When deciding on where to stay in Havana, there’s the hotel route, or for a more authentic experience, you can book a casa particular.

You can save a lot of money by picking the latter. While Airbnb may be new to Cuba, the Cuban people have been renting our their homes for extra monthly income for ages; it is perfectly safe and normal.

Hotels

The upside to staying in a hotel:

  1. Mingle with other travelers
  2. Access to the internet (although limited)
  3. A concierge who can help set up reservations
  4. Onsite bar (some are 24/7)
  5. Free Breakfast Included
  6. Other amenities

Hotels in Havana are not cheap, and they book up fast! The demand for rooms in Cuba right now is overwhelming, with not enough hotel rooms for the influx of travelers.

By doing a simple Google search, I kept finding these hotels as the best in Havana:

  1. Hotel Nacional de Cuba
  2. Hotel Saratoga
  3. Hotel Floridita
  4. Iberostar Parque Central
  5. Hotel Santa Isabel
  6. Hotel Raquel

We figured we’d want to be right in the action; be able to wake up and walk right out into Old Havana, so we spent three nights in Hotel Santa Isabel (pictured above).

Hotel Santa Isabel has an amazing terrace adjacent to each room!

Hotel Santa Isabel is centrally located by the beautiful Plaza de Armas square right in Old Havana; the Spanish colonial building once was a palace. The 27 rooms each have a terrace either facing the lively square or the ocean. The bar is open 24/7 downstairs, free breakfast included, live music in the lobby on certain days, air conditioning, in-room safes, hot water, and a prime location.

The rooms at Hotel Santa Isabel
The bathroom at Hotel Santa Isabel

 

We absolutely loved Hotel Santa Isabel! I went to Cuba expecting things to be rundown and not to get all the amenities we are used to; I was pleasantly surprised that this hotel had it ALL. But it wasn’t cheap… at $300 a night.

View from our room of Plaza de Armas Square

We then spent two nights at Hotel Florida, this hotel is literally in the heart of Old Havana, on the most popular street in the area, Calle Opisbo. Our room had a balcony out to the street which was so loud at ALL times of the day. Especially at 8 am when the construction commenced and they started drilling the cement.

Balcony from our room at Hotel Florida

The lobby area is beautiful but was always overflowing with people stopping in to find directions or use the wifi. While many people come here to listen to live music at the piano bar at night, it’s fun to visit, but I’d prefer somewhere a little quieter to sleep. We were able to book this hotel last minute for $170 a night, which was on the cheaper side for a nicer hotel in Old Havana.

View of the always busy and loud street below!

We spent quite a bit of time frequenting the bar area at Hotel Saratoga, for being a more upscale hotel the bar pricing was pretty reasonable. The hotels claim to fame is Jay-Z and Beyonce stayed here while visiting Cuba a few years back. If you are looking to splurge while in Havana, this is the perfect place! Rooms here start at around $500 a night.

The lobby bar at Hotel Saratoga
Bar Mezzanine at Hotel Saratoga

Otherwise, you can easily drop by and grab a drink at the lobby bar or (if it’s open) the rooftop pool bar with a magnificent skyline view of Havana.

Old Havana is where all the tourists flock to, so expect it to be overpriced, crowded, and getting ripped off on everything. Staying outside of Old Havana you can get much more for your money.

Casa Particulars

The advantages of staying in a casa particular:

  1. More authentic experience
  2. Much cheaper
  3. Many of them come with a homecooked breakfast option (usually for a couple of dollars a day)
  4. Usually outside of the high traffic tourist areas
  5. Interacting with a Cuban family on a daily basis

Casa particulars can range from $30 to $150 depending on size and location. While you can book in advance through Airbnb, it’s also pretty normal for people to just book once they arrive.

All over Cuba people open up their homes as a means to make extra money, they usually come equipt with towels, clean bedding, water bottles, a mini fridge, and many offer breakfast or airport pickup for a small extra fee.

Finding air conditioning can be tricky at casa particulars, so just be sure to check before booking. Getting the internet is also most likely not an option, but your host will be able to point you towards the closest cafe/wifi spot.

The advantage to booking through Airbnb is to check the reviews and see photos; also you don’t have to set aside cash to pay in person once you arrive. But believe me when I say you can easily find a place once you arrive just look around for the houses marked Arrendador Divisa.

Location

I would highly recommend staying in Miramar, Central Havana, or Vedado. Old Havana is breathtaking, but it’s crowded and busy with tourists. You’ll get a more authentic and relaxing experience staying outside of it.

Next up, let’s get to the fun stuff and talk about eating and drinking in Havana!

 

 

 

 

Jenny Habdas
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