Skip to main content

Rum, Cigars, and Coffee at the Best Boutique Hotels in Havana, Cuba

Havana has been largely immune to the crush of branded, cookie-cutter hotel chains (mostly due to the American travel and trade embargo–hey, silver lining!). Throw a stone in any direction from the center of Old Havana, and you’re likely to hit a legit boutique hotel or casa particular (private homestay). But, if you must choose, here are three of our favorites.

Hotel Ambos Mundos


Situated in the heart of Old Havana, Hotel Ambos Mundos is an iconic example of what most visitors to Cuba envision a Havana hotel should look like. The property opened its doors in the early 20th century and still maintains much of its original hundred-year-old architecture. The beautiful Spanish Colonial facade and lobby decor remain, along with the original Otis cage elevator (complete with operator and which is still in working order today). But, the biggest draw is the hotel’s inextricable link to Ernest Hemingway. The author famously lived and worked for seven years in room 511 where he began his work on For Whom the Bell Tolls. The space is now a one-room museum where many of his belongings and memorabilia remain much as he left them. It’s one of Old Havana’s most charming, romantic hotels, even for non-guests who can enjoy a Cuban cigar and a strong coffee while listening to piano music from the lobby lounge waft onto Calle Obispo.

Hotel Raquel


To walk through its lobby today, it’s hard to imagine that Hotel Raquel began life as a textile warehouse in 1908. Much of the original baroque architecture and decor — including beautiful stained glasswork, towering marble columns, and intricately carved cathedral ceilings — remains. Bible-themed artwork by contemporary Cuban artists pays homage to the city’s unique Jewish history (indeed, the on-site restaurant serves authentic Jewish cuisine). The rooms are relatively basic but charming — even luxurious by most Cuban standards. Don’t miss the rooftop terrace which offers stunning, panoramic views of Old Havana.

Hotel Santa Isabel


One of the oldest hotels in Cuba overlooking the oldest, most beautiful plaza in Havana — such are the claims to fame of Hotel Santa Isabel. The hotel was established in 1867, although its history dates back to the 17th century. Since then, the hotel has served as the home of the Counts of Santovenia and many of Cuba’s most regal notables. Jimmy Carter stayed here during his highly publicized 2002 visit. Much of its centuries-old architecture remains, including arched stone columns, crystal chandeliers, and beautiful polished wood furnishings. Although it’s just steps from Calle Obispo and Plaza de Armas, the central courtyard feels miles from anywhere. The tiny adjacent bar serves a mean mojito and houses a selection of fine Cuban cigars. A wide terrace outside the on-site Restaurante El Condado offers alfresco dining and is an ideal spot to people-watch along the plaza.

Editors' Recommendations

Mike Richard
Mike Richard has traveled the world since 2008. He's kayaked in Antarctica, tracked endangered African wild dogs in South…
The 3 Best Boutique Hotels in Indianapolis, Indiana
Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis may not be the first city that comes to mind when you think of great boutique hotels and arts & culture. But, there are plenty of reasons why it should. Travelers seeking relaxed, one-of-a-kind boutique lodging in Indiana’s capital city needn’t look further than these three options.
Nestle Inn (Massachusetts Avenue Cultural District)

Aside from the “cutesy” name, the Nestle Inn is the perfect antidote to the stodgy, traditional, and cringe-worthy bed and breakfasts of decades ago. The inn’s website is quick to point out that this is “not your grandma’s B&B!” Indeed, they eschew the Victorian-era seating, the army of doilies on every bit of furniture, and the typical busy-body innkeepers who never seem to leave you alone. Although it’s located in a converted 1896 guesthouse, this is a thoroughly modern experience designed for today’s traveler. The Wi-Fi is fast and free, breakfast is on your own schedule, and they even offer gourmet cooking classes (with chefs from the city’s Ivy Tech Culinary Program) that cover everything from French pastry to a Mac-n-Cheese Boot Camp. The owners have their own private quarters, so guests needn’t try to relax in someone else’s living room. Discreet, 24-hour self-check-in is also available for guests to arrive whenever they like.
Alexander Hotel (Downtown Indianapolis)

Read more
Beachfront in Belize: Three of the Best Hotels Right on the Water
hotel on the beach waterfront in Belize

Costa Rica may be the go-to spot for land-based Central American activities, but Belize is where it’s at for travelers seeking coastal adventure. From the relaxed tourist town of Placencia to the stunning island beauty of Ambergris Caye, these three beachfront hotels in Belize provide travelers with the country’s very best oceanside lodging.
Turtle Inn (Placencia, Belize)

Francis Ford Coppola is best known for his long resume of award-winning Hollywood films. But the director has also tried his hand — quite successfully — at California wine-making and, now, as a hotelier. After the success of his Blancaneaux Lodge (also in Belize), he opened the doors to Turtle Inn. Where most eco-hotel designers prefer to blend their properties into the surrounding natural landscape as seamlessly as possible, Turtle Inn is a purposeful departure. Every aspect of the grounds and rooms features an eclectic, intentional hodgepodge of seemingly disparate elements from countries around the world. Curious Asian-inspired bath fixtures, Indonesian artisan sculptures, and hand-carved antique wooden doors from Bali often occupy the same space. It sidesteps traditional Belizean design, but it’s still plenty tropical in a way that just … works. Daily dive and boating excursions run to the country’s world-famous barrier reef, while after dark, guests can sip a bottle of (wait for it ...) Coppola wine while relaxing on the hotel’s semi-private, soft white sand beach.
Las Terrazas (Ambergris Caye, Belize)
Las Terrazas Tour (2 min version)

Read more
Where to Stay in Beautiful St. John, US Virgin Islands
St. John

St. John is impossibly beautiful. For such a small island, it has more to offer sun-seeking vacationers than almost anywhere in the Caribbean. But, its diminutive size also means the list of on-island accommodations is quite brief. Here are three of the best boutique hotels on this tiny tropical paradise.
Estate Lindholm
Estate Lindholm Aerial Tour, St. John USVI

Like many islands in the Caribbean, St. John’s history is inextricably linked to the burgeoning sugar crop industry of the 19th century. As one of the island’s oldest properties, the tiny Estate Lindholm still boasts many remnants of the area’s industrious past. That original architecture, combined with a rustic, island-inspired decor, creates a charming, laid-back vibe that feels like a distinct antidote to St. John’s (admittedly few) chain resorts. With only 14 rooms, the adults-only property is quaint, quiet, and intimate, with just the right amount of modern amenities. It’s worth springing for a Harbor View room with stunning views of the Atlantic.
Concordia Eco-Tents

Read more