The Best Resort Hotels
Paradisus Varadero, Varadero (tel. 45/66-8700)
This is the Sol Meliá's fanciest resort hotel in Varadero, with expansive grounds, a huge free-form pool, and all the activities and amenities you could hope for. There's a variety of dining options and they create the feel of an intimate, romantic getaway better than any of the other large resort hotels in Varadero.
Tryp Península Varadero, Varadero (tel. 45/66-8800)
This is my top choice for a family resort in Varadero and an excellent all-around resort in its own right. The setting, facilities, and service are all tops, and the rooms are quite spacious and well equipped. The children's pools and play area are the best in Cuba.
Meliá Sol Cayo Santa María, Cayo Santa María (tel. 42/35-0200)
This resort is yet another of the Sol Meliá's excellent all-inclusive properties. This one is located on a very beautiful and very isolated patch of beach in la Cayería del Norte. The facilities are certainly top-notch, and the setting is just spectacular.
Brisas Trinidad del Mar, Península Ancón, Trinidad (tel. 41/99-6500)
This resort hotel on Playa Ancón has excellent sea and mountain views and is only minutes from the most beautiful colonial city in Cuba. The well-conceived design echoes the handsome architecture of Trinidad.
Meliá Cayo Coco, Cayo Coco (tel. 33/30-1180)
Of the several fine hotels on Cayo Coco, Sol Meliá's top property on the cays is the most sophisticated and stylish, with cool bungalows overlooking a natural lagoon, elegant decor throughout, good restaurants, a beautiful pool area, and a great stretch of beach on a natural cove.
Sol Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Guillermo (tel. 33/30-1760)
Relaxed and unpretentious, this lively resort hotel is less staid and prepackaged than many of the big hotels on the cays. The cheery bungalow-style rooms are perfect for a younger crowd.
Paradisus Río de Oro, Playa Esmeralda (tel. 24/43-0090)
Perhaps Cuba's most sybaritic all-inclusive resort hotel, this sprawling Sol Meliá property hugs a rocky cliff and is distinguished by some of the most luxuriously designed grounds you'll find anywhere. Rooms are large, refined, and private. Sunbathers will have a hard time deciding between the terrific main beach, the nearly private small cove beaches, and the extraordinary pool area -- not to mention the massage hut that hangs out from the cliff over the sea.
Hotel Cayo Levisa, Cayo Levisa (tel. 48/75-6506)
Land one of the oceanfront bungalows here and you may never want to leave this idyllic little island resort. For those on a budget, these standard beachfront bungalows are a passport to paradise.
Villa Las Brujas, Cayo Santa Maria (tel. 42/35-0199)
Perched on a rocky outcrop over the turquoise Caribbean, the very reasonably priced, stylish, comfortable, individual and duplex villas here are connected by a raised, rugged wooden walkway through scrub and mangrove and face a long stretch of beautiful white-sand beach. Staff members are very friendly here, too.
The Best Hotels
Hotel Florida, Havana (tel. 7/862-4127)
This is probably my favorite of the Habaguanex properties in Old Havana. The building features a wonderful open-air central courtyard, checkerboard marble floors, and oodles of colonial-era charm. The whole operation is elegant and refined, and located right on the pulse of things on busy Calle Obispo.
Hotel Saratoga, Havana (tel. 7/868-1000)
Set right on the Paseo del Prado, with stunning views of El Capitolio from many of its rooms, this new hotel has the most comfortable and luxurious rooms of any hotel in or near Habana Vieja. Add to that a wonderful rooftop pool and bar, and this hotel is clearly one of the top choices in the city.
NH Parque Central, Havana (tel. 7/860-2667)
This modern, upscale hotel dominates the northern end of Havana's small Central Park. It boasts luxury spacious rooms and marble bathrooms and a lovely rooftop pool. Its ultramodern annex, the NH Parque Central Torre hotel, is due to open by the end of 2008.
Hotel Los Jazmines, Viñales (tel. 48/79-6205)
With a spectacular setting on a hillside overlooking the Viñales Valley, this is hands down the best option in town. If you land one of the third-floor rooms with a balcony, you'll forgive the somewhat smallish rooms and minimal amenities. Los Jazmines makes a great base for exploring this region.
Gran Hotel Iberostar Trinidad, Trinidad (tel. 41/99-6073)
This new hotel has seriously upped the bar in terms of comfort and luxury in Trinidad. Set fronting a quiet little park in the heart of downtown, this is clearly the top high-end choice in Trinidad.
Hotel La Unión, Cienfuegos (tel. 43/55-1020)
Housed in a marvelously restored colonial mansion right in the heart of downtown Cienfuegos, this is one of the nicest boutique hotels in the country. With a couple of interior courtyards, neoclassical furnishings, and architectural touches, La Unión captures the elegance and charm of Cuba's bygone era. It's worth the small splurge for one of the spacious junior suites.
Hostal del Rijo, Sancti Spíritus (tel. 41/32-8588)
The concept of small boutique hotels with historic character is catching on in Cuba, and this boutique hotel in unassuming Sancti Spíritus is among the best of its kind in the country. In a beautifully restored colonial mansion, it has massive rooms with restrained decor, and it just might rank as the best hotel bargain in Cuba.
Gran Hotel, Camagüey (tel. 32/29-2093)
In the heart of Camagüey's colonial quarter, this 1930s hotel has real old-world character, a selection of atmospheric bars, and a small terrace pool. The Gran Hotel offers tons of style at a bargain price -- especially if you get one of the spacious corner rooms.
Hotel El Castillo, Baracoa (tel. 21/64-5194)
This hotel has history, charm, and a location to die for. Inside the walls of one of the town's oldest fortresses, up on a hill where the pool comes with splendid panoramic views of Baracoa and the bay, this is the kind of place you won't want to leave. Relaxed and unpretentious, it suits Baracoa perfectly.
Hotel Casa Granda, Santiago de Cuba (tel. 22/65-3021)
It's not Santiago's biggest or most expensive hotel, but the Casa Granda, in an elegant landmark building on Parque Céspedes in the heart of the city, is the place to stay if you want to be in the heady mix that is the Oriente region's capital. Renovation has dramatically improved the rooms, and the terrific terrace bars are among the best people-watching places in the city.
Hostal Basilio, Santiago de Cuba (tel. 22/65-1702)
This little hotel is in a beautifully restored old home in the heart of downtown Santiago de Cuba and now operates under the boutique Hoteles E brand. The good-size rooms have very high ceilings with ornate crown molding. Throughout the hotel, you'll find attractive tile work on the floors, wainscoting, and smart bathrooms.
The Best Casas Particulares
Casa de Evora Rodríguez, Havana (tel. 7/861-7932)
This top-floor "penthouse" belonging to the welcoming Evora has stunning panoramic views and the top-floor flat is full of potted plants.
Casa Sandra, Havana (tel. 7/832-402)
On the 13th floor of a 1950s block of flats, this enormous flat has spectacular views of Vedado and the Malecón. The rooms are spacious and attractively decorated and guests share a nice living room. Run by Lilly and her family, this is a gorgeous place to stay.
Casa Amistad, Cienfuegos (tel. 432/51-6143)
Run by the superfriendly and knowledgeable Armando and Leonor, this colonial house with a wonderful front living room has two rooms and some hearty home-cooked food; the house is a stone's throw from Parque José Martí.
Hostal Casa Múñoz, Trinidad (tel. 41/99-3673)
Historic Trinidad is well stocked with beautiful colonial houses and rental rooms, but this one is distinguished by its impressive living room and ever-expanding facilities; its informative host is a photographer who knows Trinidad like the back of his hand.
Casa Font, Trinidad (tel. 41/99-3683)
A gorgeous late-18th-century colonial house in the heart of the old center, this family home has a great collection of antiques and a light, airy feel. For a casa particular, this is about as grand as it gets: chandeliers of Baccarat crystal, thick wood doors, colonial- and republican-era oil paintings, and mediopunto (stained-glass, fan-shaped) windows above the doors.
Hostal Florida Center, Santa Clara (tel. 42/20-8161)
This is a gorgeous 1876 colonial house filled with interesting historic furniture and blessed with a flourishing garden and welcoming host, Angel. The food served here is some of the best in Cuba.
Casa La Colina, Baracoa (tel. 21/64-2729)
One of the things that makes Baracoa so extraordinary is its spectacular natural setting, and this handsome house has a fantastic terrace with panoramic views of the entire town and the bay leading out to the sea. The rooms are large and comfortable, and your host is a charm.
Casa Daniel Salomón Paján, Baracoa (tel. 21/64-2122)
This is one of the friendliest casas in Cuba. Daniel works at the museum and knows a lot about Baracoa's history. He has one comfortable room with a large bathroom and a central covered patio.
Casa Maruchi, Santiago de Cuba (tel. 22/62-0767)
A lovely colonial house with a wonderful patio stuffed with orchids and other plants is run by the friendly Maruchi. Two chic, comfortable rooms with exposed brickwork, Spanish colonial furniture, lace bedspreads, and candlesticks are off the patio.
Casa Hugo & Adela, Santiago de Cuba (tel. 22/62-6359)
Most of Santiago's best casas are in the leafy outer neighborhoods, but if you want to be in the thick of Santiago, with a comfortable room and a huge private rooftop terrace overlooking the old city and harbor, grab this room.
Casa Asensio, Santiago de Cuba (tel. 22/62-4600)
Facility-wise, this house may be unrivaled in Cuba. It's a very large apartment with its own kitchen and a massive, private rooftop terrace. It's perfect for anyone planning to stay awhile to explore Santiago de Cuba and the surrounding area in depth.
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Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.