After being based in Cuba for over two years, I want to share with you the best things to do Varadero.
This paradisiacal peninsula along the northern coast of Cuba, that is the largest resort area in the Caribbean region!
Varadero peninsula is mostly known for its lush all-inclusive resorts, white beaches with beautiful views, and chill holiday lifestyle under the palm trees.
But there are plenty of other things to do in Varadero outside the resort bubble!
Let’s take a look at some other things to do in Varadero along the Atlantic Ocean you can explore apart from lounging under a parasol by the crystal-clear waters and becoming a beach potato!
19 Amazing Things To Do In Varadero
What is there to do in Varadero?
You might want to embark on adventures both in the vicinity, on the peninsula, or even a bit further away – outside the beach or city limits as well!
There is an array of Varadero excursions you need to check out that will give you great adventures in and around Varadero, whether you prefer the chill or the adrenaline!
This is the catamaran tour you can check out in the video at the top of the article, and here are a few more details!
The catamaran trip day starts at 8 am with around a two-hour boat ride along the tranquil Caribbean blue waters whilst you relax in the sea breeze before the catamaran reaches the destination of the day: Cayo Blanco.
Cayo Blanco is a deserted island with nothing but white sands, one of the best places to go snorkeling and exploring the marine life on coral reefs in Cuba.
Here, you will find corals, sponges, crustaceans, and countless species of tropical fish.
On Cayo Blanco, you will be served a buffet meal of traditional Caribbean foods, including lobster.
The whole time, there is an open bar where you can enjoy some of the best cocktails prepared with Cuban rum until you are dropped off back at Varadero in the afternoon.
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You don’t need to be in the capital, Havana, to enjoy the famous classic cars roaming around Cuba; you find them all over the island.
Now, you can also do a traditional Classic American Car Tour in Varadero, taking you all over the Hicacos peninsula to enjoy the scenery!
The ride takes you by Josóne Park, by the house of famous mobster Al Capone, and the Varadero town market, to mention a few things.
You will be picked up at your hotel at 10 am for the tour and returned to your doorstep at 12 with messy hair!
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You start your Yumury Valley jeep tour from Varadero with a stop at Coral Beach.
This is a stunning natural enclave of crystalline waters where you get to snorkel an amazing coral reef, admiring the island’s rich marine diversity.
The tour continues to the incredible Cave of Saturn, which is home to two large caverns and a natural pool of emerald waters where you can swim in the cool cave water!
You will pass through the city of Matanzas before visiting Rancho Gaviota, where you will be welcomed with a cocktail, visit the farm (go horseback riding?), and enjoy a traditional Cuban lunch!
At last, you will go on a thrilling speedboat ride on the Cánimar River before returning to Varadero in the afternoon!
In this top-rated Cuban cooking class, you will travel to Matanzas town, where you will be welcomed by the Cuban family, who will lead this top-rated Cuban cooking workshop.
Your hosts will give you an introduction to the traditional Cuban recipes that you are going to prepare before putting theory into practice in the kitchen!
After creating a number of mouth-watering dishes, you will, of course, get to taste them.
You will learn to perfectly prepare three Cuban cocktails, including the famous mojito.
Cool off in the swimming pool now and then if you like, with or without a Cuba Libre!
This sugar, rum, and tobacco tour starts with a visit to a museum dedicated to sugar cane, learning about the history of the sugar industry in Cuba.
You will get to taste the Guarapo, a sweet drink made from sugar cane, as well as learn how to prepare one of the famous Cuban cocktails!
Then you’ll go to Cardenas Town, where you can explore the charming city streets and admire its colonial architecture.
After a lunch break, you will head into a tasting of local rum and tobacco and learn about their important role in Cuban culture!
Included in the tour are:
- Hotel pick-up and drop-off
- Transport by minibus
- A visit to a sugar factory and sugar cane plantation
- Cuban rum tasting and cigar testing
- English speaking guide
😎 Pro Tip: Get yourself a water bottle with a filter before your Cuba holiday, and you can drink water from anywhere!
This Matanzas & Bellamar Caves Tour starts with you being picked up at your hotel in the morning and heading for Matanzas City!
As part of this Varadero travel guide, you will explore Plaza de la Libertad, the neoclassical and baroque Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo, and Plaza de la Vigia, where you will learn about the Corsair attacks of the past!
Then, you will visit a viewpoint of the Hermitage of Montserrate, which has an unbeatable panoramic view over the valley of Yumurí and the city of Matanzas.
Finally, you will explore the Bellamar Caves, which are more than 300,000 years old.
Admire all the ancient stalactites and stalagmites and spend time exploring their interior halls.
You will see the Manto de Colón, the Paso de la Lluvia, and the Huerto de las Zanahorias before you return to your luxury hotel.
7. Visit La Cueva De Ambrosio
Among other things to do in Varadero, you can explore the Cueva de Ambrosio, a famous cave because it is home to some of the oldest murals and wall paintings in Cuba.
And also, it is home to tons of bats hanging around in the ceiling inside, so be aware!
This is not an organized tour, so you need to get a taxi here, and you buy a ticket at the entrance.
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I love this one from Bagsmart!
You visit the cave as part of a nature walk in the Varahicacos Natural Reserve (below). The cave itself is said to be around two million years old, and was discovered as late as 1961!
La Cueva de Ambrosio contains around 47 pre-Columbian paintings, where the best-preserved can be seen in what has been named the Claraboyas Room.
The indigenous people of Cuba left a testimony to parts of their lifestyle in this cave using drawings made in black and red colors, traced by concentric circles.
The solar light filtering through the cracks of the cave ceiling sporadically illuminates the inside of the walls, making it an impressive sight.
8. Take The Hop On Hop Off Varadero Bus
The hop-on-hop-off bus in Varadero makes for a panoramic sightseeing tour around Varadero.
It is an open-top double-decker bus with 46 different stops linking all the all inclusive hotels, shopping mall, markets, marinas, Varadero Golf Club with its adjacent golf course, as well as downtown Varadero.
Its itinerary runs throughout the day, and the buses pass every half hour or so.
The price is €5, the ticket lasts for the entire day, and you can hop on and off at any of the popular stops.
This is both a cheap and convenient way to explore some of the most well-known tourist sites and decide what things to do in Varadero next! (taxi in Varadero is pricey, as this is where the majority of tourists in Cuba stay in high-end resorts).
9. Hike The Varahicacos Eco reserve
A hicaco is a characteristic plant of the Varadero area from which the Hicacos Peninsula got its name.
The plant that lives in the eco-reserve is much appreciated because of the flavor of its white fruit and its use in traditional medicine.
In the Varahicaco eco-reserve, you can also find other native species, like a large cactus named “El Patriarca” which is more than 500 years old!
Nearby, you can also visit Saturno Cave (Cueva Saturno), and the Cueva de Musulmanes which is a cave with human remains dating back over 2,500 years.
In addition, this protected area on the tip of Varadero is the perfect place to see the local flora and fauna, and also some of the area’s aboriginal history.
10. Marina Gaviota In Varadero
The Marina Gaviota is a large Cuban marina facility on the Hicacos Peninsula. It has a modern fleet of boats and excellent service, designed to meet the most demanding tastes!
If you are wondering what to do in Varadero, the marina offers a variety of day trips and activities that you can check out on their home page.
To the quality of the services provided and the potential installed, it has become the main center for water activities and sports on the beautiful beach of Varadero.
The most popular adventures offered at the Marina Gaviota are catamaran excursions, fishing trips, diving trips, and life aboard.
You will also find a seafood restaurant where you can enjoy a variety of gourmet dishes, including lobster.
11. Parque Central (And Parque De Los 8000 Taquillas)
The Parque Central Varadero is a city park that is next to the Varadero open-air market, where you can find a vast selection of handicrafts and souvenirs.
Here, you also find a monument in honor of the Cuban national hero Jose Marti and the big “Monumento a Los Martires,” or Martyrs monument.
Then you have the Parque De Las 8000 Taquillas, or Park of the 8000 Cubicles, which got this name back in the day because of its original purpose!
This was actually a place determined to take care of the people’s hygiene! It had sanitary installations where guests could take baths and then enjoy the restaurants on the first floor.
Visitors would leave their belongings in the basement locker rooms while spending time in the leisure areas.
Later, the park was completely remodeled and is now called the Centro Comercial Hicacos.
Today you find a number of shops, as well as the Varadero edition of the famous and popular Coppelia ice cream parlor here on the second floor.
This full-day river tour’s first stop is the Peninsula Zapata National Park, and on the way, you will notice the beautiful contrasts between the Cuban countryside and coastline!
You will enjoy a fascinating visit to a crocodile farm before you continue to the coast, where you board a speedboat for a riveting rush of adrenaline!
The boat takes you across Laguna del Tesoro Lake and into the center of a spectacular natural wilderness encompassed by vegetation and water.
After the boat trip, you will explore Guamá and the Hatiguanico River, both places of tropical beauty, before a delish lunch of pork, chicken, or fish, drinks, and coffee!
Before returning to your Varadero hotel, you can immerse yourself in the refreshing Caribbean Sea and do some snorkeling.
And, if you are lucky, you might encounter the exotic species that live in these crystal waters!
13. Enjoy Varadero Scuba Diving Or Snorkeling
Varadero has some of the most beautiful beaches and clear blue waters in Cuba, and also some beautiful coral reefs off the coast.
If you like to go scuba diving, Varadero is a great destination for exploring the underwater world.
As well as the coral reef dives, there are also wrecks outside of Varadero that make for great scuba diving destinations when you are visiting.
Do you keep thinking you should have had a GoPro for your adventures?
This might be the perfect time to get one for your snorkeling or scuba diving adventures in Cuba!
One of the most popular things to do in Varadero, Cuba is to visit La Casa del Ron or the House of Rum Varadero.
This place has managed to become close to an institution in Matanzas province, where it has existed for almost 15 years.
Those interested in learning more about the production process of Cuba’s iconic liquor are more than welcome to join for a tour here.
The famous Cuban rum is made of fermented sugar cane, and the liquor brand has grown into a worldwide industry since its introduction by Diego de Velázquez in the 16th century.
Of course, your visit to the house of rum Varadero will include a tasting of many variations of rum, from the classic dark and light type to chocolate and vanilla-flavored types or other gems you probably have never tasted before!
Among the Varadero main attractions is the Varadero dolphinarium!
Located in a natural mangrove, the dolphinarium in Varadero is a wonderful environment for the dolphins.
The visit to the Varadero Delfinario was actually a lot more interesting and fun than I anticipated!
A mangrove is a natural home to the dolphins in the dolphinarium, and as I am not an expert, I consulted someone who is, to learn about a healthy environment for dolphins. Which a natural mangrove is.
I don’t know what I expected, but the location and the show were quite impressive in all aspects.
I spent an afternoon there and had the honor of getting my first salty dolphin kiss!
The show is held in connection to the feeding twice a day, where you see how the trainers interact with the dolphins and their ability to learn an amazing set of skills and tricks.
It is also possible to go swimming with the dolphins, so bring your swimsuit if you think that is something for you!
The price for entrance is €20, or €60 if you want to do the swimming as well.
16. Lounge At The Tripadvisor Award-Winning Varadero Beach
The Varadero beach is the name of the part of the peninsula beach that runs along with Varadero town, practically ten meters from the main street.
You can literally go take a swim in between shopping and the city lunch if you would like to!
Varadero Beach was voted the second most beautiful beach in the world in 2019 in TripAdvisor’s Travelers Choice, so you don’t need a private resort beach to find white sand perfection here!
17. Visit Iglesia Santa Elvira
The Iglesia Santa Elvira is said to be the oldest church in the area, built in 1938. Very small and peaceful, it is open for everyone to visit during the day.
It is well known for its distinctive structure on the inside, consisting of stone walls and wooden details. A horseshoe arch upfront serves as a bell tower with a cross at the top.
The details and layout give it a special character to see for those interested in history or architecture.
18. Stop By The Galeria Espacio 34
The Galeria Espacio 34 is a mixture of a museum and an art gallery that focuses on unique Cuban designs in art through photographs, paintings, and sculptures in particular.
Previously this gallery was part of the multi-art center “Casa del la Cultura Los Corales”.
The center is now divided into two parts: a dance academy called ABC Academia Baile en Cuba, and the art gallery Espacio 34.
19. Artecru Art Center In Varadero
Artecru (the acronym of Contemporary Rural and Urban Art in Spanish), is a name and a symbol of the place that represents a group of artists on the Cuban art scene.
United by friendship and work, intending through this platform to become visible by creating unique pieces of art.
This group works in many styles, conducts expositions, creates decorations, and works by charge.
Each artist here has their own style of work, and the artists will show you their visions and help you choose a special piece for you if you decide not to leave empty-handed!
Yes, There Are Day Trips From Varadero!
There are plenty of activities to keep you busy on a day trip from Varadero, Cuba.
Visit the nearby capital city of Havana, explore the beaches and coves along the coast, or take a nature hike through one of the area’s lush national parks.
Whatever your interests, there’s sure to be something to enjoy on a day trip from Varadero. Here are just a few ideas to get you started.
Yes, there are tours from Varadero to Havana! No visit to Cuba is complete without spending at least one day in its vibrant capital city, Havana.
Stroll the streets of Old Havana, marvel at the colonial-era architecture, taste the famous cocktails, have a classic car tour, and find a rooftop terrace to take in the spectacular view of the city!
There’s also plenty of nightlife to enjoy in Havana, with live music and dancing in the many bars and clubs.
You can book an organized day tour from Varadero to Havana, or book a ticket with the Viazul bus and stay in Havana for a night or two!
Even if most of your Cuba holiday plan is to stay close to the beach and pools in your all-inclusive resort in Varadero, I might still want to explore some of the best adventures in the region.
For this tour, you’ll start this excursion day by making your way up to El Nicho, a protected area with a stunning waterfall from the River Habanill in the Topes de Collantes Natural Park!
Swim in crystal clear pools while parrots are perched in palm trees, and you’ll also have a traditional Cuban lunch here.
Then, you are off to the historic colonial city of Trinidad, protected by UNESCO, where you can explore the ancient streets and museums in the city.
Lastly, you will visit Cienfuegos, a beautiful coastal city with lots of French influences, where you do the panoramic tour of Punta Gorda, which is an outing spot for the locals.
Also, see the Hotel Jagua, the imposing Palacio del Valle, and José Martí Park.
And you don’t need to stress home to dinner, as you will get it served here!
Even from Varadero, you can manage to visit Vinales Valley west of Havana, a lush green UNESCO-protected part of Cuba that is also home to the famous Cuban cigars!
This day tour is really long, as there is quite a bit of transport time involved. I have only done the Vinales day trip from Havana, which is a great experience, so I can not review this particular tour.
You get to experience the Mural de la Prehistoria, visit a tobacco farm, sample cigars and rum, and get a demonstration of how it is done!
Lunch in Vinales Town is on your own, and you will also visit the botanical garden and viewpoint of Los Jazmines before you return to Varadero.
What this tour does not have is a visit to Cueva del Indio and its hidden waterways, which is also stunning!
But for a day trip of this magnitude, you still get a lot.
Varadero Town On Hicacos Peninsula
If you stay in Varadero town, exploring the center and heart of Varadero city, where you can still meet horse-drawn carriages, is easily done on foot.
In the city center, you find the Varadero street market, where they sell “anything”, mostly handmade handicrafts and cigars, knitted clothes, and you name it.
When looking for activities, adventures, and other things to do in Varadero, here is what you have to look forward to!
Where To Stay In Varadero
Varadero town has a lot of Casa Particulares for rent well within the budget accommodation price range, as well as all the all-inclusive high-end resort options lying like beads on a chain along the peninsula.
Casa Particulares In Varadero
This is perfect if you want to have the local experience and also get to know a little about the Cuban way of life.
You can also just find a place when you get there with no problems at all if you like to be flexible and adventurous!
On the other end of the scale, you can choose to take some of your vaycay in Varadero one nudge up and go all-in on a Varadero all-inclusive resort.
Although I am very fond of the Casa Particulares in Cuba, I do not hesitate to recommend a couple of nights in lush luxury here, if it does not topple your budget.
Some booking apps do not serve Cuba, however, because of the ongoing sanctions.
Resorts In Varadero Cuba
Both hotels are on the beachfront and have amazing pool areas and amenities!
The all-inclusive resort life in Varadero really is like meditating for a few days; everything is just done for you, with no need to lift a finger.
You come out on the other end involuntarily smiling with no trace of blue circles anywhere. All-inclusive can be an incredible recharge!
Also read: Best All-Inclusive Resorts Varadero
Stunning Beaches In Varadero And Around
Cuba’s coastline is dotted with beautiful beaches, many of which are within easy reach of Varadero.
Mind you, when you are in Varadero, you are right there at the Varadero beach, the public beach of Varadero that was voted the second most beautiful beach in the WORLD by TripAdvisor in 2019!
Relax on the sand, swim in the turquoise warm waters, or try your hand at some of the popular water sports such as windsurfing and kitesurfing.
For something a little different, take a boat trip to one of the nearby islands.
But you are also close to the Cuban keys, like Cayo Santa Maria and Cayo Coco on the northern shoreline.
If you opt for a tour to visit Trinidad on the southern shores, you can also visit renowned Playa Ancon after exploring the colonial streets in this UNESCO World Heritage Site-protected town!
Nature Parks Around Varadero
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, head to the naturaleza in one of Cuba’s national parks.
The Topes de Collantes Nature Reserve is a particular highlight, offering hiking trails through lush vegetation and stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
You might even spot some of the local wildlife, such as the Cuban trogon bird or the endangered Cuban solenodon (a small, furry mammal endemic to mountainous forests in Cuba)!
Restaurants In Varadero Cuba
When it comes to restaurants in Varadero, there is certainly no shortage of options.
Whether you’re looking for a quick bite or a more leisurely dining experience, you’re sure to find something to suit your taste.
One of the most popular restaurants in Varadero is El Paladar, which offers traditional Cuban cuisine.
The restaurant has a casual atmosphere, making it perfect for a quick lunch or dinner.
If you’re looking for something a bit more upscale, La Casa del Chef is also worth checking out.
This restaurant serves creative fusion cuisine, and the beautiful setting overlooking the beach makes it an ideal spot for a romantic dinner.
La Gruta restaurant in the beautiful Josene Park in Varadero serves a divine lobster dinner, deliciously draped in garlic sauce and served with rice and a salad.
The price is $20 a plate for the lobster dinner, and you can get a variety of wines as well at a reasonable price.
The atmosphere is unique, situated in a cave which keeps you fresh and comfortable on a hot summer Varadero evening!
You also have the amazing Salsa Suárez Restaurant Bar, Restaurante Bar Atlantida, and high-flying Waco’s Club on an airy rooftop.
Lastly, there is the Varadero 60, where the staff is welcoming, the decor is quirky, and there is fantastic decor and ambiance.
All of these places received standing ovations on TripAdvisor after the pandemic!
For those who want to experience some truly local flavor, plenty of small places around serve delicious traditional Cuban dishes.
These are often family-run paladares, privately owned restaurants, and the prices are reasonable.
Be sure to try some of the traditional Cuban specialties like ropa vieja (shredded beef) or lechon asado (roasted pork)!
What To Do In Varadero At Night
There’s plenty to do in Varadero at night, from enjoying the local food and drink scene to dancing the night away.
Be aware, though, that on the weekdays, Varadero is not clubbing scene heaven; there is more life in Varadero on the weekends!
For a taste of the local flavor, be sure to check out Casa del Ron, as it is also a great spot for sampling some of Cuba’s famous rum!
La Bodeguita del Medio is a must-visit for any fan of mojitos, and if you need something to eat as well into the night, El Rincon Criollo serves up delicious traditional Cuban cuisine.
If you’re in the mood to dance, Club Tropicana is one of the most popular nightspots, where you can dance to salsa, reggaeton, and more.
There’s also Mango’s Disco, which has a mix of international and Cuban music, and Jazzy Bar, which features live jazz music.
For a more low-key night out, you can visit one of Varadero’s many cafes or clubs.
Cafe del Teatro is a great place to people-watch or enjoy a cup of coffee, while El Patio de Jose Maria is perfect for enjoying a few drinks with friends.
You can also head to Casa de la Musica to listen to some live music and soak up the atmosphere!
FAQ’s About Varadero
Now that we have been through the top-rated tourist attractions in Varadero, things to do, places to eat in Varadero, and a mix of excursions and activities – there are still questions asked about Varadero that I have not answered!
Please follow along a bit longer for my best answers to frequently asked questions about Varadero Cuba in this next section.
Well, yes, Varadero is worth visiting for anyone who loves the beaches, pools, chill Caribbean vibe, and the possibility to step outside the resort life to go on Cuban excursions or adventures.
The Cuban Keys are more remote, and it is more difficult to embark on activities elsewhere in Cuba.
Varadero city, or village if you like, is a pretty and a bit sleepy beach town on a long and narrow peninsula in Varadero municipality, Matanzas Province, Cuba.
It is the largest resort area in the Caribbean, about two and a half to three hours driving from Havana (a bit more by bus), and also a whole different world away!
You find a variety of high-end all-inclusive resorts in Varadero.
However, you can also book a more simple stay in a casa particular in Varadero Town, and stay with a Cuban family!
The Varadero city center is clean and tidy, colorful and well kept, and the houses lie like little colored pearls along the main street, which follows the beach line of the famous Varadero beach.
There are also lots of little bars and restaurants in the city center you might want to try out!
Also read: 19+ Unique Things To Do In Trinidad Cuba!
How To Travel To Varadero?
Several international airlines fly regularly to Varadero, not just to Havana or Santiago.
Research the best flight option from your nearest airport below with Skyscanner or eDreams, who will find you the best flight deals for your holiday.
Remember that if you are an American citizen, or you fly from, or via, a US airport, you need the PINK Cuban tourist card to enter Cuba!
Check Flights To Varadero Here!
How To Travel From From Havana To Varadero?
The Viazul bus station is also in the capital city center, so if you travel from Havana to Varadero (or the other way), it is super easy to both arrive and depart by bus.
You have these options for traveling from Havana to Varadero:
- The Viazul bus
- Taxi collectivo; a shared taxi service
- Private taxi
- Private transfer booked online from the airport or Havana center
- Rental car
Read about the various ways to do a day trip from Varadero to Havana here, and tailor your Havana trip!
Things To Do In The Rest of Cuba!
There are a lot of fun destinations across Cuba outside of the Varadero resort zone!
I have traveled in Cuba for 4 years, and here is my best collection of great things to do across the island, organized by destination!
Wrap-Up Things To Do In Varadero Cuba!
As you see, even more than a cocktail throw away from your all-inclusive world, there is a myriad of other things to do in Varadero, Cuba!
Whether you enjoy adventure, the beach, scuba diving, nature, or history, you are bound to find something among these travel tips that interest you on the Hicacos peninsula or even on the mainland a short drive away.
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