Planning a trip to the beautiful beaches of Cuba? Cuba’s favorite beach town, Varadero, is likely at the top of your list of potential destinations! Varadero, Cuba is the number one beach getaway in Cuba, with the powdery white sand Varadero Beach ranked among the best beaches in the world.
Varadero’s fame as one of Cuba’s best beach destinations is well-deserved. Boasting miles and miles of perfect beachfront, an array of accommodation options ranging from affordable rooms for rent to luxury resorts and beach houses, and all the amenities you could want for a beach getaway, Varadero is pretty dreamy.
Our ultimate travel guide to Varadero, Cuba has both a local and expat perspective to sharing the best of what Varadero has to offer. We’ve been to Varadero countless times – these are our tips for where to stay in Varadero, things to do in Varadero (other than visiting the beach!), and our favorite Varadero restaurants.
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Located on the Hicacos Peninsula, the beach town of Varadero is just two hours east of Cuba’s vibrant capital of Havana. This long, skinny peninsula juts out from the northern coast of Cuba, creating a semi-protected extension of nearly 10 miles (18 kilometers) of perfect beaches.
While Varadero’s proximity to Havana is one of its most attractive features for day trippers and travelers looking for a quick beach escape, it’s also a beach that would be well worth traveling for! With fine sand, tranquil, crystalline waters, and plenty of shade from palms, it’s hard to find fault with the beaches in Varadero.
While the resorts in Varadero have a pristine beachfront, the beach in Varadero is entirely public. There is more than enough public beach that it won’t be a challenge to find the perfect spot to enjoy, whether you’re looking for a more lively party spot or a totally quiet corner of sand.
You’ll enjoy just as great a beach vacation renting an apartment a few blocks from the beach as you will at a resort – this makes Varadero a potentially more affordable island vacation than you might be expecting.
What is Varadero Cuba Know For?
Varadero is best known for its beautiful, spotless beaches and incredible scenery. Its resorts, ranging from affordable to luxury, make it the most popular beach resort town in Cuba.
Varadero is popular with Cubans and foreigners alike. You’ll find visitors from Russia, Canada, and Europe mixing with Cubans from across the island – all here to enjoy the lovely Varadero beach and the many other attractions and activities the area has to offer.
Read More: 10 Best Resorts in Varadero
Is Varadero Worth Visiting?
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
We created an interactive map with 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 Cuba – and you can even download our Varadero Cuba map for your trip.
If you’re coming to Varadero, you’re coming to visit the beach. I’ve seen plenty of beautiful beaches in the Caribbean and elsewhere, but I’m always floored when I step over the dunes and onto the white sand in Varadero.
TripAdvisor agrees, and Varadero regularly grabs a spot on the travel platform’s list of the best beaches in the world.
On the main beachfront road in Varadero (Avenida Primera, then turning 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.
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. Enjoy Snorkeling and Scuba Diving
Varadero is beautiful below the water as well. There are a variety of dive shops in town that will get you set up with tours for snorkeling or scuba diving. While 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, and the crystal-clear water makes for perfect conditions for first-timers.
You’ll find snorkeling and scuba diving excursions 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 this incredible activity while seeing one of Cuba’s stunning cays all at once.
Read More: 12 Best Things To Do in Varadero
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 – keep reading for more information – 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 Cuba as well.
Imagine cruising along the water in style! It’s pretty dreamy, that’s for sure, and there are plenty of opportunities for it. Even if you already did a similar tour in Havana or plan to, it’s a fantastic way to enjoy Varadero!
You’ll see old cars around in Varadero beach 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.
5. Visit Cayo Blanco on a Catamaran
Visiting Cayo Blanco, a nearby key just across the water with white sand beaches is a favorite day trip outside of Varadero beach. There are several options you’ll find for catamaran trips to Cayo Blanco.
Catamaran trips to Cayo Blanco are also excellent ways to get out on the water and enjoy sailing. Excursions include stops for snorkeling along the way, which is a great way to incorporate some diving into your trip and enjoy the beautiful Varadero weather.
This is the Cayo Blanco catamaran excursion that we recommend as a fantastic option for a day excursion – check it out on Civitatis for more details. Make sure to check out add-on opportunities to swim with dolphins, too.
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.
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.
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.
Best Restaurants in Varadero
There are plenty of great restaurants in Varadero, but I recommend downloading the AlaMesa app before heading to Cuba as a way to search for restaurants, cafes, and bars during your trip. Check menus, reviews, and prices easily before heading out, all on the app and even offline.
AlaMesa is like TripAdvisor but specific to eateries in Cuba. While listings are most prevalent in Havana, with over 700 locations listed, there are a growing number of spots listed in Varadero.
Read More: 10 Must-Have Travel Apps for Cuba
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.
Long a favorite in Varadero and with years and years of experience, La Rampa is well known for having some of the best lobster in Varadero. Even better? It lacks the pretension of some of the larger and fancier restaurants in town.
The restaurant is small and cozy, 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.
Terracita’s Cafe is a great spot for delicious and plentiful breakfasts and lunches – it’s very unfussy and feels like you’re being welcomed to the owner’s patio to share a meal. The prices are quite reasonable, and there are plenty of options.
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.
Where To Stay in Varadero Cuba
Varadero has an abundance of places to stay, including a great selection of resorts and an even more extensive selection of rental properties. Prices vary significantly, making a beach getaway in Varadero either quite affordable or very expensive.
With basic rooms for rent in tiny, local hotels or local homes from $30 per night in a basic room rental to fancy all-inclusive resorts costing hundreds of dollars a night, you’ll certainly find something, regardless of what you’re looking for.
All-Inclusive Resorts in Varadero Cuba
Royalton Hicacos Resort & Spa
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.
It sits on an unmatched stretch of the classic, white-sand Varadero beach, and the resort 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
Melia Internacional Varadero
Melia is a European hotel chain that has been in Cuba for years and has a variety of resorts across the island, some of the best in Cuba. The Melia International Varadero is one of the nicest Varadero all-inclusive resorts – the most well-appointed and luxurious you’ll find in town.
The pool area is enormous, with plenty of outdoor bars and dining options, kid-friendly spaces, and a massive beachfront on the pristine Varadero beach. Melia International Varadero is one of the best resorts in Varadero, and you’re sure to love it!
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 the owners living on location, sometimes with just several rooms for rent.
These are some of our favorite options 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 so willing to help guests explore Varadero.
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.
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.
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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. Here’s what to know about getting to Varadero.
Read More: Havana to Varadero: 5 (Easy!) Ways to Travel
Though Varadero isn’t too far from Havana (and there are plenty of ways to get from Havana to Varadero), Varadero has its own international airport (Juan Gualberto Gómez Airport) thanks to its popularity and the number of regular visitors.
Opened in 1989, the Varadero airport is actually the second busiest airport in Cuba, after Jose Martí International Airport in Havana. Most flights to the airport are from Canada, Mexico, and several major European cities.
Flights from the United States to Varadero 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 – buses cost about $10 and take about half an hour. There are also plenty of taxi options available at the airport – taxis cost the equivalent of $25-30 USD and will get you to the center of Varadero in around 20 minutes.
Buses 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 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 take you or a tour company that would do so.
Read More: Havana to Varadero: 5 (Easy!) Travel Options
Varadero to Havana
Buses leave directly from Varadero to Havana several times a day, at 1:00 PM, 2:40 PM, and 6:00 PM, and usually make a short stop in Matanzas to collect more passengers. You can also find buses from Varadero to Matanzas, where you’ll find even more transportation options to Havana if you’d like to travel outside those three scheduled times.
Just as there are plenty of private transportation options from Havana to Varadero, you’ll find just as many returning to the city as well – including private transport with taxi drivers or splitting the cost of a car with other travelers.
We’ve had the best luck finding drivers who park outside the bus stations and charge per seat for a shared ride back to Havana.
Read More: Where To Stay in Havana, Cuba
Havana vs. Varadero
Havana versus Varadero as travel destinations for a Cuba trip – this is an itinerary-planning debate we hear often. This is an impossible debate in our book. 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 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 Playas del Este and Guanabo, Varadero is the nearest beach to Havana that is nice – a typical Caribbean beach you’ll be picturing.
Read More: 7 Best Beaches in Havana, Cuba