This spa town was once a resort more popular than Varadero, with visitors coming for the waters. Buildings were erected, such as the Gran Hotel y Balneario, which was a homage to Monte Carlo’s Grand Casino. There were neoclassic villas and hotels elegantly lining the town’s streets. When the water was contaminated from sugar mill pollution, however, San Miguel de los Banos fell into disrepair and was effectively abandoned by the tourists and residents alike. Today the architecture here attracts visitors once more, and the town offers a poignant afternoon’s stroll through its quiet streets. Some of the residents have moved back in, and the Gran Hotel still stands, an imposing and beautiful reminder of the past. Above the town you can visit Loma del Jacan, a stunning viewpoint.
Playa Coral is located 15km from the resort of Varadero, on the way to Matanzas. It is known for its sand and coral beach and the reefs close by, which swimmers can reach easily. Gaze down into the water and sometimes you can see to depths of 25m and admire the coral and many species of fish that live within it. If you snorkel in the morning you can avoid the tour groups. You can also rent diving equipment at Playa Coral for underwater excursions in these idyllic reefs.
Matanzas offers visitors a glimpse into Cuba’s past with its dated colonial architecture, giving it an air of culture, which is a contrast to the hotel strip of Varadero. The Teatro Sauto is a theatre built in 1863, worth visiting to admire its paintings of Greek goddesses adorning the lobby and ceiling. This was the setting for many cultural evenings, including dances by Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. The Iglesia de Monserrate is also a must see. You can reach it by hiking up its hillside from the centre of Matanzas, and then enjoy the breathtaking views of the city.
Just 20km from Varadero lie the caverns and swimming hole of Cuerva Saturno. There are over 50 caves here and the swimming hole is a natural wonder well worth discovering, with its turquoise water and stalagmites and stalactites. They have formed intricate, grand columns over time and the cavern’s walls are a patchwork of colour, reflected from the water. Often roast pig will be served at the entrance of Cuerva Saturno and the fee to gain admission to this attraction is only CUC$5.
There are many excursions available from Varadero to other parts of Cuba, offering you a tailor made adventure. Why not take the Colonial Havana tour and enjoy the best of both worlds. This excursion stops Colonial and modern Havana and enables you to go shopping and enjoy lunch. Another tour includes the Havana Colonial and Cigar Factory. You can also take a boat trip through the exotic lagoons in an aquaray and experience the Cuban wildlife.
Cuba and its Caribbean islands make an ideal getaway and have something for everyone, whether you want to experience the culture of the old colonial buildings of Havana or San Miguel de los Banos, and the pristine beaches and hotels of Varadero. Cuba’s location makes it perfect for a cruise stop over for those wanting to divide their time between this fascinating country and the turquoise sea. The Caribbean is an ideal setting for holiday makers to meet friendly locals and experience the vibrant culture of the Caribbean. Cuba’s diving and snorkelling activities are a great attraction for visitors to this coast and are also offered on your Caribbean cruise in the warm seas offshore. Meander in a banana boat in the lovely sunshine before exploring the quaint history of the towns around Varadero and the many caverns for diving close by. Enjoy the local cuisine and savour the atmosphere of authentic Cuba at your leisure. There is so much to see and do here that you are bound to fall under its spell.