Varadero to Havana day trip – Everything you need to know
Are you visiting the beautiful beach paradise of Varadero and are looking for great day trip ideas? Havana, the Cuban capital is a must see destination for anyone visiting Cuba. Whether you’re a first timer or are returning year-after-year, the ever-changing city of Havana is a unique experience that has something for everyone.
Havana has a historic past that dates back to colonial times. It’s home to an abundance of colourful, colonial buildings, grand fortresses, bustling squares and a number of interesting museums, monuments, buildings and tourist attractions.
As Havana is only a 2 hour drive from Varadero, it’s entirely possible to see the city in an action-packed full day tour. In this guide, we share the best options for getting from Varadero to Havana, tour ideas, costs, and answers to all of your questions. Plan the ultimate day exploring Havana!
Is it possible to visit Havana for the day from Varadero?
It’s definitely possible to visit Havana in one day from Varadero. Whilst you can spend multiple days exploring Havana properly, you can also get a great feel of the city in a single day. It’s a popular port for cruise ships that visit for one day, but also for tourists stopping by from nearby towns such as Varadero.
If you set off from Varadero first thing on a morning around 8am, you’ll arrive at 10am and will have the entire day to see the sites. You can then head back to your Varadero hotel in the evening. Some tour options allow you to sample nightlife and return as late as 2am! Others focus on sightseeing during the day and you’ll be back in Vardero between 6 – 8pm.
In summary, you can indeed see many of Havana’s top sights in one full day.
How to get from Varadero to Havana
There are a few different ways to get from Varadero to Havana and vice versa. These are:
Classic car private day tour
In our opinion, the best way to get from Varadero to Havana on a day trip is by booking a classic car private tour. There are many tours available, which you can view online here. However, we personally recommend Cuban Compass Tours. We tried a few tour companies during our time in Cuba and these guys were the best by far.
A classic car private tour to Havana will pick you up at your hotel in Varadero, usually around 8am. You’ll then drive 2 hours to Havana and spend the day exploring a variety of amazing sights (view a sample itinerary in our guide here). You’ll have a personal tour guide with you throughout the day, with time by yourself to grab lunch and drink if you wish. You also have a private driver.
Private tours generally have set itineraries so you see as much as possible in a short amount of time. However, you do have the option to customise the itinerary a little bit. Want to see a particular site? They’ll make it happen. This is great for returning visitors to Havana that have already seen a few places and want to explore different attractions.
Private tours vary in price depending on the length of day and the company you book with. You can opt for a brief 6 hour duration in Havana, a longer 11-hour trip, or go all day until midnight. Private classic car tours are bookable directly with a tour operator. Expect to pay around $90 per person for a private day trip to Havana.
Group day tour
A more cost effective Varadero to Havana day trip option is to book a group tour. Most hotels in Varadero, plus your vacation travel operator, offer group coach tours to the capital every day of the week. The experience is very similar to a private tour, just with a group. A group tour guide will pick you up at your hotel first thing on a morning, departing straight to Havana after picking up other guests.
You’ll see a set number of sights in the city in a full day itinerary, which can’t be customised. Different group tours to Havana are available depending on your hotel and the tour company you book with, but expect a shorter 6-hour tour option, or a longer 11-hour ‘premium tour’.
We personally recommend looking at Sunwing’s or Tui’s group tour option if you’d like to book a group tour. Group tours start from around $55 per person.
If you can afford the small additional cost, we personally recommending going for a private classic car tour over the group option. It’s more intimate, you won’t have to wait around for other tourists and will see more during your day in Havana.
Very similar to a private tour but with 2 x one-way drives, a simple taxi ride from Varadero will get you to Havana in 2 hours. You can book a taxi from a reputable firm by browsing online here. Alternatively, head into Downtown Varadero and negotiate a price with a taxi driver.
A taxi is the best option for those that want to explore Havana themselves without a guide, with no restrictions on time or attractions. A one-way trip will cost you around $100. As such, we personally think it’s more cost effective to book a private tour with a guide for the day.
Technically an option to get from Varadero to Havana, but not one we recommend, the local Viazul Bus picks passengers up in Downtown Varadero and heads onward to Havana, with multiple stops on the way. A bus ticket will cost you less than 10 dollars. At the time of writing, the buses in Cuba are extremely crowded and locals struggle to get onboard, no matter the time of day. They can also be difficult to navigate if you don’t speak much Spanish.
We personally recommend going for a tour or taxi option and leaving the buses to the locals. This may change in the future as the situation improves in Cuba and tourism evolves.
There is one final way of getting from Varadero to Havana, the train. However, this involves a bus to get to the station and the train itself is often out of service, or takes a very long time. For a smooth, enjoyable journey, we’ve left this option off our list.
What are the best tours for visiting Havana from Varadero?
For private classic car tours to Havana, we highly recommend Cuban Compass Tours. As listed on their website, they offer the following day tours from Varadero to Havana. Each can be customised.
The following group tours are cheaper day-trip alternatives:
You can browse the top Varadero tour companies on TripAdvisor here. Most offer Havana tours from Varadero.
How much does it cost to get from Varadero to Havana?
The exact cost depends on who you book with, time of the year, negotiated prices with taxis, etc, but expect to pay the following:
- Taxi (one-way) – From $100 / €96 / £82
- Private classic car tour – From $90 / €86 / £74 per person (couple)
- Group tour – From $55 / €52 / £45 per person
- Local bus – $10 / €9 / £8 or less per person
How long do I need (hours) to explore Havana in one day?
As mentioned above, you can see a lot in a one day in Havana day trip from Varadero. The longer you’re there, the more you’ll see! It can be quite a long and exhausting day, so many people opt for a shorter 6 hour trip, departing Varadero at 8am, arriving into Havana and 10am and then departing back to Varadero at 4pm.
Other options include a longer stay, where you can have both lunch and dinner in Havana, see a show or the live canon battery parade at the fortress, then head back to Varadero at 9pm.
There’s also a third option, for all those that want to sample Havana nightlife. You can extend your tour to midnight. This will give you a good experience of the bars, or the popular Club Tropicana cabaret show.
For first time visitors, we recommend a tour than lasts until around 6pm, heading back to your hotel in Varadero for 8pm. That way, you don’t get back so late and can relax back at your hotel for dinner. It’ll give you plenty of sightseeing time in Havana, just without the added dinner and nightlife. Choose a tour duration that best suits you.
What should I bring with me on my Havana day trip from Varadero?
As you’ll be out for the full day, it’s a good idea to bring along a small backpack with the following items:
- Plenty of water
- Lots of currency – euros, dollars or pounds, plus some Cuban pesos
- A hat and sun screen – Sightseeing in Cuba can be very hot!
- A change of clothes if staying until the evening
- A form of ID
One day in Havana itinerary
To see all of the amazing you’ll visit on full day trip, check out our one day in Havana guide here. You’ll be able to see everything from the infamous Malecon promenade, to the Capital building, Revolution Square, old Havana, and some of Ernest Hemmingway’s old hangouts.
There’s a lot to see and do in Havana, so be sure to do your research beforehand to determine your interests and itinerary.
Our top tips for visiting Havana from Varadero
- Research the history of Havana and some of its sites before visiting. Whilst a tour guide can give you an overview of each place, having an understanding beforehand makes sightseeing so much more thrilling!
- If visiting Havana on a private tour, you can often customise the itinerary with a few attraction recommendations of your own. Let your guide know if there’s a particular place you’d like to see.
- Research restaurant options for lunch and dinner before arriving in Havana. Food can be hit or miss and reviews vary wildly. Note a few dining options down on your notepad or Google Maps app.
- Try to stop by at least one live music venue. Classic hotels, dance clubs and casual cocktail bars all have live music. Havana is famous for it!
- Take time out for rest breaks, refreshments and relaxation during your day. A full day of sightseeing in Havana can be exhausting work, so a quick break can recharge your batteries for the rest of the day.
- Avoid booking a convertible taxi or tour car for your trip from Varadero to Havana. It’s fun for the first 10-minutes, then it becomes extremely hot and uncomfortable. Make sure the car you book has air-conditioning.
- Havana is full of amazing, historic sights, but that’s not all that’s worth seeing. Take time to venture away from the tourist trail to see the ‘real Havana’ and how many Cubans live. The empty stores and decaying buildings will open your eyes to a different side of the city.
Thanks for reading our Varadero to Havana day trip guide. We hope we inspired you to visit the cultural Cuban capital whilst in Varadero. It’s a day-trip that shows you a completely different side of Cuba, away from the tourist beach centre. You’ll certainly have a day that you won’t forget!
Do you have any questions about visiting Havana from Varadero? Maybe you’d like to share your own experience of this popular day trip? Be sure to post a comment below. 😊
By RickyAuthor 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.