Hotel Plaza (Zulueta #267, esq. Neptuno, tel. 07/860-8583, fax 07/860-8869, www.gran-caribe.com , from CUC84 s, CUC120 d year-round), built in 1909, occupies the northeast corner of Parque Central . The lobby is supported by Corinthian columns. A marble stairway leads upstairs to 188 lofty-ceilinged rooms and suites, refurbished in 2009 for its 100th anniversary and featuring antique reproductions. Some rooms are gloomy, and those facing the street can be noisy. A pianist hits the ivories in the gracious lobby bar lit by stained-glass skylights and gilt chandeliers. It has a chic restaurant, a gift store, and solarium.
The overpriced Hotel Inglaterra (Prado #416, esq. San Rafael, tel. 07/860-8594, fax 07/860-8254, www.gran-caribe.com , CUC84 s, CUC120 d year-round), on the west side of Parque Central, has an extravagant lobby bar and restaurant that whisk you off to Morocco with their arabesque details. It has 83 rooms with hair dryers and minibars. Noise from the square can be a problem, and many rooms are dark.
Overpriced Hotel Ambos Mundos (Obispo #153, e/ San Ignacio y Mercaderes, tel. 07/860-9530, fax 07/860-9532, www.habaguanexhotels.com , from CUC80 s, CUC130 d low season, from CUC100 s, CUC160 d high season), one block west of Plaza de Armas , lets you rest your head where Ernest Hemingway found inspiration in the 1930s. The hotel offers 59 rooms and three junior suites arranged atrium style. Most rooms are small, dark, and have undistinguished furnishings. Those facing the interior courtyard are quieter. It has a pleasant lobby bar, plus rooftop restaurant and solarium. Avoid the fifth floor—a thoroughfare for sightseeing gawkers.
I like the Hotel del Tejadillo (Tejadillo, esq. San Ignacio, tel. 07/863-7283, fax 07/863-8830, www.habaguanexhotels.com , from CUC70 s, CUC110 d low season, from CUC80 s, CUC130 d high season), another converted colonial mansion. Beyond the huge doors is an airy marble-clad lobby with a quaint dining area. It offers 32 rooms around two courtyards with fountains. The cool, high-ceilinged rooms are graced by mediopuntos and modern furniture.
On the harborfront, Hotel Armadores de Santander (Luz #4, esq. San Pedro, tel. 07/862-8000, fax 07/862-8080, www.habaguanexhotels.com , from CUC85 s, CUC130 d low season, from CUC100 s, CUC160 d high season, CUC300 s/d suite year-round) has 39 spacious rooms, including three duplexes, a junior suite, and a fabulous contemporary suite with a whirlpool tub in the center of the mezzanine bedroom with a four-poster bed. All rooms feature colonial tile floors, handsome furnishings, and state-of-the-art bathrooms. One room is for travelers with disabilities. It has a 24-hour bar, billiards room, and a fine restaurant.
Playing on a monastic theme, the Hostal Los Frailes (Brasil, e/ Oficios y Mercaderes, tel. 07/862-9383, fax 07/862-9710, www.habaguanexhotels.com , from CUC70 s, CUC110 d low season, from CUC80 s, CUC130 d high season), another restored historic property, has staff dressed in monks’ habits, plus lots of medieval-style heavy timbers, stained glass, and wrought-iron. It has 22 rooms around a patio with an aljibe and fountain. The rooms have patterned terra-cotta tile floors, sponge-washed walls, religious prints, period telephones, and spacious bathrooms. It has Internet and a bar, but no restaurant.
Hotel Beltrán de Santa Cruz (San Ignacio #411, e/ Muralla y Sol, tel. 07/860-8330, fax 07/860-8363, www.habaguanexhotels.com , from CUC70 s, CUC110 d low season, from CUC80 s, CUC135 d high season) is a handsome conversion of an elegant, three-story 18th-century mansion with exquisite mediopuntos and other architectural features (the atrium still features the original aljibe). Its 11 rooms and one junior suite exude historic ambience courtesy of gracious antique reproductions; all have modern bathrooms.
Another fine colonial conversion, the romantic Hotel Palacio O’Farrill (Cuba #102, esq. Chacón, tel. 07/860-5080, fax 07/860-5083, www.habaguanexhotels.com , from CUC85 s, CUC130 d low season, from CUC100 s, CUC160 d high season) is centered on a three-story atrium courtyard lit by a skylight and adorned with antique marble plus bronze statues. It has 38 graciously furnished rooms on three floors, with decor reflecting the 18th (mezzanine), 19th (3rd floor), and 20th (fourth floor) centuries. All have modern bathrooms. Facilities include a cybercafé, an elegant restaurant, and a jazz café.
Hotel Raquel (San Ignacio, esq. Amargura, tel. 07/860-8280, fax 07/860-8275, www.habaguanexhotels.com , from CUC85 s, CUC130 d low season, from CUC100 s, CUC160 d high season, including breakfast), dating to 1905, is a dramatic exemplar of art nouveau styling. The lobby gleams with marble columns and period detailing, including Tiffany lamps and a mahogany bar. The theme carries into the charming rooms featuring tile floors, wrought-iron beds, and hair dryers. It has an elegant restaurant, and there’s a rooftop solarium plus gym. On the edge of the old Jewish quarter, the Hotel Raquel caters to Jewish travelers. Richly illustrated passages from the Old Testament cover the walls, rooms on the second floor are named for Biblical patriarchs, the restaurant serves kosher food, and the chandeliers in the lobby are inspired by the Star of David.
Another historic Habaguanex hotel to consider is the pleasant 10-room Hotel San Miguel (Calle Cuba #52, esq. Peña Pobre, tel. 07/862-7656, from CUC85 s, CUC130 d low season, from CUC100 s, CUC160 d high season).
The Hotel Palacio del Marqués de San Felipe y Santiago de Bejucal (Calle Oficios 152, esq Mercaderes, tel. 7/204-9201, www.habaguanexhotels.com , CUC93–124) is slated to open on Plaza de San Francisco in 2010. The converted 1771 mansion of Don Sebastián de Peñalver is the latest addition to the Habaguanex roster, blending a 21st-century interior with a baroque exterior.
Meanwhile, work is advancing on rebuilding the old Hotel Packard (Paseo de Martí, esq. Carcel), due to open in 2011. An entirely new interior will arise behind a preserved historic facade.