destination,  long trip,  travel

Places to Visit in Varadero

I went on the all-inclusive vacation to Varadero Cuba with a friend for 7 days during December 2017. This is my second time that I went to Varadero, both times I stayed in all-inclusive hotels. I pretty much know what experience I am going to get inside the hotel: all-you-can-eat buffet, a nice beach that I could lay all day, open bar, unlimited drinks…

Last time, I spent all 7 days doing the similar things: get up in the morning and walked around; eat buffet and spent all afternoon on the beach; watch a show at night.

I did not prepare anything last time. Without the internet and any Spanish skills, I could not plan anything on the spot, either.

However, this time, I want to do some different. Even though Varadero is just a small island, I want to walk around an explore as much as possible. I did my research on Trip Advisor and came up with a list of places to visit in Varadero:

Summary

Trip Length: 1 week
Booked an all-inclusive trip through Air Canada to Varadero, Cuba
Cost: Around $1000/person, during sales, it could cost as low as $600
Must-brings: bug spray, bite relief, sunscreen, after sun lotion, sandals, flip-flops, swimwear, abundant cash to exchange currency (CAD is good)

For Things to Know when visiting Varadero: check out my other blog post: http://travelerto.com/travel/things-to-know-in-varadero/

Ambrosio Cave

Location: East side of island

Length: 1 hour

Price: 5 CUC / person

Tip: wear comfortable shoes, bring a flashlight (optional).

Places to Visit in Varadero: Ambrosio Cave
Places to Visit in Varadero: Ambrosio Cave
Entrance to Ambrosio Cave in Varadero, Cuba
Entrance to Ambrosio Cave in Varadero, Cuba

This place is bat cave. It is on the far east side of the Varadero. It is pretty far from downtown Varadero. To get to here, one needs to take the double-deck bus which costs about 5 CUC. It costs about 5 CUC per person to visit it.

This cave has so many unharmful bats live inside it. You pay at the gate and someone would guide you around. You could shine the flashlight to the ceiling and you would see all the bats flying around. The cave is small, it took us about 30 minutes to see everything, but it is still interesting to visit.

Inside Ambrosio Cave in Varadero, Cuba
Inside Ambrosio Cave in Varadero, Cuba

Varahicacos Ecological Reserve

Location: east side of Varadero

Length: 1 hour at least

Price: 5 CUC / person

Tip: wear comfortable shoes, apply sunscreen, bring a bug spray.

Places to Visit in Varadero: Varahicacos Ecological Reserve
Places to Visit in Varadero: Varahicacos Ecological Reserve
entrance to Varahicacos Ecological Reserve in Varadero, Cuba
entrance to Varahicacos Ecological Reserve in Varadero, Cuba

This place is around 10 minutes walk from Ambrosio Cave. It has very interesting hiking trail called The Muslims Trail which took me about 1 hour to walk around. It costs 5 CUC per person to visit and the guy at the front gate would give you a map.

In the end, the exit is pretty hidden along the sidewalk as shown in the below pictures. So technically you could enter through this gate without any guides and pay nothing (if you can find it).

I highly recommend it if you like hiking. There are a couple of caves to see on the way. The trails are pretty challenging. I don’t recommend this spot for families with little children because there are many holes in the rocks and I could imagine kids would fell so easily. If you don’t like hiking or just want to have a chilled vacation, then I don’t really recommend it.

Cactus Patriarch

Price: 2 CUC / person

Location: East of island, very hard to find

entrance to Cactus Patriarch in Varadero, Cuba
entrance to Cactus Patriarch in Varadero, Cuba

It is just a giant cactus to see. The interesting part of this tourist spot is its location. My friend and I saw the sign and decide to check this place out. However, we walked a long time to find it (around 30 minutes). We kept thinking we got lost and would never find the cactus. Then we finally found the spot and realized “that was it?”.

It costs around 2 CUC per person to see this tree. It is not that interesting. I don’t recommend it due its location and not much to see.

Delfinario

Location: around middle in Varadero

Length: 1 hour

Price: 15 CUC / person to see the show, around 70 CUC to swim with dolphins.

Places to Visit in Varadero: Delfinario
Places to Visit in Varadero: Delfinario

The dolphin show plays twice a day: one at 11:30 and one at 3:30 (not very sure) that costs about 15 CUC per person. At the gate, the staff offers discount price for a swim with dolphins activity which includes the show (around 70 CUC rather than 90CUC, don’t remember the exact). This activity is a part of excursions presented by Air Canada representative. I don’t remember the exact price. So if swimming with dolphins if the activity you want to do, I think instead of booking the excursion, you could just come directly to the gate.

However, we were out of the CUC, so we just watched the show. We were very early, so we witnessed other people tried out the activity, which did seem very fun.

The show was very short, about 30 minutes. I do recommend the show because it is always interesting to see dolphins doing cool tricks.

Varadero Downtown

Location east side of Varadero

Length: whole afternoon, at least 2 hours

One thing about Varadero downtown is that it is filled with flea markets that basically selling the same thing.

We went to the downtown Varadero and got our money exchanged at the local bank. It is quite unique experience because banks there are very inefficient. We waited for a while just to get a bit better exchange rate.

The downtown Varadero is just one main street. It took us around 1-2 hours to walk the street end to end. We noticed the same things are sold at all flea markets: leather bags, wood boxes, typical souvenirs. You could probably bargain with the owners if you want to buy something.

Local flea market

There is a mall called Plaza American which is operated by the government. If you want to buy alcohol, I would recommend shopping there.

Inside Plaza

I could not find the museum listed on the map.

We got a funny story about horse taxi ride. The person told us is 10 CUC and my friend wanted to go for a ride. Then at the end, we realized it was 10 CUC per person per hour and charged us 40 CUC.

Tip: try to negotiate a final price before accepting a service. Taxi in Cuba is very expensive.

Conclusion

Here are some places I visited during my trip to Varadero in December 2017. My recommendation is to do some research beforehand since the internet is limited in Cuba. Also, try to get outside hotel for a walk. It is safe and you might find yourself an adventure. After all, Varadero is a tourist island, like all tourist areas, locals might try to upsell you things. Just be cautious and you could bargain before you buy something.

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