damages. The destination was inaccessible for many weeks. So in early January 2002 several naturists who were regulars in Cayo Largo like us decided to try the brand new tourist center of Cuba: Cayo Santa Maria. It was another uninhabited islet (like Cayo Largo) with only one hotel at the time, the Sol Cayo Santa Maria which had just opened. This forced migration ultimately proved to be beneficial as a whole new clothing optional beach was born! After discussion with the hotel management, the stretch of beach at the west end of hotel Sol (to the left when facing sea) was designated "Area de Playa Nudista". Up to now, this area has always remained clothing optional, and then other CO beaches emerged in the following years, see below.
Please note that there are no nudist hotels in Cayo Santa Maria (at least for now). Nudism is limited to the beach.
What are the naturist options in Cayo Santa Maria?
HOTELS WITH A CO BEACH
Sol Cayo Santa Maria
This all-inclusive 4-star hotel managed by the hotel chain Melia Hotels International opened its door in late-December 2001, and was the first one to be built on Cayo Santa Maria. For many year it was the only hotel with a naturist beach, see above how it all began. The naturist area now includes dozens of palapas and loungers exclusive to hotel guests. The designated “Area Nudista” is located in front of the western part of the hotel (to the left when facing sea). There’s a footpath next to the Club Cubano Los Flamenco restaurant that leads directly to this part of beach, click on the map thumbnail to the left.
Evolution of naturism at hotel Sol: Between 2002 and 2019, the naturist area used to be smaller and naturists were gradually represent about 20-30% of the clientele. Then the hotel was closed in late 2019 for 3 years to undergo major renovations, almost everything was improve or redone, including the 300 rooms. The hotel reopened on November 1st, 2022 as an adult-only resort. We had the chance to stay there again a couple of weeks after its reopening and were delighted to see that naturists now represent more than 80% of the clientele! In addition, the naturist section occupies a much longer stretch of beach than before, with several additional palapas to the left of the access sidewalk and even some additional palapas to the right. Another change is that a section of the pool which is a little set back from the main pool started to discreetly be used by the naturists for a quick dip after a day at the beach.
Services on the “Playa Nudista” include: Palapas (thatched roof sunshelters), loungers, beach attendants (Jorge and Jorge), bar service (to your chair). Note that beach volleyball and other activities are located in the textile section, near the beach restaurant La Picua.
Open since 2010, the Buenavista is a small luxury adult-only 5-star hotel which is also managed Melia Hotels International. Their naturist area (about 20 palapas) is located at the east end of their beach (to the right when facing sea), towards the naturist section of Sol Cayo Santa Maria hotel. Thus, the ~2 km of virgin beach (called Playa Canon) between the two hotels became very popular with naturists for long "au naturel" walks. Although the number of naturists at the Melia Buenavista is usually lower than that of the Hotel Sol, their clothing optional section is well establish and the number of naturists has gradually increased over the years. The Buenavista is a good option for naturists looking for a more luxurious hotel.
Valentin Perla Blanca
Although there’s no clearly designated clothing optional area at this hotel, it has been frequently reported that a few guests enjoy "au naturel" sunbathing at the eastern end of Valentin Beach. This hotel is a 5-star adult-only all-inclusive resort located on the stretch of beach called Playa Perla Blanca. The Valentin is the very last hotel of the Cayo Santa Maria hotel zone where then kilometers of virgin coastline stretch all the way to the eastern tip of the island. The secluded location of this hotel is ideal for naturism, so we hope that a more established naturist area will continue to develop.
Other Clothing Optional Beaches
As mentioned above, Playa Canon is the virgin stretch of beach connecting the naturist sections of hotels Sol Cayo Santa Maria and Melia Buenavista, at the west end of the Cayo Santa Maria hotel zone. See here a map of all beaches. This beach stretches for a total of about 2.8 km, including about 1.8 km being clothing optional between the two hotels.
Click to see a distance chart of all the neighboring hotels to the Clothing Optional sector.
Please note that if you want to enjoy facilities at the Sol Cayo Santa Maria ... stay at this hotel!
Playa Las Gaviotas
This beautiful 800-meter long virgin beach is located at the eastern end of the island of Cayo Santa Maria, next to the Valentin Perla Blanca hotel. This secluded and very uncrowded beach is ideal for the more timid who can find there a quiet place to sunbathe and enjoy a swim “Au Naturel”. Playa Las Gaviotas is part of the Buenavista Biosphere Reserve. There are no services on this beach, apart from a few palapas; no hotels, bars, or chairs.
What are the naturist options in Cayo Las Brujas?
Cayo Las Brujas (~7 km2), one of the 3 islands of the "Cayos de Villa Clara" (a.k.a. Cayeria del Norte) tourist area, is located a few kilometers west to Cayo Santa Maria; the latter being the main island, which makes the entire destination often simply referred as Cayo Santa Maria, even though it is actually three islets. There are six hotels on Cayo Las Brujas ranging from 24 to 727 rooms.
Playa La Salina (?)
We first visited Cayo Las Brujas in 2009, when we enjoyed nude sunbathing on a quiet beach called Playa La Salina (one of the most beautiful beaches in the "Cayos de Villa Clara"!). At that time, there was only one small hotel on this beach, the Villa Las Brujas. There are now two new large all-inclusive resorts on Playa la Salina. On the other hand, there is still a fairly long stretch of virgin beach between the Selectum Family Resort CSM these two resorts and the small hotel Villa Las Brujas, so perhaps naturism could still be possible, it is to be confirmed..
Playa Escondida (means: hidden beach)
This is a small beach (about 200-meter long) next to hotel Angsana Cayo Santa Maria. The latter is an adult-only secluded resort and the very last hotel of the Cayo Las Brujas hotel zone, north-east side. Playa Escondida could therefore be conducive to the practice of naturism. It has also been reported on a few occasions that naturists have sometimes enjoyed an area at the end of this beach, on the side opposite the Angsana hotel. But, as far as we know, this zone is not a regular clothing optional area (at least not yet).
What are the naturist options in Cayo Ensenachos? ... None for now, see why below
Cayo Ensenachos is located between Cayo Las Brujas and Cayo Santa Maria. There’s only one all-inclusive resort on this cayo, the Iberostar Selection Ensenachos, currently managed by the Spanish hotel chain Iberostar Hotels & Resorts.
We were lucky enough to visit Cayo Ensenachos for the first time in 2002 when it was still completely virgin, it felt like discovering a private little piece of paradise! Its pristine beaches (playa Ensenachos and Playa Megano) were virtually deserted, very few locals were frequenting the area. But we weren't surprised when we learned that a luxury hotel was going to be built there, it's such a perfect setting!
The sole resort on Cayo Ensenachos was first run by the Occidental hotel chain, as the Occidental Royal Hideaway, and was back then an adult-only resort. There used to be a Clothing Optional stretch of beach at the western end of Playa Ensenachos, where the "Grand Village" section is located. This part of beach was used by naturists for about 5 years. In June 2011, the management contract was awarded to Iberostar who started marketing the hotel as a Family Oriented Resort. At the beginning, the beach in front of the Grand Village section remained clothing Optional for a while as this section was still adult-only. But eventually, the new management decided that they will no longer accept nudism on the entire length of the beach. It was a total lack of vision, in our humble opinion, since this section (Grand Village) is quite far away from the main hotel (just over 1 km).
We’ll keep monitoring this destination in case the “clothing optional” status might resume.
IMPORTANT TO KNOW
The designated “Playas Nudistas” are mostly frequented by naturists and mixed couples (1 naturist + 1 textile), but also by a few people wearing bathing suits as they are “clothing optional”. Although coexistence between naturists and non-naturists is generally very peaceful and respectful, it is considered courteous to leave these areas to naturists given the very limited opportunities to enjoy naturism throughout the 22 hotels in Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Las Brujas and Cayo Ensenachos.
It’s also important to note that nudity is not mandatory, non-naturists who want to walk along the clothing optional beach do not have to remove their clothes! It is normal to be intrigued by the presence of a nudist beach, curious people (perhaps future naturists!) are welcome, but voyeurs are not, and those taking pictures even less! Please be respectful.
Read about the Naturist Etiquette in Cuba.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any question or new information to share regarding naturism in Cuba.
Please visit our Cayo Santa Maria Travel Guide, to learn more about this destination: https://www.cayosantamaria.info/
Lily & Normand