Jardines del Rey (English: Gardens of the King) is an archipelago located off the northern coast of the island of Cuba, in the northern parts of the provinces of Ciego de Ávila and Camagüey. It is developed on the coral reef system that lines Cuba's shore, between the Atlantic and the Bay of Buena Vista and Bay of Jiguey. It extends for 200 km (124 mi) on a north-west to south-east direction, and is part of the Sabana-Camaguey Archipelago.
The Jardines del Rey Airport is located on Cayo Coco. Additional access to Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo is offered by a causeway that connects this islands to mainland Cuba.
Of the many cays and islands that compose Jardinas del Rey, the most important are (from north to south):
Other islands include Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Paredón Grande and Cayo Cruz.
In the 16th century, they were refuges for corsairs and pirates. Jacques de Sores is supposed to have used it as a base of operations for his attacks of Santiago de Cuba in 1554. In the 19th century, they were used as a point of entry for illegal slave ships after the slave trade was officially abolished.
Bagá Nature Park (Spanish: Parque Natural El Bagá) was established on December 29, 2002, and was named for the Baga tree (árbol del pan). It spreads over 69 hectares of forests and lagoons on Cayo Coco as well as on neighboring cays.
It contains an interpretative centre, a walkway through a Bagá forest, a Taíno village and fauna exhibits (crocodiles, iguanas, flamingos and Cuban Hutias). The archipelago is a natural habitat for Caribbean Flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber).
The Jardines del Rey (Gardens of the King) are a chain of islands off the north coast of Cuba. They include Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Romano and Cayo Paredon Grande which are linked to the mainland by a 17 km long artificial causeway, with a road running along it. (Though the "temporary" bridge between Cayo Coco and Cayo Romano is not suitable for all vehicles.) The first two of these have been developed as beach resorts.
Until the late 1980s, the Jardines del Rey could really only be reached by boat.
Ernest Hemingway spent time during the Second World War hunting German U-boats in the area (which experience he used in his novel Islands in the Stream).
In the 1980s, the Cuban government decided to construct a causeway across the bay between Cayo Coco and the mainland. This now carries a road, and allowed the development of Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo as tourist destinations.
The first hotel (the Colonial) was opened in 1993.
Apart from the beaches, much of the islands remain undeveloped, and are promoted as an ecotourism destination.
There is an international airport on Cayo Coco; one can drive from the mainland across the causeway (toll payable); and there is a marina on Cayo Guillermo.
[Note until 2008, Cubans were only allowed in with specific authorisation - for example workers in the hotel, on business, married to a foreigner or with a letter from the local police. Following relaxation of the restrictions, any Cuban can enter with the payment of a fee.]
Though organized tours exist, it is also possible to rent a private taxi for the day (ideally 5 or 6 people) to visit Moron and see a bit of the real Cuba. Ask around for more information.
Apart from the hotels, there is a bar on the causeway to the mainland, and a nightclub underground.
The nearest town, on the mainland, is Morón.
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