This year’s warm weather vacation brought us to Cuba, attracted by the low price tag for the four of us, the promise of white sandy beaches and water where the kids could snorkel off of the beach, and touch Starfish.

Cayo Santa Maria is a key, 16 kilometers long, connected to the northern coast of Cuba by a 48 km causeway. Gorgeous beaches, water, and a beach vacation that we snagged for under $3,000 for the four of us – it was a week of days spent lounging on the beach, playing in the sand that made perfect castles, and snorkeling off-shore.

Getting there: 7 hour flight, and 90 minute bus ride to the resort of your choice, through the towns and over the causeway.

Earlier this year, we booked a cheap, last-minute vacation and stayed at Starfish Cayo Santa Maria – but we wouldn’t recommend it for a future stay. There were a lot of issues with the food, the hotel and the room, so we would skip that and go for a different resort the next time around. Exploring the Incredible Beaches of Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba with Kids

On the beach, where we spent the time from waking up to bedtime, we made endless sand castles, hunted for shells, and snorkelled close to the shore. Along the shoreline of the Melia Buenavista, you’ll find the best snorkelling from shore. With kids, it’s probably easier to walk down the shore to the hotel (ask staff which direction to go from the hotel you’re staying at) and you can snorkel out from shore and see everything from small groups of fish, to starfish, as close as within a couple of meters from the shore.

Exploring the Incredible Beaches of Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba with Kids

During the winter months, the sun went down quickly. You’re going to want to bring things to entertain the kids (and yourselves) when you’re not on the beach. Bring along small board games, card game and other activities that you can do together in the hotel, and make sure to choose a hotel that has evening entertainment, in addition.

Bring your own sand toys and inflatables, and leave them when you’re finished if you don’t want to have the hassle of bringing them back home. They were much appreciated by the kids club that we left them behind at.

Excursions: there were multiple excursions to choose from while we were there. We waited a few days into our trip to book the excursions for the kids and us, and they were completely booked until the day after we leave. Take this advice when you first arrive seriously, and book the excursions when you first arrive at the hotel.

Plaza Las Dunas: There’s a market where you can get souvenirs (for half the price of the hotel). The kids grabbed magnets for 2 CUC and small, woven purses for 4 CUC. There, you’ll also find a Teppanki place (skip it) and a pizza place (we wished we had discovered it sooner). Each of the hotels has a shuttle to the Pueblo, so you don’t have to worry about walking to the market.

Bring with you: Bring life jackets for the kids, bring lots of snacks if you have kids – because though there are lots of drinks, the kids didn’t eat a lot of the ‘snack bar’ food that was offered, bring your sand toys, and kids snorkel sets, just so you have them on hand.

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