Some of the best snorkeling in the area is to be had at Coral Beach (some 20km west of Varadero), where the underwater world stuns with color and variety. Diving would require you to take about an hour-long boat trip out to one of the many sites around the peninsula. Some reputable local dive centers include: Barracuda Dive Center Retiro Josone, calle 59 y Playa in Varadero (near Arenas Blancas Hotel) +53 45 613481 Acua Diving Center Ave. Kawama 201 (between 2 and 3 Street from Varadero, near Kawama Hotel) +53 45 668063
A green oasis in Varadero, Josone is a public park with multiple entertainment facilities, such as rental row boats and water bikes, a tourist train circulating around premises, multiple cafes and restaurants, as well as the on-site villa Retiro Josone, which once belonged to a couple of a local rum distillery owners and was expropriated after the revolution.
One of the areas central to Varadero's town life, the recently re-discovered Parque Central (bordering on another park - Parque de las Taquilas) is perfectly fit for a refreshing stroll through the greenery in the peak of tropical Cuban heat. Nearby lies the small colonial-era church Iglesia de Santa Elvira.
Those interested in learning more about the production process of Cuba's iconic liquor are more than welcome to join a tour of Varadero's House of Rum, during which visitors will get the chance to savour the iconic drink in its many varieties - from the classic dark and light to chocolate and vanilla-flavoured types.
Mansion Xanadu is a refined hotel that sits next to a vast, 18-hole golf course. The building itself was once commissioned by a moneyed American entrepreneur, who ordered it be built with the use of top-notch quality materials, such as marble. The mansion was later expropriated by the government, only to become known as the single lavish, Spanish colonial-style hotel in the area.
Marina Gaviota, at the eastern tip of Hicacos Peninsula - reportedly the largest marina in the Caribbean - is now resting in anticipation of the expected influx of American vacationers. It's Plaza Las Morlas shopping mall, waterside cafes and eateries are all set for the grand welcome.
With its well thought-out, sixties-themed interior and impeccable service, Varadero 60 is undeniably one of the finest dining establishments on the peninsula. The menu prominently features Italian flavours, with lobster and sirloin steak as the house specialties. Seating available indoors and out on the airy veranda.
Italian-run Paladar Nonna Tina serves pizzas done the right way (thin-crusted, baked in a wood oven), with personal and family-sized servings available. Other Italian delights include a whole range of pasta dishes, a couple of meat varieties, and a selection of entrees and appetizers, all at reasonable prices.
The excellent BBQ restaurant is favoured by vacationers looking to break the routine of all-inclusive hotel dining. La Barbacoa serves a selection of prime cuts of meat and fresh seafood, including lobster. All orders include a side of flavoured bread, rice, vegetables, and potatoes.
Kiki's reportedly serves some of the best Italian in Varadero, with pizzas topping the list of menu items most favoured by return customers. The menu features a selection of great value Italian and international dishes (with local specialties such as lobster tail present, naturally).
The extremely popular, government-owned Panaderia Dona Neli operates around the clock and sells excellent, freshly-baked breads and pastries. Arrive early to avoid lines and pick up products from the latest batch, or ask specifically for the most recently baked items when making a purchase.
The legendary, goevrnment-run ice cream parlour has an outlet in Varadero's Parque de las 8000 Taquillas. Coppelia is somewhat of a local institution, an establishment that does not only sell ice cream but also had a part to play in some of the defining eras of Cuban social history.
Stop by the fabled La Bodeguita Del Medio if only to leave a mark of your own - the bar, tables, and walls are all fully coated with messages written or carved by the bar's grateful guests. The establishment also lays claim to inventing the mojito, so if ever there was the place to try one, it's here.
El Palacio de los Jugos Frescos (or "the palace of fresh juices" in translation) in Marina Gaviota is a small cafe that serves excellent fresh juices and fruit salads mixed to fit individual preference. One definitive bonus is that the price remains the same, regardless of whether you choose to add a shot of rum.
Varadero doesn't have a lot to boast in the way of coffee shops, but La Isabelica (in Marina Gaviota) is one safe bet when it comes to enjoying a great brew. Coffee comes in multiple varieties, and both sweet and savoury snacks are served to compliment the drinks.
Calle 62 is a place unlike any other - at night, part of the road leading up to the establishment is closed off to traffic and gets turned into a makeshift dance floor. The bar is popular with both locals and tourists, hosts live music shows and invites professional dancers to get the crowd going for the night.
One of the venues to not be missed, Mambo is a live music club that regularly puts on great live shows. The club is known for its added open bar service (unlimited drinks included in the entry fee). There is dancing on some nights (and a pool table to make use of as an alternative).
The longstanding Palacio de La Rumba is, perhaps, one of the town's best venues for a hot and steamy night out dancing. It tends to get quite crowded by joyful vacationer and Cubans (the majority in their twenties). Drinks are very affordable, and some nights open bar is included in the price of entry.
La Comparsita's major draw is the fact that the venue's dance floor is set right under the stars, making it much more airy and refreshing than some of Varadero's popular indoor clubs. Open bar is sometimes included in the price of entry; live music and dance shows are often put on.
Located inside a natural cave, Cuevos Los Pirates is a busy cabaret popular with the young crowd. Evening start with a rowdy music and dance show, swiftly followed by a night-long dance party for all who wish to stay. Most hotels organize transfers for guests - enquire at you accommodation's reception.
Second to none in the area and only a few steps behind its Havana counterpart, the Cabaret Continental enjoys a spotless reputation as one of the obligatory places to visit for a vibrant, professional show put on by its guest dancers. After the show, the party continues with DJs and dancing until late at night.
With its two locations in Varadero, La Casa del Habano is a boutique that provides visitors to the island with the quintessential Cuban shopping experience - picking out (and, perhaps, trying) authentic local cigars. The shop at the address below features an upstairs cafe serving excellent coffee.
This central Varadero location is the place to go if you're looking for an old-fashioned, sand-resistant paperback to fill the lazy hours at the beach. The particular outlet stocks a good selection of English-language literature (in addition to the customary for Cuban bookstores ideologically-approved editions in Spanish).
The selection at Varadero's underground mall may offers a modest yet comprehensive selection of stores to meet nearly all traveler needs. The central location (at Parque de las 8000 Taquillas) makes it an easy choice for anything from clothing to authentic Cuban rum.
ARTex specializes in all things music, offering a great selection of music and art paraphernalia from T-shirts to records to musical instruments. You'll find the market opposite Acuazul Hotel (Calle 12), while the store itself is just a stone's throw away from Iglesia Santa Elvira.
The airport closest to Varadero - Juan Gualberto Gómez Airport - is located about 20km away from town and serves a number of international airlines. Getting here and away is possible by pre-arranged transfer or shuttle as well as taxi. Car hire is also available at the airport directly.
Travelers visiting Cuba are required to hold a valid passport valid for at least 2 months following their travel date, medical insurance, and proof of return tickets. Proof of sufficient funds to support the stay is also required (50 dollars/day). Visa-free entry for a period upwards of 28 days is granted to citizens of Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Malaysia, Montenegro, Serbia, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Belarus, Mongolia, Russia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Singapore, Barbados, Dominica and Namibia (Kazakhstan and Kenya are scheduled to soon complete the list). The remaining majority of international visitors will need to obtain a Tourist Card, Tarjeta del Turista, that grants permission to stay in Cuba for 30 days and can be extended once for a further 30. The card can be obtained via the airline, travel agent or a Cuban mission abroad. Citizens of the following countries are not eligible for a Tourist Card and will need to apply for a visa: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Syria, and Yemen. Admission is refused entirely to Kosovo nationals. Special regulations apply to citizens of the USA, who (as of 2018) will need to qualify for one of 12 visitor categories in order to be granted an entry visa. The easiest way to enter Cuba for USA citizens under these regulations is to join an excursion organized by a tour operator (these are also available on board cruise ships), that falls into the "people-to-people exchange program" category of the 12 officially approved. Another, slightly more complicated route, is to obtain a license issued by the U.S. Department of Treasury. Special regulations apply to Cuban-born foreign citizens, who will need to make visa arrangements for a Cuban visa in advance (via a Cuban Embassy), unless they hold a valid Cuban passport.
A tourist double-decker bus circulates around the peninsula for a flat rate equivalent of a few dollars. The bus operates on a hop on-hop off basis; the entire route takes approximately 2 hours. Mopeds and bikes are available for hire, as are horse carriages (if those are something for you). The Varadero Terminal de Omnibus serves multiple locations across Cuba with Viazul.
Although there are a few pharmacies in Varadero, it is recommended that you bring any necessary medication along, as pharmacies may sometimes be understocked, with prices higher than elsewhere on imported medication. International pharmacies may be found by the Hotel Varazul in cenetral Varadero, Plaza las Americas shopping mall and further locations.