Last Minute Vacations To Varadero, Cuba
Known as a resort town in the province of Matanzas, Cuba, and located 140 km east of Havana, Varadero is one of the largest resort areas in the Caribbean. Today there are over 55 hotels and more than 15,000 rooms on its more than 20 km of white sandy beaches. Also called ‘Playa Azul’(meaning blue beach), the first tourists visited Varadero as early as the 1870s. In addition to this destination’s main attraction, the beach, there are also many historic mansions that were expropriated from their rich owners during the Cuban Revolution in 1959, as well as many natural attractions such as caves and cays (low elevation sandy islands formed from coral reefs).
Getting There, Getting Around & Other Transportation
Many all-inclusive packages include a flight directly into Varadero’s Juan Gualberto Gomez Airport. If you did book an all-inclusive trip, check with your hotel to see if they pre-arrange transfers to and from the airport (most of them do). There are a few different options to get to your hotel. The first is a Taxi. This option is the most expensive, but it is possible to bargain the fare. Share a taxi with others to lower the rate. The second option is the hire a car in the airport and the third option is to take the bus that runs from the airport to the city center.
If you want to explore the city, depending on how close you are to the town, you can hop on the double-decker open-on-top bus that runs regularly from the tip of the peninsula directly to the town center. You can also take a taxi, as all hotels have taxi stands. A fun option is to take a ride in a ‘Coco Taxi’. These motorized trikes are great for sightseeing.
Hotels &Places to Stay
The majority of hotels in Varadero are all-inclusive resorts; however for those of you who are looking for a bed and breakfast, there are still places to stay as some folks rent out rooms in their private homes. They are not advertized, so ask a taxi driver, a tour guide, or walk around Calle 13 to Calle 64 downtown Varadero and you will no doubt find a place to stay.
As for the all-inclusive resorts, there are over 55 to choose from, all ranging in price and ‘star rating’. Here is a list of 5 resorts to choose from, in order of star rating.
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar
For a vacation of luxury, this modern plantation style hotel is an elegant choice with a range of dining options, activities, facilities, restaurants, bars and entertainment choices. The best rooms come with ocean or lagoon views, private balconies and Jacuzzis.
Iberostar Playa Alameda
This hotel is among the newer and more upscale resorts in Varadero. All rooms have a classy décor and are equipped with a balcony or terrace. A very nice attraction is a bar by the beach with a lookout tower.
This is an adult-only resort and has an exciting party scene. It is equipped with 8 bars, a dance club, and nightly outdoor shows. The resort lies on a beautiful stretch of beach and is surrounded by tropical trees and flowers.
Gran Caribe Club Kawama Resort
This resort is made up of colourful bungalows that are scattered amongst gardens and water elements. It is located on the beach and a short walk from the city center.
With only 16 units, this old hotel holds a ton of personality in its stone walls. It is located across the street from the beach and in the city center of Varadero.
Dining & Nightlife
As most hotels in Varadero are all-inclusive resorts, most travelers eat their meals at their hotels. However, if you are in the mood to experiment with some local cuisine, try some of the restaurants in the city center.
This restaurant is the most popular spot to sample Cuban cuisine. Under the red tile roof in the open-air veranda, try roast chicken and pork dishes, a simple Cuban favorite.
Meson del Quijote
For food with a Spanish flare, try this restaurant that excels in freshly caught and cooked seafood.
As far as nightlife goes, pretty well every hotel has its own live entertainment shows that are performed nightly. However, if you want to get away from your hotel for an evening, you will not be disappointed by the Tropicana Matanzas cabaret show. Another cabaret and dance club is the Cueva del Pirate, a midsized cave converted into a club.
Attractions & Things to Do
Keeping in mind Varadero is a beach destination, the sandy beaches and crystal clear warm waters are its main attraction. There are however a few worthwhile parks: Parque Josone (located downtown), and Parque Ecologico Varahicacos (located on the eastern end of the peninsula). Another worthwhile site called, Centro Internacional de Deportes Aereos, offers a bird’s-eye view and daredevil experiences like parachuting and ultralight flights.
Currency, Culture and Language
The official language is Spanish, although the Spanish spoken in Cuba is knows as Cuban Spanish (a dialect of the Spanish Language)
The official currency in Cuba is the Cuban Peso (CUP). Be sure to change your Canadian or American money to Cuban Pesos either at a Casa de Cambio (Money Exchange House) or before you leave for your trip.