Boat trips on the Río Canímar, 8km east of Matanzas, are a truly magical experience. Gnarly mangroves dip their jungle-like branches into the ebbing water and a warm haze caresses the regal palm trees as your boat slides 12km upstream from the Vía Blanca bridge to a riverside ranchón (rustic, opened-sided restaurant) called 'La Arboleda,' where you can have lunch and go horseback riding or kayak the river's headwaters.
Four-person self-drive motor boats (first hour CUC$35, each additional hour CUC$15) can be rented to get upstream or you can take a larger launch if there are enough people (CUC$25 per person). The rental point is on the east side of the river by the Vía Blanca bridge, where there's also a bar and indigenous dancing performances. It takes roughly 30 minutes to reach La Arboleda with a motor boat and one hour in the larger boat.
Most Varadero hotels have tour agencies offering this trip as part of a 'Jeep Tour.'