Two Times the Fun: Varadero and Havana

How to fit hammock lounging and city cruising into your weeklong Cuba vacation


 

Four Days in Varadero

Cuba’s Varadero casts a spell that keeps visitors coming back for more. One glimpse of the warm turquoise sea rolling up against an endless stretch of white beach will tell you why.

Decompress Here, it’s all about relaxing. Book into one of Varadero’s many gorgeous beach resorts—such as the Iberostar Laguna Azul or the Meliá Las Americas—then recalibrate to island time with a spa treatment.

Sail Away Looking for something more active? Charter a sailboat and head for the nearby cays. Or let the warm winds of the Straits of Florida fill your sails on a kiteboard with the Caribbean Riders Kite School.

Snorkel Adventure Head south to one of the best snorkelling and dive spots in Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. Experienced cave divers can explore the flooded cave system of Cueva de los Peces while snorkellers can float atop the natural saltwater pool with hordes of colourful tropical fish.

Trip to Town Take the double-decker Varadero Beach Tour hop-on, hop-off bus for a trip into town. About $6 gets you an all-day pass, and stops include the local flea market, Josone Park and La Casa de Al, where you can grab a cold drink on the patio.

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Three Days in Havana

After your downtime in Varadero, head to Cuba’s capital city. Havana promises a lot: music on every street corner, rum-tasting bars, hand-rolled cigars, fascinating architecture—and it more than delivers.

Arts and Crafts Visit the five plazas of Old Havana, each with its own architectural character, for a glimpse of the city’s roots. Check out the Museo de Artes Decorativas, a mansion filled with exquisite artwork dating back to the 16th century in the Vedado district. For crafty keepsakes, visit Almacenes San José at the harbour.

Go Cruising Catch a ride in a 1950s classic car and drive along the Malecón seawall. Let the time slip by while sipping piña coladas at the once-notorious Hotel Nacional de Cuba, where mobsters mingled in the mid 1900s. Afterward, try a meal at a paladar (a home-based restaurant) like Atelier in the Vedado district.

Culture Fix Take in the feather- and sequin-clad dancers at the longest running Cuban cabaret, the Tropicana. For modern salsa, dance into the wee hours at the Casa de la Música de Miramar.

Getting there: WestJet flies to Varadero three times a week from Toronto.

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