Cuba Accommodations are Amazingly Diverse
Cuba accommodations are unimaginably diverse, just like the country itself. From luxury all-inclusive resorts, to old historical hotels, to private rooms for rent called a Casa Particular (like AirBnB).
Every type of accommodation is available, from very old to very new. The quirks of a state run society show up in Cuba of course, but every country has its own quirks.
You can always find a room to your liking, but what truly matters and makes visitors comfortable is the welcoming attitude of the Cuban people. Our governments may be at odds, but the Cubans welcome Americans and you will feel welcome regardless of your choice of accommodations.
My son and I stayed one night at the Hotel Quinta Avenida once, in the Miramar section of Havana. This is the residential section of the city with embassies and more modern hotels. Great hotel, with nice pool, bars, restaurant, etc., but it is a taxi ride to anywhere else.
Colonial Accommodations are my favorite. Rich in architecture and history. The buildings themselves are a treat. These are the most common type of Cuban hotel.
The little Hotel Camino del Principe, in historical Remedios is a delight. Only 25 rooms, but it is in front of the town square. See my page on Remedios for a look at the town famous for its Parrandas Festival.
Cuba Accommodations – Casas
For a true look at Cuban life, rent a room in a Cuban house. This accommodation, called a casa particular (or just casa), is typically a single bedroom with access to other areas. They are typically air conditioned, have their own bath and access to a common living area. The host often provides breakfast.
The key to this type of room is having access to the owner and their knowledge of local eateries, things to do, where to go. Even more interesting is talking to them about life in Cuba…what it is like to live day-to-day in this tightly controlled country.
I stayed in a casa on my last trip to Havana. It was located in Habana Centro, so you could walk anywhere you needed to go.
You will see lots of “casas” in little towns like Vinales. Example below.
History of Cuba Accommodations:
The complexity of Cuban accommodations is due to its long and complex past. Every twist and turn of its long and colorful past added another varied layer of houses and hotels.
- Restored colonial hotels are everywhere, from little towns like Remedios to Habana Vieja (Old Havana).
- Baroque influence resulted in an ornate Cuban Baroque style of hotels; these intricately detailed hotels are very common in Old Havana .
- Early 1900’s saw a huge boom in building from sugar plantation riches. More cool old renovated hotels.
- The mob influence on the 1920’s & 30’s and the Art Deco rage produced another crop of distinctive buildings and hotels, especially in Havana.
- The Revolution, the Americans being thrown out, the blockade, the austerity of the 1960’s; all this devastated the tourist industry and the entire economy.
- The Russian influence followed, resulting in lots of stark depressing accommodations. These ugly block-like hotels are the ones to avoid.
- The “Special Period” after the Soviet collapse left Cuba in shambles. Abandoned buildings were (and still are) everywhere. Calling this a period of austerity is an understatement, it was closer to starvation for Cubans.
- The 1990’s brought on a need for tourist dollars and led to a massive hotel boom along the coast. Causeways were built connecting keys and giant tourist-only resorts were built. Americans couldn’t easily come here but the rest of the world still could and did. These all-inclusive resorts are mostly 4 star rated.
- The latest (and I think greatest) development in tourist housing are casas particulares (private houses). The rules have changed on these over time, but essentially, people are allowed to rent out rooms in their private homes. This is the most authentic Cuban housing there is. Similar to our bed and breakfasts.
A Huge Array of Cuba Accommodations Result from this:
All-Inclusive Hotels, Resorts, 3 & 4 Star Hotels: Mainly on the new beaches (the keys that were connected by new causeways), but also in Havana. These are mostly operated in partnership with foreign companies to luxury standards. These are geared strictly to the tourist trade.
Historic Hotels: Nice hotels are found all over Cuba, not just Havana. These can be beautifully renovated old colonial style buildings; 1930’s Art Deco to 1950’s modern; to recent construction hotels designed for business travelers as well as tourists.
Budget Hotels: Try to stay away from government operated lower end hotels; especially the old Soviet built concrete block hotels. These combine the worst of both worlds; horrid construction and esthetics and horrid service. In addition, if they are government operated, their websites will be antiquated and a disaster to use for booking. It is better to go with the option below, casa particulares.
Casas Particulares: Cuba’s secret weapon in the hotel business. Privately owned homes where rooms are rented to tourists. This is a huge proportion of available rooms and a way to get a true feel of Cuba. These are similar to our bed and breakfasts. In fact some can be found on the Airbnb website.