Most of the hotels on Varadero operate as all-inclusive resorts. Still, there are a few options for those who just want a room and breakfast, and the ability to pick and choose where they eat the rest of their meals. You can also purchase a day pass at many of the local all-inclusive resorts for between CUC$30 and CUC$80, which will allow you access to their facilities, including meals and endless drinks.
In 1998, the Cuban government outlawed casas particulares in Varadero, wanting to steer all business to the official state-owned hotels and resorts. The ban is still in effect, although there are folks who will rent out rooms in private houses. Still, since it's not legal, they don't like to advertise or call attention to themselves. If you really want to find a casa particular, ask a taxi driver or tour guide, or walk around the area between Calle 13 and Calle 64 in the heart of Varadero's downtown, and you should be able to find something.
There are literally scores of large, all-inclusive resorts in Varadero. I've listed my top choices. In addition to the places listed below, good options include the Barceló Marina Palace (tel. 45/66-9966; www.barcelomarinapalace.com), Brisas del Caribe (tel. 45/66-8030; www.belivehotels.com/hotel/ES/home.jsp), Coralia Club Playa de Oro (tel. 45/66-8566; www.accorhotels.com), Iberostar Varadero (tel. 45/66-9999; www.iberostar.com), Sandals Royal Hicacos Resort & Spa (tel. 800/545-8283 in the U.S. or Canada, or 45/66-8844; www.sandalshicacos.com), and Sol Palmeras (tel. 45/66-7009; www.solmeliacuba.com).
The rack rates listed in this guide are actually the high end of what you might pay. In fact, you should expect to pay much less. Most of these hotels sell the bulk of their rooms to wholesalers and package tour operators, who in turn sell quite attractive all-inclusive packages. Competition is fierce, and it pays to shop around. However, as this is a segment of the industry that depends on volume, some resorts try to make up for the low prices by skimping on food and drink quality, and upkeep. So be careful: If you come across a resort not listed here at a deal that seems too good to be true . . . it just might be.
Note: Since so much of the market here is European, many of the large resort hotels operate either exclusively on 220-volt electricity or a combination of 110-volt and 220-volt electricity. Regardless, bring the proper adapters with you.
Stake Your Claim -- At some resorts, finding a chaise longue under a shady palapa is a cutthroat endeavor. You will either have to stake out your turf early, or find a local worker who, for a small gratuity, will save you a prime spot.
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.