Varadero Tourist Attractions
Varadero is Cuba's most popular tourist destination. It stretches along the Peninsula de Hicacos, which juts out into the sea off the north coast and is connected to the mainland by a drawbridge. There are over 50 hotels along this strip, which is regarded as an exclusive and expansive tourist center. The beaches and resorts along here draw visitors from all over the world.Varadero caters almost exclusively to foreign travelers and offers every type of service one would expect to find at a major tourist resort. Sports options available here including diving, snorkeling, deep sea fishing, golfing, sky diving, and more. As one of the most upscale and expensive areas in Cuba, few Cubans come here. Consequently, visiting Varadero will not offer a "Cuban" experience or give visitors any real insight into what Cuba is like, but will definitely satisfy anyone who is looking for a sun and sand holiday.
Restaurante Las Americas (Villa Xanadu)
The former Villa Xanadu, now the Restaurante Las Americas, became the property of the Cuban government when the original owner fled the country after the revolution. This marvelous villa was owned by Alfred Irenee Dupont de Nemours, who had it built in 1929. Constructed with Italian marble, chosen wood, and thermal insulated ceramic tiles, the Villa Xanadu was an incredibly lavish retreat. When the Cuban government took over the property it was converted into a fine restaurant, Restaurante Las Americas, which features fine French cuisine. It is possible to go see the villa without having to order in the restaurant. On display are some of the original furnishings, information on Dupont, along with old photographs.
Parque Josone is a large park in Varadero. It was built in the 1940s and was originally the property of factory owner Jose Uturrio who is thought to have built the mansion here for his wife Onelia. The peaceful Parque Josone is home to gardens with large trees and flowers, a small lake with geese and other birds floating around, and ornamental bridges. Tourists come here to rent rowboats and paddle around the lake. What was once the main residence on the grounds is now a restaurant, as is the guesthouse, which makes for a nice afternoon or evening outing in Varadero. There is also a swimming pool at one end of the park.
The Museo de Varadero is a nice distraction from the beach. The museum is housed in a 1920s beach house designed by architect Leopoldo Abreu. The design, with the surrounding balconies and wood veranda, is a typical example of beach houses from that time period. It was renovated extensively in the early 1980s.The Museo de Varadero contains some mildly interesting exhibits including, stuffed animals, period furniture, and the remains of a small two headed shark. Some of the old photos on display show Varadero in the 1940s and 1950s. There are also a variety of miscellaneous historical items from around Varadero.
Parque Natural Punta Hicacos (Parque Natural de Varaderos)
The Parque Natural Punta Hicacos, also commonly referred to as Parque Natural de Varaderos is located at the far end of the Hicacos Peninsula at Varadero. This protected area is a nature reserve with a nice sand beach, a variety of plant species, a lagoon once used to mine salt, and caves. The two caves, Cueva de Ambrosio and Cueva de Musulmanes contain some unique finds, including rock paintings and aboriginal fossils. Off shore from the Parque Natural Punta Hicacos are over 20 popular scuba diving sites.
Cayo Piedra Underwater Park
Northeast of Varadero is a popular diving and snorkeling area called Cayo Piedra Underwater Park. Here underwater explorers will find shipwrecks and all kinds of brightly colored fish.