Matanzas is a beautiful beach town, the lesser known of the northeastern beaches that adorn the coast of Cuba. The Matanzas bay is the deepest on the Island and it is home to the oldest pharmacy in all of South America. If your aiming to visit the more fashionable beaches of Varadero, consider staying a night or two in Matanzas.
You will not find a good wifi connection in the city center, nor will you find famous restaurants, bars, nor a hustle of tourists. You will instead find a town full of close friends and family in a tight knit community excited to talk to foreigners about their culture and history.
Matanzas is full of local hangouts alongside the rocky banks of the bay. Local restaurateurs take pride in their makeshift cuban sandwich joints and will often set up speakers and a disco-ball by the water to attract those looking for a good time over a Cuban and Havana Rum.
The last night I stayed in Matanzas, sun-poisoned and dehydrated from my earlier trip to Varadero, I stumbled into a sandwich shack along the bayside. Jagged rocks outlined a small alcove which was lit with neon lights, full of locals dressed in either bathing suits or skirts and high heels. The sun had soaked my energy and I was in no mood to dance, so I sat comfortably with the local teenagers who were thirsty for rum and enjoyed my Cuban Jamon con Queso.
I recommend Matanzas if weary from blending in with arrogant tourists and being ripped off by guides and taxistas who are trying to squeeze an extra CUC from the tourism business.
TRAVEL TIP: always take the moto taxi. They are safe, savvy and super cheap.