After traveling around Cuba independently for a week and a half, I found myself in Varadero for one day at the end of my Cuba adventure.
On the northwest coast of Cuba, the 20km long and 1km wide Hicacos Peninsula of Varadero is home to beautiful white sand beaches with turquoise water and over 60 hotels and resorts.
While the beaches are undeniably beautiful, Varadero is one of the largest resort destinations in the Caribbean and it is the tourist and all-inclusive resort capital of Cuba. As a place where the tourists greatly outnumber the locals, if you’re looking for a real cultural experience in Cuba, you won’t find it in Varadero.
Chances are that if you’re traveling around Cuba independently, you’re probably looking for an authentic experience, so Varadero likely won’t interest you for more than a few days, if at all. But if you’re starting or ending your trip in the west of Cuba, Varadero may be your best option for flights, as it’s only a two hour drive to Havana, which is why I found myself in Varadero at the end of my Cuba adventure.
If you’re looking to relax for a few days, there are loads of other beaches to pick from in Cuba that are much cheaper and less touristy. As with anywhere in the world, more touristy always means more expensive, so if you’re traveling on a budget, Varadero isn’t your best beach option.
But if you happen to find yourself there for a day or two…
HOW TO EXPERIENCE VARADERO ON A BUDGET AND WITHOUT AN ALL-INCLUSIVE:
Which is like a homestay. I paid $35CUC (CUC is on par with USD) for one night at a casa particular, with breakfast included. In every other city I traveled in Cuba, $20-25CUC per night seemed to be the standard and I always met people to share a room, so I only paid $10-12CUC per night. I arrived in Varadero from Havana in the morning and had a very hard time finding accommodation because everything was full. My room in my casa particular in Varadero had its own bathroom and 3 beds, so it easily could have slept 3-4 people, had I met people to share with me.
While I paid more than usual for accommodation in Varadero, in comparison, to stay at an all-inclusive would have cost $110-400+CUC per night. So staying at a casa particular was a massive savings because at no point during my Cuba trip did I spend even close to $110CUC in one day. A hotel will have more luxuries and amenities, as well as wi-fi available for an extra cost in the common areas. But if you’re traveling to Cuba, you’re likely not going there with the expectation of the usual western luxuries and conveniences.
WHERE TO EAT
I was surprised that I was able to find some very cheap local food, like sandwiches for $0.10-0.25CUC and cheap, local restaurants with meals for $1-3CUC.
Food is ridiculously expensive at the Varadero airport, with western prices for terrible food, so it’s best to eat before you go, if possible.
THINGS TO DO
- Go to the beach
- Watch the incredible sunsets at the beach
- Walk around and explore. Varadero is very walkable.
- Rent a scooter
- Check out the souvenirs, like locally made arts and crafts
- Go diving and snorkeling
- Explore the nearby caves
- Go golfing
- Experience the nightlife and go dancing
With more than 100 bars and nightclubs, you’re spoiled for choice for nightlife in Varadero. Here are a few popular places:
- Casa de la Musica – There’s a reason why just about every major city in Cuba has a Casa de le Musica- you’ll find live Cuban music and salsa dancing, which attracts both locals and tourists. $10CUC cover.
- Calle 62 – An open air bar with live music and people dancing in the street, which also attracts both locals and tourists. No cover.
- The Beatles Bar – Another popular open air bar with live rock music. No cover.
- Cueva del Pirata – A nightclub in a cave. $10CUC cover.
- Havana Club – One of the most popular nightclubs in Varadero for young people. $10CUC cover, unless you’re staying at the Hotel Palma Real.
GETTING IN AND OUT
Varadero is only two hours from Havana, which will cost $10CUC by bus or colectivo (shared taxi). It would be an unforgivable crime to go to Cuba and not visit Havana. And Havana deserves much more than a day trip because it is one of the greatest cities in the world.
Trinidad is a $20CUC 6.5 hour bus ride away and it has the best beaches on the south coast of Cuba.
The 25 minute bus ride to the Varadero airport costs $6CUC. Or you can take a $25CUC taxi.
GOOD TO KNOW
Because Varadero is a major tourist destination, you can actually find things like sunscreen, medication, soap, shampoo, etc, which are simple things we take for granted at home, but are very difficult to find in the rest of Cuba.
Also, because Varadero is a major tourist destination, it is a place where locals try to find (i.e. seduce) tourists in order to try leave Cuba. So beware.
For more information on traveling Cuba, see Traveling Cuba Independently – Facts, Tips and What to Expect