If you are staying in Havana during your trip to Cuba, there is absolutely no reason to book a hotel. There are many other definitely more interesting options of accommodation, that offer you not only a cozy room but as well a home like atmosphere and an opportunity to see how real Cubans are living. In Havana there are thousands of casas particulares – Cuban homes renting rooms for tourists. The most popular Havana’s boroughs among tourist are: La Habana Vieja, Centro Habana and Vedado.
Before you start looking for a casa, decide in which borough you would like to stay. For our stay we picked Centro Habana and Vedado. Each of the districts has something to offer, but we have to say that Centro Habana was our favorite. It is less touristic than Old Havana and much more beautiful than Vedado, where old Havana townhouses give place to tall socialist architecture. While beautiful streets turn into busy roads.
To Havana we’ve been three times during our trip and stayed in three different casas: one at the beginning, one at the end and one in the middle as a stop-over on our way from Santa Clara to Viñales. Here are the reviews of our casa in the chronological order (the first and the last one are in Habana Centro and the middle on is in Vedado):
IMPORTANT BEFORE BOOKING
We talked to many different casas’ owners and we found out that the majority of the price that you pay for the rooms on pages like booking.com is actually a provision for third parties – neither page nor casa owners but people who agreed to manage the accounts. Cubans cannot themselves register on booking, so they ask for favors the people from other countries, who take sometimes even 50% of what you pay for accommodation. So, if you want to save money, and make sure casa owner earns the proper amount for his service, please contact casa owners via mail etc. Booking directly with the owners is the same reliable. Cubans are honest people and they deserve to be paid fair.
Casa Israel is located close to San Rafael Street and is within walking distance from Capitolio, Malecón, and La Habana Vieja. San Rafael is a pedestrian street in Centro Habana, filled with life. It is lots of going on there, so it took us a few moments to get used to it. Compared to where we came from (Munich) it couldn’t be more different. But after a while you realize that streets are beating hearts of Cuba and you’re going to love them. Living so close to Capitolio, Malecón, and La Habana Vieja, while still being located in Centro Habana, has one more plus: you can save on taxis.
The room we got was quite spacious. There was enough space for us, luggage and a playing corner for Zosia. The beds were comfortable and the room was baby friendly, which means you could relax for a second and be sure your small one will not hurt her- /himself. The bathroom was clean.
This casa is one of the safest, if you are travelling with small kids. No stairs (except from the one to the casa itself in the 2nd floor, but the door was always closed), no sharp edges, no unsafe balconies to fall down from. Zosia loved to run up and down the corridor and to look from the wide balcony / patio down to the street. The patio is beautiful, with lots of space, rocking chairs and many plants. Ari, the owner, speaks English and can help you with some tips about the city itself or organize a taxi to/from the airport or to the other cities. She got us a really nice deal for a taxi to Playa Larga.
The breakfast was really good and a lot. We could never finish everything. We had lunch and dinner there one time. Although the chicken we ordered was really good, I am pretty much sure, that for dinner we just got the soup, rice and chicken from lunch simply warmed up. Still for lunch and dinner we were charged separately 8 CUC per person. So, yes for breakfast, no for lunch and dinner, or at least if you have lunch, don’t take dinner or be specific about what you want to have. Nevertheless, it was a lot of food and we asked the owners to keep what we couldn’t finish for the next day for lunch. This was not a problem and they warmed up the food the next day, of course free of charge. For our daughter, Ari cooked and mixed chicken with malanga for free. If you are hungry during the day or the dinner is too much, there is as well an option of getting a sandwich, an omelet or a pizza in the evening for a very good price. (Those are the prices from 2016, so please update them with the owner).
Owners: Israel and Ari
Tel: +53 7 8633158
Mobile: +53 5 3835884
Address: San Rafael #312, entre Galiano y San Nicolas
Hostal Jenny Lourdes
We picked this casa because of its close location to the Viazul bus station. As we were planning to travel all the way from Santa Clara to Viñales and since Viazul does not connect these cities directly, we had to make a stop in Havana. And for that we needed a casa for one night close to the bus station. The other plus of the location is that you are staying close to Necrópolis de Cristóbal Colón. But apart from that, there is no other reason to stay there.
Our room was ok, but nothing special. It was quite small with beds slightly smelling like mold. Although it had a private terrace, we don’t think it is worth spending 30 CUC per night.
An interesting design with Native American (!) motives. Also the casa looks from the outside more like a castle. There is a very cozy patio outside, where we were having breakfast. The owners are nice people; they can help you with organizing a taxi from and to the bus station.
We ate only a breakfast and a small lunch there. For breakfast they have one kind (it is a simple breakfast) in two different “sizes.” I took the small one and Dario the big one, which included one more egg and two slices of ham, not worth 2 CUC additional. For lunch we got sandwiches and a glass of yogurt for 3 CUC each. (Those are the prices from 2016, so please update them with the owner).
Owners: Jenny Lourdes
Tel: +53 7 8338686
Address: Calle 18 #314, between Calle 19 and 21, La Habana
Casa Mirador de Concordia 457
Casa Mirador de Concordia 457 is located on the street Concordia, number 457 in Centro Habana. It is closer to Vedado than el Capitolio. You can of course walk to el Capitolio from it, but it is 10 minutes longer than from our first casa (Casa Israel). You have a similar distance to Vedado and further to Plaza de la Revolución. However the walk is really pleasant. Streets in the area are colorful and full with life, definitely worth a walk. As we were with our small daughter, most of the time we took a taxi, when we wanted to go somewhere. But the good news is that Alejandro, the owner of the casa, is a taxi driver, has his own car and has really good prices in comparison to others.
Our room was nice and clean. The bathroom is very spacious. We even had a TV in our room. This is nothing we would usually brag about but it was really nice to watch news for the first time since we’ve been to Cuba 🙂 Though we must admit 3 weeks without media was really refreshing.
Apart from the room there is a dining / living room with a balcony to the street. The owners of Casa Mirador are extremely nice people. Alejandro picked us up with his taxi from the bus station and after we arrived his wife Leticia treated us with a fresh pineapple juice. Then we sat together in the living room and got a great map made by Alejandro with all the possible places we should see and places we can eat. The owners have lots of sightseeing tips and could make perfect tourist guides.
Additionally, Alejandro is an excellent barkeeper 🙂 His cocktails are already famous and some tourists have been here already few times because of them. Apart from that, all cocktails we drunk were free of charge.
The hosts are as well very helpful. We could call our friends from Casa Coky in Trinidad for free and Leticia called the airlines for us to confirm on our check in times.
Our plane was leaving at 10 pm, so long time after the check out. It was not a problem for the casa owners. Since they expected new guests that were supposed to stay in our room, they simply provided us with another room that was free (with no additional costs). At the end of our stay, we got as well souvenirs for all three of us. That was really thoughtful of our hosts. Thank You!
Casa Mirador offers only breakfast. It costs 4 CUC and for this price it is ok. For lunch or dinner we suggest going to Paladar El Zarzad, located at Concordia 360. The food is delicious, it is ridiculous cheap (for a dinner for two with drinks we never paid more than 10 CUC and barely managed to eat everything), the staff is very friendly and among the guests are usually either Cubans or backpackers, but definitely no shmucks 😀 (Those are the prices from 2016, so please update them with the owner).
Owners: Alejandro and Leticia
Tel: +53 7 8625449
Mobile: +53 5 8080327 / +53 5 2644906
Address: Concordia 457, between Padre Varela (Belascoain) and Gervasio
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