If you’re spending the majority of your visit to Cuba in Varadero, then I’m sure once you’ve chilled out and relaxed and had a few days on the beach, around the pool or on the golf course, then you’ll be keen to see a little more of Cuba. There are a variety of places you can visit as a Varadero Day Trip – so here’s our guide to the best place to visit on a day trip from Varadero.
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Whether you want to enjoy Cuba’s natural reserves or understand more about the staples of Cuba – sugar, rum and cigars there are several options available as day trips from Varadero. As you’re located on the Hicacos peninsular there are also some great day trips from Varadero on boats that you can take. And then there’s the most popular one, the Varadero to Havana day trip, plus there are options to visit other cities – the nearby Matanzas, famous for being the birthplace of rumba – and a little further afield, Trinidad, Santa Clara and Cienfuegos. You’re going to need a longer holiday!
As with all travel in Cuba, it’s important to look, when you’re planning your day trips from Varadero, not at the distance away from Varadero, but the time it takes to travel there and back. You can’t apply travel and transit times that you have at home to Cuba.
The Best Varadero Day Trips
The top places to visit as a day trip from Varadero are those which will give you a different flavour Varadero, but also those that aren’t too far away – spending hours and hours travelling can eat into your holiday time! So let’s start with our tip picks for Varadero Day Trips with the most popular trip to take from Varadero – a day trip to Havana.
Varadero Day Trip to Havana – The best cultural Varadero day trip
It will take you around 2 hours each way from Varadero to Havana by private transfer. (check prices and availability of private transfers to Havana here ). You can also take the Viazul Bus to Varadero from Havana, but it’s not really an option for a day trip – as the bus stations aren’t convenient and neither are the bus times!
This private day trip to Havana from Varadero is a great option if you want to see the sights of Havana, but not commit to more than a day. It is a full 12-hour day trip to Havana. On pick up from your hotel, you’ll head straight to Havana and right into Old Havana – the capital’s historic center. And it won’t be long before you’re surrounded by the charming colonial streets and the stunning classic cars here. In this full-day tour of Havana, you’ll get to see such sights as the Capitol Building, the bars that Ernest Hemingway frequented, Havana port, and Morro Castle. You’ll also get to see the Museum of the Revolution (one of our top things to see in Havana) and you’ll learn about the history of Cuba, from its foundation in the 16th century to the days following the Revolution.
Don’t worry there’s also a break for lunch where you’ll get to experience one of Havana’s paladares (private restaurants) and then it’s on to the more modern Havana – the fashionable neighborhoods of Vedado and Miramar overlooking Havana’s famous Malecón esplanade. This day trip to Havana from Varadero also takes in the enormous Plaza de la Revolución Square, where the famous giant portrait of Che Guevara by artist Enrique Ávila is located. Here, we will also admire the elegant Monument to José Martí.
At the end of your tour in Havana, you’ll be returned to your hotel in Varadero for a well-earned cocktail or two! Check reviews and reserve your Havana Day Trip Now!
Cayo Blanco Catamaran Trip from Varadero with Lobster Lunch
Cayo Blanco is a deserted white sand island with a dreamy beach, getting to it on a sailing catamaran trip from Varadero is a delight. This is the second most popular day trip from Varadero – sail on the stunning Caribbean sea to a desert island, enjoy a lobster lunch with an open bar. What’s not to love?
On this fabulous sailing trip from Varadero, you’ll be collected from your hotel and then board a luxury catamaran and sail for about two hours, heading for Cayo Blanco. There’s a coral reef here, so you’ll be able to snorkel and discover Cuba’s marine life, or lie in the sun, or just swim in the stunning sea. While you’re enjoying your free time your crew is preparing a delicious lunch, which includes lobster and an open bar of Cuban cocktails, which you can enjoy on the beach or the catamaran. The trip includes access to snorkel equipment, although this is one of the items that we recommend you bring to Cuba. At the end of the day, you’ll be taken back to your hotel in Varadero for a snooze or cocktail hour. Your choice.
Visit Vinales from Varadero
This 13-hour day trip from Varadero to Vinales Valley is an amazing day out from Varadero. You’ll get to explore the UNESCO World Heritage site that includes the famous tobacco plantations of Viñales, the largest tobacco producer on the island! You’ll also get to see how Cuban cigars are traditionally rolled and visit the Vinales Botanical Garden.
Then you’ll want to stop by the infamous Mural of Prehistory, painted on Jurassic rocks and one of the largest open-air frescoes in the world! A final stop in the Vinales Valley is the “balcony of Vinales” or the Los Jazmines viewpoint. It’s a fab place for a photo stop. If you have more time, then our guide to the Vinales Valley is here, or if you just want to visit for the day, then this day trip to Vinales from Varadero is fabulous.
Take a Day Trip from Varadero to Dive the Bay of Pigs
We spent several days in Playa Giron and Playa Larga, exploring the Bay of Pigs area, but the primary reason we went there was to dive the Bay of Pigs. You can read about our adventures here. But it’s now also possible to take a day trip from Varadero to the Bay of Pigs to dive! This diving day trip to the Bay of Pigs gives you two dives, and all equipment is provided as well as the transport to and from your hotel in Varadero. You’ll be provided with an English-speaking instructor too! It’s a fabulous trip and you’ll love it. It may also be possible for non-divers to join you and snorkel as well! Take a look here. The great thing about this – and all the tours you can take with Civitatis is that you can get free cancellation up to 48 hours before departure!
Speedboat and National Park Day Trip from Varadero
If you want to get back to nature and combine adrenalin and the natural world then this is the Varadero day trip for you. You’ll not only get to visit the Peninsula Zapata National Park but also head to a crocodile farm, and then boarding a speedboat, you’ll cross the Laguna del Tesoro lake and get to enjoy a glorious natural wilderness surrounded by water and vegetation. This tour visits Guamá and the Hatiguanico River, and is a fabulous way to explore both the coast and inland from Varadero. Check out more details, the tour includes lunch and you’ll also get time to snorkel (equipment is provided). It’s a fabulous day out from Varadero.
Head to Matanzas for a day trip from Varadero + see the Bellamar Caves
You can get to Matanzas quite easily – it’s around 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Varadero. The Viazul Bus (see our guide for how these buses work here) runs from Varadero to Matanzas 3 times a day, but it’s not always a good time for making a day trip to Matanzas from Varadero. You must buy a ticket at least an hour ahead of time from the Viazul terminal on the corner of Calle 36 and the highway – one block off of the main street and availability is not good at the last minute.
You’ll also be able to grab a taxi on the street or flag down a shared van. Always agree on the price before you get in and make sure that you know if the price is for the car or per person.
If you’re taking a day trip to Matanzas you’ll want to see at least some of the 17 bridges that this “city of bridges” is famous for. The Puente de Bacunayagua is the highest in Cuba, resting 100 meters near the River Yumuri. Taking a walk around the center of Matanzas is interesting – you’ll want to stop at the San Severino Castle Museum where you can take a guided tour of the castle and fortress and understand a little about slavery in Cuba too. Wander through Parque Libertad – a lovely green space at the heart of Matanzas. The Sauto Theatre is also rather picturesque. For museum lovers, the Pharmaceutical Museum (Museo Farmaceutico) in front of Parque Libertad, is a stunning display of a 19th-century pharmacy and a guided tour is well worth it. (I think it’s better than the one in Havana). Finally, while you’re out this way, I’d recommend including a trip to Bellamar Caves. They’re some of the biggest and most impressive in the Caribbean (there are more caves also in the Vinales region to explore). The Bellamar Caves were discovered in 1861 and are about 5 kilometers (3 miles) to the southeast of Matanzas. Guided tours are available and entry costs around US$8.
An alternative to Bellamar Caves or an addition even is the Cueva de Saturno (Saturn Cave) – it’s a cenote – which has stalactites, blind cavefish, and cave shrimp. Swimming in the freshwater here is very popular and you can also arrange to dive in the cenote. Entry costs US$5 and the Cueva de Saturno is 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) from Matanzas.
For a great lunch with a fabulous view head to Chef Bahia on the main coast road to Varadero.
If you’re considering a day trip from Varadero to Matanzas, we really do recommend either organizing your own itinerary and route, planning it via a private transfer/taxi, and making the most of your day in Matanzas or booking a tour that takes you to all the important places. This tour is a great one that includes all the main attractions.
Visit the Yumuri Valley on a day trip from Varadero
The Yumuri Valley is one of Cuba’s most scenic natural areas, it followed the Yumuri River for 54 kilometers (33.5 miles) and is recognized for its biodiversity and archaeological sites. There’s a 150-meter high mountain ridge that surrounds the river which provides several great vantage points to the valley. As these are rough roads and the tracks through the valley aren’t paved, it’s a great option for taking an off-road 4×4 jeep to see the valley. The best option for visiting the Yumuri Valley from Varadero is to take a tour that collects you from your hotel in Varadero and takes you to where the 4×4 jeeps are located.
And this is where it gets awesome – as you’ll get to drive your own jeep through the jungle and sugar cane fields! You will need a valid driving license, but if you don’t have one or don’t feel like driving, then you can also hire a driver. As well as driving through the river valley you’ll be able to enjoy snorkeling at Coral Beach where there’s an impressive coral reef. Then you’ll get a speedboat ride on the Caminar River through the rainforest. There’s a cultural performance and a traditional Cuban lunch is also provided. You can then fully experience the Yumuri Valley with either a visit to a coffee plantation, a trip on the river, or a horseback ride through the forest.
This Yumuri Valley day trip continues with a visit to the Saturnos Cave – where there are two large caverns and a natural pool – you can swim in the pool too. This gloriously natural tour from Varadero finishes up with a visit to the El Campesino agroecological farm – it’s a sustainable eco-farm and there’s loads to learn there.
This tour is a great option if you’d like to have a mix of activities while seeing some of the stunning natural landscapes of Cuba and it includes pick up and drop off from your hotel, an English-speaking guide, Snorkel equipment at Coral Beach (although we recommend bringing your own to Cuba), a boat trip on the Caminar river, entry to the Cave of Saturn, horseback riding in Rancho Gaviota and your food and drink, It is an awesome package – check out reviews and book your place now.
Sugar, Rum and Tobacco Tour from Varadero
There’s nothing like a taste of Cuba tour – and this is definitely that – you’ll get to visit a sugar cane plantation and taste Cuban rum and tobacco! While technically you could visit all these places by yourself, you’ll need to have some really good Spanish and a big local knowledge, so this guided tour, with an English-speaking guide and driver, is a fabulous way to cram a whole lot of taste into one day!
The first stop is a sugar cane museum where you’ll learn about how sugar cane is grown, and how its processed, the tools and machines used for this. And of course, there’s tasting – the first taste is guarapo, a refreshing sweet drink made from sugar cane, before learning about one of Cuba’s famous cocktails and then making it.
This tour then heads to the town of Cardenas, which has lovely colonial architecture and quite charming streets. You’ll get to follow in the footsteps of the Arechabala family, creators of the famous Havana Club rum in a horse-drawn carriage ride around the town before you stop for lunch. After lunch, which is included, you’ll get to taste local rum and tobacco while learning about their importance to both the Cuban culture and economy. When you’re finished you’ll be dropped back at your hotel in Varadero.
Fancy this sugar cane, rum, and tobacco history and tasting day trip from Varadero? Check more details and book your place now!
Learn about the history of rum and cigars in a Varadero Day Trip to Cardenas
It was in Cardenas that Havana Club Rum was born, and that makes it a great place to learn about the history of rum in Cuba. There’s lots more to see in Varadero though – from the Battle of Ideas Museum – where there’s heaps of Cuban history and a fabulous historic city center. As this is the home of Havana Club there are also artisans based here, who make rum barrels by hand! If you’ve rented a car in Cuba, you can get to Cardenas from Varadero quite easily, but if not, then this day trip to Cardenas from Varadero is a great option. It includes a horse-drawn carriage ride through the history center, accompanied by rum tastings and a visit to Callejón Gastón, to explore Cuban religions and then start exploring Cuban cigars. Cardenas is a delight and a great place to visit on a day trip from Varadero. You can check out what else to explore here.
Take a Cienfuegos, Santa Clara, and Trinidad Tour from Varadero
You’ll get to see some of Cuba’s most important historic and cultural sites with this tour of Cienfuegos, Santa Clara and Trinidad from Varadero. It’s a long day with a start at 0620 – although you will get a stop for breakfast en route! In Santa Clara, you’ll visit a monument in memory of the Cuban Revolution – the armored train and then the resting place of Ernesto Che Guevara. After visiting Santa Clara, you’ll continue to the UNESCO World Heritage City of Trinidad. It’s here that you’ll get a typical Cuban lunch and then visit Parque Central, the Church of the Holy Trinity, and the handicraft market. You’ll want to make time while you’re here to try the famous Cuban Cocktail from Trinidad, the Canchanchara – it was invented here.
The next stop is Cienfuegos where you’ll see the Prado promenade and the statue of famous musician Benny Moré as well as the Moorish architecture of the Palacio del Valle and its Moorish architecture. This is a whistle-stop tour of some of Cuba’s most important cities and a great way to see them all if you have a short amount of time in Cuba – check out the timings and make your booking here.
Take a Varadero Day Trip to Cienfuegos, El Nicho and Trinidad
This day trip from Varadero takes in the Topes de Collantes National Park as well as the UNESCO World Heritage City of Trinidad and the lovely Cienfuegos. It’s an early start, so there will be a breakfast stop en-route and you’ll arrive at El Nicho, one of the protected areas in the Topes de Collantes Natural Park. It’s a great opportunity to cool down as you’ll visit one of the stunning waterfalls of the Habanilla and there are some great natural pools here that you can jump into! After you’ve cooled down you’ll have a traditional lunch before heading to the UNESCO World Heritage city of Trinidad where you’ll get to explore all that makes this city so special – and don’t forget to make time for Trinidad’s special cocktail – the canchanchara.
The final location on this history and nature-inspired trip from Varadero is Cienfuegos – where you’ll take a panoramic tour of Punta Gorda and see the Hotel Jagua and the imposing Palacio del Valle, decorated with Moorish and Gothic details. Before heading back to Varadero there’s more food included too and you’ll be back in Varadero in time for cocktails.
If you’re looking for history and nature combined on a Varadero day trip, then this is a fabulous option – you can read more and book your place here.
Wondering how much to tip your tour guide or drive in Cuba? Here’s our guide to tipping in Cuba.
Essential Resources for Exploring Cuba
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Final Words on the Best Day Trips from Varadero Cuba
When you’re ready to explore a little further afield from Varadero, but don’t have the time to make overnight trips, then these day trips from Varadero are great options to see a whole lot of country in a short amount of time. Take a day trip on the water from Varadero, and visit some of Cuba’s most amazing beaches, or head to the historic centers of Trinidad, Cienfuegos, and Santa Clara – or just head down the road to Matanzas, the choice is yours.
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