There has been a remarkable wave of entrepreneurial spirit seeping through the streets of Havana in recent years. From the explosion of private restaurants, cafes and bars to the proliferation of hair and nail salons, Havana has seen new enterprises of all types spring up to not only serve the local consumer but also the burgeoning flow of foreigners now scouring the vibrant neighbourhoods in search of that quintessential Havana experience.
Amongst the welcome improvements that these entrepreneurs have bestowed upon Havana has been the emergence of a couple of uniquely designed boutique-style hotels aptly named the Revolution Boutique Hotel and the Art Hotel Havana.
Since the 1990s, Cuba has allowed citizens to open their homes to tourists and rent out rooms on a nightly basis. Thus came the birth of so-called casa particulares. As such, Habaneros have had a relatively long tradition of servicing the intrepid travelers who would normally shun the more traditional hotel offerings. However, as the more sophisticated traveller begins to discover and re-discover the mystery that is Havana, so come the expectations such as an assurance of hot water, working air conditioning, security and the ever-elusive Wi-Fi connectivity. And these travelers are prepared to pay for these services as well.
Enter the business opportunity for these newer boutique hotels such as Revolution Boutique Hotel and the Art Hotel Havana that understand the needs of this market and deliver on these expectations.
Both hotels are located in the Old Havana area of the city where guests can find the city’s fine restaurants, bars, cafes, architecture, museums, art galleries, boxing gyms and craft markets all within walking distance. In many cases, there is simply no reason to leave the neighbourhood given all that it has to offer.
Designed and furnished with a little help and support from off-island friends of the families who run these hotels, each boasts such amenities as fine cotton sheets, working electricity, functioning plumbing and continuous Internet connectivity. Experienced Havana travelers know that none of these are a given at most accommodations throughout the city!
Technically both Revolution Boutique Hotel and the Art Hotel Havana are known as casas particulares and offer only four suites, which can accommodate two to five guests per room. Each room rate includes a delicious Cuban breakfast featuring fresh local fruits and pastries.Additional private dining can also be prepared upon request for lunches and dinner. Not only that, if a salsa lesson is on your bucket list or a drive around the city in a vintage taxi or an architectural walking tour fancies you, all of these will be expertly curated by each of the hotel’s owners.
One of the challenges of booking casa particulares from home before travelling to Havana has been the complication of securing a reservation online. This is not an issue with Revolution Boutique Hotel and the Art Hotel Havana as both are listed on Booking.com (where they are listed as two of the few 5 star hotels in the city), Airbnb, Expedia.com and Trivago.
Priced somewhere between the traditional mami y papi cases particulare and the larger hotels, travellers are filling the rooms happy to have the reliability of services and the architectural styling.
Join the Cuban tourist revolution! Come visit soon!
San Ignacio 156, apartment 8, (corner Obispo), Habana Vieja
Art Hotel Havana,
155 Habana (street) (between Chacon and Tejadillo),
A.J. Twist is a Montreal-based photographer and travel writer who has, on occasion, spent a lifetime waiting for a working elevator, air conditioner or hot water.
Follow him on Instagram @ajtwistthebest