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Accommodations in Cuba (Part 2 of 2): Recommended Places to Stay

This post is part of a two part series about the accommodations in Cuba.  For the first post, check out:

Part 1 of 2: Accommodations in Cuba: What’s a Cuban Casa Particular?

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I spent an enormous amount of time researching accommodations for Cuba.  It was no easy feat since we are selective about where we stay and getting answers from the hosts in Cuba was like pulling teeth due to the country’s limited infrastructure.  A simple question like, “Is there a bathtub?” could take multiple emails and several days to answer.  As a result, I wanted to share the accommodations we ultimately settled on to help you if you’re going through the same thing!

Our requirements for our Cuba accommodations

Since we had Traveler #3, I was looking for very specific things in the places we stayed. My ideal place would:

  • be quiet (no street noise or loud animals that would make it hard to fall and stay asleep)
  • have blackout curtains
  • have our own private bathroom with access from our room
  • have a bathtub (it is easier to give Traveler #3 a bath in a tub than a shower)
  • provide a crib
  • have A/C and hot water
  • have good ratings from previous guests (just in case we have issues, I wanted to make sure we had hosts who cared about making things right)
  • be in a safe area

Some of these requirements were easy to meet while others were nearly impossible.  For instance, there are really no such things as “cribs” in Cuba! My tour guide said that normally babies sleep in the same bed as their parents with pillows surrounding them. As a result, we ended up buying a travel crib (this one has been a lifesaver for us) and bringing it with us to Cuba.  Bathtubs also weren’t always that common so I soon realized that I had to forgo the bathtub requirement if I wanted to stay at a place with good reviews, too.

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Where we stayed in Havana: Las Mercedes B&B

Havana has the most options for accommodations. You can pick from casa particulars, hotels, and other vacation rentals.  Accommodations in Havana also have the greatest variation in price so it is worthwhile to spend the time to research options and weigh your requirements against what’s available.

Las Mercedes B&B is run by a husband and wife team who take pride in providing a two bedroom apartment in Old Havana for travelers. Their updated apartment is clean and more modern than anything you’ll find in Cuba and offers the basic essentials for guests.

I chose this place because it looked nicer than other options in Cuba, is centrally located, has A/C, great reviews, the host speaks English, and we’d have the whole place to ourselves.

What we liked:

  • The host was super friendly and just wanted to make sure we felt welcomed
  • The host provided a cell phone for us to use during the stay so we could always reach him
  • Clean with A/C and great water pressure
  • The wife can prepare breakfast (extra fee) for those who’d like it
  • There’s a small balcony for guests to enjoy the view below (it’s a small street, though, so it’s not like there are tons to see, but hey, we were able to get a sense for Havana city life)
  • One of the rooms has no windows which meant the room was quiet and pitch black (exactly what I’d need for a good night’s sleep

What to watch out for:

  • There are a couple of flights of narrow stairs to get to the apartment but the host can help you with your bags
  • There’s no real furniture in the living area except for a dining table
  • The kitchen doesn’t come equipped for guests to cook
  • One of the rooms faces the street and can be noisy with street sounds; this room also does not have an ensuite bathroom and has curtains that let in light easily
  • If you don’t book both rooms, there’s a chance you’ll share the apartment with other guests

How we booked: AirBnB

How much we paid: $188 for two nights

Do I recommend this place?

Yes, especially if you book the whole place to yourself.  You’ll get the privacy of having your own space in a country where most of the accommodation options have you sharing living quarters. Also, the host is so unbelievably nice that you’ll quickly feel like you’ve made a friend in Cuba.

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Where we stayed in Viñales: Casa Osvedy y Leyani

There are a handful of highly rated casa particulars in Viñales and this one is among one of the best. It is run by a wife in her mid 30’s who has lived in Viñales her whole life. She lives in the house with her husband and kids. Her relatives live right next door and across the street from her.  They offer two bedrooms for rent in a house that overlooks their farm.

What we liked:

  • Super friendly host
  • Located on an interior street that similar to a cul de sac so it is away from any street noise
  • The house has nice views overlooking the farm/valley
  • There are animals around the house that kids would love to interact with (chickens, pig, dog)
  • There are rocking chairs outside the room which is perfect for relaxing and reading a book
  • Nice patio in front of the room to enjoy breakfast and the view

What to watch out for:

  • The hot water is a bit tricky as it is limited in quantity so you have to shower quickly.  We had to have her show us how to operate it.
  • She doesn’t usually offer dinners to guests but if you ask, she may be willing to throw something together for you
  • You may hear roosters crowing in the morning
  • The room is pretty small. It fits the bed(s) and not much else
  • You’re not that close to stores or restaurants. We had a car so it didn’t matter to us, but the tradeoff for the peace and quiet is that you’re further from the main street.
  • The bathroom is tiny and there’s no sink space for toiletries

How we booked: http://casaosvedyleyani.com

How much we paid: 25CUC/night

Do I recommend this place?

Yes! Even though we were staying in someone’s home (and that takes getting used to), the hosts at Casa Osvedy y Leyani treat their place like a bed and breakfast.  They keep their front doors open all day, are around if you need anything, and treated us like family. Even though they are away from the town, their little street is very safe. We got a good night’s sleep and Traveler #3 got to get up close and personal with the animals on site, too!

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Where we stayed in Cienega de Zapata: B&B El Veradero

The two rooms at this B&B are right on a lake. The rooms are bare bones but adequate if you just need a place to crash for the night and have their own entrances and ensuite bathrooms. The wraparound patio offers views of the lake while you dine.

What we liked:

  • The hosts were very friendly and took to Traveler #3 immediately (so they are baby friendly!)
  • The patio is a great place to enjoy the sunset over the lake
  • Given the B&B’s secluded location, the room was very quiet
  • There were actually racks to put our luggage on

What to watch out for:

  • The room had a lot of flies and mosquitos (maybe because it’s by the lake?); the host gave us bug spray to help get rid of the insects, but we spent the first 30 minutes trying to catch all the insects.
  • There were also insects buzzing around during our meals so it was not the most pleasant way to enjoy a meal; they also have an indoor dining option but since the doors are always open, there were flies/mosquitos inside as well
  • It’s not near anything. It’s best for guests with cars or for those who want to spend time on the lake.

How we booked: I emailed them; it looks like they are available on AirBnB now but I’d suggest either emailing them directly to book or using a site like cubaroom.net to book.

How much we paid: 30CUC/night (it looks like prices have gone up 5CUC since then)

Do I recommend this place?

This place was pretty basic and the flies really got to us so I’m on the fence about recommending this place.  That said, the owners were really lovely and felt bad about the insects we encountered. If I couldn’t find another comparable casa particular, I’d give them another try. If you don’t mind sharing your room and meals with flies and mosquitoes, however, then this place offers bare bones accommodations with nice views.

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Where we stayed in Trinidad: Casa Colonial El Patio

Casa Colonial is a gem of a place! Unlike most casa particulars, this one does not feel like you’re staying at someone’s house. It feels more like you’re staying at a special inn or boutique hotel. It has big front doors that open to a beautiful living area with high ceilings and antique decor.  Then you walk through a big kitchen to get to their lush courtyard, which offers plenty of shade from Trinidad’s beating sun.

There are two spacious rooms for rent with funky off-beat decor that somehow just complemented the place instead of detracted from it.

What we liked:

  • Their courtyard is everything. I’ve never seen such a lush courtyard before, and the place looks better in person than in photos.
  • The hammocks and swings in the courtyard just beckon guests to sit down and relax
  • Their breakfast spread was better than others we had on our trip
  • They give you a welcome cocktail! You can order other drinks for an additional cost.
  • The room was more spacious than most
  • The interior location of the room ensures a quiet night’s rest
  • You can climb to the roof to get views of the Bell Tower of the Church of Trinidad

What to watch out for:

  • The bathroom is tiny. The shower has a curtain only so the whole bathroom area gets wet easily.

How we booked: http://elpatio.trinidadhostales.com

How much we paid: 35CUC/night

Do I recommend this place?

Yes, I loved how unique this casa particular is. Its beautiful courtyard provided a nice breeze and offered a calm oasis. The room was spacious and had what we needed. The window also had shutters that darkened the room enough for some good shut eye.

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Where we stayed in Trinidad: Finca Kenia

FincaKenia was my first choice for Trinidad but because it was booked on one of the days, we ended up staying at Casa Colonial. When we got to Finca Kenia, however, I could quickly see why this place was one of the higher end options in Trinidad.

Whether it calls itself a B&B or a casa particular, it feels like you’re staying at farm-resort (is that a thing?). The property has horses, a big pool, bars (it wasn’t staffed when we were there, though), and swings.

The six rooms are spread around the lot.

What we liked:

  • This B&B is big with lots to see and explore
  • There are horses on site
  • There’s a whole pool area with lounge chairs and a bar, which channel the vacation vibes – something that the other places we stayed did not elicit
  • They offered vegetarian options for dinner – kind of a rare find given that Cuban meals mostly consist of meat and seafood
  • There are shutters to close the window in the room which provides a nice dark room for sleeping
  • The bathroom was huge compared to all the others we had
  • The room actually came with soaps and shampoo, amenities that weren’t provided in other places

What to watch out for:

  • It is located in an area of town that feels run down. There’s a big gate/door to get into the Finca so once inside, we definitely felt safe, but the outside feels like you’re on the outskirts of town.
  • There were flies in our room. Side note: There were flies in most of the places we stayed but being that the room is on a farm, there were even more.
  • This may be the only “higher end” option in Trinidad so if you’re keen on staying here, you should book early

How we booked: http://www.fincakenia.com

How much we paid: 120CUC/night; we got a discounted rate because their pool was out of service when we visited.

Do I recommend this place?

Yes! If we go back to Trinidad, this is where I’m staying.  I would also spend a couple more days in Trinidad just so I’ll have the time to relax by their pool with some drinks in hand. If this place is booked, however, I certainly wouldn’t mind staying at Casa Colonial again since it’s a fraction of the cost of Finca Kenia.

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Where we stayed in Matanzas: Hostal Villa Mar

This casa particular is located in a residential area and provides guests with a private ensuite room with your own entrance from the yard. The yard has sweeping views of the bay and a staircase that leads down to the water below.

What we liked:

  • The view from the backyard is over the bay, Bahia de Matanzas
  • The sunset from the backyard was especially pretty; we caught it right after the rain
  • They provide cots for extra people (but the cot was flimsy so not comfortable, IMHO)

What to watch out for:

  • This place really feels like you’re staying in someone’s house as opposed to the other casa particulars where we felt like it was run more like a B&B
  • The door to the room is not a solid door. It’s a glass door that’s been tinted darker.
  • The hot water did not work at all when we were there and the host was nowhere to be found. The door to the entrance of the house from the backyard was also locked so we had no way to reach her.
  • The bathroom is tiny.

How we booked: our tour guide booked this for us

How much we paid: 25CUC/night

Do I recommend this place?

No. Of all the places we stayed during our trip in Cuba, this place was our least favorite. Service is important and the fact that we couldn’t get a hold of the host to fix the hot water was a big let down! I am actually surprised that this place got such great reviews; maybe they have started offering better service. During our time there, I felt like we were the random guest that just got relegated to their backroom for the night – definitely not the best note to end our trip on!

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That just about sums up all the places we stayed in Cuba and my thoughts on each.

I have to warn you, though, that if you’re headed to Cuba, you’ll have to lower your expectations about the accommodations. If you’re someone that absolutely needs a comfortable bed and creature comforts of nice hotel, you’re not going to get that in Cuba.  Instead, you’ll find old towels and furniture, thin blankets, and small bathrooms. Sometimes you’ll get soap in your bathroom and sometimes you won’t. Oh, and if you’re outside of Havana, be prepared to find insects in the rooms. That’s just how it is there.

You can assume most places are akin to staying in 1 to 2-star hotels where you’ll have the basics, but nothing more. The tradeoff, of course, is the opportunity to see Cuba as it is now, the chance to meet real Cubans, and the ability to get a snippet of what it’s like to live in Cuba.

Here are some more tips for those going to Cuba:

  • Whether a place calls itself a B&B or a hostal, it was all the same to me. They were all just variations of casa particulars.
  • All the casas we stayed at required us to call a day or two in advance to reconfirm our reservation.
  • Book early!  The best casa particulars only have a couple of rooms so you’ll want to book early to make sure they can accommodate you.
  • With the exception of the apartment we booked on AirBnB, we paid for our rooms in CUC after checking in.
  • Bring your own soaps, shampoos, and conditioners since not all places provide them.
  • Bring your own towels if you’re not comfortable using old ones.
  • The hot water at these homes is limited so try to space out the showers in order to ensure everyone has hot water.

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