Looking for an authentic stay in Cuba? A casa particular experience provides you with something truly unique that you can’t quite encounter anywhere else in the world.
It’s something that should be added to your Cuban itinerary, whether you’re staying for a week or an extended period of time.
Cuba is filled to the brim with quirks and charms, but there are a few Cuban tourist scams you’ll need to avoid. So here’s everything you need to know about casas particulares and how to go about finding them the right way.
- 1 What Are Cuba’s Casas Particulares?
- 2 Perks of Staying in a Casa Particular
- 3 Downside to Staying in Casas Particulares in Cuba
- 4 How to Find Lodging in Cuba at Casas Particulares
- 5 The Casas in Cuba We Stayed In
What Are Cuba’s Casas Particulares?
Casa particular has come to mean a homestay, vacation home or bed and breakfast. It’s a private accommodation provided by the owner of the house or apartment. This can sometimes be a houseshare, depending on the setup.
What the rest of the world refers to as an Airbnb type experience, Cuba has been doing for years. You could say they were a little ahead of the times.
Perks of Staying in a Casa Particular
There are many things that make staying in casas particulares the right choice on a holiday to Cuba.
Experience Authentic Cuba
When staying in a Casa Particular, you experience Cuba in a truly authentic way. When opting for a hotel, you miss out on a cultural experience that you really can’t have anywhere else in the world.
Meet the Locals
Meeting the locals, getting to know them and sometimes making friendships that can last a lifetime is an irreplaceable experience.
Often your hosts will share tips with you about the best places to go and things to do in Cuba. It’s like having your very own tour guide.
Cuban people are generally such lovely people. They are more than happy to help you with booking tours and transfers, which they arrange through personal contacts. This often works out a lot cheaper than booking through a hotel.
Support the Locals Directly
Another great reason to stay in a casa during your time in Cuba is that you’re supporting the locals directly.
When booking at a hotel your money is going to a business, which does boost the local economy in its own way. But helping the Cuban people directly is far more beneficial, especially to those individuals.
Taste Real Cuban Food
Although meals aren’t included, your host will usually ask whether you’d like to join them for dinner or breakfast.
This gives you a chance to experience authentic Cuban cooking, which is absolutely essential during your time in the country.
More Affordable Than Hotels
Staying in a casa particular usually works out a lot cheaper than staying in a hotel.
Having cheaper accommodation allows you to spend the rest of your budget on tours and dining out, a much wiser spend if you ask me.
Choose Your Own Living Situation
Most casas particulares are rented as rooms within a home. This means that you stay with a host family, giving you the opportunity to mingle with the locals and possibly make a few new friends.
But this living situation is not the only one available.
There are a growing number of casas particulares that are stand-alone homes. You can rent the entire home, giving you the privacy you need – particularly useful for longer stays.
Stay in a Prime Location for Just a Portion of a Hotel Stay
Many of the really great casas particulares are located right in the heart of all the action. Placing you near all the best tourist attractions in the area, for just a portion of the price of a hotel stay.
Downside to Staying in Casas Particulares in Cuba
Like all good things, casas particulares have their downsides. Here are some things that may bother you about staying in a casa particular.
Lack of Privacy
Most of the time you’ll be staying in someone’s house (usually you’ll have your own private bathroom). This may be a little too much for you if you value your privacy.
However, there are plenty of casas particulares that you can find online where you’ll have an apartment to yourself, while your hosts stay upstairs.
Finding the Right Casa
Finding the right casa particular can be challenging. It can be a little bit of a trial and error type situation, especially if you’re not going about finding accommodation the right way.
Often there won’t be a kitchen
One of the casa particular we stayed at was a full apartment, but most of the times you would usually stay in a spare room or floor of someone’s house.
That means you don’t really have access to a kitchen since it’s the same one the hosts use.
Personally it’s not an issue for me, as I prefer to eat out and taste the local cuisine when I travel. However if you like to cook while on the road it might be an issue.
That said, it’s an easily solvable issue, you simply have to choose casa particulares that come with a kitchen.
How to Find Lodging in Cuba at Casas Particulares
If you’re up for a little adventure, you can find your accommodation directly when you’re in Cuba. You’ll see a sign outside the door of the main entrance to a house or an apartment saying “Casa Particular”.
This indicates that they’re registered with the government. There will also be a sign saying whether or not they have a room available.
You could just rock up to a city in Cuba, search for a place with the casa particular sign, check it out, meet the hosts and decide there and then if you want to stay there.
If you prefer to know what you’re getting yourself into, then searching for a casa particular on Airbnb is the easiest way to do it.
You’ll be able to see the amenities available and whether you’ll have the house to yourself or if you’ll be sharing it with others. You can also check reviews from previous travellers.
Reading the reviews is the best way to scope out the place before you book. This will allow you to book in advance and know your accommodation is secure for your time in Cuba.
Booking via a platform like AirBnb also gives you a safety net in case something goes wrong or your host cancels your booking last minute. Although if you pick somewhere with lots of positive reviews this doesn’t tend to happen often.
The Casas in Cuba We Stayed In
When I was in Cuba, we stayed in three different casas particulares, in three separate parts of the country.
This casa particular in Havana was an ideal situation. We had the entire flat to ourselves, and it was located on a quiet street just a few blocks from the Havana Capitol.
The rooms were air-conditioned and the kitchen came fully stocked (at an additional fee).
The apartment was sparkling clean and the balcony overlooking the street is the perfect place to enjoy a steaming hot cup of coffee in the morning – while feeling like a true local.
Tour in Havana
Exploring Havana is an absolute treat, so be sure to make the most of your time by taking a tour while you’re in the city.
Discovering Old Havana in a small group tour comes highly recommended. You’ll learn a great deal about the city and its fascinating history. Immersing yourself in the culture of Havana and having a drink at one of the locals favourite watering holes is hard to beat.
Our Casa Particular in Vinales was an independent room on the ground floor of a house, located just a few minutes’ walk from the centre of town.
Breakfast was provided for free as well as a laundry service. A lovely little added extra was that there’s a bicycle available to use – a great way to explore the town like a local.
The hosts speak English and make you feel extremely welcome, even offering some tips for exploring the town. I went to Cuba years ago and Pedro still occasionally messages me on social media asking how we’re doing!
Pedro and his wife were awesome hosts and these are the kind of connections you wouldn’t be able to make in a hotel.
Tour in Vinales
A knowledgeable guide will lead you to the tobacco plantations and encourage you to spend some time chatting to the locals. During your lunch break, you’ll get to try authentic Cuban food which is sure to go down a treat.
Our casa particular in Trinidad was a private floor in a house, with our own private bathroom and rooftop terrace where they served breakfast. The house is centrally located, a short walk away from all the buzz in Trinidad.
The host was very charming, and she provided a wonderful breakfast each morning. The rooftop terrace was also the perfect spot to enjoy the sunset every day.
Tour in Trinidad
With so many great things to do in Trinidad, it can be hard to choose a tour.
Taking a full-day tour of Trinidad is well worth the money spent. You’ll learn all about the historic city that was founded all the way back in 1514.
You’ll make your way around the outskirts of the city and see the local fishermen coming ashore with incredible catches. Tuna, marlin, barracudas, and pargo are amongst their most popular.
You’ll stop at the port to learn about the slave ships that once docked at the port. Then your guide will pick a spot to stop for lunch, where you’ll have the opportunity to try one of the locals favourite drinks.
Final Thoughts on Cuba’s Casas Particulares
Finding the right casa particular for you doesn’t need to be a challenging debacle. In fact, reading a few reviews is all it requires.
I highly recommend booking one of these accommodations over a hotel, they offer more of an experience, for less money.
If you’re looking for a luxury resort type of holiday, Cuba might not be the destination for you. That’s not to say that you won’t find that in Cuba, but it would be a shame to travel to Cuba and miss out on the casa particulares experience.
Once you’ve found the right Cuban lodging to suit your needs, get ready to pack your bags and hop on a plane. Because an adventure awaits you around every corner of Cuba.
I hope you find this guide useful in planning your Cuba trip and casa particulares stays! If you have any questions just let me know in the comments below.
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