About two hours by car east of Havana lies a tiny string of white sand stretching out into the turquoise Caribbean sea. Here are all the facts about Varadero Cuba you need before you go!
From the air, it looks like any little wave could wash it away in an instant, so soft and delicate. A tiny piece of Caribbean paradise!
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Handy Facts About Varadero Cuba
Where Is Varadero?
Varadero, which is also called Playa Azul, is situated on a long and super-narrow peninsula called Hicacos, in the northwest part of Cuba.
It is located in Matanzas municipality, a couple of oval hours drive from Havana, and is largely a resort area with only twenty thousand permanent residents.
This tiny arrow of sand has around 20 kilometers of soft sandy beaches surrounded by palms and lavish resorts, and is one of the largest resort areas in the whole of the Caribbean!
In fact, TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Awards of 2019 rated Varadero Beach as the second most beautiful beach in the world!
Also read: Sensational 7 Days In Cuba Itinerary 2023
More Than Varadero Beach In Varadero!
There are a number of cultural, historical, and natural attractions in Varadero as well, on the Hicacos Peninsula, and in the larger province of Matanzas on the main island.
Like city life in Matanzas town and Cárdenas, the Zapata Peninsula, and the resort of San Miguel de Los Baños to explore when you are tired of the beach.
Editors Pick Best Tour Varadero!
The Hicacos Peninsula & Varadero
The famous gangster Al Capone once had a large mansion in Varadero (above) and was a frequent visitor along with the other rich and (in)famous of the world.
Varadero city has been able to keep the traces of the glamorous shine that for decades has attracted big spenders.
The first tourists started coming to Varadero as early as the 1870s, and for a long time, it was considered an elite resort.
Also read: 10 Perfect Day Trips From Havana Cuba 2022!
Initially, super-wealthy people built mansions here, which attracted other super-wealthy people, and the high-end holiday community grew.
Tourism started increasing in the early 1930s, and between the 1960s and 1980s Varadero grew into a cultural center. In 2017, a record 1.7 million foreign tourists visited the resort!
Matanzas City On The Main Island
The city of Matanzas is not really Varadero, but it is very close, situated on the main island of Cuba.
You pass it about fifteen minutes before you reach the spot where Varadero starts stretching out into the sea.
Matanzas city is also the capital of Matanzas province, has around 140.000 residents, and is known for its poets, culture, and Afro-Cuban folklore.
It has been called “the Athens of Cuba” because of all the different scholars and artists who have been working there over the years. And it has loads of cultural institutions, plazas, monuments, and scenic drives.
Two famous Cuban dances, the danzon, and the rhumba were born in Matanzas, as well as several large African religions, including the secretive Abakua fraternity.
The main things to do in Matanzas are centered around the two areas Parque Libertad, and Plaza de la Vigia in addition to a selection of historical, cultural, and religious sites.
The Best Things To Do In Varadero
Being a beach resort area, there are tons of activities to do in Varadero connected to water sports and the sea.
Hang on the beach, take a boat trip, or go fishing. Go paddling, snorkeling, or scuba diving and discover the Cuban submarine world.
If you are more of a nature gal`, or guy, you will probably love to spend a day on a Jeep Tour of Yumury Valley (former travelers give it a 10/10).
Or test your speed boat nerves on the Guama and Hatiguanico River Trip (7,6/10) which also includes several animal encounters and learning about the naturaleza in this area.
When in Cuba you know, do as the Cubans! Go for a Rum & Tobacco Tour to find out what all the fuzz is about, or you can even take a Cuban cooking class workshop in a private home!
At the northeastern end of the peninsula, lies Hicacos Point Natural Park with virgin forests, beaches, and the Cave of Ambrosio.
There is vibrant nightlife (mainly on weekends), a golf club, and several natural attractions.
Also read: The Ultimate Guide – 19 Best Things To Do In Varadero Cuba 2023!
Varadero Golf Club
About halfway out on the peninsula is the Varadero Golf Club. It is very much a seaside golf course, the course strewn with palms amid the wide fields.
The Golf Club has its own boutique hotel, called the Xanadu Mansion.
The mansion was bought by French American millionaire Irénée du Pont in the 1930s, and the property included 8 kilometers of virgin beaches!
This four-story mansion had 11 bedrooms, three large terraces, and seven balconies! It also had a private dock named “Xanadu”, after the exotic Palace built by a legendary Chinese warrior and conqueror named Kublas Khan, as described by the English poet Samuel Taylor.
The Xanadu Mansion golf club today has several dining areas, as well as the Casa Blanca Panoramic Bar with infinite views of the golf course, the sea, and the beach of Varadero.
Scuba Diving In Varadero
For the passionate divers out there, scuba diving in Varadero is mere steps away from the white sands! There are loads of beautiful and interesting dive sites around Varadero.
Different diving providers will take you on adventures on reefs, walls, wrecks, night dives, cave dives, or deep dives.
If you are not already a certified diver, you can also book an “introduction to scuba diving” session, where you will be guided safely through your first dive with an experienced instructor.
Or, if you prefer the surface, you can just bring your snorkeling kit and watch the marine life from above!
Also read: Divine Scuba Diving In Varadero Cuba 2022!
Most hotels will help you book your diving adventure with a safe provider, or you can do your research online before your arrival as well.
Check out other people’s experiences and reviews before you make up your mind. If you are a certified Padi diver like me, here is Padi’s guidance on diving in Varadero.
Hicacos Point Natural Park
This Hicacos Point Natural Park is an ecological preserve that was established on the tip of the peninsula in 1974.
It contains the 250 meters long Cave of Ambrosio, the Mangón Lake, and the ruins of La Calavera (The Scull).
If you are into bird watching, Mangon Lake is home to 31 different species of birds and 24 species of reptiles.
The ruins of the La Calavera are remnants of the Salt Works in Varadero, which were also the first salt works to be constructed by the Spanish in the New World.
Cave Of Ambrosio Varadero
Ambrosio Cave is an archaeological site in Hicacos Point National Park that tells the story of the Indian traditions of the region.
The cave stretches for over 300 meters with five interconnected galleries, where a lot of pre-Columbian drawings were discovered in 1961. It has a total of 72 aboriginal rock drawings that are representative of the Taino culture.
These cave drawings are thought to be more than 2000 years old and are one of the largest collections of Indian pictographs in the Caribbean!
The cave has also been used as a ceremonial site back in the days, and as a refuge for escaped slaves during the colonial period.
And, it is also home to hundreds of little fruit-eating bats! Unless you have a phobia against these flying night creatures, you probably will enjoy seeing them flying around and hanging from the cave ceiling, as bats do.
Tiny Cayo Buba In Varadero
Like a small full stop just where the Varadero peninsula ends in a southward hook, lies a small island, more of a satellite islet, by itself.
It’s at about 5 minutes from Varadero’s port, connected to the peninsula by a ridge that is just as wide as the road. A few fishermen inhabit the island, but other than that, it is pretty deserted.
Covered completely with mangrove vegetation, some birds have decided to use this as their nesting ground. It is also home to a few small animals, from rodents to reptiles.
Saturnos’ Cave In Matanzas
On the main island of Cuba, halfway between Matanzas town and the start of the peninsula, you find the Cueva Saturno.
This is a stunning cave with stalactites and stalagmites, and a tiny lake where you can find fish and species characteristic of the aquatic fauna living in underground waters in Cuba.
Visiting the Saturno, you can also try snorkeling in these underground waters, and get a coffee in the adjacent little café connected to the establishment.
Also read: The Ultimate Guide – 19 Best Things To Do In Varadero Cuba 2023!
Nightlife In Varadero
When the sun sets, there are still lots of things to do in Varadero, and nightlife is available both outdoors and indoors.
There is a myriad of restaurants, bars, clubs, and even cabarets!
Almost every (larger) hotel and resort have its own restaurants, pubs, and bars, and some resorts also have full-blown clubs on site.
The opening hours are varied, some clubs keep their dance floor active until four or five in the morning, and a couple of places are even open 24/7!
The clientele in Varaderos nightly establishments is affected by the fact that the whole peninsula lives for and by tourists. So there are A LOT of international tourists out, and not that many Cubans.
Where To Stay In Varadero?
As Varadero is mainly a resort area, there is a myriad of luxurious all-inclusive resorts to choose from here!
But it is also possible to book a budget stay at a typical Cuban casa particular, not so luxurious, but you will still be only a few feet from the famous Varadero beach!
1. Villa Mercy In Varadero Town
Situated in Varadero Town, Villa Mercy is also situated a 2 minutes walk from the award-winning Varadero beach!
In addition to a terrace and garden, the guest house also offers dry cleaning/laundry services. You can have a continental breakfast at the house (for an additional fee) if you want to relax before exploring. The staff is also happy to help with tours and tickets.
It will only take you 8 minutes to walk from Villa Mercy to the Varadero Artisan Market, and 6 minutes to drive to Josone Park. You’ll also be able to find several restaurants and bars within walking distance!
2. Casa Lola In Varadero Town
Another 10/10 casa particular a little bit closer to the Artisan Market, but Casa Lola is still only 2 minutes from Varadero beach!
With top reviews, a perfect oceanfront location, and an extra fee for garden access, daily housekeeping, and continental breakfast in-house, they’re the ideal place to stay.
And just let them know in advance if you need to be picked up from the airport!
3. Casa Nena In Varadero Town
The third 10/10 rated casa particular in Varadero Town is Casa Nena, situated around 5 minute’s walk from Ambrosio Park and a stone’s throw away from Marlin Marina (an international marina you can visit with your yacht (if you have one) on a cruising permit.
Casa Nena is just minutes from the beach, so you can relax and enjoy the garden or terrace. They have a lobby where you can get tea and coffee, as well as luggage storage if needed.
The staff is also happy to help with bookings or help you get tickets to activities. From Marlin Marina, you can go on a catamaran day trip to the popular Cayo Blanco, online booking is super easy!
Also read: Best All-Inclusive Resorts Varadero Cuba 2022!
Amazing Varadero Luxury Resorts
In Varadero, you find over 50 larger all-inclusive hotels and resorts, where you need to do nothing more than wiggle your toes in the pool or sandy waves all week!
Each has its own breathtaking stretch of beach, but the beaches in Varadero are not “private” so there will be sunbathers and the occasional salesperson passing by.
If resort life is not for you, or you are traveling on a budget, there are also many options for Cuban casa particulares in Varadero.
Also read: Amazing All-Inclusive Resorts In Varadero Reviews!
How To Travel To Varadero Cuba!
You can fly directly into Varadero Cuba if you want the majority of your Cuba holiday to be a Caribbean beach holiday!
Also, Varadero is within driving distance from several other popular Cuban destinations, like Havana, Trinidad, Cienfuegos, Santa Clara, and even Vinales Valley (if you don’t mind a few hours in the car)!
Juan Gualberto Gomez Varadero Airport
Visiting Varadero, you can fly directly to the Varadero International Airport Juan Gualberto Gómez. The airport is located 16 kilometers west of Varadero on the main island, a short taxi trip both from Matanzas city and the Varadero peninsula.
Juan Gualberto Gómez Airport is the second-most important airport in Cuba after José Martí Airport in Havana and has both international and domestic flights.
Several international airlines fly directly to Varadero.
You may also join an organized tour of Cuba, to get the best of more destinations than one!
Travel From Havana To Varadero
If you fly into Havana Cuba, a comfortable and budget travel option to get to Varadero is the Viazul bus, which departs daily from Jose Marti Airport in Havana. You can book your ticket securely online on their home page.
The distance from Havana to Varadero is around 140 kilometers, which is just doable as a day trip if you go on an organized tour.
The cheapest and also very easy option is the Viazul bus, which will take 4-5 hours. Although this takes longer than a taxi, the price is also nicer, around $12.
If you rent a car or a taxi privado, it will be around a two and a half hour’s drive to Havana from Varadero if you go non-stop. This is super fast, but also rather expensive with prices of around $100.
The second taxi option is a taxi collectivo, a taxi you share with others! If you are in a group already, this is perfect. Or, you will share your taxi with other travelers going to Varadero.
Same procedure, you will be picked up at your hotel or casa, and dropped off where you want to go! Price will be around $30 per person, and your casa host or hotel can help you book a taxi collectivo.
Wrap-Up Facts About Varadero Cuba!
There is no doubt that Varadero really is a true Caribbean holiday paradise, no wonder, it is basically created for that!
The good thing about Varadero is that it is not as secluded and far away from “everything else” in Cuba!
So from your pampering oasis in Varadero, you can still venture on tours and expeditions to find out what more Cuba has to offer on day trips, or for a couple of days.
I hope you will have a wonderful stay!