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Written by Kieran

Tryp Hotel Habana Libre – The Former Hilton

The Tryp Hotel Habana Libre on Avenida 23 (La Rampa) has a colourful history. It’s the former Hilton that was ...

The Tryp Hotel Habana Libre on Avenida 23 (La Rampa) has a colourful history. It’s the former Hilton that was nationalised after the Revolution. And as the name suggests it’s a ‘Tryp’ (pronounced ‘trip’) to visit.

Tryp Hotel Habana Libre History

The hotel was originally opened in March 1958. Conrad Hilton himself attended the grand opening along with a host of foreign celebrities and the then President (Fulgencio Batista) and his wife (Fernandez Miranda de Batista).

Yet the hotel was seized. And became the headquarters of Fidel Castro upon his entry into Havana on January 8th 1959. It remained a ‘Hilton’ hotel even after Castro took up residence.

Tryp Hotel Habana Libre remained a ‘Hilton’ hotel until June 11th 1960 when the new Cuban government nationalised the premises.

Tryp Hotel Habana Libre Views Of Havana

The main selling feature of the Hotel Habana Libre is its views. From the higher floors the views out over Havana are breathtaking. Particularly on sunset and during Havana’s golden hour just after the sun begins disappearing over the horizon.

Its views like the one shown below are the reason that people like me pay the exorbitant price tag to stay at this hotel.

Hotel Havana Libre Prices

If you’re a member of the hotel chain you can save $20USD per night. I’m not a member. So I paid the full $173 per night to stay at the hotel for a total of 4 days.

The room price includes a breakfast buffet. But breakfast at the 24 hour cafe attached to the hotel and located on the corner of Avenida 23 (La Rampa) and Calle L was marginally better. Yet neither were good.

Instead I’d recommend going one block over to Avenida 21 for coffee and breakfast. I recommend Boné Ma as I’ve been going there for years and the quality is always high.

The thing to remember when choosing to stay at the Hotel Havana Libre is that you’re not staying there for the food. Nobody chooses to pay $173 USD per night in Havana for the food. And hotel food is often the worst food in Cuba.

If like me you’re making the conscious choice to pay $173 USD per night to stay in the Hotel Habana Libre you’re doing so for the spectacular views it provides out over Havana. And because you’re intrigued by the hotels turbulent history.

Another point of contention for me and a price you should be aware of is the cost of laundry at this hotel. To do a single load of laundry ranges between $50-$100 USD (payable in CUP). I instead chose to use a lavadero around the corner.

Hotel Amenities And Services

All the rooms are large. They feature huge beds, air conditioning and good sized bathrooms with hot water.

Though during my stay the air-conditioning was broken. The toilet was leaking and would not flush. And the hot water only worked on the morning of my fourth day as I was checking out.

That one hot shower with strong water pressure cost me $540USD. But after a month in Havana it was worth every cent.

The hotel also features a pool and an area to lay in the sun. But I didn’t use the pool as it looked a little old and worse for wear. And I didn’t want a cold shower after going for a dip.

I was on the 18th floor for the views. The hotel features 6 elevators. Yet no more than 2 elevators would function at any one time. So getting up and down the building was incredibly slow.

Hotel Habana Libre elevators

The hotel is also in a cell phone dead zone. So if you have a Cubacel SIM card like me and can use 4G LTE data instead of the expensive hotel wifi, it won’t work on the hotel premises.

I would also note that the hotel is in a tourist hotspot and for a block in all direction the prices are a rip off. And the streets surrounding the Hotel Habana Libre are an obstacle course jam packed with scammers and street hustlers.

In my opinion the Havana police need to come through and chase away all the hustlers in this area. But the hotel security close to the entrance of the hotel does a great job. They’re constantly chasing off all the hustlers looking to scam tourists who venture too close to the entrance.

Staff At Hotel Habana Libre

The staff at the Habana Libre were another high point of the stay. Booking a hotel in Cuba can be a huge pain in the @ss. Particularly if you’re American. Or Australian like me. If your cards don’t function in Cuba because of the US sanctions you will need to book online.

When booking online the hotels are often partnered with foreign entities. And their payment processors are often based in Spain, Germany or Canada. Thereby allowing the hotel to take foreign credit and debit cards and get around the sanctions.

Habana Libre Reception

When I booked my stay I first checked with the lovely lady who was attending the hotel reception. She told me I could either pay in euros or moneda nacionale (CUP) in cash, use my card through the machine if it wasn’t affiliated with the US or pay online. But there was to be strictly no USD.

I only had USD and I know my cards won’t work through Cuban payment processors. So I chose to book online and pay through the website. What I thought would be a straightforward process. But it was anything but straightforward.

The hotel took my credit card and confirmed my reservation. Great I thought until I read the email the hotel sent me. The email stated I could only pay the hotel in cash. And only in USD. So I went back to the hotel to check in and that’s when the trouble started.

Hotel Habana Libre email after online payment and reservation

The hotel has a policy on premises of strictly denying all USD payments. But when given the choice of USD or nothing and shown the hotels own email to me, the wonderful counter assistant sorted out all my dilemmas. She called the Hotel Habana Libre’s manager at close to midnight to get special permission to accept the USD cash.

This single staff member went above and beyond her normal role to fix all of this stupid Australian’s problems. She was amazing. And I would recommend to anyone visiting the hotel that they should be tipping her. She’s fantastic.

Habana Libre Concierge

Another hotel staff member that deserves a special mention was the concierge who stored my luggage on checkout. He’s a great guy and worth having a chat with.

The concierge and bell hop can teach you Cuban slang and how it overlaps with other languages in weird ways. He also knows everything about his city and is an all round great guy.

Habana Libre Security

The security guys are constantly chasing off all the street hustlers looking to scam tourists. And they do a great job. But the sheer volume of hustlers out the front of this hotel requires a stronger police presence on this block.

The security guards at the end of each shift looked like they’d run a marathon. These guys are fantastic but completely overwhelmed without police backup.

Would I Stay At The Hotel Havana Libre Again?

Sadly, no I would not stay at the Hotel Havana Libre again. The staff are brilliant and the views are spectacular. But everything else in the hotel is run down and broken.

The hotel feels like its held together with nothing more than bubble gum and duct tape. At $173 USD per night and with so many rooms there’s no excuse for this hotel to not be spectacular in every way. There’s no excuse for so much disrepair.

Slow elevators I can live with. A cold shower every few days is tolerable. But leaking toilets, no hot water and no air-conditioning for 4 days combined with terrible food is a deal breaker. Particularly at a price tag of $173 USD per day.

For the level of ammenities the Hotel Habana Libre provides its a 2 star motel in my opinion. And it should have a 2 star motel price tag.

For anything over $30USD per night I would not stay at this hotel again. That is unless the hotel has a serious upgrade and fixes all of its problems.

Hotel Havana Libre

Where Can I Get More Information About Cuba?

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

My Complete Guide To Cuba will save you a lot of time and a significant amount of money on your trip to Cuba. Cuba is not the sort of destination in which you can just arrive unprepared. 

Read the most Complete Guide To Traveling Cuba here.

Kieran Proctor author at inlovelyblue.com and tattoo vagabond.com

About The Author

I’m Kieran and I write & manage ‘In Lovely Blue’. I was born and raised in Brisbane, Australia. I moved to the beautiful and sunny Gold Coast for my undergraduate university studies. Before finally moving to Canberra (the Capital of Australia) to finish my studies and work in the Australian Public Service.

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