The Athens of Cuba & Varadero

Taste our local culture, nature & best Cuban beach!

Matanzas, one of the glamorous cultural beacons of Cuba's past, is called the Athens of Cuba when the cultural and economic life of the city outshone that of Havana back in the 19th century. Meeting with the city´s cultural wealth, snorkeling and swimming at Coral Beach or Saturno Cave and visiting Bellamar Caves are a must for any visitor. If you are coming from Havana, travel past this city to enjoy Varadero's markets, shops, turquoise waters and white sands which stretch out for over 20 km, undoubtedly the best Cuban Beach.


Departing from Havana: 08:00-18:00 (1´30 hrs drive to Matanzas city).
Departing from Varadero: 09:00-16:00.

  • Visit to Coral Beach for snorkeling in overwhelming coral reefs. Guided snorkeling including gears: 10.00 CUC per person
  • Visit to Saturno Cave, a cenote or underground natural pool to swim and snorkel among stalagmites and stalactites. Admission fee and snorkeling gears: 6.00 CUC per person.
  • Lunch at a local private restaurant: “Paladar” (price varies depending on your choice).
  • Visit to Bellamar Caves, the first Cuban tourist attraction. Admission fee: 5.00 CUC per person and photo camera use: 5.00 CUC per person.
  • Visit to Matanzas city. Liberty Park, Sauto Theater, Calle Medio (City's Boulevard), Monserrat's Hermitage, Pharmaceutical Museum.
  • Visit to Varadero's highlights. Mansion Xanadú, former Dupont House, Casa de Al, former Al Capone's House and Josone's Park.
  • Optional free time at a flea market.
  • Drive back to your accommodation.

Book this Tour

Important notes:

  • Quality: Experienced, Reliable, English speaking local guides.
  • Convenient: Pick-up with private air-conditioned and insured transportation
  • Personalized: Fully customizable tour itineraries.
  • Service: 24/7 Customer Support.
  • Payment in CUC or USD cash is required at the end of the tour. Check our rate for USD.
  • In case of American citizens, this cultural exchange includes a full-time schedule of activities intended to enhance contact and support for Cubans. All our tours fall under the Support for the Cuban People Category.


Tour Highlights

  • Matanzas City Situated on the shore of a large bay, Matanzas is the cradle of the national dance “El Danzón”. Land of some of the most outstanding Cuban poets, intellectuals, philosophers and musicians, it has always been famous for an intense cultural and economic life, hence the name “The Athens of Cuba”. The city has also been called the “Venice of Cuba” because of the many bridges on the San Juan and Yumuri rivers, linking the historic center with other quarters of the city.
  • Coral BeachCoral Beach, just 15km from Varadero on the road to Matanzas City has a coral and sand beach with sublime reefs just meters offshore (Varadero has none close enough to swim to). Water visibility often exceeds 25m, so be ready for great glimpses of some of the over sixty species of coral and over a hundred species of fish thriving there. Excellent spot for snorkeling and diving. All equipment is available for rent.
  • Saturno CaveSaturno Cave is a cenote or underground natural swimming hole where water is a lurid turquoise and you can swim or snorkel among stalagmites and stalactites.
  • Bellamar CavesBellamar Caves were discovered by chance in 1861 by a slave who was digging in the ground searching for water. Visitors can see marine fossils dating from 26 million years ago and outstanding crystal formations in intriguing shapes. The caves became the first tourist attraction in Cuba.
  • Monserrat Hermitage This temple was named after Monserrat Mountains in Cataluña and built in 1875 by Catalonian José Bartolome Borrel at the highest point of the city, dominating a perfect view of the Yumuri Valley and the city. The statue of “Virgen de Monserrat” which decorates the high altar became a Spanish community response after the outbreak of the independence war in 1868 to oppose “Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre”, Madonna of the rebels, known as mambises.
  • Liberty ParkFormerly called the Main Square where military parade were held in 1800s. There is an impressive statue of José Martí in the middle of the square surrounded by some attractive buildings: the Artistic and Literary Lyceum (1860), the Spanish Casino (1900s), the City Hall, the Casa White and the Pharmaceutical Museum (1882). 
  • Pharmaceutical MuseumBuilt as a drug store and inaugurated in 1882 by of Dr. Ernesto Triolet and Juan Fermín de Figueroa, it was turned into a museum in 1964. The original porcelain vases, an incredible quantity of small bottles with herbs syrups and elixirs stand on the wooden shelves. It also collects millions of old labels, mortars, stills and books of old remedies.
  • Vigia SquareThis is the city´s foundational site, the core of the first streets layout which is connected to other city quarters by Concordia and Calixto García bridges. There is a statue of an unknown soldier of the independence wars in the middle and several of the city´s key sights: the Neoclassical Fire Station, the Palace of Justice (1826), the Sauto Theater (1863), the Provincial Museum (1838), etc. stand around it.
  • Sauto TheatreThis theater was designed by the Italian Architect Daniele Dell´Aglio and opened on 1863 as Esteban Theater, after the governor. It was later renamed as Sauto Theatre after a local pharmacist Ambrosio de la Concepción Sauto Noda who had been a great financial contributor to its construction. It is a neoclassical structure with several Greek inspired statues made of Carrara marble and frescoes of Renaissance inspiration. It has been chosen venue for all kinds of shows where Cuban and world famous artists have performed as Sarah Bernhardt, ballet dancer Anna Pavlova, etc.
  • San Severino CastleIt is a typical military construction of Renaissance style part of the old defense system to protect the city from pirate and Spanish enemies’ attacks. Because of the historical and architectural values the castle became a National Monument in 1978. In 2009, a museum that pictures the life and history of the fortress as well as the legacy of slavery in the province of Matanzas, was inaugurated in the premises. It is also the seat of the Museum of the Slave Route, a project supported by UNESCO.