To know La Habana (Havana) you must walk its streets, talk with its people and swing your hips to its music.
During our three weeks in Cuba, we were in Havana three times. We much preferred staying in casa particulars (similar to B&Bs/pensions) which offer opportunities to talk to locals and learn more about everyday life in Cuba. Casa particulars require cash payments.
Our #1 choice in all of Cuba. Elsa & Julio Roque (speak English) are welcoming hosts who take the time to talk with guests about Cuba and make suggestions for seeing Havana. They are well located, just one block off Paseo de Marti (Prado) (see map), keeping the most popular areas of La Habana within a comfortable walk. Hostel Peregrino is fresh, modern (without losing Cuban charm), spotlessly clean and well priced. Two room sizes. Each room has private bathroom, small fridge and air-conditioning. Rooms have both 110V and 220V outlets. Larger rooms have balconies. Common rooms are comfortably inviting. Meals are plentiful, well priced and tasty. Beer, soft drinks and water are available for purchase. They kindly accommodated our request to invite four friends for dinner and it was enjoyed by all. If they are full for the dates you want they can usually arrange other rooms/apartments close at hand.
Contact: email: firstname.lastname@example.org
tel: 537 860 1257, 537 861 8027
Address: Consulado No 152 1st Floor, between Colon & Trocadero, Habana 10200
Plaza Hotel is centrally located in La Habana one block off Paseo de Marti, next to Parque Central and two blocks from the Capitol Building. (see map) Over a hundred years old, the once grand hotel is showing it’s age. The lobby and public areas have had the most updating and staff attention while guest rooms are without character (except for the shower curtain) and in need of attention. Cleanliness is adequate if you are not too picky. This hotel is used by tour groups. There is a money exchange “Cadeca” in the lobby. Bar prices are high (including water) but there is a mercado within three blocks.
La Case De Ana and other casa particulars
La Casa de Ana has been featured in Lonely Planet, is posted on TripAdvisor, have their own web site and an email from which they answer inquiries promptly. Ana and Pepe speak English, are excellent hosts and seem to be able to solve most problems presented to them from getting bus tickets to finding rooms elsewhere in Cuba. They were full for the dates we had requested so Ana arranged for a room at La Casa de Diana. When we arrived the newly renovated room was a few days away from being finished so they had arranged for us to stay at La Casa de Mary (across the street). Tony speaks English. These places are owned by family members and close friends of Ana and Pepe. Even though we stayed at La Casa de Mary, we had a very good dinner at Ana’s.
Pepe thankfully helped us with bus tickets to Vinales, had he not we would have missed the trip as there were only 3 tickets left for the day we wanted to go. NOTE: Vinales bus tickets, to and from, should be booked in advance.
These casa particulars are closer to the ViaZul long distance bus station and Revolution Square than those in Centro Habana.
La Casa de Ana
tel: +537 833 5128
La Casa de Diana (Villaseca)
tel: +537 830 1104
La Casa de Mary
tel: +537 830 1933
SIGHTSEEING IN HAVANA
Lonely Planet has written walking tours for Habana Vieja and Centro Habana that give the flexibility to linger at sights which interest you and allow you move on from those which don’t.
There are times when it is best to put the guide book away and just get “lost” down the narrow back streets where you will discover more of this fascinating city beyond it’s touristy landmarks and see the “real” Havana. We highly recommend getting “lost”.
FOOD & DRINK IN HAVANA
For decades Cuba has been criticized for its bland and unimaginative food. Other than street pizzas, Cubans tend to eat at home … mostly for economic reasons. When Cuba reopened it’s doors to tourist in 1997 and began allowing casa particulars (similar to B&Bs) visitors to this country had an opportunity to enjoy home cooked meals. Some of Cubas best and most reasonably priced meals can be enjoyed in casa particulars. For dinners and lunches the choice is usually chicken, pork, fish or vegetarian.
Breakfasts, Lunches & Dinners: In Vinales we had breakfast and dinners at Villa Basita which were tasty and always plentiful; so much so that we only had a light snack mid-day. After touring the island for three weeks we rated Basita’s chicken the best in Cuba.
Water: Drinking water in Cuba, for visitors, should be bottled. Most Cubans boil the water they use. At Villa Basita guests are treated to complimentary bottled water.
Drinks: Cuba is famous for it’s rum. Individual purchased drinks are tourist priced. Buying a bottles of rum and mix at a bar and mixing your own is common in Cuba. Beer brands ‘Bucanero’ and its lighter version ‘Cristal’ are the two most popular beer offered. A great people watching place with reasonably priced individual drinks in Vinales is a little bar with outside tables on the north-west corner across from church square.
Snacks: Pop, chips and cookies are luxury items and are sold in Cuban Convertible pesos (CUC$) – the “tourist pesos”. National pesos (CUP) which you can get at a Cadeca (change booth) – CUC$1 = 24 national pesos. You can buy local goods like street pizza for around 45¢ US, a fresh loaf of bread (approx 12¢), ice cream cone (approx 7¢) or a glass of sugar cane juice (approx 8¢).
GETTING AROUND HAVANA
An easy, comfortable and inexpensive way to go between Havana and Vinales is by ViaZul Bus. These buses are equipped with toilet and air conditioning. Two trips per day book up ahead of time so make sure to buy your ticket at least the day before departure. The trip will take 3.5 – 4 hours and cost approximately CUC$12.