Downtown Varadero & Varadero Boulevard Travel Guide

Downtown Varadero guide - Susie standing on a bridge at Varadero Boulevard

Welcome to our guide on Downtown Varadero and Varadero Boulevard, featuring everything you need to know about the beating heart of the Varadero resort area. It’s a great place for eating out, shopping, bars and nightlife, and also has some excellent hotels. If you’re staying in the area during your upcoming trip or just fancy visiting Downtown Varadero from your beach resort, this guide will give you all the information you need.

Where is Downtown Varadero?

Downtown Varadero is located near the start of the Varadero peninsula, which veers out from Cuba’s mainland. You’ll pass through it on the main ‘Autopista Sur’ road on the way to most hotels and the local road system makes it easy to get to no matter where you’re staying. 1st Avenue is the name of the long street of bars, shops, cafes and restaurants that runs through Downtown Varadero. It’s the hub of all nightlife and shopping, with many hotels too.

How to get to Downtown Varadero from your hotel

There are three main ways to get to Downtown Varadero. These are:

By taxi:

The quickest and easiest way to get to Downtown Varadero from your hotel is to jump in a taxi. You’ll often find taxis parked outside your hotel waiting for guests. Alternatively, ask your hotel reception/concierge to order one for you. In our experience, you can pay for taxis in Canadian dollars, USD dollars, British Pounds, Euros or the local Cuban Peso currency. US dollars is the cheapest way to pay as drivers don’t differentiate between exchange rates.

The cost of a taxi will depend on how far away your hotel is from the Downtown area, and whether you choose a classic convertible car or standard taxi. Expect to pay anywhere from $10 – 30 dollars for a one-way trip. For your return journey back to your hotel, you can easily find a taxi in the Downtown Varadero area. Make sure you ask for a price before getting into the taxi.

Image of a 1950s classic car
By bus:

A cheap and easy way to get to Downtown Varadero from your resort is to hop on the open-top bus.This frequent bus transportation stops in all of the hotel areas along the Varadero beach trip, covering attractions from Varadero Town, all the way to the marina at the end of the peninsula.

As its name suggests, you can hop on and hop off as much as you like during the day. A ticket costs $5 per person for one full day of access. The journey takes a little longer than a taxi, but it’s a lot more affordable. You get to take in the sights of Varadero too!

By private tour:

If you want to explore Varadero in style, a full day classic car tour is a great option. A tour guide and driver will pick you up at your hotel in the morning and will then take you to all of the top sites in Varadero, from the flea market and golf course, to the sites of Downtown. Varadero private tours are often accompanied by a stop in the neighbouring town of Matanzas.

We recommend checking out Cuban Compass Tours if you’d like to book a tour. Their tour guides are excellent! You can customise your itinerary to include destinations that you want to visit.

If your hotel is near the Downtown Varadero area, you won’t have to use transport at all. Simply walk into town. Popular hotels in this area include Starfish Cuatro Palmas and Mystique Casa Perla.

Varadero Boulevard

Varadero Boulevard is the vibrant centre of Downtown Varadero. It’s a relatively new complex that was built to accommodate the huge influx of tourists to Varadero. It’s frequented by both locals and international tourists, providing an eclectic mix of socialising no matter the time of the day. The best time to visit is early evening, where the bars are busy and there’s plenty going on.

Varadero Boulevard is home to a number of shops, bars, restaurants, cafes and artwork, so aim spend a couple of hours exploring on foot. We recommend checking out the following attractions.

The ‘Varadero’ sign – Giant 3D-letter signs are becoming extremely popular in tourist cities around the world. Varadero is no different! Walk by and take a picture alongside the huge multicoloured sign.

Image of the Varadero sign in the town centre: downtown Varadero

Cigar House – For all you smokers that want to try an authentic Cuban cigar, La Casa del Habano is the place to visit. This traditional cigar shop stocks everything from budget-friendly cigars, to the highly popular premium Cohiba and Montecristo varieties.

Chocolate Café – A chocolate speciality café that serves up Cuban coffee and a variety of sweet treats. It has outdoor seating at the front of Varadero Boulevard.

Japanese garden – This neatly manicured Japanese-style garden is one of the most beautiful areas of Varadero Boulevard. Stop by to marvel at the architecture and take a photo on the bridge.

Image showing the Japanese Garden at Varadero Boulevard

House of Rum – The go-to place for buying and tasting rum. The venue itself has a cool bar area, backing onto a shop where you can buy the rum you like. We found it quite affordable, so definitely get a few bottles to take home!

Colourful wall murals – One of our favourite things about Varadero Boulevard was the endless array of murals and wall art. Walk the labyrinth of streets to see wall-art of classic cars, Cuban people, animals, places and more.

Image of colourful wall art at Varadero Boulevard

Havana Club – Varadero Boulevard also hosts Varadero’s main nightclub, Havana Club. Closed during the day but open in the evening until the early hours, this is the late-night venue in town. It’s popular with both tourists and locals, with a typical club atmosphere. Fancy dancing the night away with a pina colada in hand? This is the place to go.

What are the top things to do and see in Varadero Town?

Josone Park

Josone Park is located right next to Varadero Boulevard in the centre of the Downtown area. It’s a beautiful botanical garden that has recently been renovated. It features tropical plants, colourful flowers and plenty of scenic walking trails. It also has a lake area where you can rent a paddle boat. Both locals and tourists can be found in Josone; it’s a peaceful place to get away from the hustle and bustle of 1st Avenue.

Image showing the entrance of Parque Josone in Varadero town

Varadero Flea Market

Head to Varadero Flea Market for a collection of small gift stalls, featuring plenty of homemade wooden gifts, Cuban artwork, clothing and other souvenirs. The market is very much a tourist hotspot and can be completed in less than an hour, but it’s still worth seeing in our opinion. Have fun bartering with the locals and get some souvenirs and gifts to take back home. The easiest way to get to the market is by taxi, or the Varadero open-top bus.

Image showing different art designs at the flea market

Varadero Beach

Varadero Beach stretches a whopping 21km, with much of it occupied by hotels. This makes many areas of the beach hard to access. However, if you visit Downtown Varadero, you have public beach access from various points, with plenty of facilities nearby. Walk directly onto the beach and enjoy the crashing waves of turquoise sea. Rent a sun lounger for a few hours or indulge in some water sports. The Downtown Varadero area of the beach is the best place for water sports activities. The only downside of the beach here is how busy it is.

Image showing Varadero beach

The shops, bars and restaurants of 1st Avenue

Many of the best hotels in Varadero are all-inclusive. However, if you’re on a self-catering vacation, or just fancy venturing away from the hotel buffet for a couple of nights, 1st Avenue is the place to go. It’s a long road of shops, bars and restaurants, with options for everyone. Simply wander down the street and stop by anywhere that catches your eye, or jump in a tuk-tuk style taxi to explore the full length of the 1st Avenue road.

1st Avenue has direct access to Varadero Beach and is the go-to place for shopping.

Image of a building in Varadero town

Varadero Boulevard

As listed in detail above, Varadero Boulevard is the heart of Downtown with plenty to see and do. Make sure you visit at least one evening.

For more ideas on the best things to do in Varadero and the surrounding area, not just Downtown Varadero, check out our guide here.

Image showing outdoor seating at a restaurant at Varadero Boulevard

The best restaurants in Downtown Varadero

As already mentioned, one of the top things to do in Downtown Varadero is sample one of the many restaurants. Almost all of the dining options are a short walk from each other. Here are some of the top-rated restaurants that we recommend:

Image showing the entrance of 'El Rancho' restaurant
Varadero 60
View on Google Maps | TripAdvisor rating 4.5/5

Serving up creative meat and fish dishes, Varadero 60 is a great place to eat, right next to Josone Park. Being in the centre of town, it’s easy to get to from any hotel you’re staying at. It features traditional Cuban décor, with a welcoming atmosphere. The main draw to Varadero is without a doubt, the food. Dishes look and taste fantastic and there’s a lot of variety.

Waco’s Club
View on Google Maps | TripAdvisor rating 4.5/5

Also located near Josone Park is another restaurant you won’t want to miss. Waco’s Club is a small and unassuming restaurant with a beautifully presented interior. Choose to sit indoors by the wine rack or dine under the stars in the courtyard. Whatever table you choose, you’ll have a great evening chatting to the waiters and enjoying the top-notch food. It offers everything from fresh lobster to pasta, with fun and friendly service.

Snack Bar Calle 62
View on Google Maps | TripAdvisor rating 4.5/5

Also recommended as a great bar option in our list below, Snack Bar Calle 62 serves up some excellent, affordably-priced food. Enjoy freshly made BBQ chicken as you listen to live music and watch the classic cars drive by. This is a great lunch spot, or if you fancy a light bite on an evening. The food is delicious and authentically Cuban.

Paladar Nonna Tina
View on Google Maps | TripAdvisor rating 4.5/5

Everyone loves Italian food, so you can’t go wrong with Paladar Nonna Tina. It’s currently one of the best rated restaurants in Varadero on Tripadvisor, situated in the centre of the Downtown Varadero area. Expect decent portions of pasta, pizza, lobster and traditional Italian dishes. The wine selection is also very good here. We personally loved the outdoor seating in the garden area of the restaurant.

Our top tips for eating out in Downtown Varadero

  • Always check the reviews of a restaurant before venturing inside. Food safety standards aren’t as strict in Cuba, so you’ll want to minimise the chance of getting ill. Choosing a restaurant with lots of excellent reviews minimises this risk.
  • Consider eating out at least a couple of times, even if you’re staying in an all-inclusive hotel. Eating out supports local businesses and you’ll get a unique experience of Cuban cuisine that you wouldn’t find in a hotel. Cuban restaurants are very affordable.
  • Restaurant bookings aren’t needed, but try to arrive early if visiting during peak tourist seasons, as you might not get a table.
  • Prices vary between Varadero restaurants. Some are very affordable; a minority are priced similarly to western countries. Check menu prices outside the restaurant or by browsing online to get an idea of costs.
  • If eating out in Downtown Varadero, bring a selection of different currencies, including Cuban pesos. Some restaurants don’t accept credit card. Some only accept Cuban pesos in cash.

The best bars in Downtown Varadero

Whether you want a laid-back evening out listening to live music, or a energetic night of clubbing until the early hours, Downtown Varadero has nightlife options for all. Check out some of our recommendations on Downtown Varadero’s best bars below.

Image showing the entrance to The Beatles Bar in Varadero town: downtown Varadero
The Beatles Live Music Bar
View on Google Maps | TripAdvisor rating 4.5/5

The Beatles Bar has somewhat of a legendary in Varadero. It’s located right next to Varadero Boulevard and is instantly recognisable with its huge ‘Beatles’ sign and statue at the front entrance. It’s themed towards, you guessed it, the British ‘Beatles’ band. Stop by any evening of the week for live music across a range of genres, plus a great selection of drinks. The atmosphere is excellent!

Calle 62
View on Google Maps | TripAdvisor rating 4.5/5

There’s always something going on at Calle 62. Situated in the heart of the Downtown Varadero near the beach, this classic drink spot is a hit with both Cubans and international tourists. Arrive early in the evening for a quiet cocktail in their outdoor seating area. You might even be treated to some live music. Later into the evening, the bar comes alive with dancing and plenty of socialising.

La Comparsita
View on Google Maps | TripAdvisor rating 4.5/5

La Comparsita is an outdoor live entertainment and bar venue with a vibrant club scene. Cuban artists and DJ’s play at themed events, each night of the week. The crowd here is young and it has more of a ‘party’ atmosphere compared to the other bars we’ve mentioned above. It’s a great place to check out before heading to the main Varadero nightclub, Havana Club.

Where to stay in Downtown Varadero

If you want to base yourself in the Downtown Varadero area, within a short walk of the bars, restaurants and shops, the following hotels are great options.

Image showing a small swimming pool in a hotel
Mystique Casa Perla
View website | TripAdvisor rating 5/5

If you fancy a great bed and breakfast option with direct access to the beach, the luxury suites at Mystique Casa Perla is the best option. It’s a gated hotel community that overlooks Varadero Beach front, with all of the bars and restaurant of Varadero Boulevard only a minute away. This hotel is best for those that want to eat out on vacation instead of choosing an all-inclusive resort.

Starfish Cuatro Palmas
View website | TripAdvisor rating 4.5/5

Starfish Cuatro Palmas is the most centrally located hotel for exploring Downtown Varadero. It’s across the road from Varadero Boulevard and has direct access to the beach. This 4-star accommodation option is great for families and features a classic Cuban hotel design.

Melia Internacional Varadero
View website | TripAdvisor rating 4.5/5

Not strictly in the Downtown Varadero area but extremely close, Melia Melia Internacional is regarded as one of the finest hotels in Varadero. Rated 5 stars, this newly built resort is all-inclusive, with modern décor and plenty of facilities. It features a high-rise design with everything in one place. You can get a taxi to the centre of Downtown Varadero within a few minutes.

Our top tips for visiting Downtown Varadero

Image of a horse and carriage on the street in Varadero
  • Visit Downtown Varadero both during the day and on an evening. Daytime is a lot more relaxed, great for grabbing some food before relaxing on the beach. Evenings are a livelier, with excellent live music bars and restaurants.
  • Some bars, shops and restaurants accept foreign currency. Others only accept Cuban pesos. Bring along a mix of both so you have the means to pay for everything. You can change currency at your hotel concierge.
  • Walk around Downtown Varadero on foot to take in all the sights and atmosphere. You can jump in a tuk-tuk or taxi if you get tired of walking.
  • Weekends are often busier with a busier nightlife scene. Keep this in mind if a big night out is important to you. Nightlife is also more apparent in the busier tourist seasons.
  • If a shop, café, bar or restaurant accepts foreign currency (US dollars, Euros, Canadian Dollars, etc), pay in US dollars. Most venues don’t change the exchange rate so it’s cheaper if you pay in the lower cost USD.
  • On a similar note, bring along plenty of low denomination notes when out and about in Downtown Varadero. $1 and $5 USD bills, $5 Canadian dollars and €5 euros are perfect.
  • Check opening times of bars, shops and restaurants on Google Maps before arriving. Some close during the day or don’t open until after 1pm. We recommend visiting Downtown Varadero after 1pm as more venues will be open.
  • Downtown Varadero is a spread out area. If you’re like us, you might get a taxi to Varadero Boulevard and not realise that the whole of 1st Avenue is full of shops, attractions and other venues. Walk the full length of 1st Avenue to see everything Downtown Varadero has to offer.

Thanks for reading our guide on Varadero Boulevard and Downtown Varadero. We hope we helped inspire you to visit town during your stay and you now know the key places to check out. If you have any other questions about Downtown Varadero, or Varadero in general, be sure to post a comment below.

Check out our other Varadero Cuba travel guides:

Ricky

By Ricky

Author bio:

An adventurer at heart that loves anything outdoors. Beaches, mountains and amazing scenery is everything I love about travel! I also enjoy home comforts and need a nice place to relax and re-charge after every trip.

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