What to See
The beach itself is the unrivalled star of Varadero, stretching for over 12 miles. Taking a walk along the sand, early in the morning or right before sunset, is a quintessential Caribbean experience. The feeling of soft sand between your toes and the sound of the ocean is a memory you’ll treasure for years to come.
In the town centre, we’d suggest a short visit to the street markets where artisans oversee stalls of colourful souvenirs. The Josone Park, featuring tropical gardens and a lake, is also worth a visit, providing a different – although no less relaxing – spot to chill out.
We offer a number of exciting and interesting excursions on offer in the Varadero area. Excursions include a day trips to the city of Matanzas, the crocodile farms in Zapata, Bay of Pigs and Playa Larga and the Saturno Caves. A catamaran trip to Cayo Blanco and swimming with dolphins are particularly popular choices.
Where to Stay
Varadero plays host to over 60 all-inclusive beach resorts, kitted out with bars, restaurants and swimming pools. Blau Varadero, Iberostar Laguna Azul (pictured above), Royalton Royal Hicacos, and Melia Las Americas are amongst our favourites. There is a limited choice of homestays and boutique hotels in the area.
How Long to Stay
Our holiday specialists recommend four to six nights in Varadero, giving you plenty of time to properly unwind. If you’re planning a 10-day Cuba holiday, we’d suggest spending three days in Havana, two in Trinidad and the final five in Varadero – a tried-and-tested winning formula.
Varadero sits just over two-hours away from Havana, linked directly to the capital by Via Blanca, a good quality motorway. Toll charges apply when entering or leaving Varadero using this road.
Taxis and coach services run from Havana to Varadero regularly. Those with a hire car can enjoy a scenic drive along the northern coast, passing through Matanzas. However you choose to travel to Varadero, our holiday specialists will be able to provide you with a hassle-free transfer service.
Where to Eat
Most all-inclusive resorts offer a choice of buffet and a la carte restaurants. However, if you want to diversify your dining experience, there are a number of good restaurant options in Varadero.
Boasting superb food and warm ambience, La Vaca Rosada (which translates to the unusual name The Pink Cow) comes highly recommended by our staff. There are few better places to enjoy the sunset than their highly-popular rooftop terrace so you might want to make reservations to secure a table. This bustling restaurant sits in the centre of town, on 21st street.
La Campana, situated in a rustic cottage in Josone Park, serves traditional Cuban dishes. Their set menus are good value, including sides, bread and salad.
All-inclusive resorts have their own entertainment programmes and night clubs working around the clock. However, if you’d like a more authentic experience and a chance to interact with the locals, nightlife in Varadero is plentiful and lively. Here are few ideas:
On Calle 62 (62nd Street), locals and visitors get together for a bit of open-air partying. Live bands play Cuban music and the street fills with revellers shaking their hips, all aided by a few budget bebidas (around 3 CUC for a mojito). The fun kicks off every night from around 10:00 pm and, as it’s a street party, there are no admission fees. Simply show up and join in the fun!
Casa de la Musica (The House of Music) in Varadero (42nd Street) offers live music and the chance to practice a few salsa moves. Once the show is over, a DJ hits the stage playing Cuban favourites - expect lots of reggaeton.
Other popular options include La Rumba, La Bamba, Cueva del Pirata, La Comparsita and Habana Café.
Things to Do
One of the best things about this seaside town is the wide array of activities on offer, providing plenty to keep travellers of all ages entertained. This is where Varadero distinguishes itself from the Cayos, a slightly more upmarket beach option.
For the ultimate in rest and relaxation, spend your days unwinding at your resort, scuba diving or snorkelling in the sea, strolling along the beach and enjoying the onsite entertainment. Alternatively, explore further afield with a scenic catamaran trip to the surrounding keys or a wander through the town’s street markets, open-air theatres and museums. The largest wetland reserve in the Caribbean, the Zapata Peninsula, is just a short distance away and plays host to an array of endemic fauna. Culture-buffs should spend at least a day in the nearby city of Matanzas, famed for its poets, rich culture and Afro-Cuban folklore.
First-time visitors often mistake this Caribbean island as a beach-only destination, booking their entire stay at a Vardero resort. As British travel journalist Fred Mawer (The Telegraph) puts it:
The Caribbean’s most fascinating country: a heady mix of faded Spanish colonial cities, sputtering Fifties Cadillacs, wonderful live music, world-class cigars and an arcane communist system ...With so much to enjoy in Cuba, you may regret holing up in an all-inclusive hotel for your whole trip. - Fred Mawer, The Telegraph, Travel Destinations, Cuba
Cuba offers visitors heaps of history, culture and natural beauty, best appreciated in a mix – like a Cuban cocktail. That’s why we always recommend that our clients, at least first-time visitors, combine their time at the beach with a spell in the capital with a City and Beach Holiday. As Cuba Direct’s Cuban-born founder Miguel Gibson puts it, “If you haven’t seen Havana, you haven’t truly seen Cuba”.
Most of our itineraries are crafted to give clients the best of both worlds, offering a few days in the city (for music, dancing, architecture and history) followed by a relaxing stint on the glorious beaches of Varadero or Cayo Santa Maria.
Depending on your holiday style, we recommend you combine your stay in Varadero with time in Havana and Trinidad (our Classic Cuba Multi-Centre does just that). If you’d prefer the freedom of a Self-Drive Holiday, take a look at our suggested Open Roads itinerary. To travel with your personal, English-speaking driver-guide in an individually-tailored private tour.