Varadero (also called Playa Azul) is a popular resort in the province of Matanzas (Cuba) and one of the largest in the Caribbean.
Varadero is located on the peninsula Hicacos, 140 kilometers east of Havana, at the eastern end of the Via Blanca highway. The peninsula is only 1.2 km at its widest point and is separated from the island of Cubapar channel Kawama. It is joined to the mainland by a drawbridge. This piece of land stretching from the island to the northeast, and its tip, Punta Hicacos, is the northernmost point of the island of Cuba. At the northern tip of the peninsula is a nature reserve with virgin forests and beaches.
Varadero is first and foremost a tourist destination, with over 20 km of beaches of white sand. Tourism grew in the 1930s when Irenaeus Dupont de Nemours, an American billionaire, he built his estate. However, the first tourists began to frequent Varadero from the 1870s and was regarded for years as an elite destination. However, after the Cuban revolution in 1959, the beach was open to the Cuban people and all the rich landowners were expropriated.
While Cuban President Fidel Castro was opposed to the development of tourism in the island, considered a sign of capitalist decadence, himself had to accept its rise from 1990 when the economic crisis hit the country. From luxury hotels were then built in Varadero, and eventually almost the whole island, with the help of foreign capital, after the legalization of the U.S. dollar. Varadero beach ceases to be an almost savage reserved for the Cuban people to become an exclusive zone for foreign travel when the Cuban citizen no longer has access, except in certain limited areas.
In 2006, Varadero is mostly visited by tourists from Europe and Canada. The number of American tourists visiting Varadero, although growing, is limited because of severe restrictions that prevent U.S. citizens to travel directly to Cuba from the United States. Juan Gualberto Gomez airport in Varadero is the second largest airport on the island of Cuba after José Martí International Airport in Havana.
Lovers of natural areas will be delighted by the beautiful nature reserve of Punta Hicacos. It is possible to visit several caves, including Cueva de Ambrosio and his pre-Columbian murals, a lagoon (Laguna de Mangon) and many deserted beaches. The peninsula is also a prime location for diving enthusiasts because it has 23 dive sites.