A journey through the top havens for rest in the compelling, culturally rich and endlessly entertaining heart of Cuba.
Folkloric vibes, music that moves the soul, a mosaic of colorful structures, and people that are so endearing you feel the urge to embrace strangers, have converged in the dynamic city of Havana, Cuba, making you want to settle in and stay for awhile.
As Cuba is still trying to figure out how to manage the influx of tourists from the United States, you won’t find nearly as many lodging options as you would in most other metropolises. But what Cuba lacks in traditional hotels (and don’t worry, there are still plenty of those), they make up for in a fascinating tapestry of casa particulars, which are like a mix of Airbnbs and traditional B&Bs, as the hosts often live on-site. The charm of this arrangement is that you get to take a deep dive into the culture by being the guest of locals, often having ample opportunity to ask questions and hear stories about the tangled past and present of this mysterious country.
For those wanting to first dip their toes in the culture, we’ve included numerous hotels in our guide, which provide almost all the amenities you would find in classic hotels.
Tips + Notes
*Whenever possible, pay for your accommodations ahead of time online, as most Cuban establishments can not accept credit cards from the United States on-site.
*Keep track of your hotel charges so you know what your final bill should be. We found a few surprise charges on some hotel bills, which were quickly removed when caught.
*In November 2018 each CUC was equivalent to about 1 USD. Check the current exchange rate before you go :)
*Some of these spots are super pricey, so we've included a more affordable option, usually in the form of a casa particular, for most of the following categories.
Best Historical Lodging: Hotel Nacional de Cuba
Hollywood icons, literary savants, mob bosses, and political heroes have been resting their keesters on the mid-century modern furniture in this national monument since it opened in 1930. As you wander the chandelier-lit halls of what is inarguably the most storied hotel in Havana, you’re met with a kaleidoscope of Art Deco, neoclassical, neocolonial Mozarb (Spanish-Christian), and Hispano-Moresque architecture – it’s a lot – but they make it work.
Although the 460-rooms are dated, the ambiance can feel more chic than shabby if you remember that you’re walking atop the same electric blue carpet the famous feet of Nat King Cole, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Frank Sinatra, Eva Gardner, Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell all trod upon. And if you’re a Godfather II fan, you’ll be thrilled to discover that the epic mob-kingpin-get-together scene in the movie (the one that ended in a fly-by shooting) was based on a legendary meeting of the same nature, held at Hotel Nacional in 1946 when the mob ran the scene, pre-Castro.
Enhancing the allure of these accommodations are the sweeping views of El Malecon (5 mile sea wall) and Bahia de la Habana (Havana Harbor), a large pool and fitness center and archival photos and paintings filling many of the walls. So if you’re heading to Cuba to be fully immersed in its historical aesthetic, vibrant culture and lush vistas, Hotel Nacional will be a score.
Tip: If you’re looking for something more affordable, but would like to check out this museum-like monolith, daily tours are offered to the public (with the exception of Sundays.) The pool area can also be enjoyed by non-guests for a fee, and the bars are open to all, as long as you’re dropping those (Cuban) dolla dolla bills.
Price Range: 180 CUC to 1700 CUC per night. (Be aware that the Internet is pretty expensive at $20/day, and use of the in-room safes cost $2/day.)
Food and Drink: Hotel Nacional contains four restaurants, including a luxury, buffet, Creole and cafeteria option, in addition to poolside food service. There are also four distinct bars to choose from.
Location: Middle of the Vedado neighborhood, in the center of Havana.
Bonus: The Parisién Cabaret show is presented in the hotel’s gorgeous theater for $30 per person (we advise skipping the dinner add-on.) This experience is high-energy and entertaining for all ages.
Budget Alternative: Hotel Raquel
Hotel Raquel (around $70-$100 per night) was built in 1905 and spent much of its life housing a fabric import company. This art-noveau gem is centrally located in Old Havana and features a charming sundeck with stellar views, and a massive skylight in the atrium that’s like an Art Deco wonderland of stained glass – I had a serious crick in my neck after days of staring up at it. The rooms and food aren’t anything to write home about, but we found that the price and aesthetics of the shared spaces made up for that. And they serve a mean mojito.
Best Budget Lodging: La Villa Teresa
After weeding through a seemingly endless offering of casa particulars, we landed on La Villa Teresa, a colonial-style gem located in Havana’s La Vibora neighborhood - one of the highest areas of the city. While the rooms are comfortable, the shared areas are what make it shine. With soaring, gold gilded ceilings, an abundance of crystal chandeliers, well-maintained antique furniture, eclectic tile work, and a vine-clad sunroom, featuring a piano and record player exuding the silky voices of classic Cuban singers, this home is like a hilltop paradise constantly reminding you that you’re playing in the glamorous, mystic and long-forbidden land of Cuba.
While the atmosphere is remarkable - especially for the price - the staff cinched our love for the place. Every request and question is met with genuine kindness and impeccable efficiency, and they seem intuitive to the point of anticipating your needs before you even know you have them. They also have a staff member for almost every service, including security.
We always felt safe in Havana, but if you’re concerned, La Villa Teresa offers 24-hour security and a doorman. In regards to location, the parks and architecture near the house are worth exploring, but it isn’t within walking distance to many of the most popular tourist destinations. This requires the obtainment of a car, which the staff can help you set up; or (what we recommend), hire a tour company to transport you.
Tip: Book early enough to score the Terrace Room, which offers the best views.
Price Range: $62 - $94 per night
Food and Drink: Breakfast is provided daily for a small fee. Brekkie classics are offered, such as coffee, (fresh squeezed!) juice, eggs, toast and fruit. They also have an extensive bar featuring vintage rums.
Location: La Vibora neighborhood, which is a 20-minute drive to Centro and Old Habana (where many of the tourist attractions reside.)
Bonus: The 360-degree views of the city, offered on the rooftop terrace, are some of the best in Havana. While you need to keep an eye on small children, as the balustrade isn’t too high, this is an ideal location for enviable photo ops and sun worshipping.
And they have FREE Wi-Fi!
Best Luxury Lodging: Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana
Standing at the entrance of the iconic Floridita, looking up at the glowing façade of Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana you’re drawn forward, knowing that an opulent experience awaits in the 5-star luxury hotel. Enhancing the allure are the pieces of art - framed in many of the windows – that are large enough to convey artistic mastery, but too far away to discern the subject. You have to go inside to solve the mystery.
As the name implies, these digs be fancy and exude a contemporary Parisian vibe, creating the illusion that you’ve landed in an exotic realm where Cuba and France had a hotel baby – it’s lovely. But when you reach the rooftop pool and sun deck, you suddenly feel as though you’ve landed in Hollywood, just with better views.
Keeping with their whole 5-star luxury thing is their spa that’s tricked out with eight treatment rooms, an indoor pool, a Finnish sauna, a steam bath, a cold water pool and a solarium. If you’re hoping to stay in the epitome of elegance, this is your spot.
Price Range: $630 - $1,500 per night
Food: There is food + drink to be had all over this sprawling hotel, with the Confluencias restaurant serving up an acclaimed breakfast buffet, San Cristobal Panoramic Restaurant specializing in Caribbean sea food, and the El Surtidor Pool Terrace and Bar offering casual dining.
In regards to bars, you can get your booze and tapas on at the Constante Bar (where you can groove to live music every night), the El Arsenal Lobby Lounge and Bar, and the Evocacion Tobacco Lounge where high-quality Cuban cigars and rum can be enjoyed while savoring views of Old Havana.
Location: The heart of Havana Vieja (Old Havana)
Bonus: The hotel is surrounded by UNESCO World Heritage buildings, making the area feel like a cultural playground. And let’s not forget about the free wifi (High speed! What what!) And the concierge can set you up with an airport transport, or a personalized tour in a classic tour.
Second Best Luxury Lodging: Melia Cohiba
With a compelling blend of South Beach and Habana vibes, a modern aesthetic, supremely comfortable accommodations and endless amenities, the Melia Cohiba provides a swanky oasis for those wanting to balance their sight-seeing with lazy days by a sprawling freshwater pool, afternoon family dance parties, and well-deserved, rum-fueled naps. Complimenting the polished interior are jaw-dropping views, as the hotel is parallel to the Malecon seawall and nestled in the downtown district of El Vedado (where you’ll find top cultural attractions.)
This place also brings the fun with live Cuban music and dance shows in the Piano Bar and Habana Café party room (that’s filled with 1950’s memorabilia – including an airplane suspended from the ceiling), and ample opportunity for cigar and rum lovers to smoke and sip in the Cigar Bar.
If you’re feeling fancy, you can stay on the executive level (creatively named “The Level”) for a moderate price increase. This level offers Miami-modern suites, exclusive check-in on the 20th floor, a very eager concierge team, access to the Cobijo Real Lounge bar, strange but also kind of nice luggage unpacking and packing services, snaz views (especially from the shower), and the big finale… complimentary laundry service. Bam.
And there’s free Wi-Fi for all.
Price Range: $270 - $470
Food and Drink: The breakfast buffet at Plaza Habana is almost always spot on, and usually includes live music! There’s also La Piazza, an Italian joint so good people not staying at the hotel eat here. The hotel also offers a poolside grill and a Mediterranean-style restaurant predictably called Med.
The six bars and cafes are worth exploring, as they offer drastically varying aesthetics, from uber-contemporary to old world Cuba.
Location: Downtown district of El Vedado
Bonus: If you really want to zuhzh up your trip, request a Junior or Master suite with a Jacuzzi. Few things are lovelier than a Jacuzzi bubble bath with a side of Cuba libre and a Cubano. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a sandwich in a bathtub.
Best Pool: Memories Miramar Habana
Because kids can only stomach so much sightseeing, having an awesome pool to return to (all most kids really care about) will up your status in their eyes from a total drag to a living legend. Memories Miramar Habana will help you out in the pool arena with a multi-level swim-scape that includes a paddling pool for the littles, and a sun deck and lounge chairs for you.
When your family is thoroughly water logged, get out residual energy in one of the six tennis courts, table tennis area, squash ball court, solarium or gym. Then recharge for the next day of adventure in one of their sleek rooms offering comfortable beds, and a hot tub on the patio (if you treat yourself to a suite.)
I sometimes feel guilty chilling at the hotel when we’re in a destination that begs to be explored, but a bit of that guilt is assuaged when we’re staying at a hotel that’s an attraction in and of itself (which almost all the accommodations on this list are.) And come to think of it, many of our best vacation memories have been crafted poolside. So relax in peace my friends.
Price Range: $430 - $730 per night
Food: An extensive breakfast buffet is included. This buffet also serves dinner. There is also a restaurant serving international and Creole food, a snack bar, and two booze bars.
Location: Miramar residential neighborhood. The only downside of this location is that you need to take a 10-15 minute cab ride to get to Havana’s colonial area.
Bonus: The hospitality is top notch, with managers Laura and Ronnie making it their sole mission to make sure you enjoy your stay.
Budget Alternative: La Rosa de Ortega Bed and Breakfast (described below, as it scored its own category!)
Second Best Pool: Melia Habana
This five-star hotel is very similar to its sister you met above - Melia Cohiba - but has more of a tropical than modern atmosphere. While this fancy pants joints also has The Level, live music, a palatial lobby and posh rooms, its claim to fame is the pool, which feels like a crystal clear (critter-free) lagoon that wanders through palm trees, features a children’s area, looks out to the ocean, and offers a swim up cabana bar. When you’re ready to dry off, but still want to revel in the warm ocean breeze, a grassy area beside the pool is filled with cabana beds and lounge chairs facing the sand and sea.
Melia Habana seems to want you constantly immersed in Caribbean vibes, as most of the rooms open to a jungle-like courtyard overflowing with lush foliage, and offer balconies (off of almost every room) with sweeping views of the water. In addition, the hotel features indoor canals (and a waterfall!) you have to regularly remind the kids not to swim in.
Speaking of balconies – something that can understandably cause parents of tots to spin into a panic – the railings on these balconies feel much safer than the definitely-not-regulation railings you’ll find at many hotels in Mexico. With that said, we found it helpful to move the outdoor chairs and side table inside our room anytime an adult wasn’t sitting on the balcony (while also locking the sliding door), to prevent the kiddo from accessing any climbing aids.
In regards to the standard rooms, they’re decent, but a little dated. The Level rooms and suites are more luxe.
Price Range: $220 - $360 per night
Food and Drink: Like most hotels in Havana, Melia Habana offers a good breakfast spread. Other on-site food genres include Italian, Oriental Fusion, a grill-centric eatery, and cafeteria. There are five bars.
Location: Miramar neighborhood.
Bonus: They offer a free shuttle to Old Havana, which is a 10-15 minute ride.
Best Convenient Lodging: Iberostar Parque Central
The Spanish colonial architecture of Iberostar Parque Central mirrors the legendary structures surrounding it, including El Capitolo, Gran Teatro de La Habana and the Museum of Fine Arts. Within this acclaimed establishment, you’ll find fully updated décor that offers modern comforts, while maintaining its old world charm. Unlike many other hotels in Havana that feature stunning common areas, but have drab rooms, the Iberostar Parque Central offers contemporary and colonial rooms whose grandeur matches the rest of the hotel.
Upping the swank-factor is the palm-tree-clad rooftop pool and Jacuzzi that has unbeatable views of the capitol and ample deck chairs for soaking in the Cuban heat. When you’re ready to escape the balminess, the sun-soaked, yet air-conditioned, main lobby has an impressive bar to savor an iced mojito or Cuban coffee while your tush sinks into a plush lounge chair. Energizing the two lobbies are nightly performances by live bands.
Beyond the exercise gleaned from nightly lobby-dancing, you can keep it tight… then loose, by utilizing the hotel’s extensive fitness center, before indulging in a massage at the spa.
Tip: The hotel has a modern and colonial section, so be sure to specify which you’d prefer when you make your reservation. (Guests can use the common areas of both sections.)
Price Range: $236 to $416 per night
Food and Drink: Gastronomy - the study of the relationship between food and culture – is at the forefront of the three eateries at Iberostar Parque Central, which include a buffet, Italian restaurant and steakhouse.
Location: Center of Old Havana
Bonus: Narrow, walkable streets filled with live music, outdoor cafes and art-filled shops are a short stroll from the hotel. Start your journey with a daiquiri at El Floridita and you’ll be good to go. The kids will also be pleased to find the hotel in close proximity to Parque Central – a great space for some tag.
Budget Alternatives: Cristo 34
Cristo 34 is a clean, comfortable two-bedroom Airbnb in the center of Old Havana. The host is super kind, responsive and willing to go above and beyond to make sure you have a positive experience (he’ll even help you hoof luggage up three flights of stairs!)
Best Views: Hotel Saratoga
While many of the Old Havana hotels we’ve listed have stellar views, Hotel Saratoga seems to have been specifically designed to offer guests vistas so extraordinary they experience a vivid immersion into the soul of Havana, without ever leaving their deck chair. Speaking of deck chairs, while many hotels situate their pool chairs to face the pool, Hotel Saratoga helps guests relish the views from the rooftop pool by having an entire area designed for worshipping the sun, as you simultaneously marvel at visions of El Capitolo (that is so close it seems like it’s attached to the pool) and the dynamic architecture of Old Havana.
When you pull yourself away from the exterior views, the hotel's interior provides colonial architecture eye-candy, massive displays of colorful art, and a lot of indoor palm trees, because why not.
There is a wide range of rooms, all offering super comfortable beds, balconies and unique aesthetics with pops of color, helping differentiate them from their competitors – there isn’t anything standard about these plush havens. In fact, the experience in these 5-star quarters is so awe-inspiring living legends like Jay Z and Beyonce have called the hotel home for a few nights. So if you have the moolah, and appreciate killer views, complimented by eclectic interiors, this place will be your jam.
Tip: The cars and people on the streets surrounding the hotel can create a ruckus, but the shutters in the rooms do an excellent job of muffling the noise.
Price Range: $400 to $1,445 per night
Food and Drink: They have three restaurants, including a poolside eatery offering typical pool food, Italian-style fine dining, and a restaurant with Cuban cuisine. Their three bars include a poolside bar, Bar Mezzanine (pictured in slideshow above), and Bar Anacaona, which offers a dramatic ambiance with carved mahogany and stained glass.
Location: Heart of Old Havana. You can walk to almost all of the most popular historical sites like El Capitolo, Gran Teatro de La Habana, Central Park, and the Buena Vista Social Club.
Bonus: Bar Mezzanine is an experience in and of itself, as its massive glass-topped atrium with soaring murals, checkered floors, and glamorous vibes makes you feel as though you’ve landed in a 1930s mobster flick. AND, breakfast and wifi is free.
Budget Alternative: See La Villa Teresa above – the affordable views are everything.
Best Big Group Lodging: La Rosa de Ortega Bed and Breakfast
This 1938 mansion is ideal for large groups, as it features ten bathrooms and baths, and a wonderland of common areas, such as an Old Hollywood-esque pool area, a large indoor Jacuzzi, overflowing gardens, a covered pavilion for al fresco dining, and a foliage-rich sunroom. As the house sits on one of the highest hills in Havana, it also offers spectacular panoramas of the city, with an especially impressive view of the famous Villa de San Cristóbal de la Habana.
As La Rosa de Ortega Bed and Breakfast is family owned and operated, these accommodations exude a warm and welcoming energy, making you feel as though you’re guests of a friend who scored one of the most charming homes in Havana. With exposed brick, high ceilings, delicate curtains that offer the “billowing in the breeze” feature, bright, eclectic tile work, furniture that takes you back to the 40’s and 50’s, and a much appreciated dedication to cleanliness, this B&B is a must try Havana jewel.
Tip: There’s no on-site wifi, but if you need your fix, the staff can direct you to a nearby “wifi park.” Wifi parks, a park with free wifi, are a quirky feature of Cuba where you’ll find hoards of people silently hunched over phones.
Price Range: $60 - $160 per night, depending on room selection
Food: They offer a nice breakfast spread (lots of fresh fruit and good coffee) for around $7 per person, and a reasonable lunch that’s a good option for sandwich lovers. Snacks and drinks can also be ordered throughout the day. If you want to eat out, the staff can recommend good restaurants within walking distance.
Location: This B&B is located in the La Vibora neighborhood, which offers a quiet and safe environment. It takes about 15-minutes to get into Old Havana by car (costs about $10 via taxi.)
Bonus: They can organize massages.
Best Modern Lodging: Paseo 206 Boutique Hotel
Industrial chic lighting, lots of white, and contemporary furniture offering splashes of color converge at Paseo 206 Boutique Hotel, creating the ideal oasis for those with an affinity for modern accommodations. And yet, these boutique digs are rare in that they’ve accomplished the tricky feat of modernizing the space, while maintaining its original 1933 soul.
The ten suites in this hotel are not just aesthetically gorgeous with Cuban artwork and Italian custom made furniture (depending on your room), but are also drenched in comfort with hypoallergenic king size beds and Frette linens. One of the greatest joys of this spot is that it doubles as an art gallery, displaying ever-changing collections of work from new talent, to acclaimed contemporary Cuban artists.
Price Range: $220 - $550 per night
Food: The Italian owners of Paseo 206 have created the on-site restaurant Eclectico, which serves quality Italian fare, infused with Caribbean flare, all day (breakfast is complimentary.) Don’t skip the artisanal gelato and homemade pasta (our favorite is the pumpkin ravioli.)
Location: It’s a short walk to the Malecon and Plaza de la Revolucion (a few blocks in either direction), and a 5-7 minute taxi ride to Old Havana – a ride that typically costs less than $10.
Bonus: This hotel is a one-stop-shop with free wifi, room service, laundry services, mini bar, tiny Hermes toiletries (that cheapos like us live for), spa, restaurant, airport transport and pet-friendly rooms.
Budget Alternative: Magical B & B by the Sea Havana
The snow white private room at Magical B & B by the Sea Havana (about $85 per night) is like a modern retreat floating above the water, as it’s located along the sea wall. The bummer here is that they only allow two guests (they make an exception for babies.) With that said, if you only have one kiddo, and they’re small enough to share a bed with you, we recommend messaging the hosts to see if they’ll make an allowance.