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Varadero Cuba: A Local’s Guide for Travelers [2024]

If you’re planning a trip to the beautiful beaches of Cuba, Varadero is likely at the top of your list. At Cuba’s most famous resort town, the miles of pristine white sand routinely earn Varadero Beach a top spot among the best beaches in the world.

As locals, we’ve traveled to Varadero far too many times to count In our ultimate travel guide to Varadero, Cuba, you’ll find the best of what Varadero has to offer, including the best things to do in Varadero (other than visiting the beach!), and where to stay in Varadero all all price points.

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Varadero, Cuba

Located on the Hicacos Peninsula along Cuba’s northern coast, the beach town of Varadero is just two hours east of the island’s vibrant capital city of Havana. This long, skinny peninsula juts out into crystal-clear turquoise waters, creating a semi-protected extension of nearly 10 miles (18 kilometers) of picture-perfect beaches.

For years, Varadero has been the ultimate resort town in Cuba, easily the most popular and built-up beach destination on the island. Varadero is popular with Cubans and foreigners alike, all here to enjoy the lovely Varadero Beach and the many other attractions and activities the area has to offer.

Despite sections of the beach being overtaken by the numerous resorts in Varadero, Varadero Beach is entirely public. There is more than enough public beach here to enjoy, whether you’re looking for a more lively party spot or a totally quiet corner of sand. 

Varadero’s proximity to Havana makes it a popular day-trip destination for a quick escape, though many visitors stick around for an extended beach vacation. You’ll enjoy just as great a beach vacation renting an apartment a few blocks from the beach as you will at a resort, making Varadero a potentially more affordable island vacation than you might be expecting.

No matter what you’re planning to do on your Cuba itinerary, Varadero is well worth a trip. Not only does its location – just a few hours from Havana and Trinidad – make it an accessible destination for visitors, but its beaches alone are worth traveling for.

Varadero Cuba Map

Our interactive Varadero Cuba map includes all of our favorite spots and recommendations in Varadero – restaurants, hotels and resorts, and the scuba shop we recommend – plus some essential locations in town you’ll need to know.

It’s easy to see how simple Varadero travel is when seeing how it’s just one long peninsula. Click away to get a feel for Varadero; you can even download our Varadero Cuba map for your trip.

Varadero Beach

If you’re coming to Varadero, you’re most certainly planning on visiting the beach. Even after visiting some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean and around the world, I’m always floored when I step over the dunes and onto the white sands of Varadero Beach.

On the main beachfront road in Varadero (Avenida Primera, which turns into Avenida Playa), there are public beach access points every few blocks amidst restaurants, bars, and cafes. This allows anyone to easily access the water and sand on Varadero Beach.

From our experience, there aren’t any tricks to finding the best spot or any special sections of the beach to visit. Some sections of the beach have more neighboring restaurants and cafes. Other areas are lined with houses and apartments and have a more relaxed vibe. It’s all about what you’re looking for from your beach day.

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Things To Do in Varadero Cuba

Beyond just going to the beach, there are plenty of things to do in Varadero. So many, in fact, that we wrote an entire guide to the best things to do in Varadero. Make sure to give that a read before your trip, but we’ve listed some of the absolute highlights below:

1. Visit Varadero Resorts (or, Spend The Night!)

One option for beachgoers looking for more amenities for their beach day is to take advantage of the resort space at some of Varadero’s favorite spots by renting chairs and umbrellas or even getting a day rate with meals included at a resort if you want to use all their resources – including pools.

You can take advantage of a day pass at almost any resort in town. Just walk up to the resort on the beach and inquire. This is a great (relatively inexpensive) way to use a chair for the day and enjoy the hotel amenities, even if you don’t choose to stay there.

Read More: 10 Best Resorts in Varadero, Cuba

2. Go Snorkeling or Scuba Diving

Varadero Beach is not Cuba’s most well-known dive spot – check out Jardines de la Reina for that! – there is a lot to see under these crystal-clear waters.

Snorkeling and scuba diving excursions are offered by dive shops and tour providers in town. ScubaLibre is a reputable snorkeling and diving company, and they have a variety of excursion types, including a snorkeling excursion to the cave systems nearby – we recommend going with them!

Alternatively, book a catamaran trip to Cayo Blanco, a nearby white-sand cay just off the shore from Varadero. The catamaran excursion includes stops along the way for snorkeling, and you can also snorkel at Cayo Blanco. This is a great way to get in some snorkeling while seeing one of Cuba’s stunning cays all at once.

Read More: 12 Best Things To Do in Varadero

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3. Swim With Dolphins

There are a variety of companies in Varadero that offer swimming with dolphin excursions for those interested in this fun activity! You’ll have several options in Varadero if you’re looking to swim with dolphins, though most travelers head to Varadero’s Delfinario for dolphin shows and to swim with dolphins.

While you won’t probably see dolphins swimming from the beaches of Varadero, the locals know where to find them, and there are a variety of excursions and activities built around this. Some of the catamaran excursions in Varadero also offer additional experience add-ons to swim with dolphins, so if you’re considering both experiences, it may be best to combine them.

4. Ride in a Vintage American Car

Taking a tour in a vintage American car is generally an activity that visitors will save for Havana, but it can be a beautiful way to see Varadero as well. Even if you have already done a similar tour in Havana or plan to, cruising past the water in a vintage convertible is a fantastic way to enjoy Varadero!

You’ll see old cars all around in Varadero as you explore the town and probably will be asked if you want to ride, though you can also book in advance online. Booking in advance is a great way to avoid the annoyance of haggling and will save you from having to bring even more cash to Cuba.

Read More: 12 Best Things To Do in 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.

best things to do in varadero cuba

5. Visit Cayo Blanco on a Catamaran

Cayo Blanco, a nearby white-sand cay just across the water from Varadero Beach is a favorite day trip from Varadero. Hop on one of the many catamaran trips to Cayo Blanco that depart from the beach for one of the best ways to get out on the water and enjoy sailing during your Varadero stay.

These all-inclusive day trips include lunch and drinks, as well as all of the gear you’ll need for snorkeling and enjoying a day at the beach. Trips can also be combined with opportunities to swim with dolphins if you book ahead.

Note: Cuban citizens aren’t allowed to take part in these catamaran excursions, given regulations about Cubans boarding boats, so if you’re traveling with Cuban friends or family, this isn’t the excursion for you, unfortunately.

Read More: 10+ Best Day Trips from Varadero

6. Visit the Cueva de Ambrosio

Located just a few miles from Varadero, the Cueva de Ambrosio is one of the largest caves of an expansive network of caves running underground along the north of Cuba. Small group cave excursions are popular half-day trips from Varadero.

You’ll be wowed by the stalactites and stalagmites from above and below as you explore the cave. Expecting an incredibly hot weather day during your trip to Varadero? Exploring the cave is a great way to cool off on a hot afternoon and avoid getting burned at the beach.

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Where To Eat in Varadero

If you’re not staying in one of Varadero’s all-inclusive resorts and are looking for the best place to eat in Varadero, there are plenty of delicious options in the center of town. Most restaurants are located on the main road running parallel to the beach (Avenida Primera, which also branches out into Avenida Playa), quite easily accessible in this easily walkable area. 

However, you’ll also find some great spots a bit further from the beach on the side streets that run perpendicular to the beach. If you want to find something less expensive and more local, any of the side streets branching off from the beachside road will have small eateries scattered with options locals frequent, including some of those we recommend below.

Recommended anywhere in Varadero is, of course, the seafood – you’ll get some fantastic bargains on lobster and fresh fish. Prices pale in comparison to prices back home, and I definitely consider eating seafood among the best things to do in Varadero.

La Vaca Rosada

The rooftop terrace and barbecue at La Vaca Rosada make this restaurant one of our favorites in town. You can’t go wrong with any of the seafood dishes on the menu, and they also have delicious mixed drinks. Easily accessible on a side street off of the beachfront avenue, it’s not as boisterous (or touristy!) as some of Varadero’s other spots… and the food is even better.

La Vaca Rosada | $$ | #102 Calle 21

La Rampa

Long a favorite in Varadero, La Rampa is a cozy, unpretentious restaurant well known for having some of the best lobster in Varadero. The restaurant is small, so arrive early if you don’t want to wait for a table. Or, even better, stop by for lunch or earlier in the afternoon to make a reservation for dinner – the secret is starting to get out about this gem.

La Rampa | $$ | Calle 43 y Avenida Primera

Marisquería Laurent

Beachfront Marisquería Laurent is all about the views, though its menu is nothing to scoff at. Enjoy waterfront views on an expansive dining patio as you dig into big portions of seafood, with fresh grilled fish, lobster, and grilled shrimp and prawns being the stars of the menu.

Marisquería Laurent | $$ – $$$ | Calle 31 y Avenida Playa

Salsa Suarez

Once you’ve eaten your weight in seafood and Cuban dishes in Varadero, head to Salsa Suarez for a great array of international dishes. Pizza, pasta, and even sushi are on the menu here, though of course, you can also opt for some of Varadero’s best seafood if you just can’t get enough. Right in the heart of town, this is one of our favorite places to eat in Varadero for a slightly nicer meal.

Salsa Suarez | $$ | Calle 31 y Avenida Primera

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Courtesy of Royalton Hicacos Resort & Spa

Where To Stay in Varadero Cuba

Varadero has an abundance of places to stay, with a great selection of resorts in Varadero and an even more extensive selection of rental properties. Prices vary significantly, making a beach getaway in Varadero either quite affordable or very expensive.

Royalton Hicacos Resort & Spa

Best Adults-Only Resort in Varadero

The Royalton Hicacos Resort & Spa is one of the best resorts in Cuba, and our top recommendation among resorts in Varadero. Palapas on the beach for relaxing common areas with thatched roofs near the pool are luxurious and breezy and updated furnishings and excellent service make it easily the best resort in town.

Royalton Hicacos Resort & Spa sits on an unmatched stretch of pristine, white-sand Varadero Beach and has tons of amenities and activities to keep you busy. This resort is the best adults-only option in Varadero.

Reviews and Bookings: Royalton Hicacos Resort & Spa

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Courtesy of Iberostar Selection Varadero

Iberostar Selection Varadero

Best Family-Friendly Resort in Varadero

One of our top recommendations for family-friendly resorts in Varadero is the Iberostar Selection Varadero, another resort pick that lands on our list of among the best resorts in CubaThis resort’s excellent kids club and additional babysitting services ensure that kids and teens always have plenty to do during their stay.

Iberostar Selection Varadero is undoubtedly family-friendly, but this resort has plenty for those traveling without kids, too. Four outdoor pools, a gorgeous spa and wellness center, five restaurants, a golf course, and plenty of water sports options abound.

Reviews and Bookings: Iberostar Selection Varadero 

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Courtesy of Melia International Varadero

Melia Internacional Varadero

Long a favorite all-inclusive resort in Varadero, the Melia International Varadero is one of the most well-appointed and luxurious resorts you’ll find in town. The resort’s pool area is enormous, with plenty of outdoor bars and dining options, as well as kid-friendly spaces and a massive beachfront on the pristine Varadero Beach.

Travelers will find everything they need within the bounds of the resort, but the resort’s location, just a few minutes walk from the downtown center of Varadero, makes for easy exploring and convenience

Reviews and Bookings: Melia International Varadero

Hotels and Guesthouses in Varadero Cuba

The majority of the hotels in Varadero Cuba are all-inclusive resorts, which can boast incredible package deals for those looking to stay for a few days or longer. Most hotels in Varadero that are not all-inclusive are more like homestays or bed and breakfasts, sometimes with just several rooms for rent.

These are our favorite boutique hotels and casa particular guest houses in Varadero:

Casa de Betty and Jorge ($$)

Casa de Betty and Jorge is a bed and breakfast that feels much more like a small hotel than a traditional guesthouse or rental. There is a lovely patio with tables and rocking chairs for evening drinks or morning coffee, and several rooms with a variety of configurations. The owners – Betty and Jorge – are gems and are willing to help guests explore Varadero. 

Reviews and Bookings: Casa de Betty and Jorge

Casa Marta Margarita ($)

Casa Marta Margarita includes two apartments, both of which feature kitchenettes, perfect for families or longer stays in Varadero. You’ll also find a lovely, shaded terrace with tables and rockers. This guesthouse is along one of Varadero’s main thoroughfares and just steps from the beach.

Reviews and Bookings: Casa Marta Margarita

Villa Obdulia ($)

Villa Obdulia is a lovely, budget-friendly little guesthouse located in one of the best and liveliest parts of Varadero, close to the beach and all the restaurants and cafes you could ever want to visit. The rooms are simple, and there is a great terrace with long chairs and tables to enjoy breakfast in the morning.

Reviews and Bookings: Villa Obdulia

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Travel Essential

Don’t think about traveling to Cuba without a good VPN (Virtual Private Network). Using a VPN while connecting to the internet is an easy way to keep your personal information safe from hackers and trackers. We’ve used NordVPN for years and couldn’t recommend it more – it’s a must for safety online, especially in Cuba. 

Getting to Varadero

Varadero is one of the most accessible beach destinations in Cuba. Wherever your Cuba itinerary takes you, you’ll have no trouble getting to Varadero, especially from Havana:

Buses from Havana to Varadero

Varadero is located about two hours east of Havana, making it a perfect day trip from Havana but an even better overnight trip. The easiest option for transport from Havana to Varadero is by Viazul buses. Buses depart from the central bus terminal in Havana (Terminal de Omnibuses), near the Plaza de la Revolución. 

Bus tickets from Havana to Varadero will cost about $9 in Cuban pesos for a one-way ticket. You can find the current bus schedule on the Viazul website, but buses are advertised to leave Havana at 8:30 AM and 4:40 PM.

Taxis from Havana to Varadero

If you’re not interested in taking a bus, plenty of private options are available. Many taxi drivers will gladly accept a day off from their regularly scheduled itinerary to bring travelers to Varadero. There are private companies dedicated to private transport and small group excursions that split transportation costs, making them quite affordable. 

If you don’t want to book Varadero transportation ahead of time, ask your homestay host or staff at your hotel in Havana for private transportation recommendations. They’ll be able to find a reliable friend with a taxi or private car who can drive you or a tour company that would do so.

Read More: Havana to Varadero: 5 (Easy!) Travel Options

Flights to Varadero

Varadero’s Juan Gualberto Gómez Airport is the second busiest airport in Cuba, after Jose Martí International Airport in Havana. Most flights to Varadero are from Canada, Mexico, and several major European cities.

Flights from the United States to Varadero were recently resumed, and now you’ll find regular flights between U.S. cities and Varadero, as well as flights to Varadero from Latin America, Canada, and Europe.

Buses are available to take visitors from the Varadero airport to the center of town for about 10 USD per passenger on the half-hour journey. There are also plenty of taxi options available at the airport – taxis cost around 25-30 USD and will get you to the center of Varadero in around 20 minutes.

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Havana vs. Varadero

We often have travelers write us as they debate Havana vs. Varadero on their Cuba itinerary. However, there is no way to compare Havana and Varadero!

Havana is a beautiful and historic city and cultural hub, and one of the most unique and interesting cities in the world. Varadero, on the other hand, is home to one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. The experiences you’ll have in either of these places are completely different, and recommending one over the other is impossible without knowing what you’re looking for.

If you’re having a hard time deciding what to do on a trip to Cuba, I recommend seeing if your schedule allows for time in both of these places, even if you spend a longer chunk of time in one city and just a day in another. Both Havana and Varadero Beach are destinations you won’t want to miss in Cuba.

While I’ll choose Havana over Varadero every time if I’m forced to choose, Varadero is the best beach trip from Havana, in my opinion. While there are beaches that are closer to Havana, such as the beaches at Playas del Este, Varadero is the nearest beach to Havana which makes the list of the best beaches in Cuba.

Read More: 7 Best Beaches in Havana, Cuba

Carley Rojas Avila

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.