7 DAYS IN // Varadero, Cuba

After a hectic four-day city break in Havana, we ventured East to the Paradiso resort in Varadero.

Having never spent a week on a beach holiday, this was a gamble. We knew our four grown up children would love it, however from our perspective (Sue‘s and mine) we were really unsure. A few days, no problem, but a whole week?

We shouldn’t have worried. It was brilliant.


 Magnificent 7 // Paradisus Resort, Varadero, Cuba

1. The beach

2. Join in the daily activities

3. Catamaran to Cayo Blanco

4. Make use of the included daily dives

5. Indulge yourself in the spa

6. Play golf

7. Take in the nightly shows


Getting there –

We had a transfer arranged from our Havana hotel to the resort. We were picked up around 11 AM and arrived at the resort at 12:30 PM. We were unable to check in until 3 PM.   It is that awkward period where you want to unpack in your room and head to the beach, however, you cannot. We went and ate at one of the buffet restaurants, although that was not what we really wanted to do. In hindsight, we should have arranged a 2 PM pick up and had a bit more time on our last day in Havana.

Where we stayed –

We had three Junior Suites in the main area. They were well appointed and a short walk to a stunning beach, swimming pools and all the amenities. We were allocated a family concierge, who was excellent. There is a separate Royal Service accommodation, which has a rocky beach in front of it.

To Eat and Drink –

You will not go hungry! There is a massive buffet next to reception. It has all the food you would expect it to have and a number of dishes available to be cooked in front of you whilst you waited. We only used this buffet once (when we arrived) as it is pretty soul-less and had most of the families with small children eating in it. There is a much better buffet overlooking the beach nearer the a la carte restaurants. We ate breakfast and some lunches there.

In the evening you could choose either the buffet or one of the themed restaurants. Unfortunately on the first night we could not book a themed restaurant, however on the other six nights we could. There are five themed restaurants; Mexican, Romantico (French), Japanese, Italian and Fusion. We loved the Japanese restaurant and the show they put on whilst cooking was fun. The French, Fusion and Italian restaurants were fine, however, we were not impressed with the Mexican fare.

img_7367View from the buffet area

 To note –

  • Star rating – Paradisus is a 5-star Cuban resort. In Cuban terms, where wages are up to 25 CUC per month, it is definitely 5 star. Prior to visiting I read many reviews where visitors complained about it not being a “real” 5 star. Please remember it’s Cuba, one of the few socialist states left in the world. We certainly had very few problems.
  • Gifts – We took a few things for the maid – small toys, UK toiletries etc and received a lovely note of appreciation as well as excellent service.
  • Wifi – As in Havana, there was no free Wifi. Wifi cards could be purchased from the reception and cost 2 CUCs. This gives you 60 minutes internet access and you can use the cards over as many days as you want.
  • Tips – This is an “all inclusive” resort. Speaking to a number of guests (a huge percentage from Canada) they were unsure whether to tip at every meal. We did not, however on our last day we did leave tips. We also usually left a small tip at the themed restaurants.
  • Shopping – There are a number of shops on the resort. Prices are as you would expect, more expensive than Havana, but then again you are a captive audience. The rum is good value.
  • All inclusive – Our two boys (mid-twenties) decide to have a Cubre Libre day (Cuban rum and coke). They started way too early in the morning and by late afternoon were sunburnt and found it difficult to find their way back to their suite. They both regretted it the next day.   We have all done something silly like this ourselves…

Magnificent 7

1.The Beach

The beach is stunning. There is plenty of shade and the palm tree setting is idyllic. Walking up the beach in front of the other resorts, the Paradisus beach is wider and has more space for sunbeds and certainly more palm trees. The weather was mid to high 20s Celsius – we were there in early December.

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2. Join in the daily activities

Four of us joined in the 0930 yoga session (1hr). Not having done yoga before, it was challenging. Having been a squash coach for many years, some of the stretches were familiar; many were not. The man (Dennis) leading the class was good and made sure that those of us unfamiliar with some of the moves did not overdo them. There was a dance lesson on the beach at 1230 (ish) which we did most days. Pretty basic moves (Cha cha cha, Salsa, Bachata) but great fun. It was mainly women in the classes however there were a few of us males who joined in as well. Daily Spanish classes were available as was scuba diving.

3. Catamaran to Cayo Blanco

This was an added excursion and not included in the price. It was excellent. There are two excursions, one including dolphin petting and one without. The dolphin version was popular with families with young children. Our (dolphin-less) excursion was terrific. We had 20-30 minutes snorkeling (we took our own snorkels and masks however basic sets are provided) on the way to Cayo Blanco beach. The beach was stunning with incredibly warm water. A buffet, including lobster, was available on arrival at Cayo Blanco with an unlimited bar. One other highlight was the entertainment team on the catamaran; they had everybody joining in and made the return trip memorable.

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4. Make use of the included daily dives

Only one of our group, Dan, did this and loved it. Dan has his open water diving certificate so could dive when he wanted. If you have never dived before, lessons are given in a swimming pool three days a week so that you can then do an open water dive. It takes most of the day (it’s a 3 km bus ride away to the dive centre) and a free 30 metre dive was included with the option of a paid-for second dive. In Dan’s case, the first dive was on a reef with lots of marine life, and the second was exploring a shipwreck. He felt it was definitely worth paying for the second dive, as anyone who didn’t simply sat on the boat while the dive took place. The cost of the second dive went down if you went on more than one excursion.

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5. Indulge yourself in the spa

While my son and I were off playing golf, my wife and daughters treated themselves to a morning in the spa. By all accounts it was bliss! As we were given vouchers on arrival against the cost of spa treatment, an hour-long massage cost around £45. This included access to the pools, Jacuzzis, saunas etc, which could be used both before and after the booked treatments. The staff were lovely and the whole experience totally relaxing.

6. Play golf

This was a 10-minute car ride from our resort and is the only 18 hole golf course in Cuba.  That is bound to change in the future. The American Du Pont family originally owned the course and the mansion. The 8th and the 18th holes run along the ocean and are pretty spectacular. In general, the course is flat with lots of palm trees and water hazards. I did not intend to play golf so did not bring anything. You can rent everything, and most resorts offer packages. If you think you may want to play, pack a few balls (the groundsmen offered a bag of 15 used balls for 10 CUC at the second hole. Much cheaper than the box of 3 sold at the club shop). Also take some tees. They were not precious about footwear and we wore our trainers. You will have to rent a buggy and as you will probably want to play early to avoid the heat of the day. Groups of four are made up by the starter. As a keen golfer, this was a real highlight of my stay at Varadero.

7. Take in the nightly shows

We saw three of these and they varied in quality. We thought the water ballet/dance show was very good. The magic show was much less so and the musicals night was OK. Notwithstanding this, they are worth checking out. The reason we did not see anymore is that we often ate late when the performances were on.

Lessons Learnt!

  1. Try to arrive after 3pm so that you can get straight into your suite.
  2. Look at the excursions and if you think you might do one of them, bring light portable equipment, eg snorkel, mask, golf balls, tees etc
  3. Make sure you have enough sunscreen. We took a lot of different brands and loved the ‘once a day’ variety. Also, bring insect repellent and something to dab on the inevitable bites.
  4. Do not start drinking too early in the day as sun, sea and alcohol in excess are a heady combination. It’s very tempting when the alcohol is so readily available and free.
  5. Book the a la carte themed restaurants a.s.a.p.
  6. Bring something for the maids.
  7. Tip at the end of your stay. In CUC, not Canadian Dollars or GBP

This trip has changed our views on beach holidays. It was fabulous!

Fun Fact:


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