On our last full day in Havana, we took a day trip to Varadero Beach, about a 2-1/2 hour ride by car. The beach is absolutely beautiful. Water is warm and the sand soft. With a hotel, restaurant, and bar just steps away, and the fact that there are not too many people, it has the feel of a private beach.

While walking to find the snack bar, we came across this old beautiful building that was being restored. It turned out that this was one of the DuPont (as in DuPont paints) estates here in Varadero Beach. The du Ponts first came to America from France in 1800. Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours was the son of a Parisian watchmaker and a member of a Burgundian Huguenot family, and descendant of a minor noble family on his mother’s side. He and his sons left France to escape the French Revolution and religious persecutions against Huguenot protestants. Two years later in 1802, they used the resources of their heritage to found one of the most successful corporations, E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, initially established as a gunpowder manufacturer in Delaware as du Pont noticed that the industry in North America was lagging behind Europe. The company grew quickly, and by the mid-19th century had become the largest supplier of gunpowder to the US Military supplying half the powder used by the Union Army during the American Civil War. Later, the brand expanded to nylon, refrigerants, insecticide, rubber and several other chemical products. The family also became involved in construction, finance, and real estate as well as in politics, assisting in negotiations for the Treaty of Paris and the Louisiana purchase.

The du Ponts over time built a conglomerate becoming one of the wealthiest families in America, right up there with the Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts. In 2014, DuPont was the world’s fourth largest chemical company and ranked 86th in the Fortune 500 with nearly $36 billion in revenues.

This DuPont mansion (one of several estates worldwide) was built in the 1920´s as a retirement home. It is currently undergoing renovations to reopen as a bed and breakfast. Meanwhile, there is a French restaurant open to the public which features an impressive old world wine cellar.

To get to Varadero Beach (La Playa Varadero), you can simply take a taxi for about 150 CUC round trip, equivalent to about 150 USD. If you plan to leave at a certain time, it is best to reserve the ride the day before. Your hotel concierge can help with the reservation or in our case we just asked the hostess of our Airbnb to call for us.