Iberostar Selection Varadero Resort Review and Guide
If you’re looking to visit the world’s second-best beach, as rated by TripAdvisor, then you need to visit Cuba’s tourist town of Varadero. Located in the north part of the country, around 145km from the capital Havana, Varadero is has recently been growing in popularity amongst tourists, and we can certainly see why!
During our visit, we decided to stay in Varadero’s best rated hotel, Iberostar Selection Varadero. It’s a luxury, all inclusive 5-star resort that offers something for all age groups, much like the all-inclusive experience you’ll find elsewhere in the Caribbean.
After spending 2 weeks in this stunning resort, we’ve assembled a complete Iberostar Selection Varadero guide to provide you with all the information you need when deciding if this resort is for you. We share our top tips for visiting, all of the hotel’s facilities, activities and dining options on offer, and much more.
If you have any questions, be sure to leave a comment down below 😊
Iberostar Selection Varadero is located to the far end of the Varadero peninsula, around a 10-minute drive from the main town. Whilst it’s not very close to the market, shops and restaurants of Varadero town, you can easily catch a taxi to the town centre from the hotel lobby. You also have the option of jumping aboard the local tourist bus to take you to all corners of Varadero, from the marina to various attractions.
The hotel’s quiet beach location is said to be one of the best in Varadero. It boasts bright blue sea, soft white sand and scenic beach walks. It’s also extremely clean.
The hotel grounds
We were amazed by how well maintained the hotel grounds were across the entire hotel. The Iberostar Selection Varadero is a relatively new resort compared to its neighbouring hotels, but over the past 10 years it has undergone many improvements and maintenance project. Tall palm trees, brightly coloured flowers and lush tropical vegetation is everywhere to be seen!
The lobby area of the hotel is very warm and welcoming, with a mixture of modern and classic décor, giving it a cool Caribbean feel. The restaurant interior is extremely modern, whilst still maintaining a classic look.
The best part of the hotel in our opinion was the stunning turquoise beach. Although the beach is located in the front of the hotel, wooden walkways and tall trees divide it from the hotel, giving you the feeling that you’re going out on a day trip to the beach.
Most of the rooms at the resort are the same, but they do offer various options depending on the size of the group you’re travelling and/or if you’re travelling with children. Here are the different room options to choose from:
- Double Room
- Tropical Double Room
- Junior Suite
- Presidential Suite
- Two-Bedroom Family Room
The layout of the Iberostar Selection Varadero is spread out, with many individual ‘hacienda’ style buildings. This creates a colourful ‘village’ of accommodation throughout the hotel and gives it a lot of character. We stayed in a double room with a view of the gardens, providing beautiful scenery to wake up to in the morning.
If you’d like to find out more about rooms at the hotel, you can check out all features on the official website here.
Our top room tips
- Blocks 16-20 are located at the back of the hotel and are the furthest away from the main building. These blocks are best for those who don’t mind walking a bit extra to the main building and want a quieter place to stay. It’s also ideal if you have young children, as the Kid’s club is located nearby. We stayed in block 16 and were really happy with it. We actually enjoyed the 5-minute walk to and from the main area of the hotel each day.
- Block 20 is located opposite the spa and is a great area to stay if you’re looking for easy access to the main hotel building. It’s also the accommodation block that boasts the large suites and premium rooms.
- The rest of the blocks are more central and provide the quickest access to the hotel, ideal for those with children or if you don’t want to walk far.
The swimming pools
The Iberostar Selection Varadero resort boasts 3 unique swimming pools, each within a short walk of each other. Each pool offers something different depending on the type of pool day you’re looking for and if you have kids. We personally loved the spa pool. It was incredibly relaxing, especially after a morning of sightseeing or working out.
The main swimming pool
The main pool is without a doubt the star of the show at the Iberostar Varadero. It’s located right in the centre of the hotel, just next to the lobby and by the main buffet restaurants. The pool is split into two sections, with one section providing immediate access to the swim up pool bar, and one quieter section for swimming. It’s a great pool for kids, as it starts off really shallow and gradually gets deeper. As the main pool, it’s also the place where you’ll find the majority of daily activities. Expect dance classes, music, aerobics classes and interactive games throughout the day.
The second swimming pool
The second swimming pool at the Iberostar is located just a 10 second walk away from the main pool. It’s a quieter area that’s separated by a stage area where dancing lessons take place on an afternoon. This pool is great for those who fancy swimming a few lengths, or if you want some peace and quiet away from the main pool. We found this pool to be the quietest of the three, with some sunbeds and umbrellas to relax on.
The spa pool
The final pool at the Iberostar Selection Varadero is the relaxing spa pool. Located just behind the buffet restaurant and next to the spa and gym, the spa pool is an adult only pool that features a jacuzzi, massage jets, and water massage beds that make for a great back massage. The spa pool also has a few sunbeds and cabanas with comfortable beds to take a break from the sun. What we loved most about the spa pool is the quiet atmosphere and tranquil spa background music.
The hotel beach
If you speak to anyone that’s visited Varadero, they’re undoubtedly going to comment on the beach. Varadero beach is one of the most stunning beaches we’ve ever visited. Its crystal blue waters, soft white sand and warm sea water is something you don’t come by often. As voted by TripAdvisor, it’s rated as the world’s 2nd best beach, and we can see why!
One of the special things about Varadero beach is how far it stretches out, measuring a whopping 20km in length! You can walk for miles upon miles along this beautiful stretch of sand and lose sight of where you started. It’s perfect for those who love to walk up and down the beach during sunset!
The location of the hotel in relation to the beach is just perfect. It sits on a quieter area of the beach with fewer hotels nearby, so hotel Iberostar guests have it all to themselves. There are plenty of sunbeds and cabanas for you to use and we never had any problems with finding a sunbed, no matter the time of day we arrived.
There are 5 restaurants on offer at the hotel, all of which offer something a little different. Note that the Japanese restaurant was undergoing renovation work during our stay so we weren’t able to dine there. Here’s an overview of what each restaurant offers.
Main buffet restaurant (Ambrosio)
The main restaurant in the hotel is called Ambrosio. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, with all-you-can-eat buffet, cooking stations and table service drinks. It’s in the main hotel building, next door to the pools and near the spa and gym area. Design-wise, it’s a large, open-plan and brightly lit restaurant with different sections indoors, plus an outdoor patio area. For an all-inclusive buffet restaurant, we found the food to be very good. It’s very tough to some ingredients in Cuba, so the chefs do an amazing job at making use of what they can source.
Food dishes vary each night of the week, with some options appearing most nights. In our opinion, the best thing about Ambrosio are the cooking stations. Chefs cook up fresh omelettes, fish, chicken, prawns and more whilst you wait.
One negative about this restaurant is that food doesn’t stay very hot in the trays for very long. To avoid this, we tried to go to dinner and lunch earlier in the evening..
Ambrosio restaurant opening hours:
Breakfast: 7am – 10pm
Lunch: 1pm – 3pm
Dinner: 6pm – 10pm
If you’re having a lazy day by the pool and just fancy picking up a light lunch, without having to go over to the main buffet restaurant, then the snack bar will come in handy. Located next to the main pool and theatre, the snack bar offers a smaller selection of dishes compared to the main restaurant, including freshly cooked meat and fish, pasta, rice, pizza and salad. They also have staff at the restaurant who will take your drinks order. We went to the snack bar once during our stay, but due smaller number of options available, we preferred the main restaurant.
Open all day from 12:30pm
Daily outdoor BBQ
The final option for food is the hotel’s outdoor BBQ. Positioned right next to the snack bar, they serve a range of BBQ’s fish, meat and vegetables, alongside bread and salad. Again, this is another great option for those who don’t fancy getting changed and heading to the main restaurant. It’s quick, easy and tasty. We thoroughly enjoyed the bbq here and the meat was fantastic!
12:30pm – 3pm
La Dorada, Mediteranean a la carte restaurant
The first of the a la carte restaurants is the Mediterranean restaurant, La Dorada. Situated next to the main lobby area, the hotel shop and cigar room, La Dorada is incredibly popular. The theming of the restaurant is bright and blue, much like the islands of the Mediterranean. Everything from the décor to the plates is ‘under the sea’ themed. As the name suggests, they offer typical European inspired pastas, steak, lobster, tagines, a little something for all tastes. We highly recommend opting for the chocolate dessert – it was delicious! You’ll need to reserve your table with the concierge ahead of time, especially during busier periods.
Dinner: 6:30pm – 10:00pm daily
El Bosque Gourmet a la carte restaurant
The second of the a la carte restaurants is La Dorada’s neighbour, El Bosque Gourmet Restaurant. This restaurant is a great place for couples that want to wine and dine on date night. It has an intimate setting with candlelit tables and quiet background music. The food choices at this restaurant are Cuban-inspired fine dining dishes, including tuna steak, pork, and various other seafood dishes. Food quality is very good and four courses are included on the menu.
Dinner: 6:30pm – 9:30pm daily
Manzoku Japanese a la carte restaurant
The third and final a la carte restaurant available at the Iberostar Selection Varadero is the newly renovated Japanese restaurant, Manzoku. Indulge in healthy, freshly made sushi, a variety of noodle and rice dishes and a suave selection of meat and fish, which are cooked in front of you. As this restaurant has undergone extensive renovation work, it’s currently a very popular place to dine.
Dinner: 6:30pm – 10:00pm daily
Pro-tip: You can visit the a la carte restaurants for dinner as much as you like during your visit. It can be tough to get a reservation, so we recommend booking 2+ days in advance.
Los Arcos Lobby Bar
The colonial-themed lobby bar is the place to go for the best tasting drinks! We found the quality of the drinks, both soft and alcoholic, were of a better quality here. The lobby bar is incredibly spacious and makes a great place to relax with a drink, either late morning, afternoon, or in the evening after dinner.
Usually, the bar is pretty quiet during the day. However, if you’re planning on stopping by after dinner, try to arrive early to get a table. Many people go for a drink here before crossing over to the theatre for the live show at 9:30pm.
Top tip: if you’re a fan of Frappuccino’s, then head to the lobby bar, as it’s the only bar that makes them; and they do them very well!
Times: 24 hours
LA PERLA pool bar
The most popular bar during the day is the outdoor pool bar. It’s easily accessible and popular amongst guests who base themselves around any of the three swimming pools for the day. The pool bar staff are really friendly and can make you up a drink of choice within seconds! They have a range of different soft and alcoholic drinks to choose from, but we recommend anything with rum. After all, it’s Cuba’s speciality! We personally couldn’t get enough of their Pina Coladas. The outdoor pool bar has a swim-up bar area so you can access it from the main pool.
Times: 10am – 6pm daily
LA DUNA BEACH BAR
Another great place to grab a drink is the beach-front bar. It’s just a few minutes away from the main pool, but slightly quieter, and therefore, it’s usually less busy. It’s a relaxing bar where you can sit on the swings at the bar, or kick-back upstairs on the deck, looking out at the ocean. The staff are able to make similar drinks as to what they make at the pool bar. We really enjoyed this bar and it’s a great place to visit for an early evening sunset cocktail.
Times: 11am – 6pm daily
EL BOHIO BEACH BAR
If you’re looking to make the most of the stunning beach, then you’ll also want to make use of the beach bar, instead of having to walk all the way to the other bars. The beach bar is located on the top deck in the centre of the Iberostar Varadero beach front. It’s a great place to grab a drink before coming back to your lounger and taking a dip in the sea. Right next to this bar you also have a small snack station, serving up a couple of different BBQ dishes, fresh fruit and juices.
Times: 10am – 6pm daily
BAR STAR CAFÉ
If you’re looking for a mid-late afternoon snack after spending the afternoon in the sun, then you must head to Bar Star Café, which is located just around the corner from the reception. In this small café, you’ll find a variety of different sandwiches and cakes. The barista will also brew you an expresso, cappuccino, Americano, or another coffee of your choice.
Times: 9am – 10pm
One amazing feature of the Iberostar Selection Varadero is the unique event that takes place every Thursday, Cuba Day. The day is decidicated to every Cuba, from live music and dance, to food, shows, and a lot of decoration. On this day, both the snack bar and the main buffet bar are closed, as all the chefs work together to put on an incredible Cuban feast, which is located outdoor next to the main pool area. Foods include authentic Cuban fishes, BBQ, fish, paella…almost anything you can think of! They even have an authentic sugar cane machine, where they make fresh sugar cane juice for you. It’s definitely worth a try!
The hotel also brings in classic 1950’s cars and put on a show with authentic Cuban dancing and live performance. You’ll not want miss this, so make sure you book a hotel day on Thursday and don’t make any excursion plans.
Top tip: arrive early (before 1pm) to grab a table in the shade by the event. It gets really hot in the afternoon in Cuba, so you’ll want to enjoy your food without sitting in the blazing sun. You’ll also have the best view of the festival.
Compared to many resorts we’ve stayed in; we found the evening entertainment at the Iberostar Selection Varadero to be first class. The hotel puts on an evening show that takes place in the theatre, with options for both children and adults. The children’s shows generally consist of some dancing, whereas the adult shows are big theatre productions. The theatre itself is huge!
Shows last 45 minutes and start from 9:30pm each night. Theming of the shows are different each night and include Latin America night, Cuban night, Broadway and circus to name a few. The performers were fantastic and you could tell that they loved what they do.
Top tip: be sure to arrive before the show starts, around 9pm, to get a good seat.
There are various wellness activities on offer at the hotel that are all free of charge. We didn’t get to try all of these as there as so many, but the activities we did take part in were excellent.
Spa – The spa offers various treatments, ranging from nail treatments and hairdressing, to the usual full blown massage menu. Prices are very reasonable too. All treatments need booked in advance, so we recommend popping in to the spa a couple of days before your desired treatment to secure a space.
Star Camp for kids – Located opposite blocks 16 and 17, Star Camp is a the Iberostar answer to a kids club. It consists of a fun water play area with slides and a huge water bucket that will keep them cool in the blazing sun. The hotel also organises activities for the children next door to the swimming pool, so parents can go about their day whilst their kids have fun with the staff.
Gym – If you’re looking to burn off some extra calories on holiday and want to start the day off right, then the gym is the place to go. The gym has a number of treadmills, upper body and leg machines, a selection of free weights and yoga equipment such as mats and balls. The gym is completely air conditioned and has a cold water fountain inside, so you don’t need to worry about bringing your own water. The equipment in the gym is a little old, but it’s well equipped and you can easily get a good workout.
Tennis Court – Located next door to the gym and spa, the hotel has one large tennis court that can be reserved for an hour or so. Racket rental and balls is free of charge, but you’ll need to book your slot with the gym manager in advance.
Basketball – Next to the tennis court is a basketball court that doubles up as a soccer pitch. We didn’t try this but imagine that it’s booked the same way as tennis, with the manager of the gym.
Volleyball – The hotel organises fun volleyball games throughout the day, depending on who wants to get involved. The volleyball court is located next to the second swimming pool on the way to the beach. It’s a fun game to play, and a good way to meet other guests.
Table tennis – A table tennis table is located right next to the main pool area, just outside the booth where you collect fresh beach towels. Rent the paddles and table tennis balls here for free and enjoy a game of ping pong.
Salsa lessons – Another great way to experience Cuban culture is by learning their country’s dance, Salsa. The entertainment team at Iberostar organise instructed salsa lessons which take place next to the second pool on the stage.
Pool activities – From bingo and water polo, to trivia quizzes and aqua aerobics, there are plenty of pool activities to keep you entertained when you’re not relaxing in the sun. The activities depend on audience participation so some may not take place if the pool area is quiet.
Other useful details
Car hire – after some thorough research online, we concluded that it was best not to rent a car in Cuba. It’s expensive and there are currently issues with fuel shortages there, so we opted for organised transfers with our holiday provider and private tours for excursions.
Taxis – there were always taxis around the hotel, no matter the time of day. If you’re looking for a unique experience, we recommend getting a classic 1950s convertible taxi to get to and from Varadero town. A trip to town will cost you around $20.
Internet – internet is a massive issue in Cuba, but it has definitely improved over the past few years. Upon check in, the receptionists will allocate you a ticket with login details to access the hotel Wifi. You’ll be given a specific number of hours and will then need to re-charge your ticket at reception if you run short of time. Be sure to keep the ticket and speak to reception when you need more internet allowance. Wifi is free to use, you just need to re-charge it when it expires.
Wifi is available throughout the hotel common areas, on the beach and in rooms, but it’s stronger in some areas than other. We found that it was virtually impossible to connect when we were in our rooms. However, in other areas of the hotel, mainly the pool areas and lobby, the connection was pretty good.
Food – due to the ongoing food shortage issues in Cuba, we knew before arriving that the food wouldn’t be comparable to other destinations we’ve visited. However, we were pleasantly surprised by the amount of choice they had on offer. Common foods included chicken, pork, sausage, fish, rice, potatoes, vegetables, salad, fresh pasta and stone baked pizza most. We even had lobster some evenings! Some food items such as beef weren’t very common at meal times.
Language communication – In our experience, all staff spoke English, some better than others. I speak fluent Spanish, which made it easier to communicate, but you should get by just fine with English. If you can speak a little Spanish, or fancy learning a bit before your trip, then we highly recommend doing so!
Tour desk – if you’re looking to take part in excursions during your stay, you can speak directly with your tour rep or speak to the dedicated reservations desk in the hotel lobby.
Tipping – tipping is very much welcomed in Cuba. Even though the hotel is all-inclusive, tipping is something that we highly recommend doing whilst in Cuba, as the staff earn very little on their salary. We exchanged currency to 200 x $1 notes before arriving and used these to tip during our stay. We recommend tipping in USD, as it’s worth more than the Cuban National Currency and you can just use single dollar tips for things like drinks and table service, as and when you please. It’s much harder to tip with higher currency notes (5 euro, 5 British pounds, 5 GBP, for example).
Currency – After doing a lot of research online, the best currencies to take with you to Varadero are US dollar, Canadian dollars, Euros and British pounds. All of these currencies are stronger than the Cuban national currency and are the preferred currency for Cubans. They can convert it to a digital currency and use it in dedicated MLC stores. We took a mixture of euros and pounds (for tours), and US dollars (for tips).
We had such a wonderful time at Iberostar Selection Varadero and would 100% recommend this hotel to anyone who’s looking for a relaxing break at the best hotel in Varadero. The only area of improvement for us is the food, but we understand the difficulties that the country has in sourcing certain produce. Hopefully, this is something that can be improved in the future. We’d definitely come back here again!
Resort score: 5/5
- All members of staff at the Iberostar Selection Varadero were extremely friendly, and would always greet you with an,’hola.’ We loved how kind and genuine the staff were and could tell how happy they were to help and serve you as a guest at their hotel.
- The hotel was kept in pristine condition. Our bedroom was cleaned to a very high standard daily. The communal areas around the hotel were always spotless and the gardens were very well looked after. We haven’t been to a hotel with such neatly maintained grounds.
- Varadero beach is the star of the show. The hotel is situated in the perfect spot with direct beach access, and you’ll certainly spend a lot of your time here. As far as beach resorts go, there’s a reason why Varadero is #2 in the world on Tripadvisor.
- Whilst we thought that the overall quality of the food was great, we found that if we didn’t get to the restaurant early enough, the pre-cooked food would be cold. The way around this was to eat earlier or solely use the chef cooking stations.
- We would have appreciated better instructions from the reception team upon check in. We were given our room key and took a quick look at the map they shared with us. No information was provided about activities at the hotel, opening/ closing times of restaurants and bars etc. It would have been great to have more information provided, either verbally, or on paper on the first day.
That concludes our detailed review and guide of the Iberostar Selection Varadero. We hope you found it useful and are able to use it to help plan your upcoming trip. This fantastic hotel is ideal for families, young adults and couples of all ages that are looking for an all-inclusive, relaxing beach break in the stunning town of Varadero, Cuba. It’s excellent value for money compared to other Caribbean resorts. It also has enough going to keep you entertained for two full weeks.
If you have any questions regarding our stay or about the hotel in general, please leave a comment down below. 😊
By SusieAuthor bio:
I’m a passionate traveller that loves a sunny beach holiday, but also appreciate the cultural side to a trip and checking out undiscovered destinations. I’m the go-to Toucan Traveller for great holiday stories, cool photos and foodie recommendations.