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The Road To Varadero, The Birthplace Of Rhumba And A Cool Doctor’s Office

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After four glorious days of adventuring and exploring Havana, I am ready for a bit of beach time. Cuba has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and the resort town of Varadero is calling my name. Laying on a white sand beach, drinking rum punches and floating in the warm ocean sounds perfect to me. But first I need to get there and my guides have a great day arranged for me as we travel the road to Varadero. They have a few special stops planned for me including a stop over in Matanzas. Here we will eat, explore a 100+-year-old Farmacia turned museum and witness a special performance by Los Muñequitos de Matanzas the Grammy awarding winning Rhumba band. Matanzas is the birthplace of Rhumba and I’m beyond excited to witness this. The road to Varadero from Havana is just over 2.5 hours but something tells me it will be a packed road trip.

Los Muñequitos de Matanzas perforning at the birthplace of Rhumba

Saying goodbye to Havana we hit the road with some bottled water and a Cuban espresso for me. It’s a relatively smooth drive along the Via Blanca and I stare out the window soaking in all the views. our first stop is at a rest area and lookout at Bacunayagua. This is a great place to refuel, stretch your legs and take in The Bridge of Bacunayagua.

The Bridge of Bacunayagua on the road to Varadero from Havana

I highly recommend a stop here if only for the live music on the view deck.

Live music at Bacunayagua rest stop

Back on the road, we are off to Castillo De San Severino Museo De La Ruta Del Esclavo. An ancient Castillo built by African slaves and turned into a slave museum. This is where I am meeting Los Muñequitos de Matanzas. They have brought a small portion of the band together to perform a few Rhumba songs and dances for me. I can’t begin to express what a privilege this was. You can see them perform in Matanzas and in the barrio of La Marina, the birthplace of Rhumba.

I dare you not to see some dance moves you are familiar with. I see Michael Jackson, Usher….

Amazing dance moves by Los Munequitos de Matanzas

One of the dancers perform Rhumba

I am so pumped up after this performance. We now head into town for lunch at Restaurante Libertad at the Hotel Velasco. Located across from the Parque de la Libertad it is quite grand and once again I feel like I am stepping back in time.

Inside the Hotel Velasco in Matanzas

Dining courtyard at the Hotel Velasco

Lunch is in the private back room with our own musical quartet performing for us. I have never met a more musical people than the Cubans I have encountered on this adventure. It seems like everyone can play an instrument and sing. Perfect to go with our lunch of Cheese Stuffed Plantains and Steak.

Cheese and bacon stuffed Plantains

Steak with fries and mushroom sauce at Hotel Velasco Matanzas

Live musical performance at Hotel Velasco in Matanzas. @minturcuba #authenticcuba #cuba #music #nomadlife #

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One last stop in Matanzas before we head to the resort in Varadero. Across from the hotel, on the other side of the park is the Farmacia Francesca. It has been transformed into a museum and we are invited to walk through and explore it. I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t realise it was a museum, I thought it was still a working Doctor’s clinic. It is so well preserved you expect eth Doctor to come out with your prescription.

Old medicine bottles on display at the Farmacia Francesca Matanzas

Speaking of prescriptions everything is here including the old records of the patients. By the time of the revolution the Doctor’s that worked here and called it home were too old to leave so they stayed and as a result, it has been preserved 100% intact, including the chemist kitchen that they used to make tinctures and tonics.

Old patient ledger at Farmacia Francesca Matanzas

A chemist kitchen at Farmacia Francesca Matanzas

There is a second floor that houses the living quarters and you are allowed up to take a sneak peak. One can only guess these Doctor’s did all right back in their time.

It is time to get back on the road and say goodbye to Matanzas. It is only a short drive to Varadero so it is easy enough to come back to explore more if you are so inclined. It would be worth while to book a taxi and come back at night to one of the clubs to hear the musicians perform. You may be lucky enough to see Los Muñequitos de Matanzas perform.

Next stop the resort and some beach time.

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Disclosure: General

Thanks to Cuba Tourism for hosting my stay in Havana. My views and opinions are 100% my own.

About Author

Marc Smith is a former event planner turned vagabond adventurer. He loves strong Americano's, great wine, cold beer and zip lining over tree tops. Formerly of Vancouver, most of Marc's time when not travelling is in Canada's largest city, Toronto. Follow along on his nomad adventures and discover places to stay, things to do and where to eat & drink as he explores the world one city and region at a time.


  1. What a super post, Marc! Love the photos and the music. Looks like it was an incredible experience. I dream of visiting Cuba one day. My father, aunt, and uncle were all born in Havana when my grandfather was working down there. I’ve heard many stories over the years about the great people of Cuba 🙂 .

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