White sand for days
Google 'Varadero' and you'll find yourself confronted with endless photos of white sand beaches and see-through waters. That's because the beaches here are Varadero's main attraction, and definitely something worth bragging about.
Varadero is treated to 20 kilometres of coastline that make up the local Varadero Beach, practically the entire length of the town itself. The beaches are the backyards to most of the town's hotels, so trips to the shore are about as easy as it gets. Once you're there, you'll find ample lounging space, along with beach bars, watersports and boat cruises humming out in the waves.
Coral Beach is a small isle found at the northern tip of the peninsula. It's been given that name because of the coral reef hidden underneath the surface, where snorkellers and scuba divers can have a wander through underwater coves with colourful sea life.
Varadero comes ready with a range of activities to keep your holiday active. There's a golf course in the middle of the peninsula, along with boat tours and even a dolphin centre where you can swim with the local 'delfines'.
Varadero is also steeped in natural beauty. The Saturno Cave is a spooky spot dripping with stalagmites and stalactites, where you can rent snorkelling gear and explore the rock pools hidden inside. At the edge of town is the Varahicacos Ecological Reserve, a vast stretch of jungle-like forest that hikers are free to roam. Here, you never know what you might encounter – termite nests, a 19th-century skeleton or perhaps even an iguana.
Book an All Inclusive holiday to Cuba here and it's likely you'll also find a range of activities included at your hotel, so check with your tour operator to see what delights await.
Cuban flavours and latin nights
It'll come as no surprise that the vast majority of Varadero's restaurants dish up Cuban cuisine, which is a blend of Spanish, Caribbean and Native American flavours. You'll find the odd British pub and international bite, but otherwise, you should be prepared to dine like the locals do. When you see the fresh seafood and lobster spots along the coast, we have a feeling this won't be too hard.
Restaurants here come in just about every shape and size you can think of – quiet garden settings, with seaside views or stashed along busy avenues. There's even a cabaret restaurant, where diners are treated to dinner and a show. Nightlife in Varadero follows largely the same vein, in that things here are supremely local. The mojito is Cuba's signature drink, along with their famous rum, and there's no shortage of places to have a sip. Just make sure you're ready to dance to the heavy beats of Cuban and Caribbean music, as a heavy dosage of live music and all-night dancing awaits.
Duty free buys
Shopaholics need be on their toes when perusing the shops of Cuba. It's all duty free, all the time when it comes to tobacco, perfume and alcohol. It's also the place to pick up a carton of Cuba's famous cigars, or the country's rum. At Casa del Ron – also known as the House of Rum – you can sample rum before you buy, but otherwise, there are a couple of shopping centres and the Varadero Street Market for quirky souvenirs.
Driving to Havana from Varadero will take a little over two hours, though the journey to Cuba's capital will be well worth it. If Varadero is seen as more of a tourist town, Havana is, undoubtedly, the real deal.
With its pastel-coloured architecture, narrow alleyways and busy avenues, Havana isn't for the faint of heart. An UNESCO World Heritage Site in and of itself, Havana is the place to dance the night away to Cuban jams and wind through a museum exploring the city's dynamic past. Plus, there are a few beaches on the outskirts of town where you can snatch up a brief moment of blissful silence, except the sound of crashing waves, of course.