Matanzas

Matanzas province, to the east of Havana, is mainly associated with the mega-resort of Varadero beach. This tourist enclave incorporates some 17,000 hotel rooms squeezed onto a finger of land stretching out into the Caribbean. All budgets are catered for but it can be pricey. The white sand, the handsome palm trees and the inviting sea, along with watersports, some good hotel food in a few places and some winning deals at all-inclusives make this a popular holiday spot. However, for all that it represents of Cuba it might as well be another country. Close to Varadero and in contrast to it are the low-key towns of Matanzas and Cárdenas where there is no engineered tourism. Both have had their heyday: Matanzas as the birthplace of rumba and danzón and Cárdenas as an industrial superstar. The outstanding Cuevas de Bellamar and the luscious Valle de Yumurí, studded with thousands of Royal palm trees, are also worth visiting.

The second largest province in the country also has a southern coast with one of Cuba's most notable geographic features, the Ciénaga de Zapata, a huge marsh covering the entire coast and the peninsula of the same name. It is a nature reserve, protecting many endemic species of flora and fauna, as well as numerous migrating birds. The diving in the deep-blue sea off Playa Girón and Playa Larga is exceptional. Also here, in the Bay of Pigs, the disastrous American-backed invasion is remembered in two museums.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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