CASA PARTICULAR: the ultimate guide for the best accommodations in Cuba
“Mi casa es tu casa” is a Spanish saying, that best describes the Casa Particular. As I’ve already written in first post about Cuba, the Casas Particulatres are a system commonly found in Cuba, where a local rents a room (or several for that matter) in his or her apartment and (usually) offers his guests breakfast (and other meals). These accommodations are safe, as they are sanctioned by the government (which collects part of the profit) and are inspected by a government official once a month. So, when checking in into a Casa Particular, be ready to give your passport information to them, as such things are needed. But don’t worry, the official part is followed by a warm welcome – usually a delicious Cuba Libre. 🙂
What to expect from Casa Particular?
As the Casas are checked rather frequently, the establishments are neat and tidy, the sheets are clean and always fresh and the bathrooms are sparkling clean. Soaps and towels are provided as well. As there are virtually no fashionable middle-class hotels on the island, the Casas are a good alternative – in my opinion, they are better than hotels, as they let you indulge in everyday Cuban life. Moreover, the owners are polite and go all the way to make you feel at home.
Some Casas have the tourist rooms separated from the rest of the house, while other have a shared living room. The last part was rather pleasant, as I do enjoy chatting with the locals. It really does make life easier if you speak Spanish, but I’d be ready to bet that a dictionary at hand and few hand gestures should do the trick. 😊
How to find a Casa Particular?
Casas particulares are usually marked with a sign in the form of a blue anchor, hung on the front porch. Sometimes the owners are already waiting at the bust stations or they’ll even invite you in from the street! Several Casas Particulares are already on TripAdvisor and Booking.com (even with all the internet shortages, the locals seem to manage), but the owners tend to stay away from modern technology as it makes payments way easier.
Once you’re in a Casa, you just sit back and relax, as everything has already been taken care off – in Cuba everyone knows somebody in the next place you are headed to and they can make reservations for all your trip. They’ll also arrange you a cab or organise a daily trip – shortly, they can be your Cuban travel agent. 😊 Anyhow, it’s good to check the prices (at the street/with other travellers/in guidebooks) so that you can negotiate for the best price.
How much does it cost to stay in Casa Particular?
The prices range from Casa to Casa and are usually defined by the location and the time you’re staying (at the peak of the season, the prices are usually the steepest). Therefore, for us it was from 13–25 CUC per night (1 CUC = app. 1€), as the height of the season hadn’t yet come. And don’t forget to bargain – it helped us greatly. It was certainly cheaper than the prices listed in Lonely Planet, where the prices ranged all the way from 30 to 50€ per night (Lonely Planet usually lists the height of the season prices).
Should I eat in Casa Particular?
Go for it! Breakfast usually costs about 4–5 CUC (if you bargain well, also 3 CUC) and it is enormous. The first course is fruit, coffee and freshly squeezed juice, followed by bread and butter, jam and sandwiches. This is followed by an egg dish (either scrambled, eggs Benedict, sunny-side-up or an omelette) and you may even get fried bananas! 😊 But bear in mind that you’re still staying on Cuba and not everything is always available and unless you are staying at 5 star resort don’t expect any fancy granola or “super foods”. 😉
The dinners are delicious as well and like at breakfast, you’re presented with a whole mountain of food. Dinners usually range from 8–12 CUC, depending on the dish (meat/fish/shrimps) . The prices are comparable with those from restaurants – but the food is usually better and freshly prepared just for you!
Would we recommend any Casas Particulares?
For sure! We liked all of the Casas in which we stayed and we’d be happy to share our experiences. Maybe, if you mention that you’re there after reading our blog, you just might get a discount! 😊
Just a quick note, all of the below mentioned Casas had their very own bathroom, AC, TV and fridge, stacked with various beverages.
HAVANA – Casa El Sol de San Jose
The Casa El Sol de San Jose is the only casa particular, which we booked in advance through Booking.com. Bruno Fabio is fluent in English and his friend picked us at the airport, as we arrived in Cuba late at night. The Casa is situated in a district known as ‘Centro Habana’, where mostly locals live. Besides Bruno, several of his family members live in the casa, including his amiable dog Lynda. Two rooms are available, each with a bathroom and a common living room. The room was unimaginably tidy, the breakfasts delicious. Bruno went his way to prepare a list of free Casas in most of the places, we were yet to stay. Plus, he arranged us Wi-Fi through a local ‘dealer’.
Language: English and Spanish
VINALES – Casa El Mamey
This was our favourite Casa Particular. Also because there probably aren’t any hotels where you receive a hug and a gift upon leaving. 😊 This casa is located 10 minutes away from the village centre and, even when we were returning home by walking late at night, we felt safe. Two rooms in the back of the house are available, each with its own bathroom and a terrace with a view. The owners are outstandingly friendly, like to chit-chat and really put and effort to make you feel at home. Oh, and by the way – they prepare great cocktails! 😉
PLAYA GIRON – Hostal Mirasol y Marcos
Even though this Casa Particular is further away from the beachside that the rest, they do offer the possibility of renting a bike for 5 CUC a day. This way you can easily make it even to the places that are further away from Playa Giron. The rocking chairs in the porch are great for relaxing in the evening and the owner’s grandchild is super sweet and curious. 😊
TRINIDAD – Casa Alejandro
Casa Alejandro was the only establishment that we didn’t book in advance and just somehow stumbled upon it while searching for one. As we peeked in to the hallway of the casa, 5 madams of various ages suddenly stopped their wild debate and started to stare at us. As I was just about to ask: ‘Is there any room avai-‘, they all started to talk at the same time “Yes, yes, sure…” and before we knew it we were already in the room. 😊
The household is run by an old granny who appears quite strict at the first impression, but she gets everything done. 😉 The room that we got was large, the bathroom even larger and the terrace was a great place to enjoy an evening beer.
Language proficiency: Spanish
(Note that this Casa doesn’t offer dinner)
VARADERO – Casa Niurka y Osvaldo
At first glance, this Casa might seem like a somewhat more basic choice than the rest (there is also only one room available), but it’s situated only 150m from the seaside, which makes it all worthwhile. Osvaldo is proficient in English and is happy to help you in any means possible and the dinner offered is so large, that, after eating, we barely managed to get to our beds.
Imagine – everything from buttered bread for the starter, to a hefty and delicious soup, to perfectly roasted fish, rice, potatoes, vegetables and – most importantly – the Crème de la crème of the entire meal: the dessert. All this for 8CUC per person. As we were already full, we only tried the dessert and asked Niurka the next day to prepare us just a dessert for dinner. 😉 It was, as you might expect, delicious.
Language: English and Spanish
If you need any more information about Casas Particulares in Cuba, just contact us! 😊