Where to stay in Cuba
From staid and decaying state-owned giants to exciting new partnerships with French and Spanish hotel groups, Cuba's hotels greatly vary in both quality and style.
Various government operators specialise in different sectors of the market: Habaguanex (www.habaguanexhotels.com) tends to deal with historic or boutique hotels - an increasing trend in Cuba and particularly Havana; Cubanacan (www.cubanacan.cu) operates a number of mid-range city, beach and rural hotels under different labels; Sol Melia (www.solmelia.com) concentrates on luxury, with an emphasis on beach resorts; Islazul (www.islazul.cu) is at the cheaper end. Many hotels are advertised as luxury, boasting four or five stars, but many of these will not live up to western expectations.
Literally meaning 'private house', the casa particular is broadly comparable to bed and breakfast. Rooms are often offered in beautifully-kept homes, complete with private bathroom (occasionally shared) and breakfast. Evening meals are often on offer as well, which can be more varied and plentiful than in state-run restaurants. Legal casas particulares are recognised by a blue triangle on a white background on the front door, and they must ask you for your passport number and signature in the official registration book.
Tent camping is not popular in Cuba, but installations known as campismos are an affordable accommodation option situated in natural settings like Viñales. These cinder block rooms have bathrooms, AC and (sometimes) televisions and have restaurants on-site. These are very popular among Cuban families and can be crowded and rowdy (in a good way), especially during the summer.