Bed & Breakfast Cuban-style

Bed and breakfast always reminds me of a wet and windy day on Brighton beach having a fry-up in a scruffy English townhouse. Cuba’s version is a little different. Known as casas particulares (private homes), the best places offer you breakfast beneath a teardrop chandelier, a view into the city and an opportunity to meet ‘real’ Cuban people.

Eating a freshly made breakfast from antique porcelain plates beneath a teardrop chandelier in an old colonial house while being treated like an old family friend would be considered an experience possible only in hotels of the rarest kind. In Cuba, however, it’s practically normal.

Similar to a bed and breakfast, casas particulares were created in 1997 when the government changed the law to allow Cubans to rent out rooms in their homes to tourists as an additional source of income. All other forms of accommodation—at least until the recent changes to the laws on private enterprise—are owned by the government, and while some hotels are incredibly glamorous, you won’t get the experience of real Cuba that you have when living with a Cuban family.

Casas—as they are shortened—vary hugely. Some are very basic room and board. Others feel like you’ve returned to a long lost relative, and you eat with the family becoming part of their daily life. The minority are run more formally like mini-hotels. Whatever type of casa you want, you can probably track it down. Just remember to look for the official sign on the door—two blue triangles on a white background—which means the household pays an annual tax and possesses a license. Prices vary from $20 to $60 and normally include breakfast.

The prevalence of antiques is a happy accident, which some savvy casa owners have come to capitalize on, knowing it appeals greatly to outsiders. Due to the limitations on imported goods, there is a “make do and mend” culture, and everything from crockery to cars are passed down through the generations. Even low income households are likely to have some interesting items whether it’s the 1950s china or turn-of-the-century kitchen fittings that, while common here, are a rare sight in the U.S.

In general, your casa family are your most valuable source of local information, who will warn you about the perils on the street and welcome you home after a long day exploring. Here I’ve highlighted three of my personal favourites in Havana.


Visually stunning, historically fascinating and wonderfully welcoming, Casa 1932 is the sort of place every traveler hopes to end up in Cuba. Enter through the stained-glass doors into this Art Deco haven, and then wander the rooms traveling in time through the objects around you. The leafy courtyard is an ode to ’50s Americana with old tin advertising signs on the walls, while the sumptuous dining room goes further back with art deco lamps, a table laid with 19th-century china and cabinets full of treasure, such as the gambling chips from the Havana’s last casino. While the house has been in owner and interior designer Luis Miguel’s family since 1932—hence the name and many antiques—he is a magpie for all things old, especially those with a story, and he’ll happily regale you with anecdotes about his collection. The breakfast is excellent, but it’s worth booking in for dinner one night. The chefs are incredibly skilled, and Luis makes the most charming host. The large bedrooms are all elegant, but the newest room, although the smallest, was my favourite for the attention to detail and atmosphere.

Casa 1932. Campanario #63 e/ San Lázaro y Laguna, Centro Habana; (+53) 7-863- 6203; Price per room: CUC 30

Casa Habana

This casa has so much going for it. Occupying an early 19th-century townhouse with the decor to match, the central location couldn’t be better for exploring the cobbled streets of Habana Vieja with Plaza de la Catedral and Plaza Vieja a hop and a skip away. The bedrooms have high ceilings, large windows with original green shutters overlooking the interior courtyard and are decoratively charming. But it’s the friendly vibe here that makes it stand out. The leafy roof terrace is a social hub, as guests enjoy a mojito from the bar while watching the sun set over the rooftops of the city.

Casa Habana. Habana #209 e/ Empedrado, y Tejadillo, Habana Vieja;; (+53) 7-861-0253; Price per room: CUC 35

Julio y Elsa Roque

The home of this lovely couple is everything that is best about staying in casas. Their main room is overflowing with ethnic finds from around the globe, old photos of Cuba hang on the walls and the shelves are stacked with books and oddities. The kitchen has that cluttered bohemian feel of a lived-in house that makes you feel instantly at ease, especially when sharing breakfast family style around the big table. The rooms are clean and simple, but you don’t come here for that—you come for something more elusive. Julio and Elsa take care of their guests. They will sort out your taxis, reservations and any issues that come your way, but do it all with that easy charm that comes from genuine warmth.

Casa de Julio y Elsa Roque. Consulado #162 e/ Colon y Trocadero, Centro Habana;; (+53) 7-861-8027; Price per room: CUC 30

This story was first run on line for the Huffington Post

  • Hotel Nacional de Cuba

    Hotel Nacional de Cuba  LH 5+

    In response to the increasing influx of American tourists in the late 20s (mainly those who were escaping Prohibition, in force in the United States at the time), the construction of a luxury hotel wa …

    Iberostar Parque Central

    Iberostar Parque Central  LH 5

    Hotel Iberostar Parque Central is a luxury 5-star hotel within touching distance of the old town. Surrounded by numerous famous buildings, such as the Capitolio, The Garcia Lorca Theatre and the Museu …

    Palacio O’Farrill

    Palacio O’Farrill  LH 4

    The Hotel Palacio O’Farrill is a terrifically grand neoclassical mansion standing on the corner of Cuba and Chacon Streets near the port of Havana. Its owner, Don Ricardo O’Farrill y O’Daly, made his …

    Beltran de Santa Cruz

    Beltran de Santa Cruz  LH 4

    This mansion which was restored and converted by the Office of the City Historian of Havana in 2002 into the Hotel Beltrán de Santa Cruz is only a moment’s walk down San Ignacio Street from one of Old …

    El Floridita

    El Floridita  LH 5

    While the Floridita has its detractors, it is probably worth stopping in for a daiquiri just because it is there. It has certainly been around the block since it first opened its doors over 200 years …

    Habana Libre Hotel – Sierra Maestra

    Habana Libre Hotel – Sierra Maestra  LH 4

    Of all the views in the entire world, this is the place. Well perhaps that is overstating things but the view is certainly spectacular from the 25th floor of the Habana Libre Hotel. You have a 180-deg …


    Raquel  LH 4

    The 21-room Hotel Raquel opened in June 2003 following extensive renovation work in the heart of Old Havana. Located in a dazzling 1908 palace (that was once a bank), this is a wonderfully idiosyncrat …

    Sevilla Hotel – Roof Garden Torre de Oro

    Sevilla Hotel – Roof Garden Torre de Oro  LH 4+

    The Sevilla Hotel recently celebrated its 100th Anniversary. This is now managed by the Mercure group, has a gorgeous Spanish-Moorish style lobby and one of the best rooftop restaurants in the City, t …

    El Mesón de la Flota

    El Mesón de la Flota  LH 4

    The Meson de la Flota is the quintessential tavern. Relatively dark inside and with a great flamenco band, which is basically headquartered here, this makes for a good intimate atmosphere. You do need …

    Meliá Cohíba – La Piazza

    Meliá Cohíba – La Piazza  LH 5-

    La Piazza succeeds enormously where most of the other hotel restaurants (including of the same Meliá Cohíba) struggle. It succeeds in providing good quality Italian food and fine service but most of a …

    1 of 5 pages »