CUBA: Trying – and failing – to find some Cuban soul in Varadero

The last leg of our trip to Cuba was a one day stop in Cuba’s most exclusive part; Varadero.

Varadero can be found on the 20 km long Hicacos peninsula on the north shore of Cuba and is know as the resort town of Cuba. It’s even one of the largest resort areas of the whole Carribean. Because of that, it’s the place that draws the most tourists of all Cuba.

While this peninsula is filled with resorts and fancy hotels, we still opted to stay in a casa, namely Casa Bebita.

This was my least favorite stay of our trip. The bed wasn’t comfortable and there was a weird smell hanging in the bathroom. It wasn’t per se a bad smell, it was just unusual. The people were once again friendly though, so not one bad word about that. When our host wasn’t able to provide breakfast our first morning for personal reasons, we were allowed to go have breakfast next door, so that was just so nice of them.

While the personal service in a hotel probably won’t mesure against a casa, afterwards we sort of wish we had opted to stay in a fancier hotel for our last nights, just to relax for a moment and maybe understand the culture of Varadero a bit more.

We arrived late in the evening from Trinidad, so that night we only went out to eat something quick. Luckily we found a restaurant called Paladar Pequeño Suarez on our street so at least we didn’t have to try and navigate in a dark unknown city. When presented with the menu, we immediately realized we were no longer in the Cuba as we had come to know it the past weeks. Prices were more like we were used to back home and no traces of the traditional Cuban food. But it was tasty nonetheless, and that’s the most important thing, right?

For our only day in Varadero, we had booked a snorking trip to the Coral Beach and Saturn Cave with Varadiving. Sadly the weather wasn’t good at all, so they informed us that we weren’t going to be able to go snorkeling. We didn’t have to pay anything and it was cancelled just like that. So about this organization we definitely have no complaints. We were relieved they were more concerned with our safety and cared about the money.

 

But that left us with no plans for the day. We decided that hitting the city center, which consist mostly of Avenida 1ra, would be the most obvious thing to do. After crossing a couple of streets, we were immediately surrounded by tourist shops selling all kinds of souvenirs. There were many beautiful objects and paintings for sale so we did spend a big amount of time browsing these shops.

We also walked all the way to Parque Josone, which was definitely my favorite place of Varadero. That might also be because the weather was slightly better at that time.

The peninsula of Varadero stretches quite far – a bit too far to walk all the way to the end -, so to be able to see it all, we bought tickets for the Hop On Hop Off bus for 5 CUC. This ticket is valid for one day and has a lot of stops. We hoped to pass along the beautiful beaches and resorts this way, but this turned out to be a big disappointment. We mostly saw the entrances of big hotels but no white beaches. Even more, it made us long for the Cuba we had fallen in love with over the past days. Here is was all big business and no authenticity at all. I’m happy that I’ve seen the contrast, but Varadero holds absolutely no appeal for me. There was no Cuban vibe at all. This whole bus tour was more a means of tranportation between the hotels than an actual tourist tour.

For our last dinner on Cuba, we had italian food- because we couldn’t find any Cuban- at a lovely place called Castell Nuovo. Prices were cheap but still not like on our previous stops, but I definitely had an amazing dinner. Their Triple Castell Nuevo (or something like that) was the perfect dish for someone like me who loved Italian food but can never choose between the dishes. It consisted of half a pizza, half a portion of spaghettis and half a portion of lasagna. It was heaven. So while it wasn’t Cuban food for our last night, I won’t regret choosing this restaurant at all. It’s a definite recommendation

So in the end I’m very happy that we only stayed in Varadero one day and not two days as the original travel itinerary with SmartCuba provided. Of course the cancellation of our snorkeling trip and the cloudy weather didn’t help to make us like this place, but mostly I missed the lovely Cuban soul and spirit there. While I’d love to go back to Cuba one day, I’m sure that Varadero won’t be on my list.

Until next time,

With love, Ellen

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