Varadero, long-considered Cuba’s best beach and one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful, is one step closer to being declared the world’s number one beach after it climbed from third to second position on TripAdvisor’s ranking at the 2019 Travellers’ Choice Awards.

Close up of Varadero beach's shoreline
Varadero’s famous white sands and turquoise waters

Now, on a mission to become the world’s best beach at the next edition of the Traveller’s Choice Awards, authorities have announced that Varadero is preparing to become a certified, eco-friendly beach by 2020.

As part of a governmental strategy to protect the 22-kilometre beach stretch, Varadero will put in place a series of new measures to protect its fragile ecosystem and maintain its famous soft powdery sands as pristine as ever whilst also preserving its excellent water quality.

Varadero’s conservation efforts

But it’s not like Varadero just started worrying about its conservation status now after climbing positions in the world ranking. The environmental efforts to counteract the effects of mass tourism in Varadero have been in place for quite some time as authorities look at ways of minimising the impact of growing visitor numbers, more tourism infrastructure. The trick is preserving Varadero’s delicate ecosystem without stopping the development of new infrastructure or halting the popularity of its beach resort, which accounts for a good slice of the island’s tourism industry, the country’s second main source of income.

So how to keep Varadero pristine while encouraging more visitor numbers?

In 2013, the fifth plan was approved to outline the upcoming projects in the building of new hotels in Varadero and the renovation or expansion of existing ones to keep up with the growing demand. The plan included measures to minimise the ecological impact of urban development with the implementation of the third cycle of coastal management directed at controlling erosion, improving hygiene facilities, controlling infrastructure, managing vegetation and educating the workforce on environmental measures.

Making way for eco-friendly hotels and facilities

In the last five years, a total of 35 buildings that were damaging the natural dynamic of the dunes in Varadero were demolished. On top of that, two and a half kilometres of beach in the Hicacos Peninsula were restored by laying some 53,530 cubic metres of natural sand.

A casa particular, an eco-friendly way to enjoy a Varadero holiday

Owners of a casa particular in Varadero are also doing their bit to promote eco-friendly Cuba holidays in this

A beachfront casa particular in Varadero
A beachfront casa particular in Varadero – Casa Menocal

blessed part of Cuba.  Given that their properties are located further from the beach than the all-inclusive resorts, they already contribute to tourism with a smaller environmental footprint.

On-the-ground work, what’s being done to make Varadero beach more sustainable?

As for scientists, they’re hard at work with a close inspection on the quality of the water and a close look at the patterns of the best-preserved dunes:

“What we try to do is duplicate morphological and vegetation patterns and apply them to restored areas”

The above are the words of an on-the-ground scientific investigator, who added that supporting infrastructure to enhance facilities for sustainable tourism were being added, from wooden walkways, new bins and recycling bins to signalling posts and lifeguard points.

But the works go far beyond being aesthetically pleasing to make Varadero a world-class beach. Officials are working on enhancing and expanding hotel offerings but they’re also in keeping with the government’s strategy for protecting the beach’s natural ecosystem, as explained by Ivis Fernadez, Cuba’s Ministry of Tourism representative in Matanzas:

“Today, we have a special movement with very rigorous requirements for (hotel) operators which has allowed several hotel complexes to achieve the status of eco-friendly in the past few years, and we have set the goal within this strategy of declaring the entire beach (eco-friendly) by the year 2020,”

Over 100 years of sun, fun and natural beauty

This year, Varadero is celebrating its 132nd anniversary as a beach resort and it has double cause for celebration now that it has climbed positions in the worldwide ranking of beautiful beaches.

This naturally blessed peninsula in the western province of Havana (just two hours from the Cuban capital) has become Cuba’s leading beach destination, playing a key role in the island’s economy. It welcomes over a million visitors every year, 52 per cent of which are repeat guests. The goal now is to make it the ultimate most perfect beach, with the finest sands, most crystalline waters and a great atmosphere. It’s getting there, I would even go as far as to say it’s nearly there.

From third to second place, Varadero set to conquer the world

With 52 all-inclusive resorts, 83 per cent of which are run by international hotel chains like Melia, Iberostar and Blue Diamond, the plan for the next three years in Varadero is to add a further 3,000 rooms spread in a selection of swanky five-star hotels, with the announced opening of the new Cabaret Continental, a new golf club adjacent to a new hotel, a new shopping mall and even Varadero first ever theme park!

Authorities are even considering bringing back the Festival de la Cancion, a music festival at the height of its popularity in the 70s which brought many international stars to the island. Varadero already has the Varadero Josone Music Festival, which this year celebrated its second edition.

A casa particular in Varadero

Varadero may not be the most popular destination for travellers that want to stay in a casa particular. And that’s basically because most people heading to Varadero think it’s all about the all-inclusive resorts and  the tourist crowds, not probably aware that there’s excellent private accommodation and homestays away from mass tourist spots. But there are indeed some excellent casa particulares in Varadero, and we’ve got a few of them!

Staying in a casa particular in Varadero doesn’t need to mean roughing it up backpacker style, in fact none of our Varadero casas are shabby in the least, they’re large houses with gardens in their majority, more like mansions than anything else (especially our Casa Menocal, truly impressive!).

Helping keep Varadero pristine by staying in a casa particular

If you want to support Varadero’s ecosystem and make your stay as little impacting as possible on the environment, staying in a casa particular is a wonderful way of doing so. All casas particulares in Varadero are located a short walk away from the beach but, unlike hotels, they’re not built directly on the shoreline, helping preserve more metres of natural sand.

Even if a casa particular in Varadero is located right on the beachfront (as is the case with this spectacular casa), it will be located further apart from the shoreline than most resorts, meaning significant less impact on the environment, coupled with the fact that a single casa, no matter how big or mansion-like, will only host no more than 10 to 15 guests, as opposed to hundreds in a single resort, putting far more strain on a particular stretch of beach. It also means that the stretch of beach in front of your casa particular in Varadero will feel more authentic and far less touristy.