I've wanted to visit Cuba for years and I'm so glad opted out of the all-inclusive deals and instead, chose to stay in Havana in a Bed and Breakfast (Casa Particular), specifically the charming Casa del Rey. Staying here I felt like someone who lived in Havana, I wasn't just visiting, which is what I like to do on vacation.
Casa del Rey is not close to the airport but the taxi is not expensive and the route is very direct. There are always lots of cars at the terminus no matter what time your pane gets in. I happened to arrive at the ridiculous time of 4:00AM but Remi was up when I arrived, ready to greet me and get me settled in. I didn't' have to get up at the crack of dawn either, to make sure I got the breakfast; Joel and Remi waited until I rose to lay out the spread.
Remi and Joel operate the 3 bedroom establishment with very spacious air-conditioned rooms, (gorgeous armoirs/bureaus from the Deco period or thereabouts) and private baths (in 2 of the 3 rooms) and mini fridges. Each room is decorated differently in the Cuban style with large windows that open if you prefer fresh air to A/C. The cost is an unbelievable $30 per night, including breakfast, and if you happen to be two to a room, that unbeatable price is the same!
The breakfasts are outstanding. Healthy portions of fresh, locally-grown fruit (some I'd never heard of), delicious hot coffee with hot milk, eggs (their omelettes are to die for), bread, cold cuts, fresh plantain sliced thin and fried to perfection ... on and on. You're set for the whole day after that!
I stayed for a week and ate dinner there a few times as well. Very reasonable and also delish: roast chicken, fresh fish, and shrimp were the main dishes on 3 separate occasions, with Cuban beans and rice (my fave), French fried potatoes, yucca, sweet potatoes, salad, and/or steamed veggies. I discovered that they both worked in restaurants previously so they each know their way around a kitchen! ;)
They don't speak much English but we were fine with a basic translation book and lots of entertaining charades, warm smiles and hearty laughs. You'll be fine AND after a week, you'll be surprised by how much Spanish you pick up; perhaps not to speak but certainly to comprehend.
Remi and Joel go out of their way to provide tourist information, find transportation for their guests,etc. The beds are freshened and made up daily, (complete linen change every couple of days) and the bathrooms are pristine at all times. I was told not to flush toilet paper down the toilet which made me a little wary of odour, but it was never an issue, as the waste bins were emptied frequently.
The perk of staying in Havana is that you can mix a beach holiday with a "tourist" holiday- Old Havana, museums, etc.- for me, that's the best combination of activity and chillaxin'. You will need to travel a bit to get to the beach. A car load of 4 will cost each $4 or $5 Cuban tourist dollars each, return, and it's about a 20-25-minutes scenic ride. Make sure you ask the driver to stop to buy fresh roasted peanuts from the vendors on foot along the way ... out of this world. You can also buy cold and warm food at the beach and (this is the BEST) they sell bottles of rum right there too. A bottle of Havana Club ranges between $3.50 to $5.50 depending on the format. Bring your plastic cups and cold mixers with you and a picnic and you're all set.
Casa del Rey is situated on a beautiful boulevard that is just far enough from the hustle and bustle to provide a relaxing atmosphere, but still close enough to get to the tourist spots quickly and easily with either a 15 to 20-minutes walk or a fast and inexpensive taxi ride. They have a beautiful covered veranda at the front of the building (they are the second floor of a duplex). It's the perfect place to sit with a morning coffee and read a book or have a cocktail at the end of a day. There is a university across the street with beautiful grounds to gaze at from the terrace (apparently you can also stroll through but it was closed when I was there) or you can just lean over the balustrade to watch the world go by ... and all those wonderful cars from the 40s and 50s. I was told that they will be adding a rooftop terrace before the winter as well as extending the patio/walkway that each room opens onto, so there will be many more choices of where to relax.You really feel like you have stepped out of this world into a slower time and isn't that what vacationing is all about?
There is so much more of Havana I want to see- all of Cuba is so interesting and the people so welcoming- that I can say without hesitation, I will be staying at Casa del Rey every time I go!
Right now they have no web site (this is a new establishment) but they have a terrific Facebook page if you want to see lots of photos of the rooms and more: https://www.facebook.com/CasaDelReyBedandBreakfast.
To contact Casa del Rey, you can call Remi (if your Spanish is up to it) in Cuba at 011 535 382 7892 or Max in Canada at 1 514 895 5520.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- A charming home near Vedado, Havana. 10 minutes from Old Havana and 10 minutes from oceanfront. Private rooms with air-conditioning, fridge, private bathroom. Breakfast included and meal service available. ... more less