Jardines del Rey (English: Gardens of the King) archipelago, a stunning string of keys off Cuba’s northern coast about 250 miles east of Havana.
The keys range from the size of a sandbar to 4,000-acre Cayo Romano. There are many interconnected shoals and sandbars that appear and disappear with the tide. With more than 1,000 marked dive sites and enough anchorages and beaches to explore for months, it is a waterman’s paradise.
The coral reef is one of the largest continuous reefs in the world and shelters about 900 species of fish. The waters next to the Old Bahama Channel are known to contain some of the best deep-sea fishing in the region. The inshore flats are said to house mythically large bonefish.
Baptized by Spaniards between 1513 and 1514 as Jardines del Rey, to honor Fernando the Catholic, the archipelago’s place in history was reinvented many times over.
The Jardines served as Ernest Hemingway’s favorite retreat while in Cuba – and a source of background setting for his writing. During World War II they were the site of his submarine-hunting mission. He outfitted his fishing boat, the Pilar, with U.S. Navy-issue machine guns, hand grenades, and explosives, and set out to destroy German U-boats. Hemingway later won the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature mainly for his book, The Old Man and the Sea, which was written in Cuba and based on a Cuban fable.
Hemingway’s experiences in the archipelago became the setting for the closing scene of Hemingway’s last novel, ‘Islands in the Stream.’ They appeared as a, “line of green keys that showed like black hedges sticking up from the water and then acquired shape and greenness and finally sandy beaches.” Hudson, the main character in the novel, engages shipwrecked German submariners and dies of a machine gun blast.
“[Hudson] looked up at the white-painted house and the tall old-fashioned light and then past the high rock to the green mangrove keys and beyond them the low, rocky, barren tip of Cayo Romano,” Hemingway writes.
Contact the Melia Jardines del Rey about accommodations.