Varadero

Hotel reviews summary
4.0

Our guest rating from 15 reviews

Overview

In Varadero, there are endless sugar-white sand beaches, palm trees swaying in the breeze, a warm turquoise ocean and a thatched palm umbrella hut with your name on it. You’ll even find giant conch shells lying on the beach.

Varadero is best suited for those who are looking for some rest and relaxation in the sun, particularly vacation hunters seeking the all-inclusive resort experience. Families with young children, couples getting married or honeymooning and groups of friends all love coming to this relaxing beach destination. In fact, varadero is Spanish for “to rest, repair or reconstruct.”

Cuba’s premiere beach destination, Varadero is on the long, skinny Hicacos Peninsula and is technically an island on the northwest coast of Cuba. If you keep heading north, you’ll hit Florida. It is 140 km east of capital city Havana (about a two-hour drive away).

Twenty kilometres long and only one kilometre wide, Varadero sprawls with 60-plus big hotels, most all-inclusive resorts. It’s flat, filled with scrubby brush, palm trees and dense mangrove, all framed by the shimmering sea glowing in the distance. The Bahía de Cárdenas is on the south side. The Gulf of Mexico and all of the resorts are to the north. A wide autopista (highway) goes up and down the length of the city. Resorts are clustered on the east side, becoming progressively fancier as you head east. The town of Varadero itself is to the west.

An island archipelago, Cuba is famous for its stunning beaches, with Varadero considered its crown jewel. Varadero has been a popular vacation and resort destination since as early as the 1870s.

Varadero today is a small, sleepy resort town, but it has a rather glamorous past. Before the Cuban Revolution, Hollywood starlets and casino high-rollers used to vacation here. Al Capone even owned a home here, which is now a seafood restaurant.

Cuba’s only 18-hole golf course is located in Varadero. Also nearby is the city of Matanzas, home to a vibrant Afro-Cuban music and dance scene. There’s exceptional diving – especially for shipwrecks – birding, fishing, water sports and a huge everglades area to the south filled with crocodiles.

From Varadero, you can also easily make the trip to Havana to see some authentic Cuban culture. Or just sit back and enjoy this fun-in-the-sun beach destination.

Varadero is a fantastic destination for:

  • beaches
  • snorkelling and Diving
  • culture and History

Airport served by: VRA

Destination basics

You can expect the usual sultry Caribbean climate here – much like a humid sauna, but with a steady breeze. Its climate mirrors the subtropical climate of the rest of the country, but you'll certainly feel like you're in the tropics.

Pull out all of your island wear and take only your shorts, sundresses and loose-fitting shirts – plus a cover-up for breezy evenings. On average, Cuba gets eight hours of sunshine a day and spring and summer highs can hit 32 C between April and October. But the heat is usually tempered by a cooling wind off the water.

The best time of year to visit is in the spring (April to June), but this also when the area is most crowded. The rainy season begins around the end of June and lasts until October. Despite the rain, summer and fall are still hot and appeal to travellers looking for the most affordable trip.

Winter in Varadero is mild and dry, although prone to occasional tropical storms. The average temperature is still in the high 20s C, but it can cool off quickly in the evenings.

No matter when you visit, you'll want to bring a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and mosquito repellent.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Varadero

As Cuban ethnologist Fernando Ortiz Fernández put it, “Somos un ajiaco” (“We are a Cuban stew”), which refers to the array of cultural influences found in Cuba. The country features an enticing mix of Spanish, African and Chinese cultures. The result is a unique culture, full of fun-loving, vibrant, talkative and family-oriented people.

Life is lived out in the streets here. Everyone's front door is open. You'll often see folks sitting on their stoops, playing cards, dominoes or chess on the sidewalk. Even in the humblest homes, there's always a TV on inside. Other cultural staples are music and dance. Cubans are a passionate people who poignantly express their emotions in their art, music and dance. Baseball (pelota) is also a favourite pastime.

The food here is simple. Expect fried plantains, pork, yuca (a potato-like root) and calabaza (similar to pumpkin). You'll often see rice with black beans, shredded cabbage, sliced cucumber and tomato served on the side. For dessert, there is ice cream, candied coconut treats and flan (vanilla-caramel custard). There's also a cornucopia of fresh fruits, including guava, papaya, pineapple and watermelon.

Cuba's cocktails are world renowned and include the minty mojito, smooth ron (rum) straight up, the Cuba libre (rum and cola), daiquiri and piña colada. You may even see people on the street pressing sugar cane for juice to make eye-watering aguardiente, fermented sugar cane.

Once in Cuba, you can easily exchange your Canadian dollars for Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC) at the airport or at your hotel. Smaller bills are preferred and exchange rates fluctuate daily. Please note that debit (Interac) machines are not available in Cuba and ATM machines only accept credit cards.

Most tourist spots, hotels and restaurants will accept Visa, MasterCard and travellers cheques from Canadian financial institutions. Please do be aware that travellers cheques are subject to a surcharge so it is usually wise to convert them to pesos at your hotel.

US dollars, American Express and any other credit cards issued by American banks will not be accepted in Cuba. Upon departure from Varadero, CUCs can be exchanged back to Canadian dollars at the airport. There is a surcharge of approximately 10 per cent, but you will only be able to change pesos back to Canadian dollars while in Cuba. Once outside of Cuba, the CUC has no value. That said, you can always save your leftover pesos for your next visit!

The beaches of Varadero are stunning. That's why this place has been a popular resort area since the 1870s. The water is neon-blue and underneath is a coral reef teeming with fish. The sand is like sugar. The shore is flanked by thick mangrove and dotted with palms and brightly hued tropical flowers.

Located on a long, narrow peninsula, Varadero is home to 20 km of beach called Hicacos Peninsula, barely separated from the mainland by Laguna de Paso Malo. The peninsula wraps around a bay called the Bahía de Cárdenas.

Playa Mayor is the main beach. It is known as Cuba's finest – and rightly so. Most of the high-rise resorts are situated ocean-facing on this beautiful strip of beachfront property. One bridge over the lagoon is the only access to the Varadero beach area to the east. The town of Varadero is on the western part.

Getting around Varadero is easy. Taxis provide a convenient and inexpensive way of getting around. They are also all equipped with meters, so you won't need to barter on the price.

You will also find a double-decker open-top bus that runs on a regular schedule to and from Varadero hotels and the downtown area. An English speaking guide will accompany you on board, pointing out sites of interest. One-way fares and day passes are available. Should you wish travel on your own, car and scooter rentals are conveniently available in your hotel lobby.

Arrival

Upon arrival at Varadero Juan G. Gomez International Airport, proceed to the immigration area with your passport and completed tourist card. Once through, proceed to the baggage claim area to retrieve your luggage. You'll then exit the terminal through the sliding doors to meet your WestJet Vacations Representative wearing a baby-blue golf shirt and black pants or skirt. Be sure to have your transfer itinerary ready to present to them.

Your WestJet Vacations representative will provide you with a bus number. Once on board your bus, you will be welcomed by a Cubanacan guide who will hand you a helpful information pamphlet. Your WestJet Vacations representative will then give a brief speech on the bus welcoming you to Cuba and you'll be on your way to your hotel.

Departure

A bus will take you from your resort to the airport on the day of your departure. Please refer to the WestJet information binder in the lobby of your hotel two days prior to your departure date to obtain the pick-up time of your bus. Since the bus may make various stops, the pick-up time may vary by 15 minutes or so.

Insurance

As of May 1, 2010, all guests must have proof of health insurance to enter Cuba. When entering, guests may be required to present this proof of insurance.

Although your Canadian provincial health insurance card is accepted as sufficient documentation, your provincial health plan may only cover part of the costs – and as with health services to foreigners in many other parts of the world, you'll need to pay up front.

To ensure you're covered in case of sickness or emergency, it's recommended that you purchase supplemental health insurance. While you can purchase insurance from your insurer of choice, it's worth noting that policies issued by American insurance companies will not be recognized in Cuba.

Vaccinations

Be sure your routine vaccinations are up-to-date. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Malaria, typhoid and Tetanus are commonly recommended. Visit your local health clinic for additional information. It is also recommended to use mosquito repellant to protect yourself from mosquito transmitted diseases.

Electricity in Cuba is 220 volts, however most hotels are equipped with both 110 volt and 220 volt outlets. If you are bringing an electrical appliance, it is recommended that you verify prior to departure if a converter and/or adaptor is required.

Varadero is a destination where you can get your cake and eat it, too. The beaches are stunning and there are plenty of all-inclusive resorts. But here you can also get the magic and the mystique of Havana nearby. Where else can you smoke cigars and sip rum direct from the source?

If you want, stay on a chaise lounge and relax in the sunshine. But for those who choose to leave the resort, Varadero is well situated. There is easy access to the pulsing Afro-Cuban music scene of nearby Matanzas (45 minutes by car) as well as Havana (two hours by car). The very name Havana conjures romance and the city won't disappoint. It's incredibly beautiful, chaotic, demanding and unpredictable – every time you visit, the city will look just a little bit different.

You can even add a nature tour: head south two hours to the Caribbean's largest marshland, Ciénega de Zapata, for birding, fishing and of course, crocodiles.

You'll also find an abundance of Cuban culture in Varadero. Cuban music is everywhere: blaring from the open door of a shack in town, playing live at your resort, at a dinner cabaret or sidewalk café. And dance – namely, salsa and rumba – is equally as common. Luckily, you can feel free to dance the night away – no one seems to get up early at the resorts here.

Departing from:

ˆTotal price one-way per guest. See terms and conditions. *Prices are per guest, based on double occupancy and are limited; may not reflect real-time pricing or availability. See terms and conditions.

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