Cuba's central province of Villa Clara is also taking part in the dynamic development of the island's leisure industry, backed up by its exuberant nature and unique history.
The strategy to boost tourism goes beyond the so-called big island, focusing on the territories that make up the Northern Keys, which boast several kilometers of excellent beaches and a pristine environment.
A 48-km-long road on the sea - called causeway - connects the largest island of the Cuban archipelago with Santa María, Las Brujas, Ensenachos, Cobos, Majá, Fragoso, Francés, Las Picúas and Español de Adentro, among other keys.
In addition to the region's tourist potential, there exist unique conditions for the keys to be a safe haven for the local flora and fauna, including such exclusive species as the rat hutia, in addition to other endemic species such as lizards, mollusks and the so-called shrike bird.
Animal diversity is complemented with the region's exuberant flora, made up of 248 species, including 91 medicinal, 72 timber, 41 resign-producing and 40 ornamental species, along with vestiges of pre-Columbian cultures in caverns near the beach, and beautiful underwater seascapes.
A system of channels becomes a true aquatic labyrinth between the keys, while offering a huge potential for observation programs and nautical activities.
Another singularity of the region is the San Pascual boat, which ran aground near Cayo Francés almost 70 years ago, and has become a naval rarity, since it was made of reinforced concrete in San Francisco, California, in 1920.
Also known by the local people as El Pontón, many consider the ship another islet. It offers vacationers the amenities of its 10 cabins and an enviable location to enjoy the region's many attractions.
For those visiting the area, Ensenachos boasts one of the best beaches, although its small extension limits the key's development program to a maximum of 600 rooms to prevent damaging the environment.
The stronghold in the development of the local leisure industry is Cayo Santa María, where there is a hotel, and there exists an investment project to build a maximum of 5,000 rooms, in addition to an air terminal and a runway on Cayo Las Brujas to receive small- and medium-size planes.
Nature itself has created the conditions for leisure, including a coral reef that attenuates the force of winds and waves, thus creating a unique environment to welcome thousands of vacationers who visit the region every year.
Cayo Santa María, which is 13 kilometers long and 2 kilometers wide, boasts 11 kilometers of excellent beaches and is linked to the big island by a causeway on the sea.
The islet, which was designated a "Biosphere Reserve" by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), is inhabited by a wide range of animals, including ten endemic species.
Cayo Santa María is also home to large colonies of flamingos, seagulls and anhingas, as well as iguanas, mollusks and the so-called shrike bird, while its sea bottoms are inhabited by algae. The key is also a safe haven for amphibian mollusks, reptiles, mammals and birds.
Other birds living on the key are the tocororo (Cuban trogon), which is Cuba's national bird, as well as woodpeckers and hawks. Among the mammals are deer and various species of hutias, including the rat hutia.
Animal diversity is complemented by the region's exuberant flora, made up of 248 species, including 91 medicinal, 72 timber, 41 resin-producing and 40 ornamental species. Mangroves, as well as palms, fruit trees and coconuts cover the islet.
The key holds remnants of pre-Columbian cultures in caverns near the beaches, which boast beautiful underwater seascapes.