Written by Kieran Proctor

10 Best Tours In Varadero Cuba: The Ultimate Guide 2024

Are you dreaming of a Caribbean getaway that combines pristine white sand beaches, azure waters and unforgettable adventures? Look no ...

Are you dreaming of a Caribbean getaway that combines pristine white sand beaches, azure waters and unforgettable adventures? Look no further than Varadero!

Varadero is a paradisiacal beach destination on the northern shores of Cuba. Because it’s the countries largest resort zone and one of the largest resort areas in the Caribbean, Varadero offers a wide range of tours and excursions that will make your trip to Cuba truly memorable.

Now, I spend at least 3 months of each year living in Havana, a 2.5 hour car ride from Varadero. And I’ve been to Varadero more times than I care to recount. In this article, I provide you with a run down of what I consider to be the 10 best tours in Varadero.

I’ve ordered the list of tours, day trips and excursions below, based on my own experience. And I’ve also provided you with all the information that you’ll need, to plan an incredible vacation in this tropical paradise!

Resources For Planning A Vacation In Varadero Cuba

Before we jump straight into the 10 best tours that you should take in Varadero, it’s worth pointing out that if you’re planning to visit during peak season (November to May), you absolutely must book your tours ahead of time.

You should also book your flights a minimum of 3 months in advance. And book your mode of transfer from the airport to your resort, when you book your flights.

Here’s a handy list of resources to help you plan your holiday in Varadero:

  1. Packing for a vacation in Cuba
  2. Transferring from Varadero Airport to Varadero
  3. Transfers between Havana and Varadero
  4. The best restaurants in Varadero: A foodies guide
  5. How to spend 48 hours to one week in Varadero (itinerary planning)
  6. How to visit Viñales from Varadero
  7. How to spend 48 hours in Havana (itinerary planning)
  8. The best restaurants in Havana: A foodies guide

The 10 Best Tours In Varadero Cuba

The 10 best tours excursions in Varadero Cuba are listed below, in the order that I recommend you consider them. Do remember to book ahead for the day trips, or you will miss out. Particularly with the Catamaran and jeep tours.

Now, I only recommend taking the food tour if you’re a foodie. And if you take the Jeep tour to the Yumurí Valley, skip the Matanzas & Bellamar Caves Tour. If you take an excursion to Viñales (highly recommended), you should skip the Sugar, Rum & Tobacco Tour.

Click each tour to see the full details and add it to your Cuban itinerary:

  1. Classic Car Tour
  2. Varadero Catamaran Tour
  3. Jeep Tour to Yumurí Valley
  4. Matanzas & Bellamar Caves Tour (skip this half day tour, if you took the jeep tour)
  5. Day Trip to Havana
  6. Viñales Valley Day Trip
  7. Guama and Hatiguanico River Trip
  8. Excursion to El Nicho (Day trip to Trinidad)
  9. Varadero Cooking Class (foodies only for this tour)
  10. Sugar, Rum & Tobacco Tour (skip this excursion if you went to Viñales)

Classic Car Tour: Explore Varadero In Style

Immerse yourself in the nostalgic charm of Varadero with a classic car tour. Just like in Havana, classic cars are a common sight in Varadero. And this tour gives you the opportunity to explore the city in a vintage automobile, adding a touch of glamour to your vacation.

The tour starts with a pick-up from your hotel, where you’ll be greeted by your friendly driver and guide. Hop into a beautifully restored classic car and get ready to cruise through the streets of Varadero. Marvel at the colonial architecture, pass by iconic landmarks like Josone Park and Al Capone’s house, and soak up the vibrant atmosphere of the town market.

The tour is a perfect blend of history, culture and fun. Your guide will share fascinating stories about Varadero’s past, including the days when it was a popular destination for American celebrities and mobsters. You’ll have the opportunity to take memorable photos at picturesque spots, capturing the essence of Varadero’s unique charm.

After a couple of hours exploring the city, the tour concludes with a drop-off back at your hotel. Get ready to feel like a movie star as you wave goodbye to your retro ride and carry the memories of this classic car adventure with you.

Duration: 2 hours
Languages: English & Spanish

Classic Car Tour in Varadero Cuba
Classic cars in Varadero Cuba

Varadero Catamaran Tour: Sail Away To Cayo Blanco

Kick off your Varadero adventure with a catamaran tour to Cayo Blanco, a pristine island known for its white sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters and dolphinarium. This tour is perfect for those who want to combine relaxation and water activities in one unforgettable experience.

You’ll start the day by being picked up at your hotel and taken to the Varadero marina, where a bright white luxury catamaran awaits. Step aboard and feel the refreshing sea breeze as you set sail towards Cayo Blanco. The journey itself is a delight, with panoramic views of the coastline and the possibility of spotting marine wildlife along the way.

Once you reach Cayo Blanco, prepare to be amazed by its natural beauty. Dive into the clear waters and snorkel among colorful coral reefs and tropical fish. Afterward, the catamaran anchors near the island, giving you ample time to enjoy the paradise beach.

Relax on the soft sand, listen to live music, indulge in a delicious lunch and sip on a refreshing piña colada. For an extra dose of adventure, you can even participate in a “meet-and-greet” with the dolphins living in the nearby mangrove.

As the day comes to an end, the catamaran sets sail back to Varadero, creating a lively party atmosphere with salsa and reggaeton music. Sit back, enjoy the stunning views and let the rhythm of Cuba fill your soul.

Duration: Full day (approximately 8 hours)
Languages: English & Spanish

Jeep Tour To Yumurí Valley: An Adventure In Nature

If you’re looking for a thrilling adventure in the heart of nature, a jeep tour to Yumurí Valley is the perfect choice. This tour will take you off the beaten path, allowing you to explore the stunning landscapes and hidden gems of the Cuban countryside.

The tour begins with a pick-up from your hotel, where you’ll be greeted by your experienced guide and hop into a rugged jeep. Buckle up and get ready for an adrenaline-filled journey through the Yumurí Valley, a natural enclave renowned for its crystal-clear waters and lush vegetation.

Your first stop is Coral Beach, where you’ll have the opportunity to snorkel in a vibrant coral reef and marvel at the island’s rich marine diversity. Afterward, continue your adventure to the Cave of Saturn, a fascinating underground world with large caverns and a natural pool of emerald waters. Take a refreshing swim in the cool cave water and immerse yourself in the beauty of this hidden treasure.

As the tour progresses, you’ll pass through the city of Matanzas, known as the ‘Venice of Cuba’ for its numerous bridges and canals. Enjoy panoramic views of the Yumurí Valley from the viewpoint of the Hermitage of Montserrate, where you’ll be captivated by the breathtaking scenery.

The tour concludes at Rancho Gaviota, where you’ll be welcomed with a refreshing cocktail. Visit the farm, go horseback riding and savor a traditional Cuban lunch, immersing yourself in the local culture and flavors of the region. Before returning to Varadero, embark on a thrilling speedboat ride on the Canimar River, adding an extra dose of excitement to your adventure.

Duration: Full day (approximately 10 hours)
Languages: English & Spanish

Matanzas & Bellamar Caves Tour: History And Natural Wonders

Embark on a captivating journey through history and nature with a Matanzas and Bellamar Caves tour. This excursion will take you to the beautiful city of Matanzas, known as the ‘Athens of Cuba’ (for it’s poets) and the ‘Venice of Cuba’ (for it’s canals and bridges). Visit the breathtaking Bellamar Caves, a natural wonder that’s been millions of years in the making.

The tour begins with a pick-up from your hotel, before you make your way to Matanzas City. Explore the charming streets of Plaza de la Libertad and Plaza de la Vigia. And learn about the city’s fascinating history, including the Corsair attacks of the past.

Next, visit the Hermitage of Montserrate, a viewpoint overlooking the Yumurí Valley where you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the lush landscape and the city of Matanzas. Marvel at the natural beauty that surrounds you and capture memorable photos to cherish.

The highlight of the tour is the visit to the Bellamar Caves, one of the oldest and most impressive cave systems in Cuba. Embark on a guided tour through these underground wonders, admiring the ancient stalactites and stalagmites that have formed over millions of years. Explore the interior halls, such as the Manto de Colon, the Paso de la Lluvia and the Huerto de las Zanahorias, and be amazed by the natural beauty that lies beneath the surface.

After the cave exploration, you’ll be returned to your hotel in Varadero, with memories of a day filled with history, culture and natural wonders.

Duration: 4 hours 30 minutes
Languages: English & Spanish
Note: If you’ve taken the jeep tour you’ve seen the most important sites in Matanzas. Skip this tour if you have or will take the Yumurí Valley jeep tour.

Day Trip To Havana: Discover The Vibrant Cuban Capital

No visit to Cuba is complete without at least spending a day in Cuba’s vibrant capital, Havana. From Varadero you can easily take a guided tour that will transport you to this lively city, where history, culture and music blend harmoniously.

The day begins with an early pick-up from your hotel, as the journey to Havana takes approximately two and a half hours. Sit back, relax and enjoy the scenic views of the Cuban countryside as you make your way to the capital.

Once in Havana, prepare to be enchanted by its colonial architecture, colorful buildings and vintage cars. Stroll through the streets of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and immerse yourself in its unique atmosphere. Admire the grandeur of Plaza de la Catedral, explore the narrow alleys of Plaza de la Vieja and marvel at the majestic Capitolio building.

To add a touch of nostalgia to your Havana experience, embark on a classic car tour in the afternoon. Cruise through the city in a vintage automobile, passing by iconic landmarks like the Malecón, Revolution Square and the famous Hotel Nacional.

As the sun begins to set, find a restaurant with a rooftop terrace and witness the breathtaking view of the city bathed in golden light.

Before returning to Varadero, take some time to enjoy the vibrant nightlife of Havana. Dance to the rhythm of salsa, listen to live music in one of the city’s many bars, or simply indulge in a refreshing mojito. Havana will leave you with memories of a truly unforgettable day.

Duration: Full day (approximately 12 hours)
Languages: English & Spanish
Travel Tip: Spend 48 hours in Havana for a much more immersive experience.

Sunset from the Malecon
Sunset view over Havana Cuba

Viñales Valley Day Trip: Scenic Beauty And Cuban Cigars

For a truly immersive experience in nature and Cuban culture, embark on a Viñales Valley day trip. This excursion will take you to the lush green landscapes of Viñales, a UNESCO-protected part of Cuba famous for its tobacco plantations and picturesque scenery.

The day begins with a scenic drive from Varadero to Viñales, passing through the picturesque countryside of western Cuba. Enjoy the panoramic views of mogotes, limestone formations that dot the landscape and create a stunning backdrop for the valley.

Once in Viñales, immerse yourself in the beauty of the valley. Visit the Mural de la Prehistoria, a colorful mural that tells the story of evolution, and learn about the geological history of the region. Discover the tobacco plantations that produce the famous Cuban cigars and witness the traditional process of cigar making.

To complete the experience, visit a local tobacco farmer and gain insight into their daily lives and the art of tobacco cultivation. Try your hand at rolling a cigar under the guidance of an expert, and savor the flavors of this iconic Cuban product.

During the day, enjoy a traditional Cuban lunch in Viñales town, where you can savor the local cuisine and soak up the charming atmosphere. Take a leisurely stroll through the botanical garden and enjoy the views of the valley from a different perspective.

Duration: Full day (approximately 13 hours)
Languages: English & Spanish
Travel Tip: Consider taking a private transfer and spending 48 hours in Viñales. For lunch in Viñales, I recommend visiting the Mogote Café, located 400 meters from the main plaza.

Guama & Hatiguanico River Trip: Thrills And Nature

For those seeking thrills and a deeper connection with nature, the Guama and Hatiguanico River trip is an ideal choice. This adventure will take you through the stunning landscapes of the Zapata Peninsula, offering a unique blend of adrenaline and natural beauty.

The tour begins with a visit to the Peninsula Zapata National Park, where you’ll witness the beautiful contrasts between the Cuban countryside and coastline. Immerse yourself in the lush vegetation and observe the diverse flora and fauna that call this area home.

Next, explore a crocodile farm, where you can see these impressive creatures up close and learn about their conservation efforts. Marvel at their strength and beauty as you witness their daily activities.

From there, embark on a thrilling speedboat ride on the Hatiguanico River, a natural wilderness surrounded by vegetation and water. Feel the rush of adrenaline as you navigate through the river’s twists and turns, taking in the breathtaking scenery along the way.

After the speedboat ride, enjoy a delicious lunch of pork, chicken or fish, accompanied by refreshing drinks and a cup of Cuban coffee. Before returning to Varadero, take a dip in the refreshing Caribbean Sea and indulge in some snorkeling, exploring the vibrant underwater world that lies beneath the surface.

Duration: Full day (approximately 12 hours)
Languages: English & Spanish
Note: Don’t lean over the side of the boat or go near the water. Crocodiles aren’t like American alligators. They’re bigger, more aggressive and do hunt humans.

Excursion To El Nicho: Waterfalls And Colonial Charm

Escape the bustling beaches of Varadero and venture into the lush beauty of the Cuban wilderness with the El Nicho excursion. This tour will take you to a protected area within the Topes de Collantes Natural Park, where you’ll experience the tranquility of nature and discover hidden waterfalls.

The day begins with a scenic drive to El Nicho, a stunning waterfall nestled in the River Habanill. As you arrive, you’ll be greeted by the sight of crystal-clear natural pools surrounded by palm trees and lush vegetation. Take a refreshing swim in the pools, immersing yourself in the pristine waters while parrots perch in the treetops.

After enjoying the natural beauty of El Nicho, continue your journey to the historic colonial city of Trinidad. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Trinidad is renowned for its well-preserved architecture and cobblestone streets. Explore the ancient streets, visit museums and soak up the charm of this colonial gem.

The excursion also includes a visit to Cienfuegos, a beautiful coastal city known as the ‘Pearl of the South’. Take a panoramic tour of Punta Gorda, an outing spot for the locals, and admire the stunning views of the bay. Explore the Hotel Jagua and the impressive Palacio del Valle, and take a leisurely stroll through Jose Marti Park.

Throughout the day, indulge in the local cuisine and discover the flavors that make Cuban food so unique. From traditional delicacies to refreshing cocktails, let your taste buds guide you through the culinary delights of the region.

Duration: Full day (approximately 14-17 hours)
Languages: English & Spanish

Varadero Cooking Class: A Tour For The Foodies In Your Group

For those of you who have tried all the best restaurants in Varadero and want to take some Cuban recipes home with you, enroll in a Varadero Cuban cooking class. Where you’ll learn to make local delicacies and prepare mouth-watering cocktails!

Now, I need to put a disclaimer here. I’m not the cooking type and I have a tendency to cause kitchen fires, whenever I try to cook. But I did find the tour enjoyable and I (luckily) didn’t burn the building down, thanks to the expert guidance of the instructors.

Yet, for me, it was the cocktail making and the drinking of said cocktails that was the highlight of the tour. If you’re a foodie, you should consider taking this tour while in Varadero. It’s a lot of fun!

Duration: 4 hours
Languages: English & Spanish

Sugar, Rum & Tobacco Tour: Taste The Essence Of Cuba

Delve into the rich history and flavors of Cuba with a sugar, rum, and tobacco tour. This guided experience will take you on a journey through time, exploring the island’s agricultural heritage and the iconic products that have helped shape Cuban culture.

The tour starts with a visit to a museum dedicated to sugar cane, where you’ll learn about the fascinating history of the sugar industry in Cuba. Taste “Guarapo,” a sweet sugar cane drink, and discover the secrets behind some famous Cuban cocktails.

Next, you’ll visit a sugar cane plantation, where you can witness firsthand the traditional process of sugar production. From the cultivation of the cane, to the extraction of the juice and the transformation into sugar, this immersive experience will give you a deeper understanding of the importance of sugar in Cuban history.

Afterward, indulge in a delicious lunch that showcases the island’s culinary delights. Savor the flavors of traditional Cuban cuisine and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of the local culture.

After lunch, the tour continues with a visit to a tobacco farm, where you’ll learn about the art of cigar making from expert torcedores. Discover the intricate process of growing, harvesting, and rolling tobacco leaves, and even try your hand at rolling your own cigar. To complete the experience, indulge in a tasting of Cuban rum, savoring the smooth flavors that have made it world-renowned.

Duration: 5 hours
Languages: English & Spanish
Note: If you’ve been to Viñales, you’ve already seen the best of what this tour has to offer. If you can’t make it to Viñales and you still want to learn about Cuban cigars and rum, then take this tour.

FAQs: Plan Your Varadero Adventure

Is Varadero Worth Visiting?

Absolutely! Varadero is located on a paradisiacal peninsula, with miles of pristine white beaches. In fact, Varadero Beach was rated the second most beautiful beach in the world on TripAdvisor in 2019. With its resort amenities and stunning natural beauty, Varadero is definitely worth a visit.

Varadero Beach from Xanadu Mansion (Dupont House)
View of Varadero Beach from Xanadu.

Is Varadero Open For Tourists?

Yes, Varadero has been completely open for tourism since 2021. Cuba is also open for American tourists, making it an ideal destination for travelers from all over the world.

What Is The Best Time To Visit Varadero?

The best time to visit Varadero is during the high season, which runs from November through to May. Which is perfect, because it coincides with winter in the USA and Europe. The peak period offers pleasant weather and avoids the risk of hurricanes, which are more likely from June through to October.

Is Varadero Safe For Tourists?

Varadero is completely safe to visit. And it’s actually one of the safest places in all of Latin America. While it might be the second largest resort area in the Caribbean, it’s actually the safest resort area in the Caribbean!

Varadero Beach Cuba
Varadero Beach in Varadero, Cuba.

Can I Scuba Dive In Varadero?

Now, I’m not a scuba diver myself, but my friends are. And they do take scuba diving tours from Varadero. To go diving from Varadero, your easiest option is to take a tour to scuba dive Play Coral, located between Varadero and Matanzas, where you’ll dive the second largest barrier reef in the world.

A second option, is to head over to the Bay of Pigs on a full day scuba tour. And you can take scuba tours from Varadero to the Bay of Pigs. But you will need to have your dive certification, to take this tour.

How Do I Get From The Airport To The City In Varadero?

Varadero’s Juan Gualberto Gómez Airport (VRA) is roughly 30 kilometers (19 miles) southwest of Varadero and is in the township of Matanzas. And it takes about 30 minutes in a car to reach Varadero, from the airport.

You should read my complete guide to transport options from the Varadero airport and book a transfer in advance of arriving in Varadero.

How Do I Transfer To Varadero From Havana?

For those of you who want to spend 48 hours or more in Havana, or are landing at Havana’s José Martí International Airport (HAV), you should read my guide on transfers between Havana and Varadero.

Havana is approximately 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Varadero. In a car, the journey takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes. But on a bus, the journey is 4 hours or longer. Private car transfers are the most comfortable, convenient and fastest method to transfer from Havana to Varadero.

What Is The Best All-Inclusive Resort In Varadero?

Melia Internacional is where I often choose to stay. And I recommend it as one of the best all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean. It’s also one of the newest resorts in Varadero.

Melia International 'all-inclusive' resort in Varadero Cuba
I prefer to stay at the Melia in Varadero.

What Are The Best Restaurants In Varadero?

I’ve previously listed the top 10 best restaurants in Varadero. You should always venture outside your hotel to eat in Varadero. No matter which resort you’re in, the resort food is often quite terrible.

How Long Do I Need For A Vacation In Varadero?

What I consider the ideal length of time for a holiday in Varadero, is 3-7 days. With any more than a week in Cuba, you really should be traveling around and visiting other cities. But with only 2-3 days, you should focus on Varadero and its surrounds.

Now, cheap direct flights from Canada, Colombia, Mexico and the USA do exist. And the flight time is about 2.5 to 3.5 hours. Direct return flights can often be found for $200 to $300 USD. Which means for those of you looking for a cheap weekend getaway, to escape North American winter, Varadero is a good option.

Can I Visit Santa Clara From Varadero?

If you’ve got longer in Cuba, there are a host of interesting cities that you can visit, while basing yourself out of Varadero. Now, one of the more popular destinations that I get asked about, is Santa Clara, which is home to Che Guevara’s mausoleum complex.

While you can take an organized tour to Santa Clara from Varadero, the guides typically try to pack in too many destinations. And in doing so, they make for lousy tours where you’ll spend most of your time trapped on a tour bus.

My suggestion to you, if you want to visit Santa Clara from Varadero, is to organize a private car or transfer. And once in Santa Clara, then take a tour of the city. Because if you try to pack Cienfuegos, Santa Clara and Trinidad into a single day, you’re going to have a less than enjoyable day.

What Should I Pack For Cuba?

The two most important items to bring with you to Varadero, are a comprehensive travelers medical insurance plan that specifically covers Cuba. And a good VPN to access the internet.

Having travelers medical insurance that covers you in Cuba ,for the duration of your stay, is a requirement under Cuban law. Cuba’s Aduana (Customs or TSA) may ask to see it at the airport. If you don’t have insurance, they will make you buy their own expensive (and useless) Cuban insurance policy.

The second item, a VPN, is something you definitely need in Cuba. And in fact, you should not travel to Cuba without a VPN. A VPN will allow you to access the internet, like you do at home. Without a VPN, you will not be able to access most foreign websites, online banking, social media or messaging applications.


Wrap-Up: Plan Your Varadero Adventure

Varadero offers a treasure trove of experiences for every type of traveler. From cruising on a catamaran to exploring the streets of Havana, embarking on a thrilling jeep tour to immersing yourself in the flavors of Cuba, Varadero has it all. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure or some of the best lobster in the Caribbean, Varadero will leave you with unforgettable memories.

So, why wait? Start planning your Varadero adventure today and discover the wonders of this tropical paradise. From pristine beaches to vibrant cities, Cuba’s charm awaits. Pack your bags, embrace the Caribbean spirit and embark on a journey of a lifetime!

Where Can I Get More Information About Cuba?

I’ve made my Cuba travel guide available on this website. And I recommend you read it, before traveling to Cuba. It will help you navigate Cuba and Cuban society.

My ultimate guide to Cuba will save you a lot of time and a significant amount of money on your trip to Cuba. Read the most up to date guide to traveling in Cuba.