Aug 24, 08, 1:29 pm
I'm going to Havana for the week of Christmas. I'm so excited :) Definitely planning on a few days in Havana itself, then probably heading to an all-inclusive resort for the last three or four days. I want to spend some time exploring Havana, but definitely want at least a few days of nothing but lounging on a beach reading a book.
Does anyone have any resort recommendations close to Havana? I don't drive so I'll be busing or cabbing it. Suggestions for Havana hotels are welcome as well, though I think I'll book into the Hotel Nacional de Cuba for the atmosphere. Thoughts?
Aug 28, 08, 1:18 am
The Nacional is certainly a piece of living history, and it overlooks the sea, has swimming pools and plenty of space.
My personal recommendation, having stayed there, is the HOTEL SEVILLA, owned by the Accor Hotels group. It is I believe a 4* hotel compared to the Nacional's 5*.
The hotel is very centrally situated - only about 5 mins walk max to the old town, with plenty of bodegas and restaurants, a great atmosphere and it is very safe to walk here at night. You are very close to Granma - the ship - and the Patagas Cigar factory. There are shops locally and you can stroll around comfortably. I would suggest that the 'Camel' buses are best left to the locals ... cheap but cramped to overflowing and more, and it can be difficult to source bus tickets and routes! My hubby and I got lost walking and even when we showed two policeman a map, and tried 'donde estamos/somos' -ok so my Spanish is flaky, these poor fellas couldn't even read the map!!
The Sevilla has a great breakfast buffet with panoramic views over Havana - 9th floor, the rooms are traditional (ie small tub in the bathroom) but comfortable and very clean, the staff are friendly and efficient (and I never saw any 'attitude' in Havana, though Varadero was a different kettle of fish), the bar and its patio are very pleasant, they mix extremely good mojitos (and not pricey either) and there is a good sized swimming pool set in a garden with enough shade and tranquility to imagine that you are as far away from a city centre as possible.
Obviously the hotel has a travel office to help with any problems you may encounter - I bought a trip to Vinales and my transfers to Varadero and back from it and had no hassle at all, a money exchange facility (recommend small notes and loads of them!), and a comfy lobby. I'd be back in a flash if I could justify the time off ............. I'm a Brit by the way living in France.
For your 'gilded cage', the nearest locations are Playas del Este, which was only being planned when I travelled there, and Varadero. Some hotels in Varadero are rather far from the mainland as it's a long peninsular. Make sure that you avoid the area where the peninsular joins the mainland as the local oil refinery can make the air smelly and polluted. I strongly recommend you take a day trip to TRINIDAD - the city not the country!! when you are there, as it has a very special colonial atmosphere, the like of which I've not found anywhere else.
Have a great time. The Cubans are a very friendly and easy to live with people, and I hope that you have a wonderful time.
OH and do try to visit Havana Cathedral for a Christmas service even if you aren't 'religious', because you should find it very joyful and full of 'local colour'.