Written by Kieran Proctor

Accommodation In Cuba

Trying to decide where to stay in Cuba? Here’s a guide to the different accommodation types and locations focused on ...

Trying to decide where to stay in Cuba? Here’s a guide to the different accommodation types and locations focused on Havana and Varadero. Though it applies equally well across the island.

By the end of this short article, you’ll understand why smart travelers choose to book their accommodation in Cuba on Airbnb.

Cuban Accommodation | Types

There are only two types of accommodation in Cuba. There are conventional hotels and ‘casa particulars’, which are home stays of the type you’re likely familiar with if you’ve used Airbnb.

In fact, all of the Airbnb’s shown in Cuba are casa particulars. They are private properties registered with the government for the provision of accommodation to foreigners.

In each location you stay, they will need to record and register your stay on their premises with the government. Whether you stay in a hotel or a casa particular, they will take down your passport details and the dates you stayed and record them.

Don’t expect to be able to randomly couch surf your way across Cuba. It won’t happen and you’ll need to be registered and booked according to the government regulations prevailing at that time.

So, there’s two types of accommodation in Cuba. There are hotels and casa particulars. But should you choose a hotel or a casa particular for your accommodation in Cuba? Well, each has its pros and cons.

Cuba Accommodation | Hotel

Cuba Hotels | Cons

When choosing a hotel in Cuba, it’s important to remember the golden rule. Nothing is as good as the rating it gives itself in Cuba.

If a hotel has a 5 star rating in Cuba, it’s likely a 3 star or less establishment by world standards. And the five star rating it claims, will be based on nothing except ratings it’s bought and paid for.

Most Cubans who are rating hotels in Cuba have only recently been allowed into hotels. Prior to 2008 Cuban’s were not allowed to stay in hotels. International hotels in Cuba were reserved for foreigners prior to 2008.

Almost all Cubans who stay in hotels in Cuba today, have never stayed in a hotel outside of Cuba. Their reviews are pretty much worthless when taking into consideration whether or not a hotel is any good.

Most of the photos from Cubans on a hotel’s Google or Instagram pages will be those individuals trying to get the hotel to share their image so as to attract new Instagram followers to the posters page. As again, most young Cuban’s aspire to becoming an ‘Influencer’. And Instagram is a full-time job for lots or Cubans.

Sharing images of the ‘love stained’ couch or grotty bathroom in the suite of their 5 star hotel room, likely wouldn’t result in many re-shares and follows on Instagram. So you can expect only staged photos from Cubans in skimpy attire in a hotels pool or by their bar.

It’s also likely that those individuals in the hotels images, aren’t actually staying in the hotel. Often they’re only visiting the bar or pool for a few Instagram photos.

My review of the Hotel Tryp Havana Libre (former Hilton) in the suburb of Vedado in Havana Cuba.

Cuba Hotels | Pros

The pools and bars are the saving grace of Cuban hotels. If you’ve gone with an ‘all inclusive’ package in somewhere like Varadero, you can expect mediocre food and alcohol to be readily available in or near a pool.

Pools make or break hotels in Cuba. If they don’t have a good pool, avoid them. Because it really is the pool you’re paying for. Everything else in the place from the food to the service and housekeeping, will be sub par. But the pool will be fantastic on a hot Cuban day.

Drinking cold Cuban beer, which is surprisingly good, while sitting in a nice pool on a hot day is sublime. And it’s what you’re actually paying for in a Cuban hotel. If drinking in a pool everyday is not for you, then a Cuban hotel is probably not your best option. Because the rest of that 5 star hotel you’re thinking of booking, will be terrible.

Here’s some images from a ‘5 star hotel’ I stayed at in Havana:

Cuba Accommodation | Casa Particular

Cuba Casa particular | Pros

The alternative to hotels in Cuba are called ‘casa particulars’. They are private rentals registered with the Cuban Government for the provision of accommodation to foreigners. And most are available via the Airbnb mobile app.

Casa particulars can be a room in a house or a home stay with a Cuban family. But more often than not, they are entire apartments or houses, which you will have all to yourself. You’ll find these private casa particulars on the Airbnb mobile app, listed the length and breadth of the island.

There are lots of casa particulars on Airbnb in every town and city in Cuba. And where you stay will be determined by your budget and interests. But you will never run out of choices.

In Havana, I’d personally recommend the suburb of Vedado. Vedado has comparatively less noise, smell and Cuban street scams than the other suburbs frequented by tourists. Vedado is also centrally located and its a great spot from which to see Havana.

Miramar and Playa are also nice. But they’re probably a little too far from Central Havana and Habana Vieja (Old Havana), for the average traveler. And to stay in or visit Miramar and Playa, you’d need to have a functional Cuban cell phone number and La Nave, Cuba’s version of Uber.

Most Airbnb’s have wifi available and your host can direct you to the nearest ETECSA. Go to ETECSA if you need to acquire a Cuban SIM card for your phone to access 4G LTE in Cuba.

The advantages of the casa particulars listed on Airbnb in Cuba are many. Selecting a casa particular for your Cuban accommodation on Airbnb allows you to see real ratings of the property; Ratings from travelers who have actually stayed in the property.

Airbnb is also strict on listings. The property will be as pictured and all of the items in the listing will be in the property. For most of those Cubans listing properties on Airbnb in Cuba, it’s their main source of income. So they will be quite carful about not misrepresenting the property.

Most casa particulars will have a regular cleaning services to keep the property tidy throughout your stay. And the maids and property owners will be less intrusive than a hotel maid service, thereby affording you more privacy.

Of those casa particulars I’ve stayed in, all hosts were lovely and very helpful in adjusting to the island. If you need advice or guidance in doing something like exchanging money, most hosts can help.

To book a casa particular simply open the Airbnb app and look for a listing in an area of interest. Simply view your preferred listing and pay in your home currency and you’re done.

Cuba Casa particular | Cons

Most casa particulars in Cuba will list on Airbnb that they have a washing machine or laundry facilities. Yet they often don’t have a washing machine and instead have a paid laundry service. It’s cheap and convenient, but it’s something to keep in mind.

If you’re planning to stay in a Cuban Airbnb, you shouldn’t leave booking accommodation until you arrive in Cuba, as some people prefer to do in other countries. If you leave booking a casa particular until you arrive in Cuba, then you will present a larger target for jineteros.

And when you’re running all over town with your luggage, everyone will try to scam you. The scammers will spot you on the street and you’ll appear to those scammers, like a kid with hot chips at the beach looks to a flock of seagulls. They’ll come from all directions offering ‘help’.

Other than those two minor points, there really are no other negatives to casa particulars in Cuba. Just remember you’ll need a VPN to access Airbnb in Cuba.

Where To Stay In Havana Cuba?

I almost exclusively stay in private ‘casas’ booked via Airbnb when I’m in Cuba. And in Havana, I’ll always opt for private rentals in Vedado wherever possible. Beyond just being centrally located, Vedado is quiet, clean and safe.

Where To Stay in Varadero Cuba?

It’s hard to find good quality private rentals in Varadero that are on a similar price point to the hotels. In Varadero, I usually opt for ‘all-inclusive’ resort style hotels. And the best all inclusive resort in Varadero is the Melia Internacional.

Melia International 'all-inclusive' resort in Varadero Cuba
Melia International is the best all-inclusive resort in Varadero.

Cuba Accommodation | Conclusions

For those who actually want to see Cuba and spend longer on the island, in my opinion a casa particular is their best choice. From my own experiences, I’d say that Cuban hotels are really only suited to those travelers who want cheap ‘all inclusive’ packages in a tropical climate.

But then again, I believe those types of travelers would be better off going to Mexico or another Caribbean country. As the hotels and food are similarly priced but better, in the Caribbean countries neighboring Cuba.

The ‘all inclusive’ hotel crowd more often than not, end up seeing nothing of Cuba. They simply act as a funnel of foreign currency to the Cuban Government. The hotels in Cuba are often owned or in partnership with the government and if you’re going to visit Cuba, you should try to ensure your money gets spent in private businesses.

By selecting a casa particular for your stay in Cuba, you’ll be supporting a local engaged in private enterprise. You will be supporting a local Cuban business. And to top it off – not only will you likely save money, the best accommodation, food and drinks in Cuba are outside of the hotels.

View of Parque de Los MÁRTIRES from the Balcony of an Airbnb I booked in 2023 in Havana Cuba.

Where Can I Get More Information About Cuba?

I’ve made my Complete Guide To Traveling Cuba available on this website. And I recommend you read it, before traveling to Cuba. It will help you navigate Cuba and Cuban society.

My Cuba travel guide will save you a lot of time and money on your next trip to Cuba. Cuba is not the sort of destination in which you can arrive unprepared. Read the most complete Guide To Traveling Cuba.