Since I stayed in the Tropicoco a few years ago I have learned a lot about the world of Cuban hotels. Among them, the Tropicoco has a special place as a beachfront place to stay that provides easy access to Havana. Let us make no mistakes about it; the Tropicoco is far from a luxury resort. In fact, the two stars it gets in most reviews are quite appropriate. After I got used to its ugly duckling lobbies and rooms I developed quite an affection for this oft-maligned hotel.
Reason 1 – location. Havana does not have a beach but just to the east is one of the most beautiful beaches anywhere – Santa Maria – and that’s where the Tropicoco is front and centre. By just east I mean under half an hour by bus or cab. Leaving central Havana you go through the tunnel under the harbour, past Cojimar and bingo, you’re there. The quick trip is what makes the Tropicoco so prime – you can stay on the beach then head into Havana for that town’s exquisite pleasures. That ease of access makes the Tropicoco very attractive. In Veradero you’ll find hotels that are much more creature-comfort appealing. In fact, you can probably pick from forty but it’s a two-hour one-way trip to Havana.
Reason 2 – it’s all inclusive: The food at the Tropicoco is not up to the high standards of Cuba’s paladares, but its breakfast buffet is at least as good as those I have encountered at much more refined hotels. The other meals and snacks are not fabulous, but certainly up to the standards of any all inclusive resorts in Cuba that I have visited.
Reason 3 – the guests: At the Tropicoco friendly rules! Almost every one of the people at this hotel has their own reason for being there. In most destination resorts, the rationale is sun, sand and courting Canadians. At the Tropicoco you’ll meet oddballs and esoteric travellers who don’t mind a room that’s less than deluxe, an elevator that only sporadically works, who smokes bootleg cigars or don’t mind the occasional jinetera in the lobby. There’s always someone interesting to chat with!
Reason 4 – going to Havana: You will have heard that the promised shuttle bus is not always available, but there is a very fine (air conditioned, modern) public bus that stops across the street and whisks you to Parque Centrale in under 30 minutes. Return trip was $CUC 3. A cab back from Havana should cost 15 – you might even haggle for less. Many visitors to Cuba either skip Havana or take a quick spin through it. Havana, the largest, most historic city in the Caribbean offers a very rich experience with culture, dining, stunning architecture and an indescribable world experience.
Reason 5 – the beach: Steps across the street is the Tropicoco’s beach rum shack. A few more steps and you’re on an extensive beach that is as stunning as any plus it is usually packed with Habaneros who come from the city to relax. It’s the real Cuban experience.
Since my stay there, I have passed the Tropicoco a number of times on the shuttle from Veradero and each time I am struck by the unlikely ugly concrete block that sits on the most beautiful beach. It is no architectural beauty, that’s for sure, but it is quite possibly one of the least expensive, most interesting and uniquely convenient places to stay.