Running through the center of the provinces, the Carretera Central connects Ciego de Ávila and Camagüey cities with Havana and Santiago de Cuba. The cities are also major stops on the main east-west railway. The paved and less-trafficked Circuito Norte highway parallels the north coast at an average distance of five kilometers inland. Feeder roads connect it with the Carretera Central.
The 400 or so cays of the Jardines del Rey are separated from one another by narrow channels and from the coast by shallow lagoons. Pedraplenes (causeways) link Cayo Coco, Cayo Romano, and Cayo Sabinal to the mainland. Two days is barely sufficient for relaxing on Cayo Coco and neighboring Cayo Guillermo (connected by another pedraplén), the most developed of the keys, with more than a dozen all-inclusive resort hotels. If all you want is to relax with a rum cocktail on fine white sand, with breaks for water sports, then this could be for you. You can rent cars for forays farther afield.
Gateway to these two cays is Morón, a small-scale town that boasts the excellent Museo Caonabo and the Museo de Azúcar, where a steam-train ride is offered. Anglers can cast for game fish in nearby Lago La Redonda. Morón is served by trains, with direct connection to both Havana and Ciego de Ávila, the provincial capital.
More interesting by far is Camagüey. You could easily justify three days in this colonial city, which boasts several historic plazas. Camagüey is a gateway to Playa Santa Lucía. This second-rate beach resort appeals mostly to budget-minded Canadians and Europeans, with second-rate hotels and a desultory nightlife. Sure, the diving is exceptional, but that’s about it (even the beach pales in comparison to Cayo Coco). The hinterland is physically unappealing, although a worthwhile excursion is to Cayo Sabinal, with spectacular beaches and waters touted for future development. At Rancho King, you can watch a rodeo and even play cowboy for half a day.
Opportunities abound for bird-watchers, not least at Finca La Belén, a wilderness area southeast of Camagüey city. Set amid scenic terrain, it provides a rare opportunity for hiking and is served by a delightful hotel.
Divers, anglers, and yachters should set their sights on the Parque Nacional Jardines de la Reina. This necklace of cays off the southern coast is accessed solely from the funky fishing village of Júcaro, south of Ciego de Ávila. Visitation is controlled exclusively through a single agency, based in Júcaro.