As many who have been to Cuba will tell you, life on the island is best experienced through the lens of a casa particular, where you get a taste of life in Cuba with BnB style hospitality. Cubans have been renting rooms for two decades, and there are thousands of casas across the island in the major tourist cities and towns, but it can be difficult to know where to go to find the best offerings and make a reliable booking. Here is a run-down of some of the sites that make it easy to book a great place in Cuba.
This website is run by a lovely woman named Gertrudis who manages a small handful of properties in Vedado and Miramar. Her casas are all spacious, fully independent apartments—from two to five bedrooms—good for larger groups and families looking for high-quality, stylish (but not ostentatious) digs. Miramar and Vedado are two of the more classy residential neighborhoods and feel like quiet seaside enclaves compared to the density and dirtiness of Old and Centro Havana. You can book directly through the website—Gertrudis is prompt and speaks enough English to communicate all the info you’ll need.
This site features eight independent apartments in the downtown Vedado/Centro Havana area, close to the Malecón and the nightlife of La Rampa. The apartments are reasonably priced, one to two bedrooms, perfect for a couple or two couples traveling together. Reservations can be made through the website and the staff is very responsive to email inquiries.
This site features three properties in the heart of Old Havana’s most iconic streets and historic sights. If you want to stay in Old Havana, you could not find a better location between museums, plazas, restaurants, and the Malecón. Along with the great photos, the website has a calendar that shows available dates so you can get a sense of available dates before you book.
This site features short and long term rentals for Havana, Cienfuegos, and Viñales. It has a large database of casas but not so big that it’s overwhelming. The people who run the site claim to personally inspect every rental on their site. Inquiries are confirmed within 24 hours.
These two websites seem to pull from the same database of casas across the island, though they have different homepages. They feature a huge database of casa across the entire island, and you can search all sorts of specifications to find exactly what you want. Sometimes photos are grainy, and sometimes finalizing a reservation can be complicated, since some rentals book instantly, and others require 24 hours for confirmation.
Cuba has become Airbnb’s fastest growing market. Most Cubans don’t have reliable internet, so they depend on an agent to respond to requests. Some agents work with over a hundred casas, others with only a few, and some Cuban casa owners who do have access to the internet just manage their own. The best thing about Airbnb is that you can read reviews from people who have stayed at the house before you book, and once you’re reserved you don’t have to worry about bringing money down to pay. Some casas clearly have good reputations and others do not, though I wouldn’t make too many snap judgements if a casa gets a bad review–most casa owners work hard to make sure guests feel welcomed and comfortable, and sometimes misunderstandings can lead to accusations by guests that are wildly inaccurate and overblown. Since many pages are managed by agents, who check with owners once a reservation request is made, the availability on calendars can often be inaccurate, but the instant book feature lets you know if something is a sure thing or not.
There’s a famous quote from the rum-loving Ernest Hemingway that goes something like “My mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquirí in El Floridita.” Well, those two places still exist, but due to Hemingway’s affection for them, they’ve now become overpriced, crowded and generally unpleasant state-run bars, where you’ll mostly find a tourists who just got […]
If you’re going to Cuba, your fancy USD Dollars that you spend while you’re there are sure to be put to good use by casa hosts, taxi drivers, shop owners and other people who’s services you use. But you can also support Cuba by donating to or getting involved in one of these terrific organizations […]
First, it’s important to be clear that independent travel to Cuba is still legal. The regulations changed somewhat under the Trump Administration, but 11 of the 12 travel categories remain open to independent travel, without sponsorship from a U.S. tour company or full-time guide. Whereas before Trump, people traveling independently declared “Educational People-to-People” travel, the […]
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