Quote — Van Gogh

Large detailed map of the Hicacos Peninsula — Click to enlarge, Marge
Anyone writing about Cuba cannot avoid the Peninsula de Hicacos — better known as Varadero — if only because its 20 kilometers of beaches attract one of every four tourists to the island.

As elsewhere in the name of a religion, the Spanish conquistadores chased out the indigenous Siboney tribes who had been here for centuries. In the Ambrosio cave wall drawings describe these massacres (matanzas); in the Los Musulmanes grotto, it is said bones were found which were dated to the year 500 of our era.

It was on December 5th 1887 that the nearby Cardenas city council gave Varadero the status of burrough where fishermen already lived and which developed eventually into a bourgeois neighbourhood with large wooden houses, some of which remain, built by the founding families known as "los decenviros".

casas particulares were rented to tourists and Habaneros; ie, the first casas in Cuba rented were here in Varadero where, only since January 2011, it is now legal to do so.

The rich owners (rhum distilleries, coffee plantations, sugar mills) had been living here since 1828 and had settled in a community by purchasing the land tracts of Finca Varadero from its owner Don Bernardo García Carrillo located today between (calles) 30 and 49 streets.

With the exploitation
of the local salt reserves (found in Magon lake), workers started populating the peninsula.

The name Varadero refers to
the movement of fishing boats on the sand, a natural sanding process while hicacos (Chrysobalanus Icaco) is a fruit which grows on the chonta palm tree which grew abundantly on local land.

As the regional roads were not yet solid and the peninsula was separated from the island (the bridge was not yet built), the only access to Varadero was by a daily
steamboat, the Caridad, which left from Cardenas.

The next major event was the building of a private compound by the Iturrioz family in 1910 — the space is today called Parque Josone.

After the first local hotel was built in 1931 (La Torre), the Cuban
bourgeoisie stopped traveling to Europe because of the second world war (1939-1945) : these two events starting the (beach) ball rolling.

More than a dozen (private) hotels in the area were in operation by 1948, about the time when Varadero was officially designated a tourist zone, the first in Cuba. Although the mafia ran the casinos in Havana, there were none here but many were planned in the late Fifties, just before the Revolucion kicked the gangsters out.

It was only in 1976 that Varadero became a municipality. Four years later, the government built the
first two hotels of the Revolucion, the Siboney and the Atabey.

Since June 2009, with the opening of yet another 400-bedroom luxury hotel, Varadero boasts 17,430 bedrooms spread over 50 hotel properties of which 87% are rated 4 or 5 stars. The three Cuban hotel chains which own and run these hotels are Gran Caribe (with 33% of rooms), Gaviota (32%) and Cubanacán (28%).

Ecology-wise, about 54% of the Hicacos land mass is now man-made and close to 20% still made up of
protected areas.

Helping develop the hospitality industry are the Spanish Sol Meliá, Barceló and Iberostar chains, the French Accor group and the Jamaïcan Superclub and Sandals properties which are all involved in joint ventures with the Cuban hotel chains, whether in co-property or management of some 30 of the peninsula's resorts.

The airport is 23 km west and, since January 2009, Cuban authorities have begun an expansion program which aims to eventually double the number of the
aeropuerto's users.

Today, some
22 international airlines bring in about 50 flights each week. The airport is far from an attraction as its passengers spend on average about 18 minutes on its premises.
Airport from Xanadu, 33
Bay of Pigs (Playa Giron), 168
Baracoa, 936

Cardenas, 30
Cayo Coco, 414
Cienfuegos, 181
Guanabo (Playas del Este), 121
Guardalavaca, 739
La Habana, 140

Matanzas, 36
Playa Larga, 105
San Miguel de los Baños, 55
Santa Clara, 222
Santiago de Cuba, 814
Soroa, 200
Trinidad, 262
Vinales, 335


© AleksOnTheRun, tripad visor, sept.2018
Varadero is in Matanzas province

Regional road map - from GoogleEarth
Map - Architecture & Landscape Guide : 24 places
Spread-out map - Peninsula de Hicacos
Some small hotels in town
Worth it, the Matanzas-Varadero Bus Tour
Sunrise and sunset (Set date)
5-day weather forecast — from Norway (!)
What's on this week at local Casa de la Musica
Arechabala & Bacardi fighting over Havana Club
GoCuba 48-page brochure (dated but useful)
Our list of restaurants on this page
Nice photos by Evitier on panoramio.com
The Varadero Golf Course in detail
Daily exchange rates
Viazul bus schedule from Havana
Varadero airport - Today's Departure & arrivals
Varadero airport - General information
All that's natural in the province of Matanzas
Excursions (tours) available from Varadero

All the Web particuba.net

POPULATION 26,295 (2007) in the regional township of whom 7,000 in (old) Varadero

Originally the private property of the Iturrioz family in 1938, Parque Josone spreads over 8 hectares of nature with canals, gardens, swimming pool, a tiny island to which restaurants (Antigüedades, Retiro, Dante and La Campana) and pedal boat rentals on Laguna de la Paz were created in some of the original family buildings.

José Iturrioz — who chose exile after the Revolucion — managed the
Arechabala de Cardenas rhum factory for some 30 years. During his management, the Havana Club brand was created. The name became embroiled in a legal fight between Cuba and the infamous Bacardi family which had acquired it out of spite just before leaving the island... more

La Mansión Xanadu
In 1927, US petrochemicals czar Irénée Du Pont de Nemours purchased 180 hectares of Varadero land (for the ridiculous price of 4 cents a square meter) to build himself a private palacio at a cost of 1.3 million dollars... more.

As designed by architects Covarrocas & Govantes, it featured eleven bedrooms each with its own ensuite bathroom in a
four-storey building which counted three large terraces, seven balconies and a private dock.

Du Pont was a nutcase who died in the USA on December 12 1963, the same day — Oh, Poetic Justice — his nationalized casa was inaugurated as the
Las Americas restaurant with, as special guest, the first woman ever to travel in space, Russian Valentina Tereshkova... more.

At the end of the last century, the place became the clubhouse of
Varadero Golf Club an 18-hole golf course spread over 61 hectares. The site was chosen twice as a stopover of the European Challenge Tour; tel (45) 66-7788.

Establecimiento Tabaquero is a small cigar factory for about 20 pros who handroll cigars (tabacos) for retail sale in the hotels of Varadero.

The Delfinario with its two shows daily uses a large basin using the waters of the laguna and its canals. Those wishing may venture to swim with the dolphins.

The Museo Municipal can be found in a two-storey "US plantation-style" seaside casa built in 1919; its roof is covered by locally-made tiles.

Perfectly restaured and inaugurated in 1981, the site relates both local and national history as well as science, decorative arts and sports in four rooms :
Sala de Historia Local, Sala de Arte Decorativa, Sala de Ciencia and the Sala de Historia del Deporte. Calle 57 corner of Playa Tel. (45) 61-3189

There are five marinas : Marlin Marina Chapelin (300cuc for 5 hours), Puertosol, Marlin Marina Darsena and Marina Gaviota; the most recent (end of 2008) is Terminal de Embarque de Catamaranes (with excursions to Cayo Blanco).

Al the rage, off Marina Acua Centro internacional de Paracaidismo offers the chance to dive from two miles up strapped to an instructor (150cuc); tel (45) 66-7260

Called Seafari Cayo Blanco, it leaves from Marina Chapelin and will leave you on its lovely beach with lobster lunch, snorkel, music and open bar for 75cuc (7 hour-day); three other outings (Fiesta del Cayo, a sunset tour, the Varasub or submarine fish watching tour and the Adventure SpeedBoat through the mangroves) also leave from there and are shorter but cheaper at 45cuc, 35cuc and 39cuc; tel. (45) 66-8440.

Biblioteca Municipal (local library)
Casa del Ron (rhum house renovated in Dec. 2008)
Casa Cultura Los Corales (shows, theater, local)
Cabaret Mediterráneo (specialized in rumba),
Casa de la Musica de la Egrem (shows, tourist crowd)
Ciné-Teatro Hicacos (local movie house)
Galeria de Arte Sol y Mar (local art gallery)
Libreria Sol de Biran (local book shop)
La Taberna de la Cerveza (previously named La Sangría) "The Beer Tavern", where many international brands are served.

See a list of excursions available from most hotels here. Among these, a must to learn about the country's most important industry, one which had huge consequences with commercial, cultural and industrial ramifications : the sugar industry. Tour de Azucar here Our suggestion, a DIY : One day in Trinidad, leave at 7h30, spend 6 hours and return here at 14:30; 22cuc pp. one way. The Viazul station is on Calle 36, corner Autopista del Sur. Our bus page here.

Take the Habana Bus Tour to the very end (last stop on itin) of the peninsula at the Princesa del Mar Resort right by the newly-opened Marina and walk back on the beach whilst bringing lots of suntan cream, an umbrella (as the hard day's sun is torrid) or at least a cap, a towel and lunch (as you will not be allowed on the resorts' premises.

The long walk will have you passing in front of every resort, up to the
Arenas Doradas Hotel where you have to get back on the road. Take the same Habana Bus Tour bus to your casa or stop at the Varadero Golf Club Hotel (the famous Xanadu house of the Duponts) for a refreshing cocktail in the top floor bar.

Aeropuerto Juan Gualberto Gomez about 18km (11 miles) west, towards Matanzas. Taxi fare : 20-30cuc. Tel. (45) 61-3036

Buy a 1cuc/hour scratch card and go to one of these areas. Then you can connect to Internet to "Buy things you don't need to impress people you don't like." Centro ARTEX + Complejo Todo por Uno (shopping centre) + Centro comercial Plaza Hicacos + Hotel Sol Palmeras + Centro de la Musica + Hotel Melia America + Parque Boca Camarioca + Parque Santa Marta + Centro convenciones Plaza America +

Architecture and Landscape map of Varadero
Parque Josone with canals, gardens, swimming pools
Lovely, in town center, Parque Josone with canals, gardens, swimming pools, its own island and pedal boats on Peace Lake, Laguna de la Paz and no less than four restaurants : Antigüedades, Retiro, Dante and La Campana : a must-see.
•}• The first properties built after the Revolucion, in Puntarena (sandy point).

A Nature Reserve named Parque Natural Punta Hicacos
A Nature Reserve named Parque Natural Punta Hicacos is located at one end of the peninsula it harbors a wide variety of plants, a salt lake and caves to explore
•}• Since 2008, a double-decker tourist bus goes by all hotels to pick up people who hop on and off for the 10-cuc valid-all-day ticket. The Varadero Bus Tour runs daily and goes all the way west to the old town and even Matanzas and back © Loulou, panoramio.com


The peninsula from East to West, bird's eye view © asielgustavo

El cenote
Sunbathing in the Fifties, the good old days when no suntan cream was required © unk

Parque Josone
In the old part of Varadero in Josone Park this rare casa on the water survives as a restaurant © Cuba Absolutely } Another example of an "oldie but woody" at the entrance to the peninsula, evokes a time when people had different tastes and means © allen cooper panoramio

Oldie but sturdy this two-winged bird is still flying ©
Oldie but sturdy this two-winged bird is still flying ©

The Museo Municipal seaside
The Museo Municipal seaside, was most probably the summer residence of some US or Cuban citizen who, maybe, rented it as a casa particular in the 40's and 50's : qui sas ? © unk
} Another view of same

this one is the 233-room all-inclusive Tuxpan resort
Typical of resorts on Hicacos : pool, palms and sizzling bodies wondering what they'll eat tonight. And nearby, a flour-like sandy beach : this one is the 233-room all-inclusive Tuxpan resort.

all-inclusive excursion called Safari Cayo Blanco
One of the best-looking spots on (actually, off) the island is a favourite all-day all-inclusive excursion called Seafari Cayo Blanco from Marina Chapelin for 75cuc per person © tgiGreeny

Hotel Varadero in "Cardenas"
Hotel Varadero in "Cardenas" (when the peninsula was part of that town) was built in late 19th century. It flew the Spanish flag - before Cuba was exchanged to the US for the Philippines.


Cenote Saturno — STS Mark on tripad says "If you travel to Saturno on your own, you can stay longer than the jeep tours, which is nice, because they come and go very quickly. If you time it out right as well, you may just have the cave all to yourself."

Marina Varadero, latest project to attract the filthy rich.
Monte Carlo ? Nope, it's Marina Varadero, latest scheme to attract the filthy who need to launder their current sea. Boat rentals and berths are for tourists only with shops, cafés, bowling, disco and restaurants for those with lots of cucs to spare. Situated at the very end of the peninsula, its best attractive point for normal people is its free wi-fi ;- ) © Juan Suare, Havana Times


Once per day a Viazul guagua leaves Varadero
Every evening at 2020 hrs, a Viazul guagua leaves Varadero for
the Oriente's capital, Santiago 772 km (1,242 miles) to the southeast - via Cardenas, Santa Clara, Sancti Spiritus, Ciego de Avila, Camaguey, Las Tunas, Holguin and Bayamo : adventure awaits on Ruta 26.

Viazul Busses 4x day to/from Havana
Viazul busses from Havana [6h, 8h, 13h], via Guanabo (Playas del Este), Matanzas and the aeropuerto de Varadero ::: Returns to the Capital from Varadero at 12h40, 16h40, 18h30 and 20h15 — Ruta 20


Besides offering harbor to the dozens of pleasure boats from numerous countries, the local marinas also serve as Centros de Buceo (Scuba Diving Centers) where equipment rentals, basic or specialized lessons are given and where trips are made to offshore reefs. No need to go far to see the beauty as some 40 types of coral and 70 of mollusks and old sunken ships but who's counting ?

Best is the
Barracuda Centro de Buceo (35-50cuc per dive, including transfer to/fro casa or hotel) which offers a good choice of 7 dives - each only once a week - varying in depth from 10 to 30 meters, all located 30-40 minutes from shore. The Russian Frigate 383 dive is on Saturdays. List of dives aqui.

Varadero Boat Wreck Dive
Video of dive on click (youtube) 240101219

La Casona del Arte – Calle 47, e/1ra y Playa
"We decided to give it a try and it was amazing We had the grilled pork and grilled chicken and it was cooked well and was seasoned perfectly. The art work was very nice and the service was extremely good. The prices were very inexpensive . We enjoyed it so much we returned 2 days later..."

Waco's Club – International – Ave 3ra #212, e/ 58 y 59 Tel: (45) 612126 "At our friendly frontdesk, LiLi told us about Waco's. We hailed a cab, address in hand to go out for our annual family dinner..(last year we went to the Coral). They were waiting for us, table reserved in a beautiful quiet spot. The service and food was impeccable. I could not rate this restaurant high enough for the experience, the memories are priceless. Nos vemos el próximo año!"


Paladar Nonna Tina – Calle 38 #5 entre 1ra y Playa
"Inexpensive and fantastic food! The people are so friendly and they make fantastic Italian food. Great experience." Sue andBoys, Ajax, ON 03.12.14

from trip advisor photo©jon_a_85, ta
Take the Varadero Bus Tour to get there : located northeast of the peninsula, the Reserva Ecologica Varahicacos spreads over some 312 protected and partially developed land declared ecological space in 1974 but since having been encroached upon to the point that "natural reserve" is a misnomer.

Its flora and fauna and its wooden areas makes up the (so they say) largest natural space in the region. Off shore, Cayo Piedras del Norte (a 60 min boat ride off Playa Calaveras) is a so-called natural attraction where divers can see a sunken yacht, the
Coral Negro.
Among admirable spots in the Reserve, a 600 year-old cactus nameds « El Patriarca » and the amazing Ambrosio cavern of the peninsula's 15 sites where traces of aboriginals can be seen in the form of wall drawings.

Cueva Ambrosio measures 250m (820 ft.) in length and 5 underground galleries connect to it. The grotto features some 72 rupestral drawings, one of the most impressive collections in the Caribbean.

Mangón Lake is the largest in the peninsula and its bird refuge is home to 31 species of which 19 are migratory; also crawling locally, some 24 varieties of reptiles.

The Calavera (skull) Cave on the salt lake (in Spanish : Cuvea Calavera de la Salina la Calavera). This abandoned salt extraction works was one of the first established by the Spaniards in America at the start of the colonisation. The tonnage of salt extracted there was enough to supply the whole island. According to legend, British pirate Morgan brought some back to Britain on one of his ocean crossings.
In the 40's, seaside chalets built by the original decenviros families — now disappeared
::: Make sure that in your first email or phone call you specify that you want to book a room in that particular casa and that you will reconfirm your booking on arrival in Cuba. Unless you only want a room in any house which may be of the same quality, not the specific casa you booked through photos on these websites ::: So as to not abandon expecting owners with empty rooms, reconfirm (or call ahead to cancel) your booking by phone as soon as you can after arriving in Cuba ::: Please write or phone a casa owner to cancel a booking. As late as it may seem, it allows them a chance to rebook. ::: Children under the age of 16 may share a bedroom with adults for free. Specify the child's age when booking. ::: At the end of the casa name, the V signals the casa was suggested by travelers or owners but not verified by the website staff. If you try it and like it, write us about it. ::: Unless otherwise mentioned, the average room rates and service prices are : 20-25cuc per bedroom per night [up to 40+ for 4 in a room]; breakfasts 3-5cuc, dinners 7-10cuc ::: Any casa particular anywhere in Cuba must have a hot water shower, otherwise it cannot have a permit to rent ::: Please share your Complaints, comments & suggestions webmaster [@]cubacasas.net

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• From Canada and the USA : 011 53 (add phone # preceded by 45 for Varadero) • From Europe, Great Britain, Scandinavia and Mexico : 00 53 (add phone # preceded by 45 for Varadero)
••• HOW TO DIAL A CUBAN PHONE NUMBER HERE ••• CELL PHONE NUMBERS on our town lists and casa pages are preceded by 05 for calls originating Havana; from anywhere else in Cuba, dial 01 + the 8 digits of the cell.

Click on logo to open a message addressed to that casa in your email application; or right-click to copy address. Spanish vocabulary here. Google translate here.

Three ac bedrooms, ensuites and patio
Calle 27 #107, e/1ra (Primera) y 2da (Secunda), 2 mins. from beach and 5 from Etecsa (Internet). Tél.


Two ac br's, ensuites, private terraces
Calle 27 # 105, e/ Primera (1ra) y Secunda (2da), 60 m from playa. Tel.

Three ac br's, ensuites, vast garden, pool
Calle 26 Nº 213, corner of Tercera (26 y 3ra) , 120 meters from playa. Tel (45) 61-3327 cell 53 66 11 64

Rent the floor : two ac br's, one bath, kitchen
Avenida Playa # 3902 e/ 39 y 40, upstairs, town center, only 20 m from playa. Tel. TBA

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Three ac bedrooms, ensuites, large patio
Calle 43 #4309 entre 1ra (Primera), the main street y 2da (Secunda), about 50 m from the beach. Tel (45) 61-2383

Two ac br's w/ensuites share kitchen & patio
Calle 31 #108A, in the old town, 150 m from the beach. Tel (45) 61-2553 cell 52 89 04 01

Upstairs, 3 ac bedrooms, 2 ensuites, ranchon
Calle 9 #06, e/ Avenida 1ra (Primera) and avenida del Mar which is parallel to the beach. Tel (45) 61-2906 cell 52 49 06 66

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Four ac bedrooms, ensuites
Avenida Tercera (3ra) Oeste #106, entre 12 y 13, near Bar Latino in Santa Marta (4 km from Varadero). Tél. (45) 61-0011

Two ac bedrooms, ensuites
Finca San Cayetano 5, Santa Marta (4 km from Varadero). Free rides to beach. Cel 52 82 25 11 @

20cuc; breakfasts 5cuc stefanloose
Three ac br's; two upstairs, ensuites
Calle 55 #124, e/ Avenida 1ra (Primera) y 2da, 300m from beach, between Museo Municipal and Parque Josone. See map. Tél. (45) 61-1700

Beny's House

There are affordable hotel rooms to be had locally; below, a handful — not averse to critics.
Ave. 3ra. y Calle 30 Calle 53, e/1ra y Playa 1ra e/ 49 y 50 1ra (Primera) corner 13
83,21US$ all inclusive  32€ double 34€ double 54€ double
(45) 61-22-46 (45) 61-27-02 (45) 61-27-02 (45) 66-71-32
Rates are often undercut at the desk or on their web page (click on photo)
1ra e/ 13 y 14 avenida de la Playa Via Blanca, km 130 3ra (Tercera) e/33 y 34
$130US night for casa with 6 bedrooms; 40€ one bedroom
(45) 66-71-32 (45) 61-37-03 (45) 66-73-80 (45) 61-37-96
About 15 casas located on one or two-floor buildings seaside

DK Gallimard (DG), GéoGuide (GG), Footprint (FH), Le Routard (LR), Lonely Planet (LP), Michelin (MC), Moon (MH), National Geographic (NG), Petit Futé (PF) and web site Trip Advisor (TA)
::: DG : Beny's House, Mary y Angel ::: FH : Beny's House, Mary y Angel, Omar y Anabel, Roberto y Martha ::: GG : Don Pepe, Ernesto y Marie, Martica, Daisy's, Casa Gladys ::: LP : Beny's House, Mary y Angel, Marlen y Javier, Papo's House, Hostal Sol RyA, Casa Menocal, Villa Sunset ::: LR : Lola, Omar y Anabel, Betty y Jorge, Ricardo Martinez Montada, BettyMar, Bebita, Marlen y Javier, Orlando, Monzon, Gloria Estevez, Leila, Emily's Suite ::: MC : Rompe Olas, Casa Marcos, Gladys Munoz, Ernesto y Mary ::: MH : Beny's House, Omar y Anabel, Maria Isabel, Rodriguez-Diaz ::: NG : Beny's House ::: PF : Berta y Alfredo, Gloria, Grisel Cortina Rodriguez, Emy's Suite ::: TA (100+) : Beny's House-565, Betty Jorge-438, Mary y Angel-355, Isorazul-287, El Villareno-221, Pedrito Hostal-195, Roberto y Martha-192, Papo's House-145, Norma's B&B-120, Marlen y Javier-113, Villa Buganvilia-112, Elisa y Pepe-99, Monzon-99 011018 GG+LR+TA 051219 PF 130120


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Updated 11.12.2022