Varadero, in Matanzas province east of Havana, is Cuba’s beach par
excellence. Sure, there’s strong competition from the Jardines del Rey
(another of the island’s most gorgeous beach destinations) but Varadero
is still reigning champ for fun in the sun.
Varadero, also called Blue Beach (Playa Azul) is sister city of Cancun
in Mexico. It is a skinny peninsula, some 20 km long, but just 1.2km
wide. Though seemingly modern and new, Varadero was founded in 1887 and
thereafter served as a harbor for Spanish galleons.
But such a gem couldn’t remain undeveloped for long: in the early 1930s,
American millionaire Irénée du Pont Nemours built his estate on the
peninsula; today his mansion houses a restaurant and is part of the
Varadero Golf Club, with a decent 18-hole, par 72 course.
Varadero offers some of the Caribbean’s finest white sand beaches and
excellent hotels and resorts – most of the 60 or so properties here
operate on all-inclusive plans. With more than 300 days of sunshine per
year and batik blue seas, it’s no wonder this is Cuba’s most famous
beach destination. The most exclusive resorts are located on the tip of
the Peninsula de Hicacos, about 8 kilometers from the town center.
Most all-inclusive programs include an array of (non-motorized) water
sports such as catamaran sailing and pedal boats. Big-game fishing tours
are offered daily. Varadero also boasts various outdoor arts and crafts
markets, plenty of restaurants, and exciting off-resort nightclubs.
Varadero is only two hours from Havana, making a hop into the city for a
weekend an attractive proposition. Alternatively you can opt for one of
the many full-day Havana excursions.
Swimming with the dolphins at the Dolphinarium is extraordinarily
popular, as is the seafari on the Crucero del Sol catamaran, which
includes an interaction with dolphins.
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