Varadero, Cuba
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Varadero Introduction

Set along Cuba's sun-soaked Hicacos Peninsula, Varadero may not be the country's most authentic spot, but what it lacks in heritage it makes up for with awe-inspiring landscapes and family-friendly pastimes. At the heart of the action is the beach – a pristine 13-mile stretch of powder-soft blonde sand dotted with vendors selling carved figurines, strings of brightly coloured beads and traditional straw hats from rickety pushcarts. The swanky Marina Gaviota provides a convenient launch pad for those who prefer to play in the water.

Hotels in Varadero

Cuba's top beach destination sees its Atlantic coastline teeming with upmarket hotels and sprawling resorts – many operating on an all-inclusive basis and complete with deluxe amenities such as private beaches, swish spas and a tempting array of on-site dining options. While a good number of these Varadero hotels and resorts are what you would consider high-end, 3-star properties offer a compromise for those on the hunt for a good deal. Meanwhile, bed and breakfast private homestays – the so-called casas particulares – present an attractive and comfortable option for particularly budget-conscious tourists.

Where to stay

Varadero is really just one long peninsula of Caribbean delights, though some of the plushest resorts are at the eastern tip, near the offshore Cayo Buba. Things are a little less frenetic up at that end, too, so it's worth taking a look if you're after a slightly quieter time. There is still a handful of high-end hotels and resorts at the opposite end, though you'll find most of the cheap hotels in Varadero here, too. Dining spots, antique stores, live music venues and a handful of cigar shops add a sense of buzz to the surroundings.

Things to see

Alongside its glorious beaches – the launch pad for everything from snorkelling to sailing – Varadero serves up a variety of green spaces that offer the perfect change of scenery. The Varahicacos Ecological Reserve in the east of the peninsula is small, but manages to pack a fair number of features into its 2 square miles – a 5,000-year-old cactus, pictographs and an ancient burial cave are just some of the curiosities. If you prefer your green spaces to come with a fairway, Varadero is home to one of the 2 golf courses in the whole of Cuba. Found on Autopista Sur, this 18-hole course offers club rentals, ocean views, dining and drinks in a 1927 mansion. Interested in picking up a few souvenirs? Skip the commercial malls and check out the colourful assortment of Cuban crafts at the town's open-air artisan market, Gran Parque de la Artesanía.

How to get to Varadero

Several airlines offer direct flights to Juan Gualberto Gómez Airport, though it's sometimes possible to save a few quid by connecting via Toronto. Once you've touched down, a range of transfer options including public buses and private taxis typically means you can be on the beach within an hour. When you've shaken off any jet lag, downed a cocktail or 2 and are ready to explore, swerve the regular taxis in favour of a more interesting mode of transportation – taxis in the form of classic American cars, rickshaw-type coco taxis and horse-drawn carriages are among the many fun ways to travel in Varadero.

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