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Language: Spanish | Currency: Peso (₱) | Local time: UTC-4:00 | Avg. Flight time: 13.5 hrs
The biggest conglomeration of hotels in the capital are found within Old Havana (‘Habana Vieja’).
One of Havana’s two grandest hotels, the handsome Nacional, is on the waterfront, while the other, the Iberostar Parque Central, sits right in the heart of the city – both scream old-world comfort and style. Expect to pay anything from £300 a night, although you can find deals for less than half this price outside the peak season.
Unconventional wisdom suggests the cheapest (and some say the best) option is to choose a casa particular (bed & breakfast) – legal casas particulares are marked with a blue capital “H”. In recent years, a new generation of these properties has sprung up, with some truly beautiful and slick options – Chez Nous, occupying a colonial-style residence in Old Havana is just one example.
International hotel companies (in allegiance with the state companies) operate many of the larger resorts in north coast package-holiday destinations Varadero, Cayo Coco, Cayo Ensenacho and Cayo Santa Maria.
Guardalavaca, once described by Christopher Columbus as “the most beautiful land I have ever seen”, is now a popular holiday destination, but is still less busy than Varadero, which means prices can be cheaper too.
Many all-inclusive beach resorts around Cuba offer a superior level of service and facilities, including free-form pools, spas, gyms, Jacuzzis, tennis courts, dive schools, water sport centres, restaurants and bars.
There’s a decent selection of good hotels in tourist hotspots such as tobacco-growing Viñales, second city Santiago or the colonial gem of Trinidad. A good tip is to look for state-run Cuban chains which oversee many of the country’s hotels. Cubanacán, especially its Encanto brand, tends to offer the best mid-priced options.
Booking in advance is often a good idea, particularly for Havana and Varadero. The swell of American visitors has seen capacity stretched, especially in the capital’s best addresses, during July-August, at Christmas and Easter, and from January-April.
With respect to price, September and October sees the lowest rates due to the threat of the hurricane season, with price reductions which are usually on all-inclusive, single-centre beach stays.