If you’re flying into Varadero (Canadians) or have booked yourself into an ‘all-inclusive’ resort in Varadero, you should still consider visiting the vibrant Cuban capital, Havana. No trip to Cuba is complete without spending at least a day or two exploring Havana.
Yet the same can be said for those people staying in Havana. If you’re visiting Havana, you should also take a trip to Varadero, visiting Matanzas along the way. Not least because Matanzas is the birthplace of Rumba, the ‘Cuban Venice’ (due to its bridges) and the ‘Athens of Cuba’ (for its poets). It’s also home to the Yumurí Valley, along with the Saturno and Bellamar Cave systems.
In this comprehensive guide, I provide you with all the information you need to know about traveling between Varadero and Havana. From the distance and travel time to the advantages and disadvantages of the five (5) transportation options available.
I also cover where you should stop along the way and some of the activities you should consider in each destination. So, let’s dive in and discover the wonders you can experience if you combine Havana and Varadero, in your Cuban itinerary.
How to get to Havana from Varadero or from Varadero to Havana?
What is the Distance between Havana and Varadero?
The distance between Varadero and Havana is approximately 150 kilometers (93 miles). While it may seem like a long journey, the route offers stunning views of Cuba’s beautiful landscapes, making the travel time worthwhile.
Depending on which of the five (5) transport methods you’ve selected, there may also be opportunities to stop and visit less seen parts of Cuba along the way.
How Long Does It Take to Travel between Varadero and Havana?
The travel time from Varadero to Havana depends on the mode of transportation you choose. If you opt for a private car transfer, the journey typically takes around 2 hours and 20 minutes. But this depends on the type of car you’ve selected.
If you opt for a 1950’s convertible over a modern sedan, well, the trip will take slightly longer. But it’ll also provide a lot more photo opportunities for Instagram and the family photo album.
Yet if you take a shared transport option or the Viazul bus between Havana and Varadero, your travel times will blow right out to around 4 hours. And you’ll have no photo opportunities and a rather stressful ride.
Travel times (and comfort level) depend entirely on the mode of transport you select from the five (5) options presented in this guide. And how often you stop for a rest or to explore the sites in-between Havana and Varadero.
Why Visit Havana From Varadero?
Havana, the capital city of Cuba, is a vibrant and culturally rich destination that should not be missed during your trip to Varadero. Even if you only have 48 hours or less to visit Havana, you can still have an amazing experience.
Here are a few reasons why you should consider visiting Havana:
Immerse Yourself in Cuban History
Havana is steeped in history, with its well-preserved colonial architecture and UNESCO World Heritage sites. Take a stroll through the charming streets of Old Havana (Habana Vieja) and visit iconic landmarks such as the Plaza de la Catedral and the Castillo de la Real Fuerza. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you explore the city’s fascinating history.
Experience Cuban Culture in Havana
Havana is renowned for its vibrant music, dance and art scenes. Visit the famous Tropicana Cabaret for a dazzling display of Cuban music and dance, or explore the art galleries and museums that showcase the works of local artists.
Don’t forget to enjoy a traditional Cuban meal and savor the flavors of the country’s unique cuisine. Havana is home to Cuba’s most iconic restaurant, La Guarida.
Discover Architectural Marvels in Havana
Havana boasts a diverse architectural landscape, ranging from colonial masterpieces to modernist buildings. Marvel at the grandeur of the Capitolio Nacional, reminiscent of the U.S. Capitol. Or visit the iconic Hotel Nacional de Cuba, which has hosted numerous famous guests throughout history. The city’s architectural beauty is sure to leave you in awe.
Why Visit Varadero From Havana?
Varadero is the largest resort town in Cuba. And it’s one of the largest resort areas in the Caribbean. If you’re someone who loves the Caribbean climate and want’s to discover one of the worlds best beaches, Varadero is a must visit destination in Cuba.
Yet Varadero also has both natural and historical sites that should be visited while in Cuba. Such as the famous Xanadu Mansion (Dupont House), Varahicacos Ecological Reserve, the Yumurí Valley and the town of Matanzas.
Here are a few reasons why you should consider visiting Varadero:
Varadero Beach – White Sand, blue water and Water-sports
Varadero Beach, also called Blue Beach (Playa Azul), is the main resort beach in Cuba. And it has some of the whitest sand in the world. Varadero beach is a water sports Mecca in Cuba.
On Varadero beach you can swim, snorkel, sail, jetski or ride a horse up and down the beach. Or you could just laze by the ocean with a cocktail and soak up some of that Caribbean sun.
You’ll find venders up and down Varadero Beach selling cold beers and some of the freshest seafood on the island. With the highest quality options being located around the Xanadu Mansion section of Varadero Beach (opposite Varadero Golf Course). Which is one of my own favourite spots for a swim.
For a little bit of luxury and adventure, consider booking an all inclusive day of sailing on a luxury catamaran to Cayo Blanco. Where you can snorkel on pristine coral reefs and enjoy authentic Cuban cocktails made with local rum and a huge lunch of fresh caught seafood.
Cayo Blanco is also home to the Delfinario Cayo Blanco (Dolfin training facility), where you can get up close and personal with the dolphins if you choose.
If you want to snorkel Cayo Blanco and see a part of Cuba that very few tourists visit, you should book your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.
Xanadu Mansion – The Former Dupont Mansion in Varadero
Once you need a break from the beach and water-sports, consider visiting Xanadu Mansion and it’s attached golf course. This huge mansion was built in 1927 by Irénée Dupont, the former chairman of the worlds largest diversified chemical company (think Dupont Paints).
Xanadu Mansion was to be his retirement dream home. And its 4 story layout is furnished with the best of everything. Including the largest private pipe organ in Latin America.
The Xanadu Mansion became state property after the Revolution. And now functions as a tourist attraction, restaurant, hotel and as the club house for the Varadero Golf Course. It was made a national monument in 2013.
When visiting Xanadu, the former Dupont Mansion, be sure to visit both the wine cellar to see the organ, have lunch and visit the bar on the top floor for one of the best views out over Varadero beach.
While at Xanadu you should definitely go for a swim in front of the mansion. As it’s one of the best sections on Varadero beach with little to no waves. Or go early and have breakfast at Xanadu, play a round of morning golf and then cool off with a cocktail and a swim in front of the mansion.
Visit Varahicacos Ecological Reserve in Varadero
Located on the Hicacos Peninsula, the same strip of land that Varadero sits on, is the Varahicacos Ecological Reserve. It’s home to 2500 year old human remains and some very unique cave paintings.
If you’re looking for an activity that doesn’t revolve around Varadero’s beautiful beach, definitely visit the Varahicacos Ecological Reserve.
Matanzas, Yumurí Valley and the Bellamar and Saturn Caves
Matanzas is the birthplace Cuban of Rumba, the ‘Cuban Venice’ (17 bridges) and the ‘Athens of Cuba’ (for its poets). It’s also home to the Bellamar and Saturn Cave systems. And located on its northern side is the Yumurí Valley.
The main points of interest within the town of Matanzas that you should visit are the Plaza de la Libertad, the neoclassical and baroque Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo and Plaza de la Vigia. You should also visit the Hermitage of Montserrate for the views it provides over Matanzas township and the Yumurí Valley.
Now, the Matanzas and Bellamar Caves Tour hits all the main sights in Matanzas and visits the Bellamar caves. Yet it doesn’t venture into the Yumurí Valley or the Saturn Caves. But during the tour you do get to see the Yumurí Valley from above, from the Hermitage of Montserrate.
For those of you who want to hit absolutely all the key sights in Matanzas and the Yumurí Valley, you will need to take both the Matanzas and Bellamar Caves Tour and the Yumurí Valley Jeep Tour.
Adding the Yumurí Valley Jeep Tour means you’ll see not only the Saturn Cave system, but also parts of Cuba few rarely see. Such as the Canimar River, Coral Beach and the Yumurí Valley itself. You’ll also be able to say that you drove a jeep through the wilds of Cuba while you were here.
Both tours have English speaking guides and include all transport to and from your hotel in Varadero. Now, if I only had one day to dedicate to a tour while visiting Matanzas, I would myself choose the Yumurí Valley Jeep Tour.
I would choose the Yumurí Valley Jeep Tour mainly because the Bellamar and Saturn caves look roughly the same inside, but the Saturn Cave is larger. And the Yumurí Valley Jeep Tour hits the Hermitage of Monserrate, which is my favourite spot in Matanzas.
You will see the main plazas in Matanzas, with the Jeep tour. But you will miss out on the Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo and the Bellamar Caves. Which is more than made up for by the unique perspective of Cuba you will get floating down the Canimar River. The Canimar River is where the main image for this article comes from and it’s set within a spectacular gorge.
My adivce to you is to book the Yumurí Valley Jeep Tour. And book in advance as spots are limited and you don’t want to miss out.
Transportation Options between Varadero and Havana
When it comes to traveling between Varadero and Havana, you have several transportation options to choose from. I’ve ranked them below according to their ease, accessibility, speed and cost.
- Private Car Transfer
- Shared Transfer (private bus)
- Viazul Bus (public bus)
- La Nave (Cuban Uber) or Taxi
- Private Rental Car
Let’s explore each of the five (5) transport options in depth:
Private Car Transfer between Havana and Varadero
A private car transfer offers convenience and comfort, allowing you to travel directly from your hotel in Varadero to your destination in Havana, or from Havana to Varadero. With professional drivers, sanitized vehicles and door-to-door service, this option ensures a fast and stress-free journey.
Private car transfers can be booked in advance, providing peace of mind and allowing you to customize your itinerary. Because the driver will be waiting for you at the time you have set when booking.
Your driver will most likely speak English and will load and unload your luggage for you. You will then be chauffeured directly to your accommodation in complete comfort.
Shared Transfers Between Havana and Varadero
If you prefer a more budget-friendly option, shared transfers are available. These shuttle services transport multiple passengers on a private bus between Varadero and Havana, offering a cost-effective way to reach the capital, or Varadero from Havana.
However, it’s important to note that shared transfers may have fixed departure times and limited availability. And that they take closer to 4 hours than the advertised 2.5. With shared transfers between Havana and Varadero it’s advisable to book in advance.
Viazul bus between Havana and Varadero
You can book a Viazul bus between Havana and Varadero. These are available from the bus stations in the respective cities. In Havana, the Viazul bus station is near Revolution Square in Vedado. In Varadero, the Viazul bus station is next to the Estadio de Pelota sports club.
The price will depend on the day of the week, time, route and what visa you’re traveling on. It’s best to visit the bus station at least a day or two in advance to book your ticket in person. But you can book online at www.viazul.wetransp.com.
If you choose this option, make sure you have insurance that covers them losing your booking, travel delays or your bags going missing in transit.
La Nave or Taxi between Havana and Varadero
La Nave is Cuba’s version of Uber. It looks and functions just like Uber. Yet you do need a local Cuban SIM card in your phone and a local mobile phone number to use La Nave.
Whereas a taxi is, well, a taxi. Agree a price with the taxi driver and they will drive you to Varadero. But be warned, taxis don’t have meters in Cuba. Nor do they have standard pricing. A taxi driver will charge whatever he thinks he can get from you.
Now, you can use La Nave and taxis to transit between Havana and Varadero. Yet they will be much more expensive than simply using a transfer service. They’re more expensive because the driver will need to turn around and drive back to either Havana or Varadero after they drop you off.
Rental Cars in Cuba
For travelers who prefer the freedom to explore at their own pace, renting a car is an option worth considering. Rental car agencies are available in Varadero, allowing you to embark on a self-guided adventure to Havana.
However, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the local traffic rules and regulations before hitting the road. But due to the unique road conditions in Cuba, this is not an option I would normally recommend.
Transport Options Between Havana And Varadero
When it comes to traveling between Havana and Varadero, the same transport options apply. You have five (5) transportation options to travel from Havana to Varadero. I’ve ranked them below according to their ease, accessibility, speed and cost.
- Private Car Transfer
- Shared Transfer (private bus)
- Viazul Bus (public bus)
- La Nave (Cuban Uber) or Taxi
- Private Rental Car
Tips for a Smooth Journey between Havana & Varadero
To ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey between Varadero and Havana, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Plan Ahead when transferring between Havana and Varadero
It’s advisable to book your transportation in advance, especially if you prefer private car transfers or have specific travel requirements. This way, you can secure your preferred mode of transportation and avoid last-minute hassles.
Whereas if you leave booking to the last minute, you will be stuck with whatever time slots or options are available. And if you try to pick up a transfer same day, you’ll likely wind up paying 3-5 times what you would have paid, had you booked ahead.
Allow Sufficient Travel Time between Havana and Varadero
Consider the travel time and plan accordingly, especially if you have a flight to catch or a specific itinerary to follow. Allow extra time for unexpected delays and factor in any sightseeing or exploration you wish to do along the way.
Also, if you’re using a shared method of travel or the bus, don’t go by the advertised travel duration. Shared transfers and the bus take closer to 4 hours to travel between Havana and Varadero, or Varadero and Havana.
Pack Essential Items
Pack essentials such as comfortable clothing, sunscreen and any necessary travel documents. If you’re traveling with children, make sure to inform the transportation provider in advance, so they can arrange appropriate child seats if needed.
Keep hydrated during the journey by carrying bottled water. Cuba’s tropical climate can be hot and humid, so it’s essential to stay refreshed throughout the trip.
If you’re traveling by private transfer service you will have air-conditioning. If you’re traveling on a shared service or the bus, you may or may not have functional air-conditioning
But if you are taking the bus, be sure to carry a jacket with you. As silly as this sounds, Cuban’s will crank the air-conditioning to its maximum setting, if its available. And on the bus, if there is working air-conditioning, it will be freezing.
Final word on Traveling between Varadero and Havana
Traveling from Varadero to Havana opens up a world of possibilities to explore Cuba’s vibrant capital city. And traveling to Varadero from Havana provides opportunity to see one of the worlds best beaches and just relax, away from the chaos of Havana.
Because I travel to Cuba for 3 months or more per trip, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to take this trip many times over. Yet the most important advice I can give you if you’re looking at doing the same route, is that you should plan ahead and make your bookings in advance.
Whether you choose a private car transfer, shared shuttle, bus, taxi, La Nave or rental car the trip between Varadero and Havana, is an opportunity to further immerse yourself in Cuban history, culture and architecture. Seeing both destinations will give you two contradictory views of Cuba.
So, plan ahead, allow sufficient travel time and make the most of your visit to Cuba. And get ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure in both Varadero and Havana!
Happy travels and enjoy your time in Cuba!
Where Can I Get More Information About Cuba?
I’ve made my Complete Guide To Traveling Cuba available on this website. And I recommend you read it before traveling to Cuba. It will help you navigate Cuba and Cuban society.
My Complete Guide To Cuba will save you a lot of time and a significant amount of money on your trip to Cuba. Cuba is not the sort of destination where you can just arrive unprepared.
Read the most Complete Guide To Traveling Cuba here.