CubaNews / November 2010
By Larry Luxner
One of Cuba’s most ambitious golf and marina resort projects could soon take shape along the island’s northern coast halfway between Havana and Varadero.
The project is one of a dozen that will benefit from a recently passed law allowing foreign investors 99-year-property leases for the first time (see CubaNews, October 2010, page 3).
Officially known as Empresa Mixta Desarrollo Turístico Bacunayagua SA, the joint venture involves Spanish entrepreneurs and state-run Cubanacán SA, and is reportedly worth $500 million.
It covers 750 hectares of oceanfront land about 50 miles east of Havana and 30 miles west of Varadero Beach, at the point where La Habana (now Mayabeque) and Matanzas provinces meet.
The development of this project was done in collaboration with Empersa de Proyectos de Arquitectura e Ingeniería (EMPAI), a Cuban entity, while consulting work was headed by architect Juan Carlos Piñeiro Izquierdo of Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands.
In addition to Spain, Piñeiro has designed resort projects in Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Dominican Republic. His team includes interior designer Rosy Zamorano Sáenz, architect Maricarmen Gil Sarmiento, industrial engineer Fidel Iturribarría Martín Fernández and landscape designer Boris Hertzberg Diekow.
According to Piñeiro’s website, the project will encompass 2,386 rooms and two 18-hole golf courses built in two stages, as well as a protected area of 3,900 hectares.
Phase I envisions the construction of an 18-hole golf course, a 200-room hotel, an historic port area, a spa, five luxury beachfront villas and 1,285 bedrooms distributed among apartments and villas of varying configurations.
Phase II will see construction of a second 18-hole golf course and another 1,101 rooms in apartments and villas.
Physically, it’s hard to beat Bacunayagua’s natural beauty. It sits on a striking ocean landscape of high cliffs and bushy flat-top hills deeply cut by the Bacunayagua River canyon.
Vertical limestone cliffs in the shoreline, sometimes 30 to 60 feet high as in Punta Guanos and Punta Guana, yield to the emerald-blue coastal waters of the Straits of Florida, with coral reefs, underwater marine terraces and the submarine channel of the Río Bacunayagua.
Averaging 200 to 300 feet in height, these limestone flat-top hills are all cut by step cliffs. They are covered with shallow poor red soils that offer little chances for agriculture.
Dense shrubs and low xerophytic forests, with guano palms, cactus and hardwood trees cover the hills almost continuously.
Protection of the Coccothrinax borhidiana, an endangered palm tree that grows exclusively in this place in the entire world could limit the development of the area. Reportedly only a few dozens of this extremely endangered plant survive in the wild, all in close distance to the future compound.
The coastal heights make buildings safe from any sea surge during tropical storms. However, flash floods of the Bacunayagua River might endanger facilities built in the river’s mouth.
Crude oil is pumped from the nearby Punta Guanos oilfield to the east and Puerto Escondido field (off the map limits) to the west.