With all the bad press (well deserved) about bad food and lousy service in Cuba, it may comes as a surprise to learn that Cuba actually has some excellent hotels (as long as you overlook the bad food and lousy service). Hotels are fine if your sole interest is sightseeing. But to learn something about Cuban culture and lifestyle – to get to the heart of affairs – I strongly recommend that you skip the generally overpriced hotels and opt to stay with Cuban families in casa particulares (licensed room rentals).
Here are a few of my favorite casas particulares.
Of the many options in Havana, my favorite is the home of Jorge Coalla Potts  and his wife Marisel (Calle I #456, Apto. 11, Vedado, tel 7/832-8032). They have only one room to rent, but it's spacious and has both air-conditioning and fan, a telephone, and a large clean private bathroom that usually has lots of hot water. The location in the heart of the Vedado district is excellent, being just two blocks from the Havana Libre hotel (with its all-important bank and tour and travel services) and Coppelia. Best yet, Jorge and Marisel are a joy to talk with. You won't regret a stay here... but please vacate for me when I'm in town! You can email Jorge at jorgepotts [at] correodecuba [dot] cu.
In Trinidad, with its 200-plus private room rentals, my first choice–and the place I rest my head whenever possible–is Casa Colonial Munoz , the steps-from-anywhere home of Julio Munoz and his wife Rosa. This spacious, airy colonial home is festooned with antiques, from old clocks to rustic family swords. You can choose from two lofty-ceilinged rooms, each with its own modern bathroom with water hot enough to boil a lobster. Julio is a bit of a man-about-town, and the place can seem like Grand Central Station, with all the toing and froing of family and other visitors. But that's part of the charm. Did I mention that a horse lives in the back yard, and that the dogs are everywhere underfoot.
Heading to Santiago de Cuba? I make a beeline for Casa de Florinda Chaviano Martinez. She and her husband are liberal and attentive hosts in their well-maintained home in the relatively quiet Reparto Sueno district. Their son lives in Florida, so the income stream helps pay for modern furnishings in the single air-conditioned room with modern (albeit small) bathroom. And Florinda happily makes filling meals, served in the airy back patio.
For a more complete listing of casas particulares throughout Cuba, buy my Moon Cuba .