Varadero in Cuba is the largest resort destination in the Caribbean. This slice of island paradise is known around the world for its outstanding white-sand beaches, stretching for 12 uninterrupted miles along the Peninsula de Hicacos. Varadero has long been a favorite lazy beach getaway for crowds from Europe and Canada, and its beaches are sure to be scattered with more American tourists as travel to Cuba becomes easier.

Though they are beautiful, the sands of Varadero are not the only treasures in this region. Much of Cuba’s cultural history can be traced through the colonial towns of this area. Matanzas, the capital of the province, is rich with colonial relics and cultural roots that run deep. Founded in 1693, Matanzas came to be the main colonial-era trading port of Cuba, at one time dealing in tobacco, coffee, sugar, and slaves. In more recent times, the city has kept in line with its 18th-century nickname “the Athens of Cuba” and its exports stay on the artistic side of the cultural spectrum. Many poets, musicians, and influencers got their start in the city; so too did the Cuban dances and musical forms of rumba and its national dance, the subtly-seductive danzón.

Nearby Cárdenas is home to the remnants of Cuba’s sugar export boom, and also strong ties to Spanish colonialism. Its Plaza de Colón showcases a bronze statue of Christopher Columbus bequeathed by Queen Isabella II of Spain. Outside the city, former cane plantations and sugar processing plants paint a picture of late 19th and early 20th-century industry. Cárdenas was also the first city to raise the Cuban flag—it first waved atop the La Dominica Hotel in 1850.

Varadero and its neighbors in the Matanzas province offer a relaxing blend of beachside bliss and historical intrigue. To craft your own luxury journey, contact the Ker & Downey luxury travel consultants.