Some call Varadero Beach the world’s greatest beach, and it’s easy to see why. The glistening white sands, cool tropical breezes and tranquil Atlantic waters provide the perfect backdrop for a broad range of resorts, from family-friendly to all-inclusive, and everything in between.
For those looking for adventure, Varadero is well equipped to handle almost any water sport you can think of, from scuba diving to sailing to swimming with the dolphins. You can even sneak in a round of golf at the Varadero Golf Club’s breathtaking championship course, or hike through the history-rich Ambrosio Cave. If pampering is what you have mind, Varadero boasts an abundance of spas to help you unwind.
Just beyond the spectacular beaches, you’ll find plenty of opportunities for local excursions. Explore the ecotourism options offered on the nearby Zapata Peninsula, the largest wetland reserve in the Caribbean, or within the Varahicacos ecological reserve, where you can hike along vegetation-rich trails and gaze at the colourful array of exotic birds. For a more cultured diversion, visit the city of Matanzas, nicknamed the “Athens of Cuba” because of the wealth of celebrated European poets and writers living there during the mid-19th century.
Be sure to try a gaurapo while you’re sunning yourself on one of Varadero’s pristine beaches. This refreshing cocktail contains a mouth-watering blend of sugar cane juice, white rum and ice. Perk up with a rich, aromatic cup of homegrown Cuban coffee, typically served black and lightly sweetened in espresso-sized cups.
From the pristine white sands of Varadero Beach to rougher terrain off the beaten path, Varadero is close to beaches that suit every taste.
Arguably the most well developed beach in Cuba, this dazzling stretch offers plenty of hotel and resort options for every budget.
Get off the beaten path and visit this remote beach located on the east side of the expansive Peninsula.
This beach is also situated on the Bahia de Cochinos, north of Playa Girón. Its central location makes it an ideal base for eco-tours around the Zapata Peninsula.
Enjoy the quiet at this peaceful beach that’s an easy day trip from Varadero, located on the eastern side of the Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs). Its clear, sparkling waters attract avid snorkelers and scuba divers.
Sink your feet into the immaculate white sand along the 21-kilometre stretch of Cuba’s trademark beach. The serene waters are always inviting, with an average year-round water temperature of 24ºC-26ºC.
Varadero’s crystalline waters, gorgeous coral formations and teeming sealife make it an ideal for diving, boating and fishing. A family favourite is the Delfinario, which features daily dolphin shows, and even gives visitors a chance to swim with the friendly, trained bottlenose dolphins.
Boating and sailing
Marlin Marina Dársena
Climb aboard a deep-sea fishing vessel at this marina located just west of Varadero.
Sail on in to the Marina Gaviota. It is also equipped to handle incoming sailors and international vessels.
Marina Marlin Darsena de Varadero
This is an authorized port for non-Cuban vessels, and capable of accommodating incoming sailors.
Marlin Marina Dársena
Climb aboard a deep-sea fishing vessel at this marina located just west of Varadero.
Marlin Marina Chapelin
Book an all-inclusive fishing excursion here, complete with an open bar.
Scuba diving and snorkeling
Laguna de Maya, Playa Coral
Halfway between Matanzas and Varadero, this is a great spot to go snorkeling.
Barracuda diving center
This is known as Varadero’s premiere scuba centre because of its friendly staff and impressive facilities.
Cayo Piedra underwater park
Explore the shipwrecks and deliberately sunk military equipment filled with colourful tropical fish and crustaceans.
Inject some excitement into your trip by booking a skydiving session at Centro Internacional de Paracaidismo. You’ll have an unrivalled vantage point as you cascade above the breathtaking shoreline en route to your beachside landing cushioned by Varadero’s trademark white sands.
Design your own road trip. A comprehensive network of car rental offices lets you take your pick from a range of different vehicles: Economy, Midsize (the most requested), Luxury, Jeep, Minivan and Van. You can book online at www.transturvaradero.com.
Vintage car tours
Arrange to see the sights in one of Cuba’s famous vintage automobiles.
Varadero Beach Tour
It’s easy to beach-hop, thanks to Hop-On Hop-Off panoramic buses that will take you from one end of the peninsula to the other.
For a more cultured excursion, visit Matanzas, the historic port town known as the “Athens of Cuba” because of the wealth of celebrated European poets and writers living there in the mid-19th century. Places of interest surround the Plaza de la Vigía, where the city was founded nearly 400 years ago.
Parque Josone (Josone Park)
Keep your camera out during your trip to Parque Josone, where you’ll find breathtaking gardens that date back to 1940. Cool off with a dip in the pool.
For a more unusual outing, visit the Boca de Guamà, Cuba’s largest crocodile farm, where you can unleash your inner shutterbug by snapping giant crocodiles, iguanas and various species of indigenous lizards.
If you head south to the Zapata Peninsula, you’ll stumble upon Playa Girón, a quiet beach located on the eastern side of the Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs). Its huge underwater canyons, impressive wrecks and pristine waters provide hours of fun for snorkelers and scuba divers.
San Juan de Dios de Cárdenas
On Cárdenas Bay you’ll find historic Cárdenas, sometimes called the ‘city of firsts’ because so many significant events happened here first. Notable example: this is where the Cuban flag waved for the first time.
Cueva Ambrosio (Ambrosio Cave)
Observe the pre-Columbian pictographs and Indian drawings at this well-preserved archeological site. An ancient ceremonial spot for the region’s native population, the 300-metre cave later harboured runaway slaves.
Enjoy a game of mini golf and a light cafeteria-style meal. 1st Avenue and 42nd Street
Varadero Golf Club
Work on your swing at this picturesque 18-hole championship course, marked by an intricate system of lagoons in the British links tradition. Tournaments take place in June and October. The club’s annual regatta is in May.
Eco-enthusiasts will find plenty to explore just beyond Varadero’s well-developed resorts. Take in the wetlands, lagoons, prehistoric caves and even a UNESCO biosphere.
Zapata Peninsula biosphere reserve
One of Cuba’s six UNESCO biospheres, the Zapata reserve contains the largest wetlands in the Caribbean, and not surprisingly, one of its most diverse ecosystems. Bring your binoculars: the world’s smallest bird, the bee hummingbird, makes its home here.
Gran Parque Natural Montemar (formerly Parque Nacional Ciénaga de Zapata)
Part of the Zapata Peninsula Biosphere, this vast wetland is teeming with wildlife. Not to be missed: Laguna de las Salinas, with its spectacular parade of pink flamingos.
Reserva Ecológica Varahicacos (Varahicacos Ecological Reserve)
Covering about 30 per cent of the total area of the Hicacos Peninsula, this park contains the Cueva de Musalmanes, remarkable for its 2,500-year-old human remains and giant cactus.
Cueva Ambrosio (Ambrosio Cave)
This stunning 300-metre cave is a well-preserved archeological site featuring approximately 47 pre-Columbian drawings.
Cuevas de Bellamar (Bellmar Caves)
Located on the outskirts of Matanzas, these caves are among the Caribbean’s largest and most beautiful underground formations.
Row your boat, ride the minitrain or wander at will through lush tropical vegetation in the gardens, groves and lagoons of this public park.
Arts and culture
If you can tear yourself away from the beach for an afternoon or evening, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to soak up some local culture. Places of interest include everything from museums, galleries and forts to the shrimp fisheries around the Canal de Paso Malo.
Plaza de la Vigía
Matanzas was founded here in the late 17th century, and all the city’s main avenues branch out from this historic town square. Landmarks include the Teatro Sauto, Junco Palace Museum, Palacio Justicia (Provincial Court), Fire Department building and Edíciones Vigía, a publisher of beautiful, limited-edition books.
Castillo de San Severino
This imposing structure, completed by the mid-1700s, provided the city’s main defense.
Castillo del Morrillo
History buffs will want to stop here. This fortress contains an archaeological museum as well as the mausoleum of two revolutionaries, Guiteras Homes and Carlos Aponte Hernández.
Museo Farmacéutico (Le Triolet French Pharmacy)
This immaculately preserved building was erected in 1882, and is still stocked with utensils, flasks and medicines from days gone by. Everything is protected under glass on the store’s original shelves made of hand-finished Cuban wood.
Cuban Association of Artists and Artisans
This is a unique venue for everything from expositions to fashion shows.
Museo Municipal de Oscar María de Rojas
Pre-Columbian artifacts and a 19th-century hearse are among the treasures housed in this museum in Cárdenas, about 20 km east of Varadero.
Junco Palace Historical Museum
Located in Plaza de la Vigía, in the heart of old Matanzas, this former military headquarters now houses a fascinating exhibition of ancient fire-fighting equipment.
Victoria de Girón stadium
Get swept up Cuba’s baseball frenzy by taking in a game at this Matanzas stadium.
Teatro Sauto in Matanzas
One of Cuba’s finest theatres, the Teatro Sauto, built in 1863, is famous for its acoustics. It has hosted many world-renowned performers, including the Italian tenor Enrico Caruso and the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova.
Family-friendly Varadero has plenty of great ways to entertain the kids, from crocodile nurseries and dolphin shows to amusement parks and horse-drawn carriage rides.
Horse-Drawn carriage rides
Book a horse-drawn carriage ride through the streets of Varadero so the whole family can relax while taking in the sights.
Todo en Uno
Have fun on the bumper cars at this Varadero amusement park equipped with modern rides.
Check out the daily dolphin shows at Delfinario, or swim alongside the friendly, trained bottlenose dolphins.
Visit the Boca de Guamà, Cuba’s largest crocodile farm, where kids can safely get up close and personal with the imposing reptiles.
A white beach set against a backdrop of shimmering turquoise water and cloudless sky is not Varadero’s only attraction. The nearby cities of Cárdenas and Matanzas (the provincial capital) are known for their art, history and culture. In fact, Matanzas, dubbed the “Athens of Cuba” for its legendary 19th century artistic life, was also the birthplace of rumba.
Nightclubs and Bars
Cabaret Cueva de Pirata (Pirate Cave Cabaret)
For a night to remember, take in a floor show with a swashbuckling twist. This cabaret is built inside a cave.
Enjoy the Varadero version of the renowned open-air cabaret show, complete with colourful costumes and live music. Just 8 km east of Matanzas.
If you’re in the mood for some mambo, dance the night away to the energetic live music here.
Take in the elaborate floorshow with colourfully costumed dancers every day except Monday at this club located at the Hotel Internacional.
Club named after Cuba’s most famous singer, Benny Moré.
Discoteca La Bamba
This is Varadero’s most modern video disco, located at Hotel Tuxpán in eastern Varadero.
Casa de la Música
This place has quality live acts and a definitive Cuban feel.
Restaurants and Cafes
If you have a craving for Chinese food while you’re in Varadero, this is the place to come.
Casa del Queso
This restaurant specializes in French-Swiss cuisine.
Located at Marina Gaviota Varadero, this restaurant was built out over the ocean by designer Alexis Leyva Machad. It can seat 300.
Restaurante Esquina Cuba
Compay Segundo of the legendary music group the Buena Vista Social Club was a regular at this spot.
Las Americas Restaurant
This eatery located inside of a converted villa is widely regarded as one of Varadero’s top restaurants.
Go ahead and try the spicy crocodile with pineapple, a specialty of the house.
Dine inside the former home of notorious mobster Al Capone at House Capone, now a restaurant that specializes in Spanish and Italian cuisine.
Casa del Habano
Also on Av 1 (at 60th), Casa del Habano is the place to come for a wide variety of Cuban cigars.
Centro Comercial de Hicacos Center (Hicacos Mall)
Browse through the shops and restaurants in this mall on Av 1, not far from the open-air artisans’ market.
Centre Plaza América
This massive international convention centre houses one of the country’s largest shopping malls, complete with restaurants, boutiques and amusement centres.
Spas and wellness
Awaken your senses, relax your body and rejuvenate your mind: Varadero has two hotels with complete spa services. In addition, Spa Clubs located at Plaza América and the Hicacos Mall offer a selection of treatments by trained experts.
Weddings and honeymoons
You can create the wedding (and honeymoon) of your dreams in Varadero. The region’s natural attractions are enhanced by the facilities and the friendliness that await you here. Experienced event planners and coordinators can help you plan every detail, whether your vision is a luxurious retreat or budget-conscious exploration of the entire country.
Festivals and events
Among the many traditions and festivals celebrating the cultural heritage of Varadero are the Rowing Regatta, the Red Snapper Festival and the Popular Song Festival, which takes place at the city amphitheatre.
Avid golf fans should watch for the major golf tournaments held at the Varadero Golf Club in June and October.
National rock Atenas festival
The biggest event of its kind in Cuba, this rock festival is attended by the best bands in the country. The first 15 days of June.