Varadero: A Cuban Paradise

Varadero is the most important resort town of Cuba and one of the major places in the world to go on vacation for its 18 kilometers of uninterrupted sandy, clear blue, and warm water beaches. It is also a city with a history full of curiosities and unique events that influenced the evolution of this Cuban paradise.

A beach in Varadero Cuba, the Caribbean ocean, and warm blue skies

On arrival of Christopher Columbus, this coastal area belonging to the Hicacos Peninsula was inhabited by aborigines; reality that is clear in the caves of Ambrosio and Muslims where human remains and indecipherable pictographs have been discovered.

Undoubtedly, one of the most significant aspects of the history of Varadero are the archaeological discoveries in its territory, which become essential to the study of evolution of the inhabitants of this area and of Cuba in general.

The cuban flag outiside the Varadero airport.

When Cubans resumed the fight for independence in February 1895, this area (that was then sparsely populated) was the scene of clashes between mambí soldiers and Spaniards. It was also one of many scenes where machetes and bayonets clashed during the war. On this beach, General Enrique Collazo and fifty men from steamer “Three Friends”, landed a short distance with a batch of 100 Remington rifles and more than 140,000 projectiles, to aid the mambisas located in the center of the island.

History tells us that during the mid-nineteenth century, some inhabitants of Cárdenas, attracted by the fine sand and warm-clear waters of this area, built some houses. Their start, however, was a total failure as the dreaded typical insects of the Cuban coast, the midge and mosquito, precluded the stay of these people.

The founding date of Varadero as a city dates back to December 5, 1887, when ten families managed to adapt to local conditions and finally settled on their land. They founded a type of corporation to build a farmhouse and purchased two horses on the peninsula for a total of 1350 Spanish pesos. They built the church, the market square and park all according to the colonial style of the villas found in the great cities around the country.

Families were creating their own businesses and expanding throughout the peninsula. In early last century some hotels had already emerged and the population grew rapidly. From a simple sales kiosk  was born the first hotel of this beach area called “La Torre”, which was demolished in 1971 due to its poor condition. Photographs of this legendary site still remain in the city museum. At present, there have been projects to build an exact replica of the hotel, but for various reasons have not been executed.

The entrance to the Varadero museum in Varadero, Cuba

Entrance to the Varadero museum on Calle 57

In the late 1920s, despite the signs of the banking collapse that developed in North America, Gentry laid eyes on Varadero. Among the wealthy Americans who invested in this area was Irénée du Pont, whose wealth was mostly due to the manufacture of dynamite. This millionaire had almost half of the peninsula under his power and founded many businesses including Peña de Hicacos S.A. He also built the Xanadu Mansion in 1931; a mansion with four floors flanked by a manicured golf course which now houses the restaurant Las Americas.

The Basque José Fermín Iturrioz Llaguno, who was the manager of the famous rum factory Arechavala, also bought a plot of land around a lagoon and built his house in 1938. It is the residence in the current Josone Park (name formed with the partial names of the owners, José y Onelia).

View of part of the lagoon that surrounds Josone Park in Varadero, Cuba

The lagoon that surrounds Josone Park

The millionaire Iturrioz built the tunnel under the first avenue leading to the beach, which now leads the International Diving Center Spa.

It’s important to note that Varadero is the closest point to the United States, and borders the north with the straits of Florida. Since the 1940s, thanks to the good relations between the Cuban presidents, the US government, and the international mafia, it became clear that the most beautiful beach on the island would be an ideal place for this élite group of people; their business, luxuries and entertainment. Even the famous Al Capone owned a summer mansion in this prestigious resort town.

Front view of Al Capone's house in Varadero, Cuba

This Cuban paradise is the main tourist destination in the country, with 45 hotels and nearly 20,000 rooms. Meanwhile, the construction of new housing continues to develop to further the growth of this significant contribution to the economy of the Cuban nation.

An empty lot in Varadero getting prepped for construction of another resort.

An empty lot soon to be the grounds of another resort.

 Since the early 1990s, Varadero began building many hotels for international tourism, mostly 4 and 5 star, financed through domestic and foreign investment to develop tourism as a major source of currency, a strategy that has not stopped since, and continues turning to turn this city into a true paradise on the island of Cuba.

A local fisherman fishing near the shore of the beach, and the view of the sunset over the horizon.

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