La Llave del Golfo is the version of casa particular that feels much more toward the boutique hotel end, and it’s location in the dense geographic center of Havana, in the neighborhood of Santo Suárez, and makes staying there feel like the a secret discovery completely off the tourist radar. The property, which has remained in the family for decades, has a quintessentially Cuban story, and has been restored to it’s colonial splendor with luxurious modern additions and an the staff and services of a hotel.
The house retains the nostalgic elements of it’s aristocratic (and very typically Cuban) history: it was the summer home of a wealthy family that fled the country after the Revolution of 1959, but as the next generation reestablished itself in Spain, a grandmother stayed behind to keep the home in the family’s hands. A few years ago, with the passing of this grandmother, the Spanish-Cuban grandson, now a successful designer and property developer, returned to Havana to begin the restoration project of a lifetime.
Jorge, the grandson, serves as full time host as well as expert chef if guests want lunch, dinner, or snacks throughout the day. Each room can be booked instantly on the casa’s website, and Jorge is available to assist guests with airport transfers, guided tours, and travel advice for other cities and towns across the island.
Although Santo Suárez is not one of Havana’s chic tourist neighborhoods, it’s only a 10 minute taxi ride to the Capitolio, and the quiet streets in the surrounding area are a nice respite from the bustle of other areas. In addition, the neighborhood was once a haven for the rich of Old Havana and there are all sorts of remarkable family estates that date back a century.
Each room has A/C and a private bathroom with hot water. The back patio has a covered area with chairs and a small pool. The wild but not too overgrown vegetation makes the city feel miles away.
While the area remains quiet and unsoiled by tourists, host Jorge has his eyes set on the future — he’s planning on renovating another home nearby and starting a private restaurant as well. Until then, La Llave del Golfo remains a well-kept secret in the midst of authentic, everyday Havana.
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