Cuba's quintessential holiday destination is steadily regaining former glory, striding forward to the future where it will once again rank among the finest beach resorts in the Caribbean. Varadero is far from a synthetic vacationer theme park some hold it for - the town is home to nearly 20,000 Cubans, and exudes local flavor despite being primarily known for its first-class luxury hotels.
Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC) and Cuban Pesos (CUP); 1 CUC=24 CUP
Granma (also in English)
Trabajadores (also in English)
Opening hours for many Cuban businesses vary and may not be strictly enforced. As a general rule, most locations operate Monday through Saturday, from around 9am to 5pm (shorter hours on Saturday).
Calle 13, Varadero
(next to Hotel Aguazul)
Varadero's momentum as a tourism hub was put to a halt by the Revolution - a nearly 50-year-long break in visitor influx that now shows major signs of revival.
The place name "Varadero" often comprises not just the town proper, but the entire Hicacos Peninsula that juts into the Atlantic reaching out over 20km north from Cuban mainland. On average, the peninsula's width does not exceed five hundred meters, which brings both good and bad with it - the extremely narrow stretch of land makes dining and entertainment venues seem sparse and certainly complicates bar-hopping; on the upside, one is never too far from the beach, being within short walking distance from some of the most stunning white-sand shores on the island at all times.
Central Varadero is the area between roughly Calles 10 and 64 - this is where most life in town revolves around, and where many of the more affordable hotels are concentrated (cheaper options may be found in the western part of Varadero, towards Cuban mainland). The peninsula's east is known for being less populous - this is where the more refined luxury hotels and all-inclusive resorts are to be found.
Although crisp white-sand beaches are Varadero's main draw, the resort town's appeal extends far beyond those alone. Underneath the cerulean waters lie endless marine treasures, from natural sea fauna to an artificially created underwater marine park of sorts (Cayo Piedras del Norte), with (intentionally) sunken vessels and aircraft waiting to be explored by divers and/or glass-bottom boat passengers. There are a few attractive golf courses in the area, along with several small-town attractions. Some 20km out of town lies the so-called Saturn Cave - a natural grotto filled with water, where diving descents are possible.
Diving & Snorkeling
Museo Municipal de Varadero
Varahicacos Ecological Reserve
Parque Central & Iglesia de Santa Elvira
House of Rum
Although most restaurants in Varadero cater to an international clientele, classics of Cuban cuisine (many of which are a variation on the theme of rice and beans) are still served at local "paladares" (family-run businesses). One menu item that features prominently on local restaurants' menus is lobster, a marine product reserved primarily for export and foreign visitors, and one whose capture still remains a controversial topic in Cuba. Some local specialties include ajiaco stew, meat empanadas, as well as chicken and pork dishes.
Paladar Nonna Tina
Paladar Salsa Suarez
La Vaca Rosada
Coffee is an indispensable part of Cuban culture served at most (if not all) Cuban establishments - the world-famous "café Cubano" is essentially a shot of espresso with sugar added in the brewing process. Ice cream is a beloved local treat, with legendary state-run Coppelia enjoying a presence in Varadero (the local branch is refreshingly uncrowded). For breakfast, the customary combo is that of a "tostada" (toasted bread with butter) and cafe con leche, often accompanied by fresh fruit.
Panaderia Dona Neli
La Bodeguita Del Medio
El Palacio de los Jugos Frescos
La Isabelica Casa del Cafe
Nightlife in Varadero is geared primarily towards visitors and vacationers, but most clubs welcome a diverse clientele consisting of both Cubans and international travellers. Bar-hopping may be hard to do on your own (since nightlife establishments tend to be quite spread out along the narrow peninsula), so looking into a pub-crawl type program may be a good idea (these often include entry to one of Varadero's festive cabaret shows).
Casa de la Musica
La Bamba Disco
Palacio de La Rumba
Bar Mirador Casa Blanca
Cuevos Los Pirates
Cigars, rum, coffee and honey are some of the items most sought-after by travellers to Cuba, and rightfully so - these locally-produced products make for perfect gifts and souvenirs, and are often a great bargain to purchase in their land of origin. Products of the non-edible variety include wood handicrafts, Cuban art, music paraphernalia and records. For serious antiques and vintage shopping, it might be worth to plan a trip to Havana, where finds range from rare jewellery to books and magazines.
Taller de Ceramica Artistica
La Casa del Habano
Varadero Street Market
Casa del Ron
Centro Comercial Hicacos
Plaza Las Morlas
ARTex Store & Handicraft Market
Juan Gualberto Gómez Airport
The airport closest to Varadero - Juan Gualberto Gómez Airport - is located about 20km away from town and serves a number of international airlines. Getting here and away is possible by pre-arranged transfer or shuttle as well as taxi. Car hire is also available at the airport directly.
Address: Matanzas, Cuba
Passport / Visa
Travelers visiting Cuba are required to hold a valid passport valid for at least 2 months following their travel date, medical insurance, and proof of return tickets. Proof of sufficient funds to support the stay is also required (50 dollars/day).
Visa-free entry for a period upwards of 28 days is granted to citizens of Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Malaysia, Montenegro, Serbia, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Belarus, Mongolia, Russia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Singapore, Barbados, Dominica and Namibia (Kazakhstan and Kenya are scheduled to soon complete the list).
The remaining majority of international visitors will need to obtain a Tourist Card, Tarjeta del Turista, that grants permission to stay in Cuba for 30 days and can be extended once for a further 30. The card can be obtained via the airline, travel agent or a Cuban mission abroad.
Citizens of the following countries are not eligible for a Tourist Card and will need to apply for a visa: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Syria, and Yemen. Admission is refused entirely to Kosovo nationals.
Special regulations apply to citizens of the USA, who (as of 2018) will need to qualify for one of 12 visitor categories in order to be granted an entry visa. The easiest way to enter Cuba for USA citizens under these regulations is to join an excursion organized by a tour operator (these are also available on board cruise ships), that falls into the "people-to-people exchange program" category of the 12 officially approved. Another, slightly more complicated route, is to obtain a license issued by the U.S. Department of Treasury.
Special regulations apply to Cuban-born foreign citizens, who will need to make visa arrangements for a Cuban visa in advance (via a Cuban Embassy), unless they hold a valid Cuban passport.
A tourist double-decker bus circulates around the peninsula for a flat rate equivalent of a few dollars. The bus operates on a hop on-hop off basis; the entire route takes approximately 2 hours. Mopeds and bikes are available for hire, as are horse carriages (if those are something for you).
The Varadero Terminal de Omnibus serves multiple locations across Cuba with Viazul.
Taxis are available for hire at most hotels. The so-called "coco taxis" (small motorised vehicles) operate as a cheaper variety of taxi (these may be hired on the spot nearly anywhere in Varadero).
Postage stamps may be purchased at Agencia Postal Principal, Varadero's main post office. Mail may often be dropped off directly at your hotel, or blue post boxes around town.
Address: Avenida Primera, Varadero
More Information: Calle 39 & 40
Although there are a few pharmacies in Varadero, it is recommended that you bring any necessary medication along, as pharmacies may sometimes be understocked, with prices higher than elsewhere on imported medication.
International pharmacies may be found by the Hotel Varazul in cenetral Varadero, Plaza las Americas shopping mall and further locations.
Country code for Cuba +53
International calls are best made from ETECSA offices (Corner of Av 1ra & Calle 30) or with pre-paid cards.
110 Volts, most newer hotels have 220 V sockets. Two- and three-pin plugs are in use, adapter may be necessary.