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For half of a century, Cuba was virtually off-limits to Americans, so it’s no wonder why travelers have been heading to the Caribbean nation in droves since laws were recently relaxed. A paradoxical city —where a crumbling building can be found next to a slick new restaurant — Havana will likely be your first and last stop in Cuba. Visitors should bear in mind the island’s hospitality industry is still catching up to the expectations of global tourism, so bring your patience and an easy-going attitude. That said, from cozy 'casa particulars' to neoclassical grand dames, here are a handful of Havana's best hotels.
Best Overall: Hotel Saratoga
Hotel Saratoga is one of few in Havana to meet a global standard of luxury and service. Located diagonally across from the iconic landmark El Capitolio — Havana’s answer to the White House — the historic, elegant 19th-century building captures the essence of golden-era Cuba. It was a hub for artists and other elites until the 1960s when it fell into ruin under the communist regime. But in 2005, it came to open its doors again following a multi-million-dollar renovation.
Hotel Saratoga offers modern conveniences many Havana hotels don’t, like air conditioning and internet, and the rooms are tastefully appointed. The highlight of the hotel, however, is the rooftop terrace. With its pool and direct view of El Capitolio, it’s the perfect way to end a day of sightseeing in Havana.
Best Budget: Casa 1932
Havana is famous for its ‘casa particulars,’ family homes transformed into B&Bs back when government restrictions prevented Cubans from owning businesses. One such example is Casa 1932, a cozy property decorated in the style of a 1930s Havana residence, complete with antiques like old gramophones and gaming chips from a pre-revolution casino. A block back from the Malecon (Havana’s famous sea wall where locals and tourists gather to people watch at sunset) and a 10-minute walk from the heart of Old Havana, Casa 1932 is in a quiet location, but still close to the action. Owner Luis prides himself on being a warm host with helpful insider’s knowledge of the city. Expect clean rooms, air-conditioning and daily breakfast and housekeeping.
Best Boutique: Chez Nous
Another standout casa particular, Chez Nous feels like you're staying at a friend’s home. Made up of two buildings opposite each other, Chez Nous rests just off of Plaza Vieja, one of Havana’s thriving public squares, so hotel guests are within easy reach of the city's best sights. Like a time-capsule of pre-revolution Havana, the comfortable rooms are decorated with chandeliers and Art Deco furniture, and feature French doors and brightly tiled floors. They also have air-conditioning and a bar fridge, but note that Wi-Fi is only available in the common areas. The rooftop terrace makes for a wonderful spot to relax. Chez Nous’s owner and staff are friendly, attentive and keep the property immaculately clean. Some rooms share a bathroom, so if you’d rather have your own, be sure to clarify when you make your reservation. A hearty complimentary breakfast is served daily.
Best for Families: Hotel Inglattera
Hotel Inglattera is one of the oldest in all of Cuba. Its stunning neoclassical façade has stood on Paseo del Prado since 1875, and welcomed important historical figures such as Winston Churchill. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more convenient and iconic stay in Havana. The rooftop is a favorite spot to take in the view over Parque Central, the beautiful Gran Teatro arts auditorium and El Capitolio, all just steps away. Guest rooms are basic and somewhat underwhelming compared to the hotel’s exterior and elegant common areas, however, Hotel Inglattera is set to become a Starwood-run Luxury Collection property at the end of 2019, so upgrades to the lodgings are expected. Until then, the 45 rooms are clean, comfortable and have satellite television, a phone, hairdryer and air conditioning (some even have a balcony). Wi-Fi, sometimes hard to find in Cuba, is available in the lobby.
Best for Romance: Hotel Ambos Mundos
This iconic, circa-1924 pink building can be found on one of Old Havana’s most charming avenues. Ernest Hemingway stayed at historic Hotel Ambos Mundos on and off for seven years in the 1930s; it was here he wrote Death in the Afternoon, among other works. The author’s room, number 501, has been kept as he left it and turned into a mini-museum. After checking-in at the stylish lobby, where the bar and lounge attracts a sophisticated crowd, you’ll be taken to your lodgings, either a Standard Room or a Junior Suite. The suites are more spacious and have a patio or a city view. The rooftop bar and restaurant is a popular spot thanks to its city and ocean views. Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast and 24-hour reception make Hotel Ambos Mundos a great choice in Havana.
Best Luxury: Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana
After a five-year renovation, Havana’s first true new luxury hotel — since before the communist revolution — opened its doors in June 2017. Housed in a former shopping mall owned by a sugar baron and taking up an entire city block, the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana has an infinity rooftop pool with sweeping views, a spa and the kind of attentive, professional service not always found in Cuba. A tobacco lounge with a dedicated cigar sommelier and the sleek Constante bar are both drawcards, but the most competitive offering might be the fast and free in-room Wi-Fi — at many hotels it is patchy, costly or only available in common areas.
Guests will be impressed by the rooms, which are as modern as you can expect to find in Cuba. Mod-cons like Bose speakers and flat-screen TVs will make international visitors feel at home. Many have balconies that look toward the Capitol building and Gran Teatro. It’s an especially spectacular view at night when they are lit up.
Best for Nightlife/Best for Singles: Hotel Nacional de Cuba
Built in 1930, Hotel Nacional is probably the most iconic hotel in Cuba. It was a favorite of famous names like Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, Ava Gardner and Marlon Brando before the revolution in 1959. Situated just meters from the Malecon and five miles east of Old Town (the perfect excuse to get around in the back of a 1950s convertible), the eight-story building has witnessed a lot of history in its years. In 1933, it was the site of a battle between competing army factions, which left the building badly damaged, and in the 1940s there was a mafia gathering, as depicted in The Godfather: Part II.
Today, Hotel Nacional is still a hub of activity, albeit less dramatic. The elegant, high-ceilinged lobby leads onto an outdoor terrace where revelers sip cocktails and watch live music performances. The Parisien Cabaret show, a highlight of any trip to Havana, is held at the Hotel Nacional every night. While the common areas of the hotel have an atmosphere of old-world glamour, the rooms are a little basic and dated, and due for an upgrade. But there are several bars, including the above-mentioned terrace, and a pool to hang out at instead.
Best Business: Melia Cohiba
Unreliable internet can be a serious hurdle when working or conducting business in Cuba. So the Melia Cohiba, a 10-minute drive east of the Old Town along the Malecon, is a business traveler’s dream. This modern, high-rise hotel offers free Wi-Fi and two dedicated business centers; one in the lobby, the other as part of The Level — essentially a few premium floors of the building with VIP services. For group business needs, the second-floor convention center offers meeting rooms, audiovisual equipment and catering services. The rooms at Melia Cohiba are spacious and modern, many with views of the ocean and city. The hotel also has a large swimming pool with shaded cabanas, several restaurants and a free shuttle to Old Town.
Best Center City: Iberostar Hotel Parque Central
Professional service, rooms with a view and a rooftop pool — all in the heart of charming Old Havana. The Iberostar Hotel Parque Central has been ranked one of Havana’s best hotels since it opened on Paseo de Marti a decade ago. The rooms are split between two connected buildings: one colonial, one modern. The colonial section is older but elegant, the modern side has newer fittings but the style is somewhat plain. Hotel guests meet for drinks at Portico Bar in the huge, colonial-style lobby, or at the Nuevo Mundo bar by the pool on the roof, where there’s often live music. There are three on-site restaurants, but there are better options just steps away on the streets of Old Havana. The efficient concierge staff is happy to organize tours, book dinner reservations and anything else you might need while in Havana.