Running along the narrow Hicacos Peninsula on Cuba’s northern coast, Varadero is what most people would call paradise on earth. Quiet sandy beaches, crystalline waters, underwater caves, and colonial mansions make this one of Cuba’s most beautiful and attractive destinations. Read on for an insider’s guide to Varadero, Cuba!
1 – How to get to Varadero, Cuba
The best way to get to Varadero is to fly there directly! The airport is about 25-35 minutes by car from most hotels. Find cheap flights to Varadero with Interjet. You can also fly to Havana or Santa Clara!
Staying in Havana? Here’s how to get to Varadero on the coastal highway.
Staying in Santa Clara? Here are road directions to Varadero.
2 – Where to stay in Varadero
If beachside hotels with killer views is your thing, you’ll be spoiled for choice in Varadero. The whole Hicacos Peninsula is lined with beach clubs, all-inclusive resorts, luxury hotels, and high-end restaurants.
Many tourists visiting Cuba prefer to look for alternative accommodation, staying with a Cuban family or renting a room in someone’s apartment for a few days. This offers a truly unique travel experience and the chance to see Cuba in a more authentic way, just like a local! This is also a great way to visit Cuba on a budget, as staying with locals is considerably cheaper than staying at an all-inclusive resort.
Organizing a homestay (commonly known as a casa particular in Cuba) with a local family is easy. Simply ask around at cafés, restaurants, or with taxi drivers. Homestays are incredibly common in Cuba, so most locals know someone who rents out a room or two in their home. Make sure to take a look inside before paying for the room!
3 – Cayo Blanco island
No guide to Varadero, Cuba would be complete without mentioning the famous Cayo Blanco island!
If you thought the beaches around Varadero were heavenly, wait until you see Cayo Blanco. Tours leave Varadero every morning to the small island in the Gulf of Cazones, and usually make a stop at various reefs along the way. Some tours stop at the Dolphinarium where you can swim with dolphins and see exciting shows.
Most tours include food and drink, so once you get to Cayo Blanco, you’ll only have to worry about working on your tan!
4 – Go snorkeling and diving
Varadero has plenty to offer for those looking for diving and snorkeling spots. Bacunayagua is one of the best snorkeling and SCUBA diving reefs on the continent, teeming with exotic fish and colorful coral formations.
For family friendly snorkeling, head to Playa Coral. Here you’ll find a lively but shallow reef with large schools of fish and small stingray species. You can join a night-time snorkeling tour with local guides!
5 – Visit mansions and parks
Varadero is well known for its sprawling parks, nature reserves, and huge mansions. These lavish buildings were once owned by the island’s super-wealthy, and some were even used by American celebrities as holiday homes! Visit the enormous Casa Dupont, where a peculiar mix of colonial and oriental architecture now houses a boutique hotel and a luxury beach club located near the popular Las Americas beach.
Make sure to stop at Casa de Al, a mansion-turned-restaurant that previously belonged to the infamous Chicago gangster Al Capone. The restaurant serves up hearty Cuban meals and refreshing cocktails, and the 1920s interior is perfect for taking unique Instagram photos.
Don’t leave Varadero without spending an afternoon in Josone Park. The park’s vivid flower gardens and lake are ideal for a few hours of relaxing fun.
6 – Explore Varadero’s caves
For adventurers and explorers, Varadero’s cave system is an unmissable attraction!
Cueva de Saturno cave is a large cenote cave where tourists can explore narrow caverns and swim in the cave’s immaculate waters. Take a pair of goggles or snorkeling gear to get up-close-and-personal with blind cave fish and cave shrimp!
Another option is the Ambrosio Cave located in the Varahicacos nature reserve. This cave’s impressive stalagmites, stalactites, and ancient indigenous wall paintings make it a popular attraction. Oh, and there are also several bat and lizard species that live here year-round!