If you want to take out a Hobie Cat, windsurfer, paddle boat, or sea kayak, chances are your hotel will have them, either as part of your all-inclusive package or for hire. If not, simply hit the beach and walk a bit until you find some for rent.
There are three main marinas on Varadero: Marina Gaviota Varadero, at the far eastern end of the Autopista del Sur (tel. 45/66-7755); Marina Dársena Varadero, at the western end of the Autopista del Sur (tel. 45/61-4448); and Marina Chapelín, Autopista del Sur Km 12.5 (tel. 45/66-7550). The latter two also operate under the umbrella name of Marlin (tel. 45/66-8000; www.nauticamarlin.com). At any of these, you can charter a sailboat, organize a fishing excursion, or arrange to go scuba diving. Moreover, the tour agencies and hotel activities desks can book any of these activities.
Fishing -- The waters off Varadero provide the opportunity to go deep-sea fishing (tel. 45/66-7565) for marlin, sailfish, tuna, snapper, dolphin, and more. Rates are CUC$340 for a boat for up to four fisherman. Non-fisherman pay CUC$30.
Fishing trips can also be arranged to the Ciénaga de Zapata area in southern Matanzas province. See "The Zapata Peninsula & Playa Girón," later in this chapter, for more details.
Sailing -- There are many charter sailboat options available at each of the marinas mentioned above. The most popular outfit, Seafari, Marina Chapelín (tel. 45/66-8338), has a fleet of broad and comfortable catamarans. A range of cruise options is available, from half-day and full-day cruises to simple sunset sails. Many of the sailing adventures make stops at the small, uninhabited cays off the eastern coast of the peninsula, including Cayo Blanco; these trips can include lunch on one of the cays, as well as snorkeling adventures on close-in coral reefs. Rates are CUC$63-CUC$75 for a full day. Many of these boats are outfitted with a bar or two and carry either a live band or loud, recorded dance music. Some boats head out for a floating sunset party or a raging dance party under the moonlight.
The popular Boat Adventure, Marina Chapelín (tel. 45/66-8440), is a 2-hour tour on small, sit-on-top motorized watercraft, or Aqua-Rays, through the canals and mangroves backing the peninsula. A guide leads a caravan of the small craft, which can hold up to two adults. This tour leaves roughly every hour, with a total of eight departures daily; it's CUC$41 per person.
The Discover Tour (Jeep & Boat Safari; tel. 45/66-8000) involves speedboating up the Rio Canimar, swimming in the Saturno Cave, visiting Matanzas, and off-roading in jeeps for CUC$73.
Scuba Diving & Snorkeling -- Most of the large hotels on Varadero either have their own dive operations or can arrange scuba-diving and snorkeling trips around the area. Scuba diving and snorkeling off Varadero is generally pretty good, although rarely spectacular. There's an assortment of sites, including a black coral bed, various coral reefs, and wrecks. True aficionados prefer the diving found in southern Matanzas province off the coasts of Playa Larga and Playa Girón. It's about a 90-minute drive from Varadero, and all of the dive operations here offer trips to these dive spots, an especially good choice if a northern wind is blowing and the waters are rough off of Varadero. If your hotel can't arrange this for you, contact Centro Internacional de Buceo Barracuda, Calle 59 and Avenida 1 (tel. 45/61-3481; www.nauticamarlin.com). Dives are CUC$50 and Open Water courses CUC$365. Two new dive centers have opened: Acua (tel. 45/66-8063), located at the western end of the peninsula, and Marina Chapelín (tel. 45/66- 8871), located at the eastern end of the peninsula. There is a recompression chamber at Varadero.
One popular scuba-diving and snorkeling site worth mentioning is the Cueva de Saturno, located outside of Matanzas, on the road to the airport. This large cave houses a large deep cenote (pool) that can be explored with a mask and snorkel. The cave is open daily from 9am to 6pm; admission is CUC$5, or CUC$10 with lunch and an alcoholic drink. Most agencies and hotels can arrange a half-day trip for CUC$30 per person including snorkeling at Playa Coral where squid can be seen.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.