Matanzas is a quiet city without much nightlife, with one notable exception. The younger sister to the venerable Tropicana in Havana, Tropicana Matanzas, Autopista del Sur Km 4.5 (tel. 45/26-5380), seeks to provide the classic Tropicana cabaret experience to the thousands of tourists who come to Cuba and never venture far from Varadero. I don't know why they didn't just build it in Varadero, but whatever the reason, it is located on the outskirts of Matanzas, about a 20-minute drive from Varadero. Like its famous sibling, this is a large open-air theater with extravagant nightly performances. The artistic direction is shared between the two venues, and the show here is quite up to snuff. Scores of scantily clad showgirls and dancers seamlessly weave together a series of different numbers. Costumes are tight-fitting, garish, and often feature gravity-defying headgear. The spectacle covers most of the bases of popular Cuban show and dance music, from son to bolero to danzón to salsa, with a bit of Afro-Cuban religious music thrown into the mix. The 90-minute show starts around 10:30pm each night. After the show, you can continue the celebration by dancing the night away at the adjoining dance club.
Virtually every tour agency in Varadero can book you a night at the Tropicana Matanzas; packages include a complimentary cuba libre (cocktail with rum and Coke). All include round-trip transportation. Tickets for the show are CUC$49. Since it's open-air, rain cancels the function. You'll get your money back on a rainout, but there are no guaranteed reservations for a makeup show.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.