Havana - Where to Stay?

We've been away for just over six weeks and the trip through Cuba, Mexico City and New York was a great success - there should be lots to blog about starting with Havana! Click here for  all our itinerary and planning tips detailed in a prior post. We loved Cuba and Mexico City was indeed the sophisticated, fascinating place that friends had long been telling us about. New York was wonderful as always, and our rental apartment on Riverside Drive was great; as usual I just can't rave enough about Sabbatical Homes, which once again proved to be a wonderful resource.

So what about Havana? Well we loved the city and it's a great destination for independent travelers who are happy to walk and explore on their own, though I can see that it could be challenging for first time travelers or those who haven't done much research. The limited access to wifi means you need to get your information in advance, or stay somewhere you can get great advice. Because Havana is the hot destination of the moment many of the good hotels are fully booked by travel agents, government run hotels may be available but you only need to look at TripAdvisor to see why they're not recommended! Consequently you may well end up looking at casa particular (or home stays) many of which are also independent apartments.
The areas you'll often see mentioned for accommodation  include Havana Vieja (the old colonial core), nearby Centro (atmospheric but run down in parts) and Verdado (lots of modernist buildings) a  little further out along the Malecon or seafront. I'm going to start with a review of our accommodations which I highly recommend. For a first time visitor I'd favor staying in Havana Vieja though it could be fun to try two different neighborhoods  if your itinerary has you coming through Havana more than once.
We booked at the last moment and we were traveling in May which is regarded as the low season because of the high temperatures. We opted to stay at Estancia Bohemia in an apartment owned and run by the nice folks at the Bohemia Cafe. We found it convenient to book via Air BnB which was a little more expensive, but saved us the hassle of a bank transfer. Many of the smaller casa particular require cash payments on arrival and we favored using Airbnb so we could pay in advance.
The room was exactly as it appeared on their website, stylish, bright and comfortable. There was plenty of room and lots of hot water. The air conditioning worked well in the bedroom and kept us cool at night. We adored the location right in the center of Havana Vieja on the nicest square, Plaza Vieja which you can see above. Each morning we ate breakfast on the plaza watching the children coming and going to school. In the late afternoons we sat and read our books in the same place and enjoyed the life of Havana going on right outside out door. For us the location could not be beaten and though the flat was relatively expensive ($150) in relation to other case particular, it was superior in terms of decoration and service and for us far more desirable than an overpriced hotel.
One of the great advantages of staying here was the assistance they offered daily Here's what I wrote on my Airbnb review, "All the staff in Havana, including Annalise, went out of their way to help with logistics, answered endless questions, made calls for us and secured restaurant reservations. Their advice and suggestions made Havana far easier to navigate and we found this was key to our positive experience of the city. Thanks very much for putting us in contact with the Barrio Habana charity too. This is a great place for independent travelers, highly recommended!"
Given that wifi access is so limited it's hard to over emphasis how significant it is to have well informed assistance from people who understand what independent tourist might like. It was the folks at Bohemia who suggested  lovely restaurants including El Cocinero, Dona Eutimia, La Guarida and Cafe Laurent all of which I'll be discussing in an upcoming post.
We spent five nights in Havana and we could easily have spent much more time there. Let me know if you have any Cuba itinerary questions or questions about accommodation or neighborhoods in Havana. It really is a fascinating city and I'm looking forward to telling you lots more about our trip.


I'll See it All said…
Thanks for the tips. I would like to go soon but didn't know where to start. I guess I'll do research prior to arriving as you have suggested!!