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Varadero Cuba is fast becoming one of the Caribbean’s leading vacation resorts. Varadero is situated on the long Hicacos peninsula in Matanzas province, about ninety miles east of Havana. Most visitors come for the great hotels and all-inclusive resorts situated on the beautiful fifteen-mile long white sand Varadero beach, but the peninsula and the surrounding province offer much for the visitor. This brief Varadero guide should serve as a good primer for any vacationer.
Although it was the site of pre-Columbian settlements and a large Spanish salt mine, the town of Varadero Cuba began as a tourist destination for rich Cuban families in the late 1800s. In the early twentieth century, Varadero beach attracted numerous visitors from the United States: Al Capone, Irenee du Pont, and other rich Americans found a haven in Varadero.
The success of the Cuban revolution in 1959 slowed the influx of foreign visitors. Instead, Varadero became popular with Cuban holiday-goers.
Since the early 1990s, Varadero Cuba has been a focus of the Cuban government’s attempts to woo foreign visitors. There are now over fifty hotels on the peninsula. Contrary to some reports, Cubans are not banned from visiting Varadero beach or the surrounding resorts, but almost all transactions in Varadero are conducted in U.S. dollars, a fact that keeps most locals away.
Varadero is therefore not the ideal place for visitors expecting a close-up glimpse at everyday life in Castro’s Cuba. It is, however, a great base from which to explore Cuba. There are many companies that offer a Varadero tour to Havana, the Peninsula de Zapata national park, the underground caves at Bellamar, Trinidad, or other sites within an easy day trip of the resort. Prices for a Varadero tour run from $25 to $150. And perhaps the best thing about a Varadero tour company is that at night, you can retire to an all-inclusive resort or five-star luxury hotel.
There are few sites of cultural interest in Varadero Cuba. A Varadero guide to the main sights would include: the Xanadu Mansion, former home of Irenee du Pont; an impressive dolphinarium (delfinario), which offers the opportunity to swim with the dolphins; the small Museo Varadero; Varahicacos Ecological Reserve, at the northern point of the peninsula; and the picturesque Parque Josone.
Accommodation is plentiful in Varadero; there are over 15,000 hotel rooms on the peninsula. Budget options are limited: casas particulares are banned, there are no campsites, and some of the cheapest hotels are for Cubans only. Many of the older hotels are undistinguished large apartment buildings, but there are an increasing number of mid- to high-range all-inclusive hotels.
Varadero Cuba has the second most important airport on the island, Juan Gualberto Gomez Airport. Many European travel agencies offer deals combining accommodation, flights, food, and optional activities like a Varadero tour or a boat trip. Prices are generally more expensive during the high season (mid-December to mid-April and July and August), but the peninsula can seem somewhat downbeat during the low season.
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