Truly experiencing the vibrant culture of Cuba goes far beyond sipping sweetly tart mojitos in salsa parlours. These days, increasing numbers of globetrotters hoping to experience authentic Cuban experiences can choose to stay in local homes through a system known as casa particulares.
Good to Know
Created in 1997, the casa particulares system is fully subject to government regulation. Unlike Airbnb, hosts must formally register their guests and declare revenues generated by rentals. Visitors can appreciate reasonably priced Cuban hospitality while local hosts can augment their income, estimated at 30 dollars per month. There are two types of currencies, the Cuban Peso (CUP) and the convertible Peso (CUC), used by tourists and pegged to the American dollar. Prices are easily translated, as each CUC is equivalent to one American dollar.
Engage in lively debates or communicate with the casa owner using sign language, it’s all up to you. Feel like a Cuban while sampling the local cuisine. Chicken, rice and beans are popular and available everywhere. Dining at the casa is a great option when available. The local rum is excellent and affordable, the promise of long cool minty drinks under the warm sun endlessly appealing.
Easily identified with distinctive green signage, these budget friendly accommodations should certainly be considered by those looking for more authentic experiences than the standard resort holiday. There’s no reason not to knock on these friendly doors!
Relax and Embrace Local Life
Explore and take the time to meet beautiful people, snap hundreds of colourful shots, and observe unforgettable places. A terrace adorned with religious kitsch, Domino players absorbed in their play, your small restaurant; these are the images that you’ll remember. Against the shimmering facades of the local buildings and the lingering smell of cigars, these are some of my favorite casa particular.
Casa particular: Sr Ivan Lopez Lomas, Manrique Street #258, between Neptune and Concordia, Havana Center.
20 CUC per night
My address book:
LE MALECÓN: Morning stroll, meeting with fishermen and joggers, iodine recharge without sunburn.
AQUI SI QUE SI: Restaurant, price displayed for locals, 3/4 CUC maximum for a good meal to the sound of Latino music (Enrique Iglesias, Marc Anthony, and Ricki Martin); between Concordia and Gervasio Street.
NOTRE DAME DES BIJOUX: Surprising interiors, restaurant with terrace, and mojitos @ 3 CUC on Gervasio #218, between Virtudes and Concordia.
Casa particular: Sr Ricardo Rodriguez Penton, Independencia Street #28 – in front of Serafin Sanchez Park
25 CUC per night
The colonial facade gives way to a baroque-inspired interior. The well-furnished house has high ceilings and a spacious bathroom. The kitchen where the lady of the house spends most of her time is unforgettable. Best of all is its perfect location in the heart of the city.
Casa particular: « Fisher Family House », Lazaro et Milagro, 37th Street between 1era & autopista
30 CUC per night
This tranquil Casa Particular is located only 200 meters from the beach, offering a very different vibe than hectic resort life. Delicious, affordable dining options abound in this neighborhood, and to make your visit even more wallet friendly, the nearby Viazul station precludes the need for a taxicab on departure day.
Strolling back from the beach, the time seemed suspended in the company of domino players sitting right in front of our bedroom door. What wonderful memories to bring back home!
Photos and original text in french: Diane Martin-Graser.
Translation: Diane Proulx