[dropcap type=”1″]V[/dropcap]aradero is the best known of Cuba’s many fine beaches:  a 12 miles stretch of uninterrupted powdery white sands and crystalline blue waters facing the Florida Straits. it’s been a tourist resort since the late 1800’s when well-to-do families from nearby Cardenas built vacation homes here. Soon became an elite resort, specially for regattas and boating competitions. Its location 80 miles South of the Florida keys made it a natural destination for American boat enthusiasts. By the 1930’s Varadero was already attracting many American celebrities and tourists. Millionaire Irenee Du Pont (head of the DuPont trust) purchased a large beachfront property and built his Xanadu mansion in 1930, richly decorated with marbles and Cuban precious woods.

The following decades saw a steady growth of development. With more hotels and vacation homes, Varadero became a regular destination for American tourists. Also, it became more accessible to middle-class Cubans driving from Matanzas and Havana. In the early 1960’s the revolutionary government expropriated the hotels and, like the rest of Cuba, Varadero became off limits for Americans. Except for small groups of tourists from the Eastern Block, Varadero saw almost exclusively locals on day trips from the Central regions of Cuba.

In the 1990’s the government turned to tourism as a source of much needed funds, and Varadero experienced an explosion of new construction. A model of join-ventures with the Cuban government allowed some European hotel conglomerates to invest in Cuba. Many new hotels, a golf course, and all-inclusive beach resorts started popping up, catering to tourists from Europe and Canada. The newly-built airport made it possible for regular direct flights from all over the world, and buses run to Varadero from Havana and all major Cuban cities.

How to Get to Varadero

By plane: Varadero has a small airport (Juan Gualberto Gomez International Airport) that receives local and international flights from Canada and Europe. The airport is 6 miles (10 km) from Varadero. If you don’t have your transfer to the hotel already arranged, there are taxis and tour buses at the airport. A taxi costs 25-30 CUC (sometimes you can negotiate the price down to 20 CUC). Another option is to ask the driver of one of the tour buses waiting for groups to drop you off at your hotel, for about 5-10 CUC. There is also a car rental office at the airport (Cuba Car) check the vehicles and prices here.
By bus: Inter-city buses service Viazul has regular routes to Varadero from Havana, Cienfuegos, Santa Clara, Santiago de Cuba, and many other cities. Check the Viazul routes and schedules here.
By car: About an hour and a half drive from Havana to Varadero taking the northern coastal road connecting the two: Via Blanca; 2 hrs 45 min from Cienfuegos, and about the same time from Santa Clara.