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TRAVELING FROM HAVANA TO VARADERO



TRAVELING FROM HAVANA TO VARADERO

DRIVING FROM HAVANA TO VARADERO

So, you’re finally getting down to Cuba, and plan on spending at least one day at the world-famous beaches of Varadero. Although technically not against the law if it’s part of a cultural exchange tour, going to Varadero just for the sun and sand is “verboten” for Americans visitors to the island. The drive from Havana to Varadero takes two-and-a-half-hours, give or take. Bus travel for tourists is just as fast as a private car, unless the car is going well over the posted speed limit. While the road between Havana and Varadero is probably the best long stretch of highway in Cuba, it is still a road, and not a highway, and excessive speed is ill-advised. Besides all the police checkpoints that require drivers to slow to 30 MPH, there are usually many Cuban motorcycle officers doing speed checks, and the number of officers on the road increases significantly in the summer months.

The road hugs the coast for its whole length, and is one of the nicest drives in Cuba. After about an hour of driving you will begin to smell the rotten egg odor coming from the natural gas extraction and refining plant that the road cuts through. This was one of the first areas of Cuba to have oil wells, dating back to the 1920’s.

A taxi from Havana to Varadero usually costs between 90 CUC for a sedan, and 150 CUC for a van. The bus ride on a government bus is 40 CUC per person, and not as bad as it may sound. The only potential problem with the bus is the drop off order at the hotels in Varadero. The bus will usually start at the first hotel on the Varadero peninsula, or the last, and then work its way to the rest. If you’re on the other of the drop off order this could take over an hour. A shared ride in the famous Cuban public taxis runs about 5 CUC for a regular seat, and 10 to 15 CUC for a non-shared front seat. These public taxis can be arranged at the Havana bus terminal on Boyeros and Tenth of May Street in Havana, just steps from the Plaza of the Revolution. Be careful, some of these vehicles are not in good shape, and some of the drivers are inexperienced. However, this is about as real as Cuba people-to-people exchanges get on the island. Cubans are very open about their lives, and sharing a two-hour ride with a car load is a sure way to get them talking about almost any subject.

There are several private restaurants on the route, and a couple of recently opened ones that sell pulled pork sandwiches. The sandwiches are a good option if you get there early in the day, as they tend to run out of pork by mid-afternoon. The gas stations and government rest stops will do for bathroom breaks and to buy drinks, but the food is bad.

BACUNAYAGUA & RUMBA IN VARADERO

There are a couple of government rest stops between Havana and Varadero, but the Bacunayagua overlook, just over midway between Havana and Varadero, is worth a stop! The cafeteria at the overlook sells cold drinks, including beer and soda. The store sells the typical souvenirs, and they sometimes have live music on the observation deck. The view of the Yumuri valley and the coast is amazing, and should not be missed. It’s from spots like this that the lack of development in Cuba becomes so evident.

We offer some great workshops in and around the Varadero area, including snorkeling and SCUBA diving, tours of the main caves in the area, a Cuban flora and fauna workshop that focuses on marine life, and a unique workshop with the Cuban rumba group Los Muñequitos de Matanzas.

By Frank Gonzalez


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