I always enjoy staying at Casa de Elier y Alina (Calle San Pablo #19, e/ Carolina y Máximo Gómez, tel. 042/22-7704 or 5337-8499, CUC25), on the north side of Plaza del Carmen. The delightful young hosts have a spacious lounge with color TV, nicely decorated in 1950s style. Two spacious air-conditioned bedrooms have private bathrooms; take the room with king bed. Filling meals can be enjoyed in a shady patio.
Casa de Olga Rivera (Yanes #20, e/ Máximo Gómez y Callejón del Carmen, tel. 042/21-1711, CUC20–25), on the south side of Plaza del Carmen, is a well-kept colonial home with two air-conditioned rooms that open to a lounge graced by plush sofas. You get TV, fridge, and private hot-water bathroom. There’s parking. Meals are served in an exquisite patio with caged birds.
Olga’s home opens directly to an adjoining casa particular—Hostal Zaida Barreto—hence families and groups can rent four bedrooms together.
Around the corner, Casa de José Ramón (Máximo Gómez #208 altos, e/ Berenguer y Yanes, tel. 042/20-7239, josetur2009 [at] gmail [dot] com, CUC15–20) has an independent upstairs apartment with full kitchen and stairs to a rooftop terrace.
English-speaking gay owner Angel Rodríguez runs a remarkable rental at Hostal Florida Center (Maestra Nicolasa #56, e/ Colón y Maceo, tel. 042/20-8161, angel.floridacenter [at] yahoo [dot] com, CUC20 s, CUC25 d). Teeming with astounding antiques, including Baccarat chandeliers, this colonial home opens to a lush patio with aviary. One bedroom is colonial-themed and has bronze and wrought-iron beds; the other features art deco.
Angel’s boyfriend also has a rental with similarly impressive furnishings at Hostal Alba (Machado #7, e/ Cuba y Colón, tel. 042/29-4108, albahostal [at] yahoo [dot] com, CUC20 s, CUC25 d).
Casa de Ernesto y Mireya (Calle Cuba #227 altos, e/ Sindico y Pastora, tel. 042/27-3501, ernesto_tama [at] yahoo [dot] com, CUC15) is a bargain for its independent upstairs apartment with handsome lounge overlooking Plaza la Pastora. The spacious, simply appointed air-conditioned bedroom has an attractive bathroom. There’s parking. Ernesto and Mireya also have a lovely 1950s home—you’ll love the ’50s features—with two rooms around the corner. Together, the units are perfect for a family or group.
The only downtown option is Islazúl’s lackluster high-rise Hotel Santa Clara Libre (tel. 042/20-7548, fax 042/20-2771, CUC17 s, CUC24 d year-round), overlooking Parque Vidal. There’s a mediocre restaurant on the 10th floor. Water supply is never guaranteed, and noise from the basement disco is a problem.
A better bet is Cubanacán Los Caneyes (Av. de los Eucaliptos y Circunvalación de Santa Clara, tel./fax 042/21-8140, comercial [at] caneyes [dot] hor [dot] tur [dot] cu, CUC42 s, CUC52 d low season, CUC52 s, CUC60 d high season), two kilometers west of town and favored by tour groups. It has 96 appealing air-conditioned rooms in thatched, wooden octagonal cabinas spread amid landscaped grounds. Facilities include an attractive restaurant and a swimming pool.
Its similarly priced sibling, Cubanacán Villa La Granjita (Carretera Malez, Km 2.5, Santa Clara, tel. 042/22-8190, fax 042/22-8149, reserva [at] granjita [dot] vcl [dot] tur [dot] cu) also has 71 thatched cabins around a handsome pool and sundeck. It has a tennis court, restaurant, and shop.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Cuba, 5th Edition