Lonely Planet Cuba
Varadero, Cuba, is not your typical Caribbean hangout.
This beautiful tourist hotspot is located on the peninsula Hicacos on the northern coast of Cuba - situated 150 or so miles south of the Florida Keys. If you fly into Havana - otherwise known as La Habana by the locals - Varadero is 75 miles to the east.
Varadero may not be the most secluded place in Cuba, but the beaches and markets are definitely worth a few days of touristy stuff. The beach areas are white and beautiful - the markets were specifically erected to provide tourists with the opportunity to buy Cuban souvenirs to take back to their homelands.
Alternately, you can while away a few days sipping Mojito and snoozing by a hotel pool (I did that all day a few days).
Or (or!), there of plenty of other things to do in the immediate area:
- SCUBA diving.
- And ... laid-back catamaran cruises to secret islands.
If you suddenly tire of extreme sports, feel free to break away to take in some musical coolness with the famous Buena Vista Social Club in a nearby arena. Get it? Social club? (ha)
While I was there I did all of the above, and was also able to swim with dolphins at the local "dolphinarium."
I spent 10 nights in a 3-star hotel near the isthmus part of the Hicacos peninsula - and on that note, the hotel star ratings in Cuba are different than those in the United States. If you normally stay in 3-star hotels, it might be a good idea to upgrade to a 4-star hotel in Cuba. Our room was clean, but a little on the old and rickety side. The same mindset applies to food and drinks, as in, they were much better in the 4-star hotel next door to our 3-star.
Otherwise, we saw a ton of old classic cars and historical venues that you normally only read about - a lot of Che Guevara paintings and murals, for example.
Make sure you thoroughly read through the State Department notes on Cuba, and get your shots, before you go.
By Steven Crew, with Sean Kinn.
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