Why did I chose to go to Varadero?

Havana welcomed us back from Vinales with open arms. We arrived around lunchtime, after stopping by to have some food at a service station on the motorway.  Each of us was dropped off at our casas and, as before, I was the only one staying in the old centre of Havana. The first thing I did when I arrived was to find the owner and ask if the airport has found and delivered my luggage. The answer was no…


We all met a few hours later in front of hotel Inglattera, the oldest hotel in Cuba and one of the most classic ones in Old Havana. We were all very excited because the big moment that we were all secretly expected for, arrived: a one hour drive through Havana in an old convertible car. I shared the car with Emma and Lakshmi and we decided we want to ride in the pink one.


Prepare your trip to Cuba with the Lonely Planet guides. Click on the photos see the more details:

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The verdict? It was amazing! If you go to Havana you have to do a tour with a classic car. I enjoyed the drive so much that I can easily say it’s in my top 5 exciting things to do while in Cuba. Even if we were driving pretty slow, I could feel the wind in my hair and I felt like a VIP when other tourists were looking at us. Even some Cubans were smiling to us. We started in Old Havana and we headed towards Vedado, stopping in Piaza de la Revolucion to see the huge mural of Che Guevara. Then, passing through the “tropical forest” we drove through the rich area of Havana and headed down on Avenida 31, all the way to Malecon. By the time we reached Hotel National the sun was setting behind us and the Malecon was full with couples watching it.


Before dinner we went for a drink to the rooftop of Hotel Ambos Mundos, Hemingway’s favorite. Here is where I felt adventurous and tried for the first time another cocktail than Pina Colada: the famous Daiquiri.  And where better to try for the first time Hemingway’s favorite drink than at the bar of his preferred hotel? Did I like it? Yes, so much that I ordered it again for dinner, at the small but beautiful ArtPub restaurant.


It was the end of our tour and all of us had different plans and departure times from Havana. The ones that were still staying, decided to meet the next day too, to wonder around the old town for a bit and just enjoy the atmosphere. We explored the San Ignacio market, where I regret not buying more authentic Cuban crafts (these people are not only friendly and good-looking, but they are also talented painters, sculptors, craftsmen, etc). I was unfortunately limited as I had no luggage to bring them back in and to buy a bag in Cuba would have cost a fortune.



We also discovered an amazing singing group at one of the restaurants in Piaza Vieja (where I don’t recommend you to eat as it’s a scam). We sat down for a coke and ended up dancing with the band. I’ll leave you with a small video of them, as my words can’t describe how great they were!

Unfortunately the time to say good-bye arrived, and I headed back to my casa, to get my backpack and go to my next destination: Varadero. I am against resorts and all inclusive hotels and I knew from the beginning that this is what Varadero was, but, at the same time, it is the place with the most beautiful beaches in Cuba (along with Cayo Coco). The prices for a hotel here are very high and at the beginning, when doing my research, I almost gave up to the idea that I will ever see these amazing beaches. But, somehow, I found out that there are some casas in Varadero village, so I didn’t hesitate and booked a room at Roberto and Martha’s home.


I arrived in Varadero pretty late and walked for almost 15 streets, from the bus terminal to the town. I was exhausted by the time I arrived but I was welcomed with open arms and kindness and I was invited straight away to join the birthday celebration of Roberto’s and Martha’s son. I was given cake and coke and introduced to all of his friends. I was immediately treated like a member of the family.

My room at Robert and Martha’s house was actually an apartment. I had my own living room and kitchen, and in the back a beautiful bedroom with a huge bed and modern furniture. The bathroom was big and very well equipped with toiletries and a hair dryer, and the shower was big and powerful. I was impressed; I was getting all of this for only 35 CUC a night.

In the morning I got very excited about two things: Roberto’s pancakes – about which I read on Tripadvisor, and the meeting with the sea. Breakfast was not disappointing at all and the amount of food I got was simply too much for me: eggs, toast, ham, cheese, a big plate of fruits, pancakes with maple syrup, coffee, fresh juice… it kept me going until dinner. And Roberto’s pancakes were indeed delicious, no disappointment here.

I’ve put on my bathing suit (well, Emma’s, cause mine was lost together with my luggage), and I borrowed a beach towel from an Austrian girl staying in the same casa, and crossed the street to go to the beach. Yes, that’s how close I was from it, all I had to do was just cross the street. I’ve made my way through the palm trees and… there is was!


Do you know those postcards with stunning beautiful blue sea that you think it’s impossible to exist? This image from a postcard was right in front of me. The beach was almost empty at that time of the morning and I could feel the cooling breeze breaking through the heat. The only sound was the one of the small waves breaking while hitting the sandy shore. I couldn’t wait any longer so I dropped my things on the sand and jumped in the water. I swam, I jumped over the waves, I dived in…. and I enjoyed every second of it. The water was so clear that I could see tiny fish swimming around my feet.


I negotiated my beach chair and made friends with Milan, the Serbian that was staying in Varadero for six months each year, at the hotel right behind my casa. Every day he brought me drinks from his all-inclusive and he even took me for a tour of the hotel.


One evening I went to eat at the local eatery in town, recommended by my hosts. I waited in the queue with the other Cubans and chose the dish I wanted from a panel hanged on the gate. The whole restaurant was actually a garden with a few benches and a cooking area, where you would pay at the till and then wait for someone else to put the food in your plate. It was a very interesting experience as the food was cooked right there in front of me, in big quantities. I got fried liver with yellow rice and salad. It didn’t look great in the plate but it was delicious. And it was so much food that I had to share it with the dogs and cats hanging around in the garden. How much did this experience cost me? 60 pesos (about 2 dollars).


As my luck left was left way back, in England, one of the nights, while I was chatting with the other guests of the casa, relaxing on a rocking chair, a wasp stung my finger. And after 3 days it got so bad that I had to go to the emergency because my finger grew three times bigger than normal. Apparently I was allergic to the Caribbean bee. So for the last of my stay in Cuba I had to be passed on antibiotics, steroids and some other medicine that I didn’t know what they were. And at that point my relationship with the Cuban Rom had to stop. Roberto felt so bad that the wasp stung me in his garden that took me to the international clinic and also to the bus station when I left Varadero.  Martha even made me camomile tea to wash my finger in as often as I could. If you plan on going to Varadero, I recommend you to skip the hotels and stay at Martha’s and Roberto’s house. You will be treated like part of their family!


Varadero is the place where most of the charters came with tourists from the UK, Canada or Russia. Most of these people spend all their holiday here, without getting out to see the real Cuba. Varadero is not Cuba. Varadero is a resort where you won’t experience the real life and atmosphere of Cuba. I wanted to go to Varadero for one reason: to relax a few days before going back to England. And because I chose to stay in a casa and not in a hotel, and because I chose Varadero village and not the resorts area, I got the chance to meet again amazing people that left their prints in my life. But you won’t find this if you choose to stay in a resort. I even made friends with the guy that rented the beach chairs, and after the wasp stung me, he kept coming to me to check if I was ok.  I am writing these lines while on the train to London and I can’t hold my smile when I remember all the amazing moments I had in Cuba. For me, Cuba was made out of moments and beautiful people.


Time flew and without knowing, I was back on the bus to Havana. I wanted this trip to last forever, I felt that 2 weeks passed way to fast and I had still so many other places to explore in Cuba.


Back in Havana, I walked from the bus stop near Cuba Libre hotel (where Fidel used to have an apartment all for himself from where he was ruling the country after he became the leader of Cuba) all the way to Avenida 5 with Calle 2: about a half an hour’s walk.  At my new casa I met Jose, the owner who was spending half a year in Spain and half in Cuba. He immediately invited me to join him and his friends on the terrace overlooking Vedado and offered me ice cream from the famous Copella – a must to try when in Havana. This was my last full night in Cuba…


Check out some tours you can take in Varadero:

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Traveler. Dreamer. Cat lover. Wondering around the world with my backpack and my camera. Contributing to make the world a better place.


  1. Cuba is a great place, my friend has been there and I’ve heard great things. The beaches look so beautiful, I love your pictures! I love restaurants that have a garden like vibe to them. Makes you feel at home

    1. The restaurant was not really a restaurant but more of a cooking area where you would buy your meal from and then you would eat it on your knees, on a bench.

  2. wow, Cuba looks like a great place to go. Everyone seems so friendly! That car is so pretty- reminds me of an audrey hepburn movie, I would love to sit in one of those. I love pina colados- the combo of pineapple and coconut is literally like summer in a glass to me!

    The beach looks stunning- it really is like a postcard!

  3. My sister was in Cuba last year and loved is SO much that she is already planning a return trip. I hope to get there myself someday, too!

      1. Aw so nice of you to share your meal with the cats and dogs they must have been grateful lol. I am so glad that Varadero gave you a chance to relax before you came back to England. Out of curiosity how many places do you visit a year?

        1. That’s a very hard question. I think I visit about 6-7 countries each year. And do a lot of inside Uk traveling too, the rest of the time. 🙂

          1. Whoa, that’s quite a lot of countries! And here I am, just barely getting to know Luzon, which is a part of the philippines where I live. I do wish to be a backpacker/traveler like you someday though, and visit at least 5 each year! hehehe

  4. I want to jump on a plane and go to Cuba right now! amazing pictures and the food, oh my! I love the old-fashioned life style although I know many Cubans resent it. Still, Cuba hold such magic, it’s hard to ignore it.

  5. I love the convertible car ride! Looks like from a vintage movie! And i agree. Hotels anywhere is the world are expensive. Glad you find a good accommodation where you can still have fun and be at ease. Though losing your luggage might seem really hassle. Though i’m pretty much sure you enjoyed your vacation! Nice photos too! Would definitely want to go to cuba someday. 🙂

  6. Oh my Havana looks so lovely and I love that you did a tour in a classic car. I really like that you are not traveling by going to resorts I feel you get a true experience when not going the resort route. This is first post I have read of yours do you often travel alone like this?

  7. As soon as the border was opened, I said I would like to visit Cuba. I have sailed past, but gee, it seemed like it was so beautiful that I wish I could have stopped. It’s too bad that politics got in the way. But now, things are different. Now the cultures can be shared. Your post was wonderful! I love the colorful pictures..reminds me of the Bahamas, which is no accident since it’s a similar part of the world. I hope I get to visit Cuba during my lifetime.

  8. The scenery looks breathtaking, I can tell you enjoyed every aspect of the trip. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to travel to beautiful places like you do.

  9. It’s nice that you were able to experience the resort-style relaxation of Varadero in addition the the culture of the other parts of Cuba. That band is so talented. They looked like they were having a lot of fun.

  10. This is such a bright and vibrant place. You have beautifully justified why you went and have successful in making me make up my mind as to why I want to go there as well. 🙂

  11. I’m impressed that you found a place to stay in Varadero that was independently run and, from the sounds of it, absolutely lovely! That moment when you walked in & got a piece of birthday cake – that’s what travel is all about: meeting new people, connecting over shared moments, being a part of something special. Just lovely!

  12. What an amazing trip you had! I too would love to go to Cuba one day, see their wonderful beaches and experience their culture. You’re right, you won’t experience those by staying in hotels and resorts though. It’s really when you immerse yourself in the community that you get to experience what life there is really about. I feel bad about you being stung by the bee though. I hope you’re all better now.

  13. Cuba is on our travel list. Not too sure when we will get there but we will. It looks overall amazing! I love the cultures and history in Cuba. I also love the classic cars. Driving around in them must have been an experience in itself. And staying at the oldest hotel…thats full of history!

  14. Cuba looks like an incredible place to travel to. As always your pictures are stunning. Now with the walls between Cuba and the US coming down I hope one day I will be able to travel there.

  15. Your photos are so evocative. I especially love the one of you behind the wheel of the car! It looks like a still from an old movie. Thank you, this was a really useful introduction to Cuba.

  16. I wasn’t aware that Hemingway stayed in Havana for a time. It must be surreal to be trying what he drank. Such beautiful beaches, too. The water is so blue and inviting.

  17. It’s so evident in the pictures on why you chose to stay there! I love the place, it’s as relaxing as the other places you’ve shown us. Cuba is such a beautiful country to go to and just get away from it all.

  18. Cuba’s beach look stunning and indeed i agree that it looked like the one in the postcard. I would love to experience riding a vintage car but in a blue or red color and would let my hair flow woth the wind. Sorry to hear that you got stung but i have to commend your inn owner for taking great care of you. Now i would list this as one of the place that i would like to travel to if given a chance.

  19. When I look at your pictures, I can’t explain how beautiful the place is. I think it is an awesome idea to go to Varadero.

  20. Whenever I hear Cuba, I remember Che Guevarra! I remember how he was so famous here in the Philippines years ago and many shirts, caps, and other souvenir stuff had his face printed. Anyway, that vintage car was the bomb! I would love to tour the place in that car! The beach photos are so beautiful as well <3

    xx, Ella | Wandering Ella

  21. What a beautiful place. I hope now the trade embargo is being removed the beauty of the place doesn’t change with what will undoubtedly follow.

  22. Staying with the locals is the best way to experience the culture. I’m sorry about the bee, but while I was reading your story, I knew you had a wonderful time at Varadero. I would love to go there one day.

  23. Your posts are really making me want to go to Cuba. That shot of the red car and the green background is divine. But I don’t know how to drive. Can you pay someone to take you around in a classic car? I hope so!

    1. Yes, they will not let you drive yourself. The cars are not as the modern ones, they have the gear stick somewhere above the wheel. I can’t drive either, I was just posing for the photographer 🙂

  24. You made a good call of not staying in a resort. For me, travel is more meaningful if you go out and mingle with the locals, go where they go, eat what they eat, and experience how they live. You wouldn’t have seen that amazing band perform if you just stayed in the resort. So kudos to you.

  25. Good idea that you went out “into the real world” in Cuba. That’s the best way to get to know the local way of life. Although a resort can be pretty relaxing. Cuba is on my wish list!

  26. Wow! Your pictures are so amazing, it gave justice to the place. Hehe. I wish I could go visit there, maybe I will put it on my bucket list. 🙂 Everything is so classic and peaceful. One question though, do you need a visa to visit Cuba? Thanks in advance!

    1. You don’t need a visa, just a tourist card that you usually get on the plane if you fly via Air Canada. Check with the airline, they will tell you. Most of them offer the tourist card in flight. 🙂

  27. I can’t get over the streets and the architecture of the structures in Havana. I remember commenting about them in one of your other posts. And then yes, I agree, driving on a classic convertible is so awesome! It must have been quite an experience driving and feeling like living in the past eh?

    On one hand, the luggage not yet arriving was a bummer, but who cares if you could see postcard view (beach) in front of your eyes???

  28. Cuba sounds a classic place, I like to visit it one day. I want to unplug and have a relaxing ambience, I will be so glad to feel refreshed at this place.

  29. Ouch! So sorry to hear about the wasp! But so glad that you loved staying at Roberto and Martha’s and that you encountered so many kind people along the way. BTW, your pictures of the beaches are incredible!

  30. This is great information- thanks! I’ve been looking into heading to Cuba sometime in the next year– hopefully before tourism gets TOO popular. My grandparents went there on their honeymoon and since it has been so well-preserved, I would love to be able to see it (almost) the same way they did!

  31. The scenery and photography is out of this world. Especially that one about the vintage car. If only I was in your place. I really love them! Great article and thank you for sharing.

  32. It’s a very beautiful and artsy place. Kinda like a hipster village near me. We have lots of quaint restaurants. And the vibe is youthful.

  33. Through the pictures you have posted here, Cuba looks beautiful. Although I have never been to the place, it will definitely be nice visiting and enjoying my holiday there. Did you know that Cuba is sometimes called El Cocodrilo which is the Spanish for crocodile.

  34. Wow! What a fun trip you had in Cuba. I would love to drive that old vintage car on the streets of Havana and food looks amazing. I have pinned your post for my future reference!

  35. Haha those typical and famous cars remind of the videogame Driver that took place in Havana where you were driving those car, nostalgia ! But I’ve always wanted to visit the place since I was playing the game. And you increase that feeling, the pictures are beautiful, the ones with the sunset are really stunning and the water is calling to have a swim there in this crystal water !

  36. Oh, wow! That place is majestic! I wish I could visit Cuba before I die, lol. My friend, who’s now living in Canada spent their honeymoon in Cuba, she said it’s a wonderful place!

  37. Cool to virtually meet a cat lover. I own three cats at home – we adopted all of them.
    That was a very beautiful place and as what millenials say, every corner is “instagrammable”! The food looks yummy too!

  38. Varadero was not a bad choice at all. You experience amazing things and I could feel in your words how impressed you were for two weeks of exploration.

  39. Great to read. I loved my time in Cuba and was so pleased that we stayed in a casa. Had such an amazing time there – locals and local food !! We also had the strawberry dacquiri at Hotel Mundos Ambos. Have you read the “Handsomest Man in Cuba” ? It’s a great book about riding a bike through Cuba and once you’ve been it is just such a great read.

  40. I remember I commented in one on your blogposts about Cuba – just like your photos there, the photos that you have here are equally stunning – The beach are similar here in our Country, the Philippines – Now, you made me missed the beach.. haha! Anyways, thanks for sharing to us your beautiful trip- xoxo!

  41. Hey , you are looking good in that blue oldtimer car ! The colour really suits you 🙂 I love Cuba , I love the mentality , I love the Buena Vista Social Club music , the cigars … Cuba is such an amazing country with the kindest people . I hope , they will see some changes and improvement in their system and their economy soon ! Lovely post !

  42. From the pictures and your insights I can say that Vadadero is a busy place. Cuba is an interesting country to visit and if given a chance I’d like to see Vadadero personally too.

  43. Cuba is near the top of my bucket list but its such a long flight !!!
    Loving the blue convertible!!! I love being able to feel th wind blowing in your hair as you drive along!
    I didn’t realise Cuba has such clear waters! Man it makes me want to go over now!!!!!

    Sorry to hear abut the bee incident, i feel your pain !!! Im allergic to bees (in general), not only do you get a nasty sting but a nasty reaction too 🙁 Hope it recovered okay.

  44. Varadero has been on my list for a while now, though as you mentioned, as a good stop for some R&R after having explored the rest of Cuba – sometimes you do need those resorty areas to kick back and relax. Some downtime is never a bad thing!

  45. Although I liked beaches in Varadero, I don’t have fond memories of the place, mostly because we were cheated in a dive shop. Twice 🙁
    But the sand, water and rum were amazing 🙂

  46. Now this sounds like an amazing place to be. I have never been to Cuba before either. I know my husband would enjoy the classic cars. He is such a huge fan of cars! I want to go just so that I can drive one. That would be a dream come true to be able to drive a classic car!

  47. Cuba must be an extremely interesting place. Seems like the people there are nice and friendly. Your accommondation sounds good – a whole apartment. So sorry for that wasp incident – you can’t really avoid it, it happens when it happens.

  48. I would love to visit Cuba one day!
    The photo with the sunset is very beautiful! How did you capture that moment?
    Now… I’m reading your post …and dreaming! Goodnight dear!

  49. Wow these pictures are amazing. I have never been to Cuba before, it’s one of my top dream destinations. Oh well, one day, one day 🙂

  50. Driving classic convertible is a dream, and driving it in while vacation in Cuba that’s really cool! I’m sorry to hear about your lugage and your finger got sting by the bee, but your journey in Cuba is amazing. Love your suggestion of staying in casa instead in hotel. Thanks for the reference.

  51. The beaches are beautiful- love that you chose a pink convertible for your tour. The more of your posts I read, the more I want to visit Cuba.

  52. OMG Cuba has been on my list for so long. Looks like you had a great vacation and the pictures look so stunning! Its always a struggle, the luggage and having to stop the temptation to buy local crafts etc.
    xx, Kusum

  53. So, did you never get your luggage returned to you?! I’m amazed that you were able to get by for so long without it. Your photos of the beach at Varadero and your experience at the casa there sound wonderful. So glad you had mostly great experiences in Cuba — too bad about the wasp sting, though.

  54. Sorry to hear about the bee! Other than that though, it sounds like you had an amazing time and you also made me very interested in Cuba. Would love to go some day 😀

  55. I love that you conciously chose to spend a few days in Varadero knowing that you wanted to relax and be merry on the beach. You also made time to see Cuba and you also sought a local experience by staying at a casa. Did you use Airbnb?

  56. Great post, with stunning pics. Cuba is so “antique”. The cars, architecture, FOOD, and her people all truly makes Cuba simply beautiful.

    One thing…don’t dislike resorts. They can offer a person so much.

  57. Your photos are amazing and dreamy! Giving me serious wanderlust vibes. I had never heard of this place before but now I find myself researching it!!

  58. Your experience in Cuba sounds amazing! I enjoyed your photos and look forward to getting there… but I do hope my luggage comes with me! 😉 Thanks for sharing!

  59. thanks for sharing this – it’s helped me with my writing style. I want to go there now guess I’m going to work hard to pay for another holiday.

  60. I’d love to visit Cuba one day! The closest to Cuba I’ve been is Florida. i’ve been to little Havana and that was awesome. Cuban coffee is great. the classic car looks awesome! You apartment in Varadero sounds very nice. It’s great that the people were so welcoming! The see in stunning!

  61. Hi-
    Can you provide the contact info for the casa you stayed at in Varadero….we will be traveling there and would like to avoid staying in one of the resorts.


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