Matanzas, known as the Athens of Cuba and famous for its many bridges, interesting architecture and music, is on the way to famous Varadero Beach. A seaside city with a deep bay, the tenor and culture of Matanzas reflects its intrinsic relation to water – the rhythm of the waves, it’s vigorous morning breeze (the addiction of local kite surfers), and the stately calm of its rivers are all part of the back story here. Birthplace of the danzón, Matanzas is also a good place to hear a danzonete or rumba.
Matanzas came into its own during the 19th century when it served as Cuba’s sugar capital, a distinction made possible by its bay and shipping facilities. On the leafy main square, Parque Libertad, the Pharmaceutical Museum is a wonderfully preserved chemist’s shop. This classic plaza is surrounded by interesting buildings, monuments and museums to keep you occupied including the Museo Histórico Provincial, Teatro Sauto, and Cathedral of San Carlos. The Bellamar Caverns, a cave system offering tours, is only about three miles from the city center.