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Varadero Cuba: See The Real Town Beyond Your Resort


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Minnnie Enders



Welcome to Varadero, Cuba’s tropical paradise known for its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant culture. Nestled on the Hicacos Peninsula, Varadero offers a unique blend of natural beauty, rich history, and warm hospitality. While many visitors come to Varadero for its luxurious resorts and all-inclusive packages, there is so much more to discover beyond the confines of your hotel.


Varadero is not only a popular tourist destination but also a town with a fascinating history. It was originally developed in the early 20th century as a playground for the rich and famous, and its glamourous past can still be seen in the elegant mansions and historic buildings that line the streets. Over the years, Varadero has evolved into a vibrant town that offers a glimpse into the real Cuba, away from the tourist crowds.


Getting to Varadero is easy, with Juan Gualberto Gómez International Airport just a short drive away. Many international airlines offer direct flights to Varadero, making it a convenient destination for travelers from around the world. Once you arrive, you’ll be greeted by the warm Caribbean breeze and the captivating beauty of Varadero’s coastline.


When it comes to accommodations, Varadero has something to suit every budget and preference. From luxury resorts with stunning ocean views to cozy boutique hotels tucked away in the town center, you’ll find plenty of options to ensure a comfortable stay. For a more immersive experience, consider staying in a casa particular, a privately-owned guesthouse where you can interact with local hosts and get a taste of authentic Cuban hospitality.


History of Varadero

The history of Varadero dates back centuries, with its roots intertwined with Cuba’s colonial past. The area was originally inhabited by indigenous people before being colonized by the Spanish in the late 15th century. It remained a quiet fishing village for many years until the 19th century when the town started to gain attention as a vacation spot for wealthy Havana residents.


In the early 1900s, Varadero experienced a transformation as American entrepreneurs recognized its potential as a luxurious resort destination. They built grand hotels, casinos, and beach clubs to cater to the elite. Varadero became an exclusive playground for the rich and famous, attracting celebrities, politicians, and socialites from around the world.


During the mid-20th century, Varadero faced its fair share of challenges. Political upheaval and revolutions in Cuba led to the expropriation of many private properties, including the stylish resorts in Varadero. The town underwent a period of decline, with many of the once-glamorous buildings falling into disrepair.


In the 1990s, Cuba’s government implemented economic reforms to boost tourism and revitalize Varadero. The development of new hotels and the restoration of historic buildings breathed new life into the town. Today, Varadero is a thriving tourist destination, offering a mix of modern amenities and cultural charm.


Despite its transformation into a tourist hotspot, Varadero has managed to preserve elements of its past. Visitors can still explore remnants of the resort era, such as the Xanadu Mansion and the iconic Dupont Mansion. These architectural gems offer a glimpse into Varadero’s glamorous past and serve as a reminder of its heritage.


As you wander the streets of Varadero, you’ll find colorful murals depicting the town’s history and cultural significance. The Museo Municipal del Varadero is also worth a visit, showcasing artifacts and exhibits that highlight the town’s evolution.


Today, Varadero continues to captivate visitors with its breathtaking beaches, vibrant nightlife, and warm hospitality. As you soak up the sun and immerse yourself in the local culture, take a moment to appreciate the rich history that has shaped this beautiful destination.


Getting to Varadero

Getting to Varadero is a breeze, thanks to its convenient location and well-developed transportation infrastructure. Whether you’re arriving by air or land, there are several options to choose from.


If you’re traveling from abroad, your journey typically begins at the Juan Gualberto Gómez International Airport, located just a short drive from Varadero. This modern airport serves as a major gateway for international tourists, with numerous airlines offering direct flights from destinations all over the world.


Once you land at the airport, you have several options for reaching Varadero. Taxis are readily available outside the terminal, providing a quick and convenient way to get to your accommodation. Metered taxis are a reliable choice, but be sure to negotiate the fare in advance to avoid any surprises.


If you prefer public transportation, you can take a Vía Azul bus from the airport to Varadero. Vía Azul is a comfortable and affordable option, with regular departures throughout the day. The journey takes approximately 30 minutes and offers scenic views of the coast along the way.


If you’re already in Cuba and planning to visit Varadero from another city, you can also travel by bus or rental car. Víazul buses operate daily routes to Varadero from major cities like Havana and Matanzas. The bus service is reliable and comfortable, allowing you to sit back and enjoy the scenic countryside.


For those who prefer the freedom of their own transportation, renting a car is a popular option. There are car rental companies located in Varadero as well as at the airport, offering a range of vehicles to suit your needs. It’s important to note that driving in Cuba may be different from what you’re accustomed to, so it’s advisable to familiarize yourself with the local traffic regulations and road conditions before embarking on your journey.


Once you arrive in Varadero, getting around the town is relatively easy. Taxis and bicycle taxis are readily available, providing convenient transportation within the town center. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also rent a bike or scooter to explore the area at your own pace.


Whatever mode of transportation you choose, the journey to Varadero is part of the adventure. Sit back, relax, and get ready to experience all that this tropical paradise has to offer.


Accommodation Options

Varadero offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s preferences and budget. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious beachfront resort or a cozy guesthouse in the heart of town, you’ll find plenty of choices to ensure a comfortable stay.


If you’re seeking a pampering and indulgent experience, Varadero’s all-inclusive resorts are the perfect choice. These sprawling properties offer an array of amenities, such as multiple swimming pools, fine dining restaurants, spa facilities, and direct access to the beach. With attentive staff catering to your every need, you can relax and unwind in style.


For a more intimate and personalized experience, consider staying at one of Varadero’s boutique hotels. These smaller-scale establishments often feature unique and charming designs, combining modern comforts with local flair. Many boutique hotels are located in the town center, allowing you to immerse yourself in the local culture and easily explore nearby attractions.


If you’re looking to connect with the local community and experience authentic Cuban hospitality, consider staying in a casa particular. These privately-owned guesthouses offer a home-away-from-home experience, with comfortable rooms and the opportunity to interact with your Cuban hosts. Staying in a casa particular provides a unique insight into the local way of life and can lead to memorable cultural exchanges.


Another popular accommodation option in Varadero is apartment rentals. Many homeowners in Varadero offer their apartments or condos for short-term rentals, providing a convenient and cost-effective alternative to traditional hotels. Staying in an apartment allows you to have a taste of independence while enjoying the comforts of a fully equipped living space.


For budget-conscious travelers, Varadero also has a selection of affordable hostels and guesthouses. These budget accommodations offer clean and comfortable rooms, often with shared facilities, providing a great option for those looking to stretch their travel budget without sacrificing comfort.


When choosing your accommodation, consider factors such as location, amenities, and proximity to the beach and attractions. Varadero’s accommodations cater to various needs and preferences, ensuring that every visitor can find their ideal place to stay and make the most of their time in this beautiful coastal town.


Exploring Downtown Varadero

While Varadero is famous for its stunning beaches, there is so much more to discover in the town’s vibrant downtown area. Exploring downtown Varadero offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture, interact with friendly locals, and discover hidden gems beyond the resort areas.


As you wander through the streets of downtown Varadero, you’ll find an array of shops, cafes, and restaurants. Take a stroll along Calle 62, the main street of the town, and explore the various boutiques and souvenir shops. From handmade crafts and artwork to traditional Cuban cigars and rum, there are plenty of opportunities to find unique souvenirs and gifts.


Food lovers will delight in the culinary scene of downtown Varadero. From traditional Cuban cuisine to international flavors, there’s something to satisfy every palate. Sample delicious seafood dishes, indulge in mouthwatering tropical fruits, and don’t forget to pair your meal with a refreshing mojito or Cuba libre. Be sure to also try some of the local street food, such as empanadas and churros, for an authentic culinary experience.


One of the highlights of downtown Varadero is Parque Josone, a lush and tranquil park where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the streets. Stroll through the beautifully manicured gardens, relax by the lake, and enjoy a picnic under the shade of the trees. Parque Josone also features charming restaurants and cafes, where you can savor a meal or sip on a coffee while enjoying the serene surroundings.


No visit to downtown Varadero would be complete without exploring the vibrant art scene. Visit local galleries and art studios to admire the works of talented Cuban artists, showcasing a wide range of styles and mediums. The art scene in Varadero reflects the vibrant and diverse cultural heritage of Cuba, offering a glimpse into the country’s artistic soul.


For those interested in history and architecture, downtown Varadero is home to several notable landmarks. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Iglesia Santa Elvira, a beautiful church known for its stunning stained glass windows. The Casa de Al, a historic mansion turned cultural center, is another must-see attraction. Here, you can learn about Varadero’s past and its significance in Cuban history.


Exploring downtown Varadero allows you to experience the vibrant energy of the town and connect with the friendly locals. From shopping and dining to immersing yourself in the local art and history, there’s something to captivate every traveler’s interest in this vibrant part of Varadero.


Local Cuisine and Restaurants

One of the highlights of visiting Varadero is the opportunity to indulge in the rich and flavorful Cuban cuisine. From traditional dishes passed down through generations to innovative culinary creations, the local food scene is sure to delight your taste buds.


A staple of Cuban cuisine is the classic dish of Ropa Vieja, which translates to “old clothes.” This flavorful dish consists of shredded beef simmered in a savory tomato-based sauce, seasoned with aromatic herbs and spices. Served with rice and plantains, Ropa Vieja is a must-try when visiting Varadero.


Another must-try dish is congrí, a traditional combination of rice and beans cooked together with spices like cumin and garlic. This flavorful and hearty dish is often served alongside roasted pork or chicken, providing a complete and satisfying meal.


Seafood lovers will be in for a treat in Varadero. With its coastal location, the town offers an abundance of fresh seafood options. From succulent grilled lobster and shrimp to ceviche bursting with tangy flavors, there’s something to satisfy every seafood craving.


Don’t forget to sample some of Cuba’s iconic street food as well. Grab a Cuban sandwich, known as a “sandwich Cubano,” filled with layers of ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard, pressed to perfection on crispy bread. Pair it with a refreshing glass of fresh sugar cane juice for a truly authentic experience.


When it comes to dining options, Varadero has a diverse range of restaurants to choose from. Many of the resorts boast fantastic dining establishments, offering international cuisine and gourmet experiences. For a taste of local flavor, seek out the paladares, privately-owned restaurants often located in family homes. These intimate and cozy establishments serve up traditional Cuban dishes cooked with love and pride.


Venturing into downtown Varadero will also open up a world of culinary possibilities. Explore the local cafes and eateries where you can savor Cuban staples and mingle with friendly locals. Don’t be afraid to try something new and ask for recommendations – Cubans are known for their warmth and hospitality.


Pair your meals with Cuba’s famous rum or indulge in a refreshing mojito, made with local ingredients such as fresh mint and sugar cane rum. The combination of the delicious food and vibrant cocktails will transport you to an authentic Cuban culinary experience.


Whether you’re a food enthusiast or simply love exploring new flavors, Varadero’s local cuisine and restaurants are sure to leave a lasting impression. Immerse yourself in the culinary delights of Cuba and savor the flavors of this vibrant destination.


Popular Attractions in Varadero

Varadero, with its pristine beaches and vibrant culture, offers a wealth of attractions and activities for visitors to enjoy. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or cultural immersion, there’s something for everyone in this tropical paradise.


The crown jewel of Varadero is, without a doubt, its gorgeous beaches. Stretching along the peninsula for 20 kilometers, these white sandy shores and crystal-clear turquoise waters provide the perfect setting for sunbathing, swimming, and water sports. Whether you prefer the lively atmosphere of the main beach or the tranquility of the more secluded stretches, the beaches of Varadero are an absolute must-visit.


For a dose of history and culture, be sure to explore the Varadero City Museum. Located in a beautifully restored mansion, the museum showcases exhibits that trace the history and development of Varadero. From tales of its glamorous past as a playground for the rich and famous to its transformation into a popular tourist destination, the museum offers a fascinating glimpse into Varadero’s heritage.


Another popular attraction is the Varahicacos Ecological Reserve. This protected natural area offers a haven for wildlife, with diverse ecosystems that are home to numerous plant and animal species. Visitors can hike through the trails, explore the caves, and discover the unique flora and fauna that thrive in this unspoiled environment.


For water enthusiasts, a visit to the Delfinario is a must. Located near the marina, this dolphinarium allows visitors to swim and interact with dolphins. Get up close and personal with these intelligent creatures as you learn about their behaviors and enjoy an unforgettable experience.


No trip to Varadero would be complete without exploring the underwater world. Snorkeling and diving enthusiasts will love the opportunity to explore the stunning coral reefs and encounter vibrant marine life. From colorful tropical fish to majestic sea turtles, there’s a whole new world waiting to be discovered beneath the waves.


For a taste of Cuban culture, head to the Casa de la Cultura, a cultural center that hosts various events and performances throughout the year. From live music and dance performances to art exhibitions and theater shows, the Casa de la Cultura is a hub of creativity and entertainment.


If you’re a golf enthusiast, don’t miss the chance to tee off at the Varadero Golf Club. This 18-hole championship golf course offers stunning views of the ocean as you navigate the lush fairways and challenging greens.


Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or immersion in Cuban culture, Varadero has something for everyone. Explore its natural beauty, delve into its rich history, and embrace the lively atmosphere of this vibrant destination.


Day Trips from Varadero

While Varadero itself offers a myriad of attractions and activities, there are also several exciting day trip options for those looking to explore beyond the town’s borders. From natural wonders to cultural gems, these day trips allow you to experience the diversity of Cuba’s beauty and charm.


One popular day trip is to the historic city of Havana, Cuba’s vibrant capital. Just a couple of hours away from Varadero, Havana transports you back in time with its colonial architecture, vintage cars, and lively atmosphere. Explore the cobblestone streets of Old Havana, visit iconic landmarks like the Plaza de la Catedral and the Malecón, and soak up the vibrant culture that pulsates through the city.


For nature lovers, a day trip to the Zapata Peninsula is a must. Located to the south of Varadero, the Zapata Peninsula is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and home to an incredible array of flora and fauna. Explore the Ciénaga de Zapata National Park, go birdwatching in the wetlands, or dive into the crystal-clear waters of the Bay of Pigs for a memorable underwater adventure.


Another fascinating day trip option is to the town of Matanzas, known as the “Athens of Cuba” due to its rich cultural heritage. Explore the historic center, visit art galleries and museums, or take in the stunning views from the Mirador de Monserrate. Matanzas is also home to the famous Tropicana Matanzas cabaret, where you can enjoy a vibrant and exciting show.


For those interested in the Cuban cigar industry, a day trip to the tobacco fields of Pinar del Río is a must. This region is renowned for producing some of the world’s finest cigars and offers visitors the opportunity to learn about the cultivation and production process. Take a tour of a cigar factory, walk through the lush tobacco fields, and even try your hand at rolling your own cigar.


If you’re a nature enthusiast, consider a day trip to the Viñales Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its stunning landscapes and unique limestone formations known as “mogotes”. Take a boat ride through the underground cave system at Cueva del Indio, visit a tobacco plantation, or simply soak in the breathtaking views of the valley as you explore on foot or horseback.


These are just a few of the many day trip options available from Varadero. Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or cultural exploration, these excursions allow you to discover the beauty and diversity of Cuba beyond the confines of Varadero.


Shopping in Varadero

Varadero offers a variety of shopping opportunities, allowing visitors to take home a piece of Cuban culture and find unique souvenirs. From bustling street markets to high-end boutiques, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.


One of the best places to shop in Varadero is the Artisan Market. Located in downtown Varadero, this market is a treasure trove of Cuban crafts and artwork. Here, you can find handmade jewelry, embroidered textiles, wood carvings, and other unique creations made by talented local artisans. It’s the perfect place to find authentic Cuban souvenirs and support local artists.


For those looking for traditional Cuban cigars, there are several dedicated cigar shops in Varadero where you can purchase these coveted items. Visit a reputable tobacco shop and choose from a wide selection of cigars, from renowned brands to lesser-known boutique labels. Don’t forget to pick up some Cuban coffee as well, known for its rich flavor and aromatic profile.


Varadero also has a number of shopping centers where you can find a mix of international and Cuban brands. The Plaza América Shopping Center, for example, houses various shops selling clothing, accessories, and household items. Additionally, many of the resorts in Varadero have their own shopping areas where you can find upscale boutiques and luxury brands.


When shopping in Varadero, it’s important to know that haggling is a common practice. Don’t hesitate to negotiate the price with the vendors, particularly in street markets and smaller shops. It can be part of the fun and a way to secure a good deal, but always remember to be respectful and polite during the process.


Keep in mind that the Cuban currency is the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), which is the main currency accepted in most tourist areas. It’s advisable to have cash on hand, as credit cards may not be widely accepted in smaller shops and markets.


Finally, remember that shopping is not just about acquiring items, but also about experiencing the local culture. Take the time to engage with the shop owners, ask about the story behind their products, and learn more about Cuban traditions and craftsmanship.


Whether you’re looking for souvenirs, Cuban cigars, or fashionable items, the shopping scene in Varadero offers a diverse range of options. Enjoy the excitement of bargaining, explore the local markets, and find a special memento to remember your time in this beautiful coastal town.


Nightlife in Varadero

When the sun sets in Varadero, the town comes alive with a vibrant nightlife scene that offers something for everyone. From lively bars and nightclubs to beachside lounges and live music venues, Varadero offers a variety of options to enjoy an unforgettable evening.


One of the highlights of the nightlife in Varadero is the live music scene. Whether you’re strolling along the beach or exploring downtown Varadero, you’re likely to encounter talented musicians performing traditional Cuban music. From lively salsa bands to soulful jazz ensembles, the music fills the air, creating a lively and festive atmosphere.


For those who love to dance, Varadero has a range of nightclubs and discos where you can show off your moves. Dance to the rhythms of salsa, reggaeton, and other Latin beats at popular spots like La Comparsita or Havana Club. These venues often feature live bands or DJs who keep the party going until the early hours of the morning.


If you prefer a more laid-back evening, head to one of the beachside lounges or bars where you can enjoy a drink while listening to the sound of crashing waves. Sip on a mojito or Cuba libre as you sink into a comfortable beach chair and soak in the relaxed ambiance. Many of these beach clubs also offer live music or DJ performances, providing the perfect soundtrack to your evening.


Varadero is also home to several cabaret shows that are not to be missed. One of the most famous is the Tropicana Matanzas, a dazzling extravaganza of music, dance, and acrobatics. Enjoy the colorful costumes, energetic performances, and the electrifying atmosphere that will leave you captivated.


If you’re feeling lucky, try your hand at the Casino Internacional, located in one of the largest hotels in Varadero. Test your skills at the blackjack and roulette tables or try your luck with the slot machines. Even if you’re not into gambling, the casino offers a glamorous and energetic ambiance that is worth experiencing.


Throughout the year, Varadero also hosts various festivals and events that showcase the local talent and cultural heritage. From jazz festivals and dance showcases to art exhibitions and food fairs, there’s always something happening in Varadero to keep you entertained.


As you venture out into the vibrant nightlife of Varadero, remember to take precautions and stay safe. It’s always a good idea to travel with a group, stay in well-lit and busy areas, and be aware of your surroundings.


Whether you’re seeking energetic dance floors, serene beachside lounges, or captivating live performances, Varadero’s nightlife has something for everyone. Embrace the lively spirit of the town, dance the night away, and create unforgettable memories.


Safety Tips for Visitors

While Varadero is generally a safe destination for travelers, it’s always important to take precautions to ensure your personal safety and well-being. By following these safety tips, you can have a worry-free and enjoyable experience during your visit to Varadero:


1. Be aware of your surroundings: Stay alert and aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded areas and tourist hotspots. Keep an eye on your belongings and avoid displaying expensive items or large amounts of cash.


2. Use reliable transportation: When traveling around the town or taking day trips, opt for reputable transportation services. Use licensed taxis or reliable car rental companies to ensure your safety during your journeys.


3. Stay in well-lit and populated areas: Stick to well-lit and busy areas, particularly at night. Avoid walking alone in dimly lit or isolated areas, and consider traveling in a group when possible.


4. Secure your accommodations: Ensure your accommodations are secure by locking doors and windows when leaving your room. If available, use the hotel safe or lock up your valuables to prevent theft.


5. Take precautions at the beach: While the beaches of Varadero are beautiful, always exercise caution. Be mindful of strong currents or underwater hazards, and follow any safety instructions provided by lifeguards.


6. Drink responsibly: If you choose to indulge in the local nightlife, do so responsibly. Pace your drinking, stay hydrated, and know your limits. It’s essential to be aware of your surroundings and make smart decisions to ensure your safety.


7. Respect local customs and laws: Familiarize yourself with the local customs and laws of Varadero and abide by them. Show respect for the local culture, traditions, and heritage, and be mindful of any restrictions or regulations in place.


8. Maintain communication: Keep your loved ones informed of your whereabouts and share your contact details with them. It’s also advisable to have a means of communication, such as a mobile phone, readily available in case of emergencies.


9. Stay informed: Stay updated on current travel advisories and guidance from your embassy or consulate. Being aware of any potential risks or travel alerts will help you make informed decisions during your stay in Varadero.


Remember, these safety tips are general guidelines, and it’s important to use your own judgment and common sense when traveling. By being cautious and prepared, you can have a safe and enjoyable experience in this beautiful coastal town.



Varadero, Cuba’s tropical paradise, offers a captivating blend of natural beauty, rich history, and warm hospitality. From its pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters to its vibrant downtown area and lively nightlife, Varadero has something to captivate every traveler.


Exploring Varadero allows you to not only relax and unwind but also immerse yourself in the local culture and discover the hidden gems beyond the resort areas. From the fascinating history of the town to the delectable cuisine and unique shopping experiences, there’s always something new to discover.


Whether you’re relaxing on the stunning beaches, sampling traditional Cuban dishes, or dancing the night away to lively beats, Varadero offers a variety of experiences to suit every taste and interest. The town’s proximity to other remarkable destinations in Cuba, such as Havana and the Zapata Peninsula, makes it an ideal base for day trips and further exploration.


While enjoying all that Varadero has to offer, it’s important to prioritize safety and take necessary precautions. By being aware of your surroundings, using reliable transportation, and respecting local customs and laws, you can ensure a worry-free and memorable experience.


Whether you’re seeking a luxurious resort getaway, a cultural immersion, or an adventurous exploration of nature, Varadero is ready to enchant and captivate you. Indulge in its stunning beauty, connect with its lively culture, and create memories that will last a lifetime.


So pack your bags, embark on an unforgettable journey, and discover the real Varadero beyond your resort.