Varadero is located in the province of Matanzas, on the island of Cuba. This tourist resort town has more than 50 hotels, multiple restaurants, shops and nightclubs. It offers activities for all interests, and is surrounded by the colorful culture and architecture of historical Cuba. But most importantly, Varadero boasts over 20 kilometers of white sandy beaches with clear turquoise water, making it a picture perfect destination!
When To Go
High and low season coincide with winter seasons, which is evident given the strong presence of Canadian visitors in the country (Europeans and South Americans are also common tourists on this island). High season lasts from December to March and takes place during the dry season (November to April). This is a great time to visit Varadero if you're looking for wonderful weather, a great beach atmosphere and amazing visit opportunities.
The low season is during the rainy and humid months of May to October which also overlap with the hurricane months of June to November. This time of the year should be considered if you're more interested in a relaxing vacation with less tourists around, and don't mind the risk of rain and hurricanes.
Wondering why you should travel to Cuba? Read our 7 reasons why you should go to Cuba now!
Where to Stay
The majority of hotels in Varadero these days are all inclusive, which means that anything from flight, transfer to/from the airport, hotel room, food, drinks and/or select activities and entertainment is included. From luxurious hotels to the more modest accommodations, travelers can choose their preferred all inclusive accommodations between dozens of beach resorts. However, should you wish to avoid the all inclusive nature of these hotels, there are a few who offer non inclusive stays. For a more traditional cultural experience, consider staying at a casa particular (private bed and breakfast).
As for the location of your accommodations, if you're there to spend time on the beach and want a newer more luxurious resort, consider checking out the ones towards the tip of the peninsula. If you're looking forward to enjoying the nightlife and restaurants off resort, prefer to spend less on accommodations and are open to a more modest living space, consider the hotels located in town (my favorite area is around Calle 62, as there is nightly live music and salsa dancing in the closed street, and it is near The Beatles which is another amazing spot!)
The Juan Gualberto Gómez International Airport is located at about 30 minutes from Varadero. Most all inclusive packages will include the transfer. Upon exiting the airport doors, locate a representative from the company through which you booked your vacation to identify which bus you should take. Keep in mind that as you walk towards the bus some locals will try to get you to take cans of beer. A common mistake is to assume these are part of the all inclusive! However, that is not the case and you will be asked to pay for these (often times after you've opened it).
If your travel plans don't include the transfer, you have a few options to get into Varadero, including a taxi for about 30 cuc.
There are two currencies in Cuba but the only mostly used by tourists is the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). Canadian dollar, Pounds, Euros and other currencies can be exchanged once in the country to obtain the local currency. Upon arrival at the airport you can exchange money, or you can wait and exchange some later at various locations that offer exchange throughout Varadero (including most hotels). Just make sure to count your change as some locations are known to short change tourists!
Have a look for some great ideas if you have food allergies and are traveling to an all-inclusive resort.
Since the majority of resorts are all inclusive, most facilities provide all necessary food and drinks for their guests. However, should you wish to leave your resort and explore, there are many delicious restaurants both at the International Shopping Center and along the main streets in town.
As for drinks, you can find most usual staples (different types of pop). Of course, these may taste different than back home but most are enjoyable. This also applies to wine, beer and liquor, though we strongly recommend you try the Cuban rum and mojitos (if you are of legal drinking age and enjoy alcohol).
What To Bring
As with most beach destinations, ensure you don't forget your bathing suit, summer clothes, sunscreen and hat for sun protection. A couple of more elegant outfits can be a good idea, especially if you plan on enjoying the a-la-carte restaurants on resorts or nicer restaurants off resorts. Comfortable footwear is a must if you plan on walking in town, and a good book to read while lounging on the beach or poolside is a plus!
Additionally, you can bring your cell phone should you wish to keep in touch, as paid wifi is becoming more common on newer resorts. And of course a camera or other electronic device to take pictures of the breathtaking ocean views is recommended!
Getting Around Varadero
Bus – The easy to spot double Decker open top bus runs on a regular schedule, traveling from downtown Varadero to the tip of the peninsula. Look for the blue signs with the schedule, and have 5cuc ready as it gets you a day pass for the bus! Just be careful if you sit on the top as it does get windy and you might get hit with a few branches (so hold on to that hat!).
Taxi – There are more common taxi looking vehicles, but Cuba is also filled with vintage cars waiting to provide tourists with a ride to remember! The costs are either based on a meter or by distance.
Other – In Varadero you can also opt to go for a ride by horse drawn carriage or hop on the back of a Coco Taxi. You can also choose to rent a moped or a car, but be careful as we have known multiple tourists who ran into difficulties with this option, so be extra careful!
Things to do
From long walks on the white sand to swimming or kayaking in the clear turquoise waters of the ocean, the beach is the most common destination! However, should you wish to explore past this relaxing haven, there's a variety of activities waiting for you! For example, you could take the double decker bus into town and go explore the market and Parque Josone, a beautiful park with a little café next to the lake that sells savory pina coladas. Walk around the town, enjoying the beautiful architecture. Other great options near Varadero include Cuevo Saturno, an underground natural swimming hole (5 cuc admission) and Playa Coral, which has reefs so close to shore you can swim out to them.
There are always more options, especially if you wish to leave the town and venture out to experience authentic Cuba. Havana and Matanzas are very popular and well worth the travel time! You can either join in an organized bus tour or venture on your own with a taxi (or on the bus, for a more budget friendly alternative), and take in the amazing sights, sounds and delicious foods while you're there! In turn, should you prefer to spend a more relaxed day you might consider such organized options as the catamaran tour to Cayo Blanco!
Heading to an all-inclusive vacation soon? Check out our list of great activities to do on these resorts!
-Remember that there is a required departure tax which you must pay before being allowed to leave the country.
-Verify with your travel agent or company to obtain specific details for your chosen destination should you opt for an all inclusive vacation.
-Keep in mind that star ratings for accommodations vary per country as it is influenced by culture, etc. In our previous vacations, we have witnessed that 3.5 Star hotels in Cuba are more similar to 1.5 Star accommodations in America.
-Common souvenir purchases include Cuban rum and cigars, along with coffee, jewelry and wooden decorations. Check with your country for guidelines regarding importations restrictions so that you don't have a dreadful surprise on your return home!
Have any other recommendations you'd like to share with fellow travelers? Add them in the comments below!
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