Varadero began to be developed as a summer
vacation resort in the 1940s, but it wasn't until the last
ten years that its network of hotels and other facilities
was given an unprecedented boost. Its tourist offer was diversified
and upgraded at the same time.
Its main attraction has always been its marvellous
beach, but this isn't all it has to offer. You can explore
its caves and escarpments, a necklace of virgin cays that
are easy to get to and the carefully preserved natural landscape
at the northeastern end of the peninsula. In addition, Cárdenas,
the nearby city of Matanzas, the Zapata Peninsula and the
San Miguel de los Baños Spa offer cultural, historic
and natural attractions.
Varadero's Plaza América Conference
Center has all the facilities needed for conference and incentive
Varadero is a free port and has exceptionally
good conditions for scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, yachting
and other water sports.
How to Get Here:
Varadero's Juan Gualberto Gómez International Airport receives
direct flights not only from other parts of North and Central America
and the Caribbean but also from Europe, South America and Africa.
A scenic highway links Varadero with Havana, 83 miles (134 km)
away, and the Central Highway and National Throughway connect it
with other regions.
If you prefer to come by boat, you can choose among three marinas:
the Chapelín, Gaviota and Puertosol Dársena de Varadero.
The peninsula is in Matanzas Province,
in western Cuba. It is separated from the mainland by a manmade
navigation canal which links the Straits of Florida and the Bay
of Cárdenas. Hicacos Point Natural Park is on the peninsula's
Hicacos Point Natural Park:
This natural park, located on
the northeastern tip of the peninsula, was declared an ecological
preserve in 1974. Its 312 hectares contain many specimens of Varadero's
flora and fauna. It has the largest, best preserved woods and coastal
ecosystem in the area. See the legendary "El Patriarca"
(The Patriarch) cactus, Ambrosio's Cave, Mangón Lake and
the ruins of the La Calavera (Skull) Salt Works.
"El Patriarca" (The Patriarch):
This cactus, of
the Dendrocerus nudiflorus family, is said to be over 600 years
old. It stands on Hicacos Point, an ecological preserve of great
value for its flora and fauna.
This is one of the 15 archaeological sites
on the peninsula which contain testimony of Indian customs. It is
820 feet (250 m)long and has five interconnecting galleries. The
cave contains 72 rupestrian drawings-one of the largest collection
of Indian pictographs in the Caribbean islands. During the colonial
period, runaway slaves used to take refuge in the cave.
This is the main lake on the peninsula
and is the home of 31 species of birds (19 of them migratory) and
24 varieties of reptiles.
La Calavera (Skull) Salt Works:
This abandoned salt works
is thought to have been the first one which the Spanish worked in
the Americas, during the stage of the Conquest and colonization.
Its production met the needs of the island and of the large Spanish
fleet in the New World. Legend has it that, on one occasion, the
corsair Francis Drake took on salt here on his way back to England.
In late 1999, Varadero had a total of 11,245 hotel
rooms, in 42 hotels (5 of them five-star, with 1640 rooms; 21, four-star;
8, three-star; and 8, two-star). Only one hotel, with 42 rooms,
is for health tourism. The 41 others, with 11,203 rooms, are for
Other facilities: The growing number of options now available to
visitors in Varadero will fill your free time-both during the day
and at night-with pleasure.
During the day:
We recommend visits to Ambrosio's Cave,
"El Patriarca" ("The Patriarch"), Mangón
Lake, the Museum of Municipal History, Santa Elvira Church, the
Art Gallery, the Artistic Ceramics Workshop, the Dolphin Aquarium
and Josone Park.
Thanks to the International Parachuting Center, you can also get
to know Varadero from the air, with a tandem jump (in a two-person
No tour of this region would be complete without a game at the Varadero
Golf Club; a tour of Bellamar Cave; and visits to Cárdenas
(where the Cuban flag was first flown), the nearby city of Matanzas,
the Zapata Peninsula and the San Miguel de los Baños Spa.
Museum of Municipal History:
This museum is housed in one
of the first frame houses built in Varadero. It is in the bungalow
style typical of the southern part of the United States, and its
roof is of tiles made in the area. This is one of the most beautiful
and best-cared-for of the many houses of this style that were built
here. Its exhibits depict the history of the Hicacos Peninsula.
Santa Elvira Church:
This church was built in 1938. It has
an irregular floor plan and is made mainly of stone and wood. The
roof, of Cuban tiles, has two slopes and rests on beams. The doors
and windows are double-leaved. At the top, an opening with a horseshoe
arch serves as a bell tower, ending in a cross.
The gallery has exhibits of paintings, sculpture,
engravings, silk-screen prints, fabrics, photos, and originals and
reproductions by important Matanzas artists. It also puts on shows
of works by contemporary Cuban painters, such as Mendive, Flora
Fong, Fabelo and Zaida del Río.
Artistic Ceramics Workshop:
This important institution produces
limited runs of high-quality ceramics.
Trained dolphins put on shows, after which
you can swim alongside these graceful mammals, if you like.
The park covers nine hectares of grounds, most
of which have been left in their natural state. There are four restaurants-Antigüedades,
Retiro, Dante and La Campana-specializing in international, Italian
and Cuban cuisine, with cocktails, meat, fish and shellfish; an
establishment selling sugarcane juice (which is extracted from the
sugarcane while you watch); and a bar, La Gruta, on the shores of
You can explore the park on foot, by bicycle, in a horse-drawn
carriage or by boat. It has a swimming pool and a party room for
children (with dance, music, painting, drama and singing classes;
performances by clowns; and productions put on by children). This
is an ideal place for banquets, business dinners and parties. In
addition, you can rent lockers here for when you go swimming at
the beach. For all these reasons, Josone Park is called "a
green paradise inside the blue one."
International Parachuting Center:
Cubasol, S.A., the Cubanacán
Group's leisure and recreation division, offers training courses
and tandem jumps for all who love adventure. The center also has
a cafeteria, a bar and several rooms, so you can stay overnight
if you want to. Don't miss this fantastic opportunity to see Varadero
from the air.
Varadero Golf Club:
The course meets the highest international
standards. It is the first professional 18-hole, 72-par golf course
in the country. The 6850-yard (6269 m) course has large, protected
greens with demanding slopes that require great skill and precision
Its attractions include fairways in the shape of islands, sand traps,
lakes and natural obstacles-such as the wind and the sea-on both
sides. It also has two practice putting greens, a chipping green
and a driving range.
Once the residence of millionaire
Irénée Du Pont de Nemours, it is now the Casa Club.
It was built between 1928 and 1930. Quietly elegant and luxurious,
its rooms are decorated with precious wood and Italian marble. The
Mirador (Lookout) Bar is on the top floor.
This cave, a mile and a quarter from the
city of Matanzas, was discovered in February 1861 in an area of
marly limestone marine terraces. It is nearly two miles (3,1 km)
long, and tourists are shown nearly half of it, (1500 m) including
many of its 17 galleries, six halls and a corridor. The constant
dripping of the water that seeps from its inner walls ensures 100-percent
relative humidity. The temperature in the cave ranges between 77º
and 80.6º F. (between 25° and 27° C.).
This is a typical Cuban seaside town. It
has some old forts that were used in its defense in the past. Buildings
in various 19th- and early-20th-century architectural styles line
its clean, straight streets. Some of them are now museums and cultural
centers serving the community.
Cárdenas, just eight miles (13 km) south of Varadero, is
also known as "the flag city," because it was where the
Cuban flag was first raised. Its traditions include the use of horse-drawn
carriages for public transportation.
Cubans call this "the city of bridges,"
because they are one of its distinguishing characteristics, and,
ever since the first half of the 19th century, "the Athens
of Cuba," because of its active cultural life. Many of its
buildings are in 17th- and 18th-century European styles. It is just
55 miles (90 km) from Havana and less than 20 miles (30 km) from
The Zapata Peninsula, in the southern
part of Matanzas Province, is the most important swampland area
in the Caribbean islands. It has beaches, exotic forests, rivers,
lakes, flooded caves which have access to the sea, natural pools
and seabeds of particular beauty. It is the home of exceptional
flora and fauna, including many endemic species. Here, you can go
hiking, bird watching, scuba diving along underwater cliffs and
in underwater caves, and boating. While here, be sure to visit Guamá,
Treasure Lake and the crocodile-breeding center.
San Miguel de los Baños:
This town of around 3000
inhabitants is around 25 miles (40 km) from Varadero. It has a pleasant
climate and beautiful scenery. One of the oldest and most famous
of Cuba's spas, it has mineral-medicinal water containing bicarbonate,
sulfide and magnesian silicate.
The water and mud here help to cure or at least alleviate osteo-muscular
ailments, osteo-arthritis, degenerative and post-traumatic rheumatoid
arthritis, and skin and respiratory ailments. Patients lodge either
in frame buildings or in the Gran Hotel, a small-scale replica of
the Gran Casino of Monte Carlo.
Plaza América Conference Center:
A great place for
holding conferences, congresses, fairs, meetings and exhibits, it
has a plenary hall that can seat 600 and seven other halls with
equipment for wireless interpretation, translation booths for up
to six different languages, video beam, overhead projectors, slide
projectors, international telephone communications, fax, e-mail
and Internet. It can handle meetings of up to 1900 participants.
The ground floor has several restaurants and cafeterias, other service
installations and a shopping mall.
There are around 32 diving sites-including
one at the Piedras del Norte Cay Underwater Park-between the Bay
of Matanzas and the western tip of the Jardines del Rey (Gardens
of the King) Archipelago.
Three marinas-the Chapelín, Puertosol Dársena de Varadero
and Gaviota-offer you the means for scuba diving: appropriate vessels,
trained personnel, courses in scuba diving, a hyperbaric chamber
and the transportation required for handling emergencies.
The water at Varadero is so clear that you can see for 100 feet
(30-40 m) under water. The temperature almost never falls below
75.2º F. (24° C.), even in the winter.
Underwater cliffs, coral reefs, schools of
bright-colored fish, sharks, morays and sunken ships-you can see
them all at the Hoyo Azul Ojo del Mégano (an underwater cave
230 feet (70 m) in diameter), Las Mandarinas and El Barco Hundido
(The Sunken Ship) diving sites.
The seabed just off Varadero is one of the best places for seeing
Cuba's marine flora and fauna.
Piedras del Norte Cay Underwater Park:
Ships, planes and
vehicles were sunk here to create an artificial coral reef, the
only one of its kind in Cuba. It is great for both scuba diving
and snorkeling. Professional divers (three-star category of the
World Underwater Federation [CMAS]) will accompany you. The park
is a nautical mile wide and two nautical miles long. It averages
around 65 feet (20 m)deep.
This marina, on the Chapelín
Canal, offers you safe moorings and assistance of all kinds. It
organizes excursions to nearby cays and seafaris in modern vessels,
has the equipment you need for scuba diving and other water sports
(in the case of scuba diving, at the Barracuda Club) and also has
specialty seafood restaurants.
Professional divers will help you discover
the enchantments of the seabed at Varadero. High-tech equipment
for underwater activities, courses with American-Canadian Underwater
Certification (ACUC), scuba diving at a coral reef and sunken ships,
and night dives.
Puertosol Dársena de Varadero Marina:
three of them for extremely large yachts. Here, you'll have easy
access to communications facilities, cable TV, and 220- and 110-volt
electric power. Commissary, drinking water and fuel; have maintenance
and minor repairs done; and go through customs and immigration procedures.
Medical attention is also available.
The Acua Scuba-Diving Center is at the marina, as are a snack bar
that's open 24 hours a day, a restaurant, a cafeteria and a well-stocked
ship chandler's. The marina offers excursions, seafaris and dives.
Acua Scuba-Diving Center:
Skilled divers will accompany
you on dives in the Varadero area to see a performing Green Moray
(Gymnothorax funebris) or to visit Piedras del Norte Cay Underwater
This marina has the facilities for handling
as many as 45 vessels at a time, providing drinking water and 110-
and 220-volt electric power, commissary and fuel here, where your
vessel will be entirely safe 24 hours a day. Repairs and dry and
floating maintenance services are also available. In addition, the
marina has a scuba-diving center and a port authority and customs
Water sports here include scuba diving; cruises
on yachts and the Jolly Roger and Capitán Duval catamarans;
excursions in the Nautilus, Varasub I and Mundo Mágico (Magic
World); seafaris to nearby cays; fishing trips; sight-seeing along
the narrow channels south of the peninsula; and excursions up the
Go on a catamaran sail to islands near the
Hicacos Peninsula. Fishing and scuba diving. Free drinks and a seafood
lunch on board.
This vessel has 56 sheets of glass set in the
floor for easy viewing of the coral reef. Scuba-diving equipment
and free drinks on board.
From the surface, in this semi-submarine 44 feet
(13.45 m) long and 16.4 (5 m)feet wide, you can get a superb look
at Varadero's underwater flora and fauna, because the cabin has
reinforced glass windows. The vessel, which can carry 48 passengers,
makes six trips a day.
Mundo Mágico (Magic World):
Ever wanted to know what
it felt like to be in a submarine? Here's your chance to find out.
Take a 55-minute ride, going 115 feet (35 m) down. This mini-sub,
which belongs to the Puertosol chain of marinas, can carry 46 passengers.
It's both safe and comfortable.
More than 100 discotheques, bars and cabarets
are available, to suit all tastes. Many hotels have party rooms,
piano-bars and excellent entertainment, but you'll still get a thrill
out of visiting the Continental Cabaret, Rumba Palace, Havana Café,
Cueva del Pirata (Pirate's Cave) and La Patana Discotheque.
Over half a century of intensive activity
has, night after night, brought Cuban variety shows and performers
of national and international renown to its stage. Frank Sinatra,
Nat King Cole, María de los Angeles Santana and Rosita Fornés,
among others, have appeared here, in Varadero's most important cabaret.
Carishow, the company in charge of artistic
productions, invites you to see the biggest, most original discotheque
in Varadero. Modern lighting and sound equipment. Live shows by
Cuban salsa orchestras.
Just the thing for those who feel nostalgic
about the music of the '50s and '60s. Like the Habana Café
in the Meliá Cohíba Hotel in Havana, this night spot
in the Sol Club Las Sirenas Hotel re-creates the atmosphere of the
era with photos of VIPs, ads and other items-including a car from
Cueva del Pirata (Pirate's Cave):
A natural cave fitted
out as a cabaret for musical shows.
This floating discotheque is on a ship that ran
aground in the Paso Malo channel, at the entrance to the resort
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