Cuba’s quintessential tourist town, Varadero is a bustling party and relaxation destination for those seeking picturesque white sand beaches, and all-inclusive resorts. There are plenty of things to know about Varadero before going, though. For example, it’s about 83 miles from Havana. And has its own airport! Varadero is actually a secluded peninsula reserved for the tourist industry.
Here’s 10 Things to Know About Varadero, Cuba
If you’re deciding whether or not to book a Varadero vacation, we’ve got you covered. Here’s all the things to know about Varadero.
1. What is There to do in Varadero?
There are three main elements to Varadero that make it a good week long destination, at the very least. First of which is the remarkably photogenic white sand beaches, which stretch along the Western side of the peninsula. Most all-inclusive resorts have direct access to the beach, which feature a wide variety of water sports, excursions and sunbathing opportunities.
The resorts themselves compliment the beauty of these waters with incredibly friendly staff, and endless activities. Most resorts are all-inclusive, so you can enjoy food and beverages to your heart’s content! Lastly is the town itself, with a welcoming and bustling night scene, restaurants, bars and markets to explore and enjoy. Next to the largest park in the area, Parque Josone, there’s also a legendary Beatles themed bar! Not to mention the Varadero Golf Club, as well.
2. There’s Resorts to fit Every Budget
Seriously. The resorts range dramatically in quality and price, but what you’ll always get is incredible hospitality. We’ve stayed at a mid-range resort that satisfied all of our needs, and gave us direct access to the gorgeous beaches. On the higher end, you’ll see more al’a carte restaurants (reservation dinners), spas and bars if that’s what you’re looking for. No matter what resort you go for, most of the beaches are open to tourists so you don’t have to worry about where your booking puts you.
3. CUC is King
CUC is the convertible currency allotted to tourists available for exchange. It’s equivalency is measured in USD, as opposed to the Cuban peso to prevent inflation. In Varadero, locals paid in CUC can exchange it for Cuban pesos, which makes their tourist industry thrive especially well here. Ensure that you’re always receiving CUC in change (marked on the bills), as you can’t spend Cuban pesos, or exchange them upon departure.
Lastly, you should only exchange what you expect to use. The exchange rate backwards is lower, so allot enough for tips and extras and take advantage of front-desk currency exchange in most resorts.
4. Varadero is Completely Self-Contained
If you’re just getting your feet wet travelling, Varadero is unique in that it’s cordoned off from the rest of Cuba. It’s designated as a tourist enclave, heavily policed and accessed through a checkpoint for tourists, workers and vendors only. Locals have limited access to the beaches, town and resorts of Varadero. On one hand it’s far more tourist saturated, yet also chock full of amenities if you’re looking for an easy and carefree beach vacation.
5. Pace Yourself at All-Inclusive Bars
Drinking in an all-inclusive resort in Varadero, Cuba is an experience like none other. If anything, it seems like sometimes they try to thin out the mix with the booze. Saying the cocktails are boozy would be an understatement. At one resort, they stretched a can of sprite we bought for mix by using vodka to thin it out between our cups! If you don’t call that good service, then stick to the beer!
Speaking of which, the beer you’ll usually find in two varieties. There two domsetic brands you’ll see. Cristal, a light lager, is dangerously drinkable as well as very crisp and enjoyable. Bucanero is a darker ale which, and I hate to sound disparaging, is usually served after the Cristal runs out. Spirits run free, and the beer does too!
6. 4G Cell Service is Pretty Much Everywhere
Recent years saw the first time most Cubans could access cell networks. Previously, they relied on closed wifi hotspots. That’s great news for tourists who can look forward to making Instagram posts from the beach, and not the resort lobby! Our experience was consistently good, with the 4G connection running more reliably than the pay-per-use wifi.
7. You Should Enjoy the Unreal Sunsets and Sunrises
Varadero is in many respects a tourist trap. Quite literally by its very conception. That being said, the view of these beaches is indescribably serene. Take the opportunity to venture out towards the water during sunset and sunrise for some truly Instagram-worthy pictures. You won’t regret it!
8. Go Off-Resort or A la’ Carte for Good Food
I’m sure we’ll touch on resort food in Cuba at a later date but suffice to say, it’s nothing to write home about. Lackluster buffets with endless rows of unnamed sauces, surprisingly mysterious, yet bland, variations of chicken and pork and a smattering of American style cuisine leave much to be desired. In short, you’re paying for the beach, not the buffets.
Off resort you’ll delve into a wonder of Cuban delicacies, available from a variety of restaurants and bars throughout town. There’s plenty to taste, as local haunts feed the families that work in the tourist industry. As well as vacationing Cubans who are relegated to certain hotels on the Hicacos peninsula. Did we mention the lovably tacky Beatles bar? Seriously, you’ve got to check it out!
9. Varadero Has It’s Own Airport
Can you fly directly to Varadero? The answer is yes! A short drive from Varadero itself is it’s own dedicated, fully-equipped international airport! Complete with a shuttle through your preferred travel agency, Varadero international airport is your first point of contact for currency exchange and transportation directly to the resorts. If you’re travelling without a tour operator, taxi drivers will be lined up ready to give you the ride of your life. Usually in an iconic classic car.
10. The Excursions Make the Trip!
Complete your stay on the ‘Cuban Riviera’ with some unforgettable and exciting excursions. There’s everything from jeep rental tours, to catamaran trips, snorkeling with dolphins and sailing! Each resort has a wealth of information on what activities are available near you, not to mention your tour operator as well. If your’e on the fence, it’s really a great way to earn that lounge time on the beach, and get some awesome pictures! Take advantage of affordable and exciting adventures while staying in Varadero.
Varadero is a sight for sore eyes, especially if you’re escaping a winter-not-so-wonderful-land! The beaches are some of the best in the world, and the hospitality is second to none. Have these 10 things to know about Varadero helped with your travel planning? Let us know!