By far the most famous beach resort town in Cuba, Varadero is among the most popular destinations for travelers visiting Cuba. It’s no wonder why; with Varadero Beach a consistent leader on TripAdvisor’s Best Beaches in the World list, it’s among the very best Caribbean beaches, and perfect for your ultimate dream Cuban beach vacation.
But there is so much more to do in Varadero than just lying on a beach! This ultimate (local!) guide to the best things to do in Varadero has all of the most impressive Varadero attractions and activities you won’t want to miss. These are the best things to do in Varadero, Cuba.
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Things To Do in Varadero, Cuba
1. Hit the Beach
Sure, there are plenty of things to do in Varadero, but no traveler in their right mind would want to visit Varadero without having a proper visit to Varadero Beach! Whether you’re in Varadero for a few hours or a few weeks, the award-winning beach at Varadero will be a highlight of your visit – and one of your favorite things to do in Cuba.
Luckily for visitors, the beach is impossible to miss in Varadero and is entirely public. Varadero is located on a tiny, skinny peninsula not more than a few blocks wide, meaning no matter where you choose to stay you’ll never be more than a few minutes walk from one of the world’s most impressive beaches.
If you’re not staying at a beachfront resort in Varadero, walk along the road parallel to the beach and you’ll find public beach entrances every few blocks or so. In our experience, there’s no real trick to finding a particularly nice spot along the miles of pristine beach in Varadero – it’s all beautiful here.
You’ll find some areas, usually those with more beach bars and restaurants, tend to have busier beach fronts, while other areas, generally towards the south of Varadero, tend to be quieter.
You’ll also find a number of spots to rent beach chairs and umbrellas. Whether you choose to get a day pass at a Varadero resort or not, you’ll find no lack of beach amenities here. This is just part of what makes Varadero such a great spot, whether you’re traveling with your partner or your entire family.
2. Eat Seafood
With Varadero’s endless beachfront, it is any surprise that Varadero is well known for its incredible seafood? Varadero boasts some of the best seafood restaurants in the country, making this one of the best things to do in Varadero. While the prices here are nicer restaurants can be a bit more expensive than they can be in Havana (though not always), but you’ll still find some incredible deals.
Favorite seafood dishes include fish, shrimp, and by far the star in Varadero, lobster. While you’ll find seafood on the menu at plenty of spots around Varadero, some of our personal favorite restaurants in Varadero include La Vaca Rosada, Terracita’s Cafe, and La Rampa
La Rampa is particularly famous for its lobster in Varadero, but it’s not fussy or formal. Expect just delicious seafood here in an environment that feels like you’ve been invited into someone’s home. While it’s friendly and local, it’s also getting quite popular, so go for lunch or a particularly early or late dinner.
3. Get a Day Pass at a Resort
If you’re looking for a way to enjoy all the beach amenities of a Varadero resort without the price tag, consider getting a day pass at the resort – it’s no free Atlantis Bahamas stay, but it’s a great way to enjoy Varadero.
Whether you’re looking for just beach chairs and pool access for the day or are looking are food, drinks, and watersports, it’s something to keep in mind for your beach getaway. Rates differ from hotel to hotel and can include different things, so make sure you know exactly what you’re getting.
You can rent beach chairs and umbrellas all up and down the beach, not necessarily just at Varadero’s resorts, so if you’re just looking for these beach amenities, a full-day pass at a resort might be overkill. However, keep it in mind – it’s a great way to enjoy the beach at Varadero.
Read More: 10 Best Resorts in Varadero
4. Visit the Caves
Mexico is famous for its cenotes, but the northern coast of Cuba is famous for its caves! While you won’t hear the word cenotes in Cuba, you’ll find something similar, especially around Varadero. Located mostly between Matanzas and Varadero, they’re quite close and make for a great day trip from Varadero – it’s the perfect way to cool off during a hot Cuban day.
While there are dozens of caves in the area, the most famous and impressive are the Cueva de Ambrosio and Cueva de Saturno, which are the most commonly visited in the area. Cueva de Saturno is filled with incredibly clear water, while in the Cueva de Ambrosio you’ll find dozens of historic indigenous paintings. The Cuevas de Bellmar is another popular cave system worth a visit!
Looking for even more caves to explore in Cuba? Viñales is well known for its impressive caves. You’ll find even more examples of Cuban indigenous art here, as well as some caves filled with water and allowing for boat rides, which is a really memorable experience.
Read More: 10+ Best Day Trips from Varadero
5. Go Snorkeling or Diving
While Varadero isn’t Cuba’s most famous snorkeling and diving location – head to remote Jardines de la Reina off the southern coast for that! – it does offer some pretty excellent underwater landscapes, making it one of the best things to do in Varadero.
Walls, pass-throughs, stunning coral reefs, wrecks, and more await in Varadero, with some of the best spots at Playa Coral. If it weren’t overshadowed by other diving and snorkeling destinations in Cuba, having this experience in Varadero would be one of the best things to do in Cuba.
We’ve used ScubaLibre before and absolutely love them. They’re located in the center of town and offer very comprehensive tours and a variety of options for personalizing your experience. You can choose wreck dives, snorkeling, scuba experiences all around the area, and even snorkeling in caves. Highly recommended!
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6. Take a Free Tour
Is there anything better than a free tour? Civitatis offers really excellent free tours of Varadero, which can be a great way to get to know this resort town without paying for a guide. You’ll see the best of the town and get plenty of time to chat with a local – make sure to get their recommendations for the best things to do in Varadero as well!
Travel tip: Civitatis actually offers free tours in cities all around Cuba! While their free walking tours Havana are the best, we also recommend checking out their free tours in Viñales, free tours in Trinidad, and free tours in Cienfuegos as well!
Read More: 10 Best Cities in Cuba for Travelers
7. Explore Matanzas
If you are traveling from Havana to Varadero using public transportation, you’ll probably travel through Matanzas on your way to Varadero, but don’t underestimate this city! It’s much more than just a transportation hub and the provincial capital.
Matanzas has gorgeous historic buildings, plazas, museums, galleries, and great things to do. If you’re looking for an easy way to break up a longer stay in Varadero, visiting Matanzas can be a great way to do it! This city isn’t as popular with travelers as nearby cities, but it’s still worth a visit and feels quite off-the-beaten-path.
If you’re looking to do several of the best things to do in Varadero in one convenient day trip, consider a day trip to Varadero’s caves and Matanzas. This is a great Civitatis excursion (friends have done this one!) and is a hassle-free way to see some of the best spots in the area.
Read More: 10+ Best Day Trips from Varadero
What to Pack for Cuba
Check out our Ultimate Cuba Packing List to help you pack for your trip – we’re sharing exactly what to bring to Cuba and what we never travel without.
8. Take a Catamaran Ride to Cayo Blanco
Varadero has impressive white sand beaches as it is, but one of the best things to do in Varadero actually includes heading to the beaches of Cayo Blanco. This tiny cay just off the coast of Varadero is deserted, which makes for a totally different beach experience to Varadero.
Take a catamaran to Cayo Blanco for the ultimate excursion from Varadero. The catamaran ride is actually my favorite part of this trip – you’ll get to stop for snorkeling and swimming all along the way and just generally enjoy cruising around the pristine waters off the coast of Varadero. This day trip includes a complete (delicious) lunch and an open bar.
Keep in mind that Cuban citizens can’t actually participate in this experience (due to admittedly strange regulations surrounding Cuban citizens using boats), so if you’re traveling with Cuban friends or family, this might not be the best experience for you to choose while in Varadero.
9. Take a Cooking Class
Exploring a travel destination through its food is always a good idea. Cuban food can be quite misunderstood, but it is incredibly delicious, so any kind of food experience you can have while in Cuba is sure to be a special one.
In Varadero, you’ll find a really great cooking class available to book on Civitatis that I couldn’t recommend more. The family that runs this experience is absolutely lovely – you’ll feel like you’ve gained a new Cuban family in the process as they welcome you into their home and teach you to cook in their own kitchen.
You’ll get picked up in Varadero and head to the nearby town of Cárdenas where you’ll head to the market and pick up ingredients before heading to their home and learning the recipes – for Cuban food and drinks! – before digging in. They have a swimming pool, too, which is great!
Read More: 15 Unforgettable Places to Visit in Cuba
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10. Try Varadero’s Endless Watersports
You’ll really find it all in Varadero, including every possible watersport or activity you can imagine. Favorites include kayaking and paddleboarding, as waves in Varadero tend to be minimal at most. Of course, snorkeling is a popular activity as well, though you’ll have to swim out a ways to see anything more than just a spray of fish.
Most of the all-inclusive resorts in Varadero offer non-motorized watersports as part of the experience of staying at the resort, though if you’re not staying at a resort, you can usually use kayaks, paddleboards, and the like for a fee. Check ahead of time with your resort about whether motorized watersports are included for guests or not!
Fishermen will also have a lot to celebrate in Varadero – you’ll find great fishing excursions here for a different watersport you definitely won’t forget!
11. Cruise Around Varadero in a Vintage Convertible
Is there anything more iconic about a trip to Cuba than taking a long drive in a vintage car? While many travelers prefer to save this experience for Havana as it’s a great way to see the highlights of Havana, it’s a lovely way to see Varadero as well!
You can book the experience online beforehand if you want to avoid haggling (it’s also less money you need to bring in cash to Cuba!) though you’ll certainly find plenty of opportunities for it once you’re in Varadero. Ask at your casa particular or hotel if they have any recommended guides.
Read More: Havana to Varadero Transportation Options
12. Visit the Yumurí Valley
Just on the outskirts of Varadero, the lush Yumurí Valley is an impressive spot that far too few visitors actually experience up close. It’s actually considered to be among one of the most impressive valleys in all of Cuba! Whether you just take in the valley from its impressive viewpoints or explore its interior, you’ll be impressed.
Explore Yumurí Valley with a private driver or as part of a planned excursion from Varadero; either way, it’s a great way to spend a day. You’ll find excursions to Yumurí that include visits to the nearby caves and also include snorkeling excursions as well, so it can be a great way to do some of the best things to do in Varadero all in one day trip!
Read More: 10+ Best Day Trips from Varadero
Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Home to Havana and Explorers Away. She is a serial expat and traveler, having visited 40+ countries and counting. Carley has written for publications like Travel + Leisure, MSN, Associated Press, Weather Channel, Wealth of Geeks, and more. Find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.