Beyond the beach in Varadero

Every year, hordes of Canadians make their way to one of the dozens of resorts that dot the 20 kilometres of perfect beaches along Varadero on the Hicacos Peninsula. Once you’ve warmed up by the pool or at the beach, leave your towel to dry on the cabana and go check out a few other things around Varadero.

Be dazzled

Go see the bling at the Bellamar Caves, near the city of Matanzas. The sparkly caves have been dazzling visitors since the 1860s with their crystallized limestone rocks, magnificent stalactites and stalagmites and underground fountains. Before descending the staircase, you’ll watch a short 3D video with outstanding photography that gives an overview of the geology and history of the caves. Leave the flip-flops at the pool and wear good walking shoes!

Go sailing

Relax on the deck of a big catamaran as you head out into gorgeous blue green waters. Stop and snorkel, visit some dolphins and finally head to Cayo Blanco, a little island with lovely beaches and grilled seafood as part of a nice buffet lunch. You lounge on the beach for a while sipping mojitos before getting back on the catamaran and having a dance party all the way back to Varadero.

Hit the links

The Varadero Golf Course is one of two on the island and the only 18-hole course. It was (re)designed by Canadian Les Furber and the par 72 course (re)opened in 1999 with two holes along the ocean. The course was first built by millionaire Irenee Dupont in the 1930s. After the revolution, Fidel Castro and Che Guevera hit the links dressed in military garb to play the last round on the course for decades. These days, the Varadero Golf Course hosts a number of tournaments and thousands of avid golfers every year.

Visit Xanadu Mansion

French American industrialist Irenee Dupont de Nemours built Xanadu Mansion in 1930 to while away the winter months after retiring from the chemical business. The four-storey home with beautiful wooden ceilings, stair rails and columns plus marble floors and bathrooms, has 11 bedrooms, seven balconies and three giant terraces. Today, you can sit on the terrace and enjoy the grandeur, the view overlooking the sea (next to the golf course) and a terrific meal.

Dine at a favourite restaurant

La Bodeguita Del Medio became known as one of Ernest Hemingway’s favourite watering holes in Havana. But the refreshing mojitos, live music and flavourful menu have been transplanted to cities around Cuba, including Varadero. Bring a pen to leave your name on the wall along with thousands of others happy and well-fed visitors.

Go dancing

After dinner, take a stroll down Varadero’s main drag to take in more music. Pop into the Beatles Bar for memorabilia about the Fab Four and some good old live rock ’n’ roll. Next door, at the corner of 1st and 62nd, mingle with the locals out for the evening at Calle 62. It’s a snack bar during the day but at night a band starts playing and the side street becomes a dance floor.

As originally published by the Toronto Star.

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