Handy for the nearby bus station, Hotel Bruzón (Calle Bruzón, e/ Av. Rancho Boyeros y Pozos Dulces, tel. 07/877-5682, CUC16 s, CUC24 d low season, CUC18 s, CUC28 d high season), just north of Plaza de la Revolución, offers the cheapest digs in town. Its 48 rooms are barebones, with utility furniture.
Hotel St. John’s (Calle O #206, e/ 23 y 25, tel. 07/833-3740, fax 07/833-3561, www.gran-caribe.com, CUC38 s, CUC60 d low season, CUC56 s, CUC80 d high season) is a popular bargain. Beyond the chill lounge, this 14-story property has 87 rooms. A cabaret is offered in the rooftop nightclub, plus there’s a rooftop swimming pool, a tourism bureau, and the Steak House Toro.
Nearby, Hotel Vedado (Calle O #244, e/ 23 y 25, tel. 07/836-4072, fax 07/834-4186, www.gran-caribe.com, CUC45 s, CUC60 d low season, CUC63 s, CUC80 d high season) is of similar standard. Its 203 pastel-hued rooms are small, with tile floors and small bathrooms; remodeled in 2008, they now have firm mattresses and are eye-pleasing. There’s a restaurant, piano bar, disco and cabaret, a tiny, uninspired lounge, and a swimming pool.
Hotel Victoria (Calle 19 #101, esq. M, tel. 07/833-3510, fax 07/833-3109, www.gran-caribe.com, CUC65 s, CUC80 d low season, CUC80 s, CUC100 d high season, CUC130 suites year-round) is a charming Victorian-style, neoclassical hotel that focuses on a business clientele. It has 31 elegant, albeit small, rooms with antique reproduction furnishings, plus Internet modems. There’s a small swimming pool, intimate lobby bar, and elegant restaurant. In 2009, the hotel awaited a restoration by England’s Esencia hotel group.
For unfussy budget-minded travelers, my last resort would be the lackluster Hotel Colina (Calle L, esq. 27, tel. 07/836-4071, reservas [at] colina [dot] gca [dot] tur [dot] cu, CUC40 s, CUC50 d), near the Hotel Habana Libre Tryp.
The art deco high-rise Hotel Presidente (Calzada #110, esq. Av. de los Presidentes, tel. 07/855-1801, fax 07/833-3753, reserva [at] hpdte [dot] gca [dot] tur [dot] cu, CUC90 s, CUC140 d standard, CUC200 s/d suites year-round) was inaugurated in 1927 and retains its maroon and pink interior, with sumptuous Louis XIV–style furnishings and Grecian urns and busts that rise from a beige marble floor. It has 160 spacious rooms with tasteful contemporary furnishings, including marble bathrooms. One suite is appointed in Louis XIV style. It has an elegant restaurant, an outdoor swimming pool, plus gym and sauna.
Mobster Meyer Lansky’s 23-story Hotel Habana Riviera (Malecón y Paseo, tel. 07/836-4051, fax 07/833-3739, www.gran-caribe.com, from CUC50 s, CU80 d low season, from CUC71 s, CUC130d high season, CUC300 suite year-round) underwent refurbishing to recapture its 1950s luxe, but the hotel is still badly deteriorated. The fabulous modernist lobby, with acres of marble and glass and original furnishings, is the high point and has a pleasant cocktail lounge. The 352 spacious rooms have jaded and conservative furniture; cleanliness and bad plumbing are of concern, and some rooms have mildew. There are two mediocre restaurants, a 24-hour snack bar, an average swimming pool (packed with noisy Cubans and clamorous with piped-in music), a gym (sauna and massage service), a cigar store, and the swank Copa Room nightclub.
Hotel Nacional (Calle O y 21, tel. 07/873-3564, fax 07/873-5054, www.hotelnacionaldecuba.com, from CUC120 s, CUC170 d year-round) is Havana’s flagship hotel, to which celebrities flock. A restoration revived much of the majesty of this 1930s eclectic-style gem, perched overlooking the Malecón. Furnishings in the 475 large rooms are dowdy.
The Executive Floor has 63 specially appointed rooms and suites. The Comedor de Aguiar (one of four restaurants) is one of the city’s most elegant eateries, and the Cabaret Parisien, the top-floor cocktail lounge, and the open-air terrace bar are all high points. There are two swimming pools, upscale boutiques, a beauty salon, spa, tennis courts, bank, and business center. Theft from guest rooms is a problem.
Hotel Habana Libre Tryp (Calle L, e/ 23 y 25, tel. 07/834-6100, fax 07/834-6365, www.solmeliacuba.com, from CUC140 s, CUC150 d low season, from CUC190 s, CUC200 d high season, CUC440 s/d suite year-round), managed by Spain’s Sol Meliá, is Havana’s landmark high-rise hotel. It was built in the 1950s by the Hilton chain and became a favorite of mobsters. The modernist atrium lobby with glass dome exudes a ’50s retro feel. Although the 533 rooms feature desired amenities, furnishings are dowdy, plumbing is finicky, and guests complain about poor housekeeping. The hotel is loaded with facilities, including a 24-hour café, four restaurants (the Polinesio and El Baracón are dismal; the rooftop Las Antillas is recommended), an excellent open-air swimming pool, business center, underground parking, and one of Havana’s best nightclubs.
Also managed by Spain’s Sol Meliá, the deluxe postmodern, 22-story Hotel Meliá Cohiba (Paseo, esq. 1ra, tel. 07/833-3636, fax 07/834-4555, www.solmeliacuba.com, from CUC175 s/d low season, from CUC225 s/d high season) is perhaps the city’s finest all-round hotel. Its 462 spacious and elegant rooms feature brass lamps, marble floors, and Romanesque chairs with contemporary fabrics. The bathrooms dazzle with halogen lights and huge mirrors. South-facing rooms can get hot. It has first-rate executive services, plus a magnificent swimming pool, gym, squash court, solarium, boutiques, five top-ranked restaurants, four bars, and the Habana Café nightclub.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Cuba, 5th Edition