What Happened in Varadero with Hurricane Irma?

By Circles Robinson

Hotel Tortuga in Varadero before Hurricane Irma.  Photo Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES – The extent of damage from hurricane Irma in Varadero, Cuba’s leading beach resort, is still a mystery as the authorities make the rounds to quantify the loss.

Some 17,000 tourists were at the dozens of different hotels in Varadero when the center of Irma hung close by for several hours late Saturday and early Sunday with devastating winds between 130 and 150 mph, before moving north towards Florida.

Many of the foreign visitors had been staying at other resorts along the north coast of central and eastern Cuba and were bused to Varadero as a precaution earlier in the week.  At the time of the evacuation the authorities were not expecting Irma to also attack the province of Matanzas with all its fury.

A Cuban family home in the town of Varadero before the hurricane. Photo: Juan Suarez

Sketchy reports speak of considerable damage while others say that some hotels are now providing service. The guests are reportedly making the best of the situation, many waiting for a flight home when charter and regular flights resume.

We have yet to hear the fate of the homes of Cubans living in Varadero and the nearby communities including the city of Cardenas, home to many of the workers at the different hotels.

One of the reasons there is so little information is probably the lack of electricity and Internet service.

We welcome any readers who were in Varadero during the coming of Irma or are still there now, to let us know what you saw.

Meanwhile we patiently await some hard data from the government as to the extent of the damage.

The beautiful beach of Varadero before the arrival of Hurricane Irma. Photo: Juan Suarez

7 thoughts on “What Happened in Varadero with Hurricane Irma?

  • Roc Barlovento has been our resort for the last 3 years. Adults only and just a walk across the street to main flea market. We feel its a best bang for your buck resort. We booked our Jan 11th 2018 trip in July. Wishing the people of Cuba a speedy recovery. Cheers

  • Hola …. As per my last message … Sunwing air called today and cancelled our trip because the resort ( Brisas Del Caribe ) will not be ready til November ish .. so full refund and we’re looking into another Resort at this time possibly the Roc Barlavento … Talk soon ??

  • We were in Varadero when the hurricane hit. We were staying at the Starfish Cuatro Palmas and the night before the hurricane, guests who were in the lobby were told to attend an update about the hurricane at 10.30am. Arrived to the lobby at 10am to find dozens of people getting on coaches-the hotel was being evacuated..no notification. So we packed and were taken to the Brisas Del Caribe. Was told that lunch was being served until 1pm and then we had to go to our rooms for 1pm and stay there until further notice. It was the last we heard from anyone from the Starfish/Sofia Travel Club for the remainder of our stay. We were put in chalet type flats at the bottom of the complex. They were not fit to put people in. Ours was infested with ants and I don’t mean a few ants, I mean infested-floors..furniture and on the beds. Water coming in through the patio door which wouldn’t close securely and no power for the next several hours. A few hours later, men arrived with soft drinks and a sandwich and a pre cooked burger…unedible. This is where we spent the hurricane, we were terrified the window would come in with the force of the storm. You could hear the plastic panels covering the wiring on the hallways roof coming off all night and banging into things. It was a truly terrifying night. The power went off again in the early hours, not surprisingly. When the storm began to abate at around 7am the next morning, we made our way back to the hotel. We put our name on a list to be moved to a room in the main hotel..and sat in the lobby all day, continually checking when we could be moved. The list grew and grew as more people made their way from the chalets to the hotel…all with the same problems as us. There was power in the main hotel as they seemed to have a generator. At around 3.30pm, we were given a room and we were one of a few. There was absolutely no way I would have went back to the chalet, I would have slept on the floor of the lobby first. The room was fine in comparison to what we had. The overall standard of the hotel is poor in general anyway, everything is shabby and maintenance is very low on their priority list, as has to be said for the Starfish Cuatro also. So we remained there that day and the following. People who were part of a tour group seemed to have representatives there very quickly to give them information, but we had booked directly with the hotel. I tried to contact the Sofia Travel Club, was told that someone would call me back…got an email the next day to day the Starfish was closed..(Tell me something I didn’t know) and someone would get back to me the next day. Still waiting…They literally just abandoned us in the Brisas and that was the last we heard from them. The food in the hotel was pretty dire to say the least. We just stuck to the basics and both of us still managed to get stomach upsets. The grounds had been extensively damaged with fallen trees and debris, however they were very quick to start clearing this up. The pools were still unusable with the dirty water. By the Tuesday(12th) we heard the main road to Havana was cleared and we left the hotel and travelled back to Havana. There was never any information in general available from the hotel, people were relying on hearsay and the internet and still absolutely nothing from the Starfish Cuatro/Sofia Travel Club. We met another couple on Wednesday in Havana who also left…they had been stuck in the chalets and the power still had not come back on by then. Some of the staff at reception were helpful, others were just downright rude towards people. Overall it was a pretty horrible experience, but it was made a lot worse by never providing information to people. I have since learned it seems to be a common trait in Cuba, but appalling from a tourists perspective. People can usually be appeased if they are treated with a little respect. Needless to say, it was my first and definitely last trip to Cuba.

  • pls share when you can. I am travelling to Varadero in early Dec and hope some normality will have resumed. I think to help Cubans travel should continue but of course, the rooms itself cannot be damaged without roofs. If things like certain beach huts are damaged, that is less of a worry.

  • I will be returning to Varadero to our usual resort at the end of October, and I have spoken/email/text many of my friends that live in Cardenas or Varadero and most have said it’s a mess of broken palm trees / garbage / hydro lines and some homes in bad shape ( like a scene from a horror movie ) my friend Glenda says 🙁 .. They definitely all agree it was the worst hurricane seen … Our resort we stay at is the ( Brisas Del Caribe ) about halfway up the peninsula and it suffered some damage to some rooms and lobby mostly and no power as of yet ( Sept 15 ) … I’m hoping to get some pictures sent to me soon of the resort and village … YouTube has some Post hurricane videos of Varadero worth looking at for those of you wondering …… See you in October Cuba ??

  • I have dear friends in the cities of Matanzas and Cardenas who I have not been able to contact since the hurricane struck. Praying to God that they are well and their homes survived this awful disaster. I have been vacationing in Cuba for many years and been welcomed into their homes and treated to lovely meals and visits with their families and neighbours. Nothing more fun than going to a baseball game in Matanzas with the “locals”. Even if you profess not to believe in God, take a chance and say a prayer for the wonderful people of Cuba!

  • Have many friends whose homes we have been to in Varadero, Montanzas, Cardenas, Havana etc. After 10 wonderful years of vacations we are looking for any information on the area as communications are down. Hopefully they all survived and we will be in Varadero again soon. Sending our Love and Prayers to all Cubans at this terrible time~

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