Friday, May 16, 2014

#675 Varadero, Cuba

Many tourists who come to Cuba only see Varadero. They arrive on a charter flight directly from Canada, France, Mexico, or Britain to the local airport, and spend time only on this beach. But I suppose if I were to only come here, it's a pretty nice place to come to. The beach is 20 kilometers long and pristine with postcard pretty blue waters and idyllic white sands extending as far as the eye can see. The big hotels have taken over and are plentiful in choice, but locals and backpackers can still wander onto the beach in various spots and enjoy it for themselves.
Cuba's northernmost point, the 1.2km wide Hicacos peninsula, which lies between the Bay of Cardenas and the Straits of Florida, forms the largest resort in the Caribbean, and aside from sun-worshipping, visitors dive, kitesurf, shop, visit caves and party. Some even go into Havana or nearby Matanzas for the day while watching the representatives of Buena Vista Social Club by night, although these are very sanitized and far-from-reality Cuba. 

First mentioned in 1555, it was used by the Spanish as a dry dock and for salt mines (from 1587 until 1961), but it didn't become a city until 1887. It was founded by 10 families from Cardenas who built their holiday homes here after gaining permission from the colonial government, but it remained an elitist resort for decades. The annual regatta was strong by 1910, and the first hotel was built around 5 years later. Tourism kept growing and various rich Americans built homes here in the 1930s, but these were appropriated by the Cuban government after the revolution in 1959. The 1960s was an era of development for national tourism with the building of the central park, Parque de las 8000 Taquillas, while the 1990s saw a boom in big hotel building. The center of Varadero is towards the bottom of the peninsula, and following are a few videos of the main avenue.
For some of my time in Varadero, the winds picked up and you weren't allowed to swim. The kitesurfing took over, and it was amazing to watch!
Source: Lonely Planet Cuba 7th Edition 2013

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