| 4 min read
After hearing about the abundancy of tourist resorts in Varadero, we felt curious. Not because the large resorts appeal to us or fit within our travel style, but because we wanted to marvel at the mass tourism-fueled decadence. Leaving our operating base in Santa Marta, we walked all the way to Varadero and strolled along its beaches.
City with an airport
Although we didn’t plan on including Varadero in our itinerary, we still ended up there because our airline company TUI operated between the Brussels and Varadero airports. At the end of our trip, we still had a day left, so we allotted that extra time to Varadero.
Situated right next to the Varadero peninsula, Santa Marta is a neighboring village where everything is much cheaper. We found accommodations for 15 CUC per night, ate cheaply in a government restaurant and nearly overdosed on ice-cream for 1 CUC.
You’ll find some recommendations for accommodation food below in the section practical information.
The Varadero beach
Getting from Santa Marta to Varadero is very easy. Either you take a taxi for 3 to 5 CUC, or you walk there. After crossing the bridge, turn left and find your spot on the beach. And what a beach! Many kilometers of crystal clear waters, white sand, hardly no waves and not that crowded at all. It wasn’t as horrible as we had imagined. I even saw the charm in booking a little house (provided it’s far enough from the big hotels) and have some lazy time off on the Varadero beach.
Having walked along the shoreline for a kilometer or two, we spotted a guy selling cocoloco cocktails. It was time for a break! While Bart installed on the beach, I ran for the cocktail vendor. When I learnt he charged an exorbitant 5 CUC per cocoloco, I was about to abandon the idea. We’d always bought them for 2 or 3 CUC in the rest of the country. Given that no other tourists questioned his price, I take it that most people here don’t travel far. Applying some well-trained negotiation skills, I managed to get two cocoloco’s for 5 CUC.
When the sun started to go down, we walked a bit further where the coast was lined with big hotels. Given that nothing was as extravagant as we had hoped for, we ended up being rather disappointed by the ‘modesty’ of Varadero. All in all, I wouldn’t advise against staying there for a few days though, provided you’re looking for beach and sun time.
- In Santa Marta, a cheap and local place to eat is Super Machi. Food and drinks for two people added up to a bill of 7 CUC.
- If you need your dose of ice-cream, look for Delicrem, also in Santa Marta. A very large coupe ice-cream costs around 1 CUC.
- For Wi-Fi head to the Parque de Santa Marta
- Accommodation in Santa Marta averages between 20 and 30 CUC per night. We arrived without having booked anything beforehand, so we went door to door declaring we were looking for something less expensive. Fifteen minutes later, we found a whole apartment at 15 CUC per night.
- How to travel cheaply from Santa Marta to the Varadero airport? You can take the local bus from Santa Marta to Matanzas (5 CUP) and hop off somewhere halfway in Carbonera. There you’ll be able to find a local taxi or tuktuk driver that is willing to drive you the remaining 6 kilometers to the airport. If you’re up for it, you could even walk from there. We quickly found a driver who charged us 8 CUC for the ride. If you would take a taxi directly from Santa Marta or Varadero, it would amount to around 35 CUC.
- Grab a bite before heading to the airport. We walked around in Carbonera looking for food, looking for a way to spend our last Cuban coins. We were lucky to stumble into Alexis who was rebuilding the small eatery situated in his backyard, which was left ruined after a hurricane passed through. When we told him we didn’t have much money left, he said that was fine and we could pay him whatever we had. He and his family improvised a table for us and soon decked it with some fresh and tasty dishes, including crab. We felt blessed to end our trip through Cuba with such a beautiful instance of Cuban hospitality.
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