If you visit Cuba don’t go to Varadero. Well, actually, let me rephrase that to say – if you go to Cuba don’t JUST go to Varadero. It does have fabulous beaches and the Hotel we stayed in, The Iberostar Varadero was wonderful and amazingly changed my opinion of “all inclusive” resorts for ever. However this is not the place to go to see the “real” Cuba. By the time we ended up here, on the white sands, by the turquoise sea with people rushing to administer our every will, we had already visited Havana and Trinidad and it was there that we saw the real Cuba. (See my separate reviews on both places).
Varadero to us was a 6 day stay before we jetted home to the cold and snow in the UK. It was meant to relax us before going back to the real world. It certainly did that!
The beaches along the Hicacos Penninsula are beautiful (some parts better than others) and the Iberostar Varadero has to be sited on one of the best parts. The white sand has shells and coral galore and a gentle slope into the water. Even though the Hotel has 386 rooms you never felt as if you were in such a large hotel. Brightly coloured blocks of rooms are spread throughout the well manicured gardens and with 4 pools and numerous restaurants it never felt crowded at all. I had never done all inclusive before and had no real desire to do so but it was only after we had booked the holiday with The Holiday Place that we realised that this leg of our trip was all inclusive. I didn’t like having to wear a bright orange wristband but once I had sampled the excellent buffet, had free Kir Royales every night in one of the beautiful bars, realised that the whole of our mini bar was free and had waiters asking me for my order whilst lounging on the beach I was almost evangelically converted! This was probably the most pampered I have ever been and it was very strange to have drinks delivered without having to pay or at least give a room number!
There are many things to do in Varadero. We booked a catamaran trip to an Island, Cayo Blanco. It was a lovely boat and the island was like a Robinson Crusoe setting (if you ignored all the other day trippers!) but we weren’t aware that the skipper of the boat wanted to turn it into an 18-30 event! Free drinks aboard meant nearly everyone was drunk on the way back and everyone was jovially bullied into getting up and dancing! I loved the boat ride, loved the Island but I hated the skipper! I was very tempted to push him overboard although everyone else seemed OK with it so maybe we should have been a bit more selective with which boat trip we booked! It wasn’t cheap, about £65 and that is quite a lot of money to pay to be be humiliated into doing The Macarena!! So choose your boat carefully.
You can also do day trips to Havana but you really won’t get much time there on a day trip and I really would encourage everyone to spend more time in this lovely capitol city. You can also swim with Dolphins in the Dolphinarium but please don’t – they shouldn’t be in captivity and a tourist site like this only encourages their exploitation. There are many other trips available but the only other thing we did was buy a cheap ticket for the hop on hop off double decker bus. It goes to all the hotels and beaches and into the local town where there is a great artisan market. There are also restaurants and bars if you want to get away from the all inclusive resort for a while.
On our last day I walked for miles along the beach, the sea was turquoise, the sand white and I came across a pod of pelicans who happily let me walk amongst them. Totally wonderful!
So, DO visit Varadero but do visit other places in Cuba as well. It really is worth it!