varadero cuba

Ultimate Guide to Varadero Cuba (From A Local!)

If you’re planning a trip to Cuba, you’ve almost certainly heard about Varadero. Varadero, Cuba is the number one beach getaway in Cuba, and Varadero beach is famous worldwide as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. 

Its fame as one of Cuba’s most beautiful beaches is well-deserved. If you’re looking for that perfect white-sand Caribbean beach you’ve seen on a postcard, you’re probably looking for Varadero Cuba.

This small but vibrant beach town is close enough to Havana for a day trip, but I recommend spending more time here if your trip planning allows. Here you’ll find something for everyone (and at every price point).

In this ultimate travel guide to Varadero, Cuba, we share the best that Varadero offers – more than just Varadero beach! We’ve been to Varadero countless times – Jose has been coming here since he was a baby! – and we’ve pretty much experienced it all.

Keep reading for everything in this massive guide, like where to stay in Varadero, things to do in Varadero (other than visiting the beach!), and our favorite Varadero restaurants. Plus, our interactive Varadero Cuba map with all our favorite recommendations, how to get from Havana to Varadero, and much more!

varadero cuba

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Varadero Cuba

Varadero is located on the Hicacos Peninsula – this long, skinny peninsula juts out from the northern coast of Cuba, creating a semi-protected extension of 18 kilometers of perfect beaches.

While the resorts in Varadero have their private stretches of beach, there is more than enough public beach that it won’t be a challenge to find the perfect spot to enjoy. You’ll enjoy just as great a beach vacation renting an apartment a few blocks from the beach as you will at a resort.

What is Varadero Cuba Know For?

Varadero is a favorite spot in Cuba best known for its beautiful, spotless beaches and incredible scenery. Just two hours away from Havana, this small town has all the restaurants, bars, stores, resorts, and apartment rentals you could need to make for a perfect beach vacation.

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.

Is Varadero Worth Visiting?

Yes – 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.

This is the perfect place to disconnect, sit on the beach with friends and family, and enjoy the beautiful weather and scenery. But, if a typical beach vacation isn’t your thing, there is still plenty more to do here.

Keep reading to see what we recommend doing in Varadero Cuba (scuba, snorkeling, exploring caves, and more!) Plus, you’re so close to Havana and Trinidad that you can easily find enough to do close by for an exciting trip.

Varadero Weather

The entire island of Cuba (including this beach paradise) generally enjoys warm or hot weather year-round. The sunny and warm Varadero weather makes Varadero a perfect destination to enjoy the lovely beach here.

Generally, late November through April are the cooler and drier months – though still expect 75°F-80°F temperatures (23-28°C). May through October is hot and temperatures can get up to around 90°F (32°C) daily.

May through November are generally wetter (and June through November are hurricane season), though don’t expect full days of rain, just a scattered storm in the afternoon. 

Varadero is popular year-round, filled chiefly with foreign travelers in the cooler months (late November through April) and local Cubans in the summer months (May through October). We’ve visited both in the dead of “winter” and in summer and enjoyed Varadero in both seasons.

Varadero being a favorite location for Cubans and foreigners alike is a part of what makes Varadero so enjoyable – you’ll see all types of people here, and there are restaurants, bars, beaches, and more for travelers of all budgets. 

Varadero Cuba Map

I 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.

Varadero Beach

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. It’s incredible – this is the white sand beach you dream of.

TripAdvisor agrees, and in 2022 Varadero was rated the second-best beach in the world. Wow! I agree!

On the main beachfront road in Varadero – you can’t miss it – there are public beach access points every few blocks amidst restaurants, bars, and cafes. This allows anyone to easily access the water and sand.

Easy access to long expanses of gorgeous public beaches makes Varadero beach such a fantastic destination; even if you’re not planning on staying at a resort or private beach house, it’s so easy and (completely free!) to access the beach throughout the town.

From my 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.

Whichever atmosphere you prefer for your Varadero beach break, you’ll find a perfect section of beach for you.

varadero beach

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Things To Do in Varadero Cuba

Visit Varadero Resorts

One option for beachgoers is taking advantage of the resort space by renting chairs, 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.

The public sections of beach in Varadero are great, but you can’t beat having access to chairs, palapas, water sports, and even the pool throughout the day!

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.

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.

varadero

Best Hotels and Casas in Havana

Swim With Dolphins

There are a variety of companies in Varadero that offer swimming with dolphin excursions for those interested in this fun activity! 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.

Ride in a Classic American Car

Riding 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, and there are plenty of opportunities for it.

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.

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.

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.

Visit the Cueva de Ambrosio

Located just a few kilometers 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, and exploring the cave is a great way to cool off on a hot afternoon.

varadero

Varadero Cuba Restaurants

If you’re not staying in a resort 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, quite easily accessible in this easily walkable area. 

Recommended is, of course, the seafood – you’ll get some fantastic bargains on lobster and fresh fish. Prices pale in comparison to prices back home.

While the food in Varadero is generally going to be a bit more expensive than it might be in Havana (depending on the restaurants you choose), it can still be quite affordable compared to prices you might find at home.

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.

I also recommend downloading the AlaMesa app before heading to Cuba as a way to search for restaurants, cafes, and bars during your trip.

This app is like TripAdvisor but specific to eateries in Cuba. While it is most prevalent in Havana, with over 700 locations listed, there are a growing number of sites listed 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.

La Rampa

La Rampa is well known for having some of the best lobster in Varadero, without 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 – the secret is starting to get out about this gem.

Terracita’s Cafe

Terracita’s Cafe is a great spot for delicious and plentiful breakfast 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.

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, from $30 per night in a basic room rental to hundreds of dollars at an all-inclusive resort.

Varadero Cuba Resorts

Resorts with all-inclusive packages are the name of the game in Varadero, and there are plenty of options to choose from when deciding where to stay in Varadero.

You can find some great deals on rooms when looking at different packages offered at different times of the year, particularly before or after the Christmas and New Years’ holidays.

Many of the lowest-priced Varadero Cuba resort options desperately need renovation. These two I detail below have been recently upgraded and are fantastic options for travelers looking for a Varadero resort stay:

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 all-inclusive 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 Varadero beach.

Royalton Hicacos Varadero Resort & Spa

The Royalton Hicacos has a much more Caribbean vibe than the Melia – the palapas on the beach for relaxing and the main common areas with thatched roofs near the pool are luxurious and breezy.

It sits on an unmatched stretch of the classic Varadero white sandy beach, and the resort has tons of amenities and activities to keep you busy. This resort is the best adults-only option in Varadero.

Hotels 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.

This means that you’re not going to find many standard hotel options for staying in Varadero if you’re not interested in a Varadero all-inclusive option.

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. Here is one of my 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. 

Even if this type of hotel isn’t what you’re looking for, there are infinite options for staying in Varadero, especially when it comes to renting an apartment or a room in a guest house (called casa particular in Cuba). 

We recommend looking into renting a private house, apartment, or room – locals in Varadero have rented properties and rooms for years. They’re the most popular option for visitors who don’t want a resort.

Plus, you will save a ton of money over a resort and have the freedom to get to know Varadero even better. Keep scrolling for my favorite options for rentals.

Varadero Rentals

You will find Varadero rentals in all shapes and sizes, with everything from private houses right on the beach to inexpensive rooms for rent in a local’s home.

I always recommend checking out Hotels.com for the most listings in Cuba (even though these are all apartment rentals!), but here are two of our favorites in Cuba:

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

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.

varadero cuba

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Varadero Travel

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, which regularly leave from Havana to Varadero. 

You can find buses directly to Varadero from the central bus terminal in Havana (Terminal de Omnibuses), near the Plaza de la Revolución. 

You’ll find even more bus options to the city of Matanzas, the capital city of the province of the same name, home to Varadero. From Matanzas, you can get a short bus directly to Varadero. Buses from Matanzas to Varadero depart every 20 minutes, or sooner – as soon as the bus is filled with passengers

Bus tickets from Havana to Varadero will cost about $10 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, 12:00 PM, and 4:40 PM.

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.

When looking to get to Varadero by bus from other cities in Cuba, you’ll most likely need to look for a bus headed to Matanzas, and from Matanzas, you can take a short bus ride to the beach.

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.

Varadero Airport

Varadero has its own international airport – Juan Gualberto Gómez Airport – thanks to Varadero’s popularity and the number of regular visitors.

Opened in 1989, the Varadero airport is 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.

varadero cuba beach town

Havana vs. Varadero

Havana versus Varadero as travel destinations for a Cuba trip – this is an itinerary-planning debate I hear often. This is an impossible debate, in my 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 to 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 places you won’t want to miss when visiting Cuba.

However, 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.

Plus, the ease of transport you’ll find to Varadero from Havana and the number of restaurants, hotels, and home or apartment rentals make it much easier to navigate.