How To Find A Hotel or Casa Particular in Cuba
We recently took a trip to Havana, Cuba last month and learned quite a bit about the country. It’s an exciting time for Americans thanks to slightly lifted restrictions for travel to Cuba. It is now super easy to go online and book a flight. Finding a place to stay in Cuba…now that’s a different story! Cuba is still very much underdeveloped and getting access to Internet is difficult. Compared to booking a flight, finding a place to stay can be a pain in the butt unless you speak fluent Spanish and can make phone calls to Cuba.
There are two main types of accommodations in Cuba: hotels or casas particulares
As of writing this, there is only one U.S. brand hotel in Cuba, which is a Four Points Sheraton in Havana. There are a lot of Cuban hotels, especially in larger cities, but the quality to price ratio is pretty bad. Hotels in Havana, for example, were charging $200-400 for a room. Yes…That’s in U.S. dollars!
Well that might not sound too unreasonable especially since you might be traveling to Cuba for a vacation but once you see what’s included, it can be a huge ripoff. Many hotels, aside from the ultra lux resorts, have bare amenities and don’t typically include breakfast. Don’t expect Internet at hotels either. There aren’t many hotels that have wifi and for those that do, you’re looking at a hefty daily charge. The Four Points Sheraton in Havana charges 110 CUC ($110) per day for internet! Suffice it to say, most $200 per night rooms in Cuba don’t even compare to the lower end hotels in the U.S.
For our recent trip to Havana, we looked specifically at the Four Points Sheraton Havana hotel as an accommodation option. The hotel was acquired last year by Starwood and became the first American branded hotel in Cuba. The biggest reason we looked at the Four Points Sheraton Havana was because we wanted to use our SPG points instead of paying cash. At the time of our research, the nightly point cost was 20k. After further research on reviews of the hotel, we determined that the quality was not worth the 20k points. Even though it was recently converted to a Starwood hotel, it still doesn’t have the basic touches of Starwood quality. The rate has now been reduced to 16k but we still wouldn’t spend our precious 17k SPG points there.
How to Find and Book a Hotel in Cuba
Hotels are the easiest accommodation to book. Most have websites that allow you to pay via credit card. This makes booking much simpler as you’re not having to deal with individuals directly. A good resource to find hotels in Cuba is TripAdvisor. Booking in advance is recommended.
For the true authentic Cuban experience, we recommend going the casas particulares route. A casa particular is basically a home that is owned by a Cuban person or family, approved by the Cuban government, and rented out like a bed and breakfast. Casas particulares can be rented out as individual rooms or an entire home. A majority of casas particulares are typically a room rented out by a local family. The family usually lives in or adjacent to the casa. Casas particulares are perfectly safe since they are regulated by the government.
Compared to hotels, casas particulares are extremely affordable. A room can usually run between $20-$60 USD per night. It’s much more with it than hotels in our opinion. Depending on the casa, the family can provide breakfast or dinner for a low additional cost. Home cooked meals in a casa will probably be the best meal you’ll have in Cuba. Casa owners are also well connected and can provide other services like reserving a table at restaurants, booking taxis, and even booking casa particulars in other cities on your itinerary.
Casas particulares are the best value in accommodation in Cuba and is, in our opinion, the only way to do lodging in Cuba. Not only do you get a chance to interact with local Cubans, you really get to experience true Cuban life. If you’re also looking for a visa reason, staying at a casa particular can count for “Support for the Cuban People” since technically you are supporting their casa business.
We stayed at a casa particular in Old Havana during our recent trip. Our room was basic and had all the things we needed, including air conditioning (which is a must!). The casa was also within a 5 minute walk to all the sights in Old Havana. Our host family were incredibly welcoming. They spoke some English which helped immensely since we’re not that great with Spanish. Our room costed us only $29 USD per night! Crazy right?! We even opted to pay 5 CUC more for a huge delicious breakfast. Casas particulares are an incredible deal and experience and we’ll be staying in one again on our next visit.
How to Find and Book a Casa Particular in Cuba
Compared to hotels, booking a casa particular can be much more difficult. Since these are run by local families, they don’t have easy access to the internet like a business would. Booking casa particulars can be done directly with the casa owners or through a booking agency. Communication can be tough if you’re booking directly since most Cubans don’t speak English and have limited access to Internet. Booking through an agency is a little easier since they might have English speaking agents and better internet access. Another plus is that booking agencies are have their own network of casa particulars and can recommend more options.
There are a few resources that we found to use to find a casa particular:
We tried a few but most of those sites are difficult to use and are not up-to-date with availability. Some of those sites also still require you to contact the casa owner directly. In the end, we used Airbnb and highly recommend it.
Airbnb does take a little profit from the hosts so prices for casas may be a little more than booking directly. We didn’t mind paying extra for the convenience of being able to use a credit card to pay as well as knowing what we were getting into with the casas.
Booking in advance is recommended but not required. Should you end up in Cuba without a place to stay, you can easily find casas particulares by looking for the blue and white logos. There are a ton of casas and you’re more than likely going to find a decent one to stay at.
Finding a place to stay in Cuba can be challenging. For the most authentic experience though, definitely find yourself a good casa particular. If you have any other suggestions that we have missed, let us know!