Country: Cuba
Currency: Peso (CUP)
Peak Season: March-April, December
Shoulder Season: January-February
Median Temperature: 25.00 C / 77 F
Main Languages: Spanish, French, English
Primary Modes of Transportation: Shuttle bus, tourist bus, coco taxi, scooter
Recommended Duration of Stay: 3 days
Recommended Pocket Money: $150.00/day
Tourist Passes: n/a
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If you want a full-fledged resort destination without all the unneeded complexities of city life hauled to it, then Varadero is the place for you. This beautiful Cuban resort town is located in a sandspit in Matanzas named the Peninsula de Hicacos which, from afar, looks like a hairline extending to the Atlantic. It is widely regarded as many to be the most beautiful beach resort in the entire Caribbean mainly because of its tranquil position near the ocean, perpetually white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and its 60’s Cuban setting – all evident in the architecture of surrounding hotels, and not to mention the nostalgic máquinas (60’s cars) that transport tourists in/out the airport and around town. The vast expanse of the town makes it an attractive destination for both foreign visitors and investors.

Often touted as the “most beautiful beach in the world,” Varadero Beach (seaside resorts not included) stretches to roughly 36 kilometers. Its warm waters, fine beachfront sand, and it being only a short drive from the Juan Guadalberto Gomez International Airport, makes this beach eventful. A suite of water-bound activities await visitors: boat rides, water skiing, motorboating, and wakeboarding are among the best water sports, while aquabiking and (would you believe) horseback riding are allowed on the beachfront. There are plenty of rental stores to choose from, but just to be sure, get some reviews on reliable ones, or they might force you to pay for defective craft.

Of course, beaches are not without their imperfections. Due to the proliferation of foreign visitors and locals in Varadero Beach, the beachfront has become a hotspot for many locals who take advantage of tourists, often striking a friendly conversation up to the point where they’d pester you to buy them a drink. This can be avoided if you preempt their motive and politely ask them to go somewhere else. Also, bring some anti-itch cream, as some dust flies may irritate your skin. Foreign visitors are also to blame for littering on the beach, which has become a widespread problem for the municipality. We encourage visitors to be environmentally responsible.

Packing List

  • Local currency before departing for the bars and hotels (the airport has favorable rates); a 10% surcharge is informally imposed on foreigners; there are no ATM’s here
  • Essential medication, toiletries and tumblers if you don’t want to share a cup with anyone; mosquito repellant is very important, since these creatures come in swarms
  • Office supplies, portable electronic devices and other everyday items—a lot of them are hard to find here; don’t bring expensive items, since daylight robbers are hot on tourists
  • Tropical clothing, sandals, sarong, sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm and skin supplements to fend off the heat; bring clothes as gifts to receptionists—they really appreciate it
  • 25 CUC departure fee from the city; it’s mandatory, so tuck it inside your passport for safety; an ID or two can be helpful especially when in a brush with authorities

Things to Do

  • Strolling around Parque Josone, having its own lake, an array of palm trees and a diverse species of tropical birds; a number of entertainment venues are present, as well as horse and camel rides
  • Watching performances by the voluptuous dancers at Tropica Matanzas; the rather small venue is overshadowed by different genres of Cuban dance and historical shows
  • Spelunking inside the Bellamar Caves which were discovered by miners by accident and were later made into a tourist attraction, complete with lights to view the centuries-old stalagmites and stalactites
  • Visiting Villa Du Pont, the hacienda of the late American business mogul, Irenee Du Pont; it houses the Varadero Golf Club, the largest in the country and Las Americas, Varadero’s most expensive restaurant
  • Checking out the resident dolphins at Delfinario; the dolphins are very friendly and intelligent, and one can even go ride on their backs all the way to other side of the pool without the fear of slipping off

DON'T

  • Be appalled by straightforward locals (especially men), who usually woo women and then proceed to talk to them; a courteous “no” will be accepted instead of a snarly stare
  • Talk about the current political regime there, nor preach democracy; Cubans have their own perception of “freedom” and it’s best to leave this discussion out of the table
  • Book a room (especially in a hostel) near bars and beaches if you don’t want to be disturbed in the middle of the night; the premium of staying in a three- to four-star hotel is worth it
  • Expect small establishments to have change for large denominations, nor honor US currency/credit cards; converted cash is indispensable, and some fluency in Spanish is also advisable
  • Adulterate the beaches by littering, going topless/nude, nor performing “immoral” acts; the locals are highly critical of western tourists, and you might be detained if caught