Travelogue: Varadero, Cuba

If you are looking for a vacation of relaxation and simplicity, look no further than The Sun Beach Hotel in Varadero, Cuba. Come for the discount, stay for the irony. The hotel is okay if you’re realistic in your expectations. I’m travelling with my family. My mom repeats the same joke to everyone who will listen, “It’s a 2 ½ star resort. But you bring two stars with you…”

How apt. I wish I could say she was exaggerating…


My mom enjoys her time on the beach in Varadero. Photo by Adrian J. Miller

When I travel, it’s not the accommodations I pine for. It’s the delights in the neighbourhood, the pleasantries of the culture and the nuance of the environment that I want to explore. The Sun Beach Hotel is just a place to put your head down. I’m in Cuba. Who cares if the staff doesn’t change their tablecloths or have enough cutleries in the buffet all week? If the pool isn’t clean enough for you, there is an ocean across the street.

It’s a 2 ½ star resort. But you bring two stars with you…


A warning by the pool side at the Sun Beach Hotel. Photo by Adrian J. Miller

If the pool isn’t clean enough for you, there is an ocean across the street.

Varadero is really a resort town. There are more than 100 hotels packed into twenty square kilometres. About a million tourists visit this paradise every year, so I feel comfortable and at ease. My goal is to loosen up and unwind.


Blue vintage auto lit by a Varadero sunset. Photo by Adrian J. Miller

America’s embargo defines a generation here. They have a resolve that you can quaintly depict in their restoration of classic cars. For many, it’s simply all they have. For others it’s a lucrative affair. Cab rides across town are $5 in a yellow taxi. The cost is $20 in an old pink Cadillac going the same distance. Novelty is the word du jour. Never mind that the engines have been modified to run off diesel – it’s experience over authenticity in Varadero.


A local strikes a pose in Varadero by his car. Cinemagraph by Adrian J. Miller

A chance encounter with a pair of dolphins serves as an example. I’m walking along the beach and I hear commotion out to sea. Two dolphins are swimming amongst a gaggle of swimmers! The crowd is deliriously eager to get closer.


Commotion out to sea – beach goers approach a dolphin. Photo by Adrian J. Miller

I’m astonished to see the dolphins appearing to play with those in the water! Splashing and frolicking right up to the shore – they come within three meters of me. My first thought is they are part of a pod and are here for a game of chase with beach-goers.


A dolphin near shore in Varadero. Photo by Adrian J. Miller

After a few minutes, the excitement wanes and the dolphins are gone. I continue further along on my walk.

It’s experience over authenticity in Varadero


A beached dolphin brings the commotion ashore. Photo by Adrian J. Miller

It’s getting dark, and when I get back to The Sun Beach Hotel, the crowd has gathered now on land. A dolphin is in the centre of them. Lying on the beach. Dolphins are supposed to be in the water. It looks injured and a boy is keeping it wet. I learn the dolphins are escapees from a hotel up the strip. We are waiting for transport to take it home.


A local boy keeps the dolphin moist with wet towels. Photo by Adrian J. Miller

These dolphins aren’t wild, and they didn’t come to play. A caretaker from their staff is responsible for wrestling it from the water – a feat I’m truly sorry I miss. Visit Hotel Los Delfines – come for the dolphins, stay for the ignominy.


A Varadero stranger at sunset. Photo by Adrian J. Miller

There is much to see in Cuba. If you’re there to learn some Cuban history – Varadero is not for you. For a glimpse of the real Cuba, Matanzas is twenty-minutes away. Havana is two hours farther. My visit is for something else.


Máte všechno, co chci (or You have all that I need) – My Uncle spies his wife. Photo by Adrian J. Miller

I spend my days catching up with relatives I rarely see, and learning French from a family from Quebec. When we set out to enjoy the white sands and to have fun in the sun, I ask how we would describe what we’re doing. They respond, “nous marchons sur la plage.”


Geneviève on the beach. Cinemagraph by Adrian J. Miller

I suggest this tourist community to anyone looking to unhinge and let go in a carefree atmosphere. The local tourist industry is encouraging and the bright attitudes of other vacationers you will meet along the way are beyond infectious.

Nous marchons sur la plage.

Exploring the Beach at Sunrise


Sunrise on the Varadero beach. Photo by Adrian J. Miller


I make a new friend in Varadero. Photo by Adrian J. Miller


Veradaro Homestead. Photo by Adrian J. Miller


I survived the Sun Beach Hotel. Photo by Adrian J. Miller

As far as The Sun Beach Hotel is concerned?  It has a dated charm that quickly wares off. If you like your hotel having clean forks, fresh towels and a friendly staff – I wouldn’t recommend a stay here. Its two and a half star rating is dependant on the two you bring with you, after all.

Please read on to explore our humble thoughts on other places we visit.