Cuba is rapidly opening up to Western tourism, and the island’s capital Havana is home to some of the Caribbean’s most elegant hotels; which provide top-end luxury tourism. In fact, tourists in Old Havana now have the option of combining five-star comfort with centuries of rich history on their doorstep, something unique to Cuba.
Things are changing in Cuba. After spending so many decades with the curtains firmly drawn; since the turn of the millennium, tourists from the United States, Canada, Europe and all over the world have started to peer inside its crumbling baroque façades. And “madre mía”, it’s colourful!
Once an Instamatic photograph of a city where time seemed to stand still, as horse-drawn carriages cut in front of classic American cars from the 1950s; and old men with young eyes play guitars with arachnid hands by the waterfront. Now Havana has seen a recent boom in luxury tourism. The neglected Spanish colonial buildings splashed yellow, cyan and burgundy; now stand shoulder to shoulder with pristine five-star hotels, certainly said to be some of the best in the Caribbean.
Searching for a slice of La Buena Vida?For tourists seeking the paradisiacal white beaches and turquoise seas of their glossy travel guides. Coupled with a widening selection of luxuriant modern hotels; all while soaking up the exclusive Cuban personality of Havana’s old centre, look no further. This island has it all.When in Cuba, you don’t dip your toe in; you dive in at the deep end – so let’s take a better look at the best five-star hotels in Old Havana.
Kempinski in Havana
Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana is situated in “La Habana Vieja”; or Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage site. From the hotel’s remarkable Panoramic Restaurant and Bar, or relaxing in the roof-top spa, you can enjoy extraordinary views of Havana Vieja’s; fascinating mix of Baroque and Neoclassical architecture. The rooms and suites at the Kempinski underline the five-star rating this hotel holds. Guests can opt for a Deluxe Room, a Gran Deluxe Room, or a Patio Room near the courtyard. All coming complete with a flat-screen television, safe, mini-bar and coffee machine, as well as stunning views over the city. However, for unrivalled tranquillity; the hotel also offers no fewer than six exclusive suites, each one unique. But each one with panoramic views of the city outside and beautiful contemporary décor inside; while still retaining the traditional Cuban-style high ceilings and open spaces.
To begin each day, guests are invited to the hotel’s Confluencias breakfast salon; which boasts a buffet of numerous different cultural variations. Sipping an authentic Cuban coffee while watching the morning bustle from the salon’s morning terrace presents guests the perfect start to the day. Gran Hotel Kempinski has, in total, another five separate lounges, restaurants, bars and poolside terraces for the guests’ convenience. All of which provide a sumptuous selection of Cuban gastronomy; as well as freshly prepared dishes from all around the world.
Gran Bristol Kempinski
In addition to this, the five-star, 162 room Gran Hotel Bristol is also due to open on a similar timescale towards the end of 2019. And will no doubt be a future contender to be one of the best five-star hotels in La Vieja Habana. Also located in Havana’s beautiful old centre in an area of town where the artistic elite used to live in the 1930s. It will have a Presidential Suite, five restaurants and bars and a gym. Its a piece de resistance, however, has an infinity pool on the 9th floor, with views of the dome at El Capitolio, the old Spanish fortresses and the famous Paseo del Prado.
There is almost nothing the Kempinski cannot arrange. The highly knowledgeable concierge team can assist guests with any questions that arise, ranging from knowing which bars to visit after dinner in order to hear some traditional Cuban evening music; to describing the best local dishes to try. They can even set guests up with a personalized car tour of Havana city centre and arrange for your stress-free chauffeur-driven trip back to the airport.
Kempinski Resort in Cayo Guillermo
Already a leader in the luxury tourism sector, the famous Kempinski chain is going even further. The new “Cayo Guillermo Resort Kempinski” is scheduled to open towards the end of 2019. And will be the Swiss brand’s first Cuban “beach resort” in the style of a boat at sea. Located in one of Cuba’s most well-known and fashionable destinations, 500km east of Havana and with daily domestic flights available. It will be the only genuinely luxurious resort situated on a beach in the whole of Cuba.
By investing so much more in Cuba, the Kempinski chain is underlining its faith in the flourishing Cuban tourist industry; after praising the evident success of the Gran Kempinski hotel in Havana since its inauguration nearly two years ago.
Hotel Palacio Cueto
The ornate cream façade and elegant galleries of the Hotel Palacio Cueto stand boldly among the bright yellows, pale blues and sun-baked maroons of the Plaza Vieja’s other proud edifices. Recently restored to its original beauty when it was The Palacio Viena; built in the early twentieth century. Rumor has it, that Los Habaneros, city locals, gasp at its splendour.
Standing in the Spanish colonial heart of Havana; even the architecture of the Palacio Cueto is intrinsically tied to Spain. Influenced by Catalan masters like Gaudí, the rooms’ balconies form waves just as they do in Parc Guell across the Atlantic in Barcelona.The 60 spacious rooms offer complete five-star relaxation to the guests after an exciting day sampling Havana, and what better way to relax in style than your own personal jacuzzi in the Junior Suite room?
Guests can enjoy the Vienna Lobby Bar or the Gaudí Bar Café. And the hotel’s staff are on-hand 24 hours a day for your convenience. The views from the Palacio Cueto are truly spectacular; and guests are treated to vistas of what are undoubtedly some of the most beautiful possible sights of all Havana. Beyond the Plaza Vieja, lies a homogeneous ensemble of private houses; sprinkled in contrasting hues, arcades, balconies, wrought-iron gates and internal courtyards.
The Hotel Saratoga understands how vital art is to Cubans. The whole hotel is an amalgamation of traditional and contemporary styles. In fact is a celebration of Cuba’s baroque past, and its avant-garde present. Also, located in the historic centre of Havana, overlooking Havana’s Fraternity Park, the Capitol Building and the exquisite opera house. This imposing piece of architecture prides itself on its five-star plus category. The hotel has 96 elegant and spacious rooms, seven luxurious suites, two bars, two restaurants, a magnificent spa, a gym with high-end equipment and a spectacular rooftop pool with a panoramic view of the Cuban capital.
The Anacaona Restaurant, named after the first all-female orchestra in Cuba; is run by the experienced Italian chef Mario Berutti. Who prepares typical dishes from various regions of Italy; also delighting diners with exquisite Cuban and international cuisine freshly prepared daily. The Mirador Restaurant, as the name suggests, is a viewpoint on the hotel’s top floor, with a 270° view of all Havana. This terrace restaurant also has a rectangular swimming pool, a gym, and a bar offering light food. The Mirador Restaurant also offers an exceptional service for cocktails, parties and gala dinners, with live music and water ballet.
The location of this magnificent hotel is another factor as to why it is considered one of Havana’s best five-star establishments. Some of the “must-see” attractions like the Capitol Building, Martí Theatre, Gran Teatro de la Habana, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Museo de la Revolución and Partagas Cigar Factory are all located less than 1,000 metres away.
Until the 1960s, The Saratoga was a hub of intellectualism for Havana’s best artists, and famous guests who have chosen to stay here are Mick Jagger, Beyonce, Jayz, Will Smith and numerous heads of state among many other notable guests.
Hotel Santa Isabel
There is no older location in Havana for the illustrious than Hotel Santa Isabel. Situated in the founding square of Havana, the Plaza de Armas, place where Spanish Conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar founded the tiny settlement of San Cristobal de La Habana back in 1519.
Among the guests whom stayed at this prestigious venue are Sting, Jack Nicholson and American president Jimmy Carter. The superb location plus the comfort and style of the rooms don’t make it difficult to understand why this boutique hotel has become a celebrities´favourite. Guests here have the option of booking a wide and well-ventilated Standard Room with colonial style; spacious with marble floors, a terrace and a balcony. There is also a Junior Suite and the Main Suite which comes with a living room as luxuriant as sleeping quarters.
The hotel offers guests a Lobby Bar, a Cyber Café, a boutique, a restaurant and bar providing breakfast à la carte or dinners and banquets. There is a 24-hour Reception service, a Tour Desk and a hotel Rent-a-Car Service. And if you feel like a romantic Cuban dinner “sin niños”; the hotel will even offer a nanny service.
This Hotel is an architectural mirror of the city in which it stands. Just standing in the heart of the historic centre is like being part of an oil painting of Seville or Cádiz. But where the artist has misjudged his palette and made everything slightly too bright. All the Santa Isabel areas are a kaleidoscope of azures, golds, clarets, lilacs and brilliant whites. With the traditional furnishings of black iron and 19th Century velvet wonderfully juxtaposing each bold tone.
Although a luxury hotel since 1867, was re-opened in 1997 with a new Deluxe Status. It remains one of the most charming 5-star hotels in Havana.
Iberostar Grand Packard
An architectural masterpiece; this beautiful historic building in the heart
of La Vieja Habana is literally crowned with modernism. A swimming pool on the sixth floor, separates the classic white stucco façade below from the modernist glass crown the hotel wears.
Visually iconic and sophisticated, the Iberostar Grand Packard offers
guests a wide range of five-star luxury facilities. Including a la carte dining,
fitness rooms, a beauty salon with sauna and masseurs, a cigar lounge,
professional entertainment shows and butler service. Also has a rooftop terrace to enjoy the vistas of Havana.
Not happy with your pillow? Swap it for another of your choice on the
hotel’s pillow menu. The Iberostar Grand Packard ‘s luxurious status is
reinforced by the Star Prestige Area; which presents guests the opportunity to access the most exclusive spaces, rooms and services at the hotel. As well as the option of choosing the Cosmos Superior Standard which offers you a welcome and farewell drink at check-in and check-out, along with your own private reception.
The Deluxe rooms and vast Star Prestige Suites with sea views are genuinely a home from home for travelers. And with 24-hours room service, everything is provided for at all times.
The hotel confidently announces that the best cuisine in Havana is
to be sampled here. Guests can choose between five different restaurants and four different bars. You can opt for traditional Cuban cuisine at the Tradiciones Restaurant; typical Spanish gastronomy at the Spanish Restaurant. Or the fresh Caribbean produce sourced locally at the Clipper Restaurant. Choose from relaxing by the pool at the El Faro cocktail bar with views of Morro Castle, or enjoying a world-famous Cuban cigar and a glass of rum at the Los Caprichos cigar-bar. Do you love live piano music? have your cup of Cuban coffee, at stunning Salón Goya Piano Bar; where professional pianists will play to you as you sip any drink of your choice on the elaborate menu.
Luxury holidays in Old Havana? Plenty of options and more to come
Cuba has a blossoming and thriving tourist industry and now, more than ever, it has the hotels to match. Tourists who come seeking luxury, sophistication, comfort, convenience and relaxation to match the vibrancy, bustle and charm of Havana need not be disappointed.
The number of five-star hotels in Havana is fast making Havana a five-star destination. And this is not something likely to change any time soon. Along with the aforementioned hotels that the Kempinski chain is planning to build, holidaymakers to Cuba have a vast array of choice.
Furthermore, in another coup for the Cuban tourist industry, the Sofitel So Paseo del Prado is due to open in November this year. You’ve guessed it, right on the border between Old Havana and Havana Centro; is probably in the most atmospheric corner of Havana in Prado and Malecon.
SO Paseo del Prado
Sofitel So Paseo del Prado will be another five-star deluxe hotel with the very latest mod-cons in each spacious. Sparkling new room, with exquisite views of the Malecon and the Florida Straits, as well as numerous restaurants, bars, salons, music rooms, a spa, massage parlour and a swimming pool. Once open, the Sofitel So Paseo del Prado will be another on a lengthening list of the best five-star hotels in La Habana Vieja.
There’s so much history here, so much culture, so much music. There’s romance in “la vida Cubana”, and there are more colours than your eyes have ever seen. As Havana marks its 500th birthday, travellers can celebrate with it. It is a maturing, fascinating city which is focussing on modernising and upgrading its hospitality industry; looking towards the future while still holding the past’s hand.
Growth has been staggering and continues to be so. The hotels listed in this article are pioneers for the Cuban luxury travel sector. And really are the best places to stay if you’re lucky enough to find yourself here.
Amongst the dilapidated purple and orange colonial frontages with junk-shop interiors; stand these beautiful baroque-style five-star hotels with marble floors and palatial furnishings; where guests want for nothing. Their ornate windows let in the sounds of jazz and chachachá; and all the smells of sizzling beef or chicken from the street restaurants. They are situated right in the heart of one of the planet’s most exciting cities; and offer a luxurious haven away from the scurry and commotion of Havana’s daily life. If only their walls could talk, imagine the stories they would tell…