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There's a wide range of hotel options and casas particulares (private rooms) for rent in Havana. Hotel options are divvied up among the large state-run chains. Habaguanex has monopoly control over the hotel scene in La Habana Vieja, and Gaviota, Cubanacán, and Gran Caribe own the remainder of the midrange to upper-end hotels around Havana. Of the international hotel chains, the major player in town is the Spanish-owned Sol Meliá, which manages three large, high-end properties in Havana. Given the fact that hotel chains control so much of the market, one major problem is a generalized lax attitude toward overbooking. Habaguanex and Gran Caribe are particularly notorious for this. Confirmed reservations at Gran Caribe's Hotel Nacional or Habaguanex's Santa Isabel have been shuttled off to one of their sister properties, usually with no compensation and little sympathy.

There are hundreds of casas particulares in Havana. The neighborhoods of Centro Habana, Vedado, and Playa have the greatest concentration of casas particulares, although La Habana Vieja is starting to catch up. In general, the rooms and homes are kept very clean, while the furnishings and amenities are quite simple. The rates average between CUC$20 and CUC$35 per room, and meals are often available at very reasonable prices. With the broad range of casa particulares and rapid turnover in the market, it's impossible to list a representative selection. I've tried to include the most dependable and long-standing options in each neighborhood below. In addition, you can check out www.cubacasas.net and www.casaparticular.info.

Given the compact nature of Havana, the proximity of its major attractions, and the wide availability of relatively inexpensive taxis, the neighborhood you choose is not a limiting factor. In general, most visitors will want to spend most of their time exploring La Habana Vieja, so the hotels there or nearby in Centro Habana are best for direct walking access. Large group and package tourists, as well as business travelers, are usually funneled toward hotels in Miramar and Playa, about a 10- to 15-minute ride away from most of the action, although the area is home to some of the better dining and nightlife spots. Vedado is a sort of middle ground, with plenty of accommodations and excellent dining choices, easy access to the rest of the city's attractions, and quite a few natural charms of its own.

La Habana Vieja

With few exceptions, all of the hotels in Old Havana are run by the Cuban chain Habaguanex. These are intimate boutique hotels in beautifully refurbished old buildings. I've listed my favorite Habaguanex hotels, but there are others that are also nice; check www.habaguanexhotels.com for the complete listing.

Inexpensive -- Due to Habaguanex's almost complete control of the area, there are no budget hotel options in La Habana Vieja. This is one of the best locations in Havana, and the following casas particulares are recommended. Chez Nous, Calle Teniente Rey 115, between Calles Cuba and San Ignacio (tel. 7/862-6287; cheznous1@ceniai.inf.cu), is a friendly house and a stone's throw from Plaza Vieja. Its two rooms, furnished with colonial antiques, share a smart bathroom and there's a great terrace where you can take in the sun. Casa Lisette y Orlando, Calle Aguacate 509, Aptos 301 y 102 between Calles Sol and Muralla (tel. 7/867-5768; lisettesobrino@yahoo.es), is a clean, modern, quiet apartment run by a lovely, friendly couple. Casa Eduardo Canciano, Calle Refugio 103 between Calles Prado and Morro (tel. 7/863-0523; www.winpict.com/cuba/eduardo/eduardo_canciano.htm; eduardo.canciano@infomed.sld.cu), is a first-floor flat run by a friendly family. It has a wonderful Sevillana patio and Spanish wooden colonial windows. The large bedroom equipped with air-conditioning and a fan has an adjoining, original jet-black-and-yellow bathroom. The dining room is next to the sweet balcony overlooking the street. Casa Mary, Calle Cárcel-Capdevila No. 59, 2nd floor, between Calles Morro and Zulueta (tel. 7/861-5911; http://xoomer.alice.it/gianni_franci; mariange2850@yahoo.com), is a flat with an enormous terrace overlooking El Morro. It is next to the Spanish Embassy in a quiet location. The two small rooms both have doors out onto the terrace, where you may lounge on painted iron chairs.

Centro Habana

With the exception of Hotel Deauville, all of the hotels listed here are either right on, or very close to, the dividing line between La Habana Vieja and Centro Habana, and so are convenient for exploring Old Havana.

Inexpensive -- There are literally hundreds of official and unofficial rooms for rent in private homes throughout Centro Habana. Many are quite dilapidated and run-down, but a few are well maintained and charming. Stunning views are enjoyed from the top-floor "penthouse" of Casa de Evora Rodríguez, Paseo del Prado 20, 9th floor, between San Lázaro and Cárcel (tel. 7/861-7932; evorahabana@yahoo.com). Nearby is the superfriendly, modern apartment of a young couple, Federico and Yamelis Llanes, with a balcony overlooking Prado, Calle Cárcel 156 between Calles San Lázaro and Prado (tel. 7/861-7817; fllanes@gmail.com). Another great option with en suite rooms, incredible balcony views, and an independent kitchen and living room is the apartment of Melba and Alberto, Calle Galiano 115, Apto 81, between Calles Animas and Trocadero (tel.) 7/863-5178; barracuda1752@yahoo.es). Casa 1932, Calle Campanario 63 (bajos) between San Lázaro and Lagunas (tel. 7/863-6203; www.casahabana.net) is a beautifully furnished elegant colonial home run by the friendly Luís Miguel; Cuba's first jazz band, Orquesta Hermanos Castro, once lived here. Other options include the lovely Casa Esther Cardosa, Calle Aguila 367, between Calles San Miguel and Neptuno (tel. 7/862-0401; esthercv2551@cubarte.cult.cu), with a great terrace, and interesting furniture and prints on the walls. Casa Viky, Calle Barcelona 60, between Calles Aguila and Amistad (tel. 7/863-8923; mvictoriau@infomed.sld.cu), is a flat on the renovated Calle Barcelona, laid with gorgeous pink, blue, and cream Art Deco tiles. The elegant first room with two beds is equipped with handsome furniture and a chandelier and comes with an original 1950s bathroom that is shared with the other room. Casa Isabel Gómez Durán, Consulado 152 (altos) between Colón and Trocadero (tel. 7/860-1843; habanaroom@yahoo.com), is a newly renovated property with beautiful floor tiles, louvered shutters and modern bathrooms.

Vedado & The Plaza de la Revolución Area

Given that this is one of Havana's prime middle-class neighborhoods, there's a glut of casas particulares, many in wonderful old neoclassical and Art Deco homes and apartment buildings. The following are all recommended. Casa Carlos Peña Avila, Calle F 305, Apartment 3 between Calles 13 and 15 (tel. 7/833-5992; www.casavedado.bravepages.com; carlospecu@yahoo.com), owned by a very polite man, has two bedrooms furnished with antiques and modern bathrooms. Casa María Elena Matos Fernández, Calle 13 no. 106, between Calles L and M, Apartment 5 (tel. 7/832-4346; ernesto.mato@infomed.sld.cu) is a huge, smart flat with elegant proportions in an Art Deco building close to the Malecón. The one room has two beds and pretty floor tiles and an adjoining large 1950s bubble-gum pink bathroom. Casa Luis Alberto Gómez Garcés, Calle 15, no. 305 (bajos), between Calles H and I (tel. 7/836-3954; mroche@infomed.sld.cu), is a quirky house with its Spanish turret. It has one large room with a small kitchenette and an independent entrance. The room is next to a small patio. The main house interior decor is shabby chic with a chandelier, some choice pieces of furniture, and lovely hallway tiling. Casa María D'García (Lola), Calle I, no. 355, between Calles 17 and 19, Apartamento 1, 2nd floor (tel. 7/832-1525; lazaro.goenaga@infomed.sld.cu), has an attractive, nicely furnished room in a grand house on an atmospheric street. Casa Jorge Coalla Potts, Calle I between Calles 21 and 23, no. 456, Apto 11 (tel. 7/832-9032; www.havanaroomrental.com; jorgepotts@correodecuba.cu), is managed by Jorge and Marisel, helpful and very hospitable hosts. Their ground-floor apartment is in an excellent location in a handsome, modern white apartment building. Casa Norma Alvarez Bustio, Calle 25 359, Apartment D, between K and L (tel. 7/832-2207; hugovaldes@cubarte.cult.cu) is in an excellent location with one lovely room which shares a bathroom with the family. Norma is most welcoming.

Playa

As in Vedado and Centro Habana, there are scores of casas particulares and private rooms for rent in Playa. Given the fact that this was a popular upper-class residential neighborhood prior to the Revolution, most are housed in large, comfortable homes and apartments. You could try Casa Gina, Calle 86 no. 526, between Avenidas 5 and 7 (tel. 7/203-4034), or see if there's space at the Ministry of Education's Hostal Icemar, Calle 16 no. 104, between Avenidas 1 and 3 (tel./fax 7/203-7735), a dependable budget option popular with students and backpackers, with additional three-bed apartments for rent. Doubles are CUC$44.

Near the Airport

There are no hotels at or truly near the airport. Luckily, the bulk of Havana hotels are just a 15- to 30-minute car ride away. The closest hotels to the airport are those in Playa.

Habana del Este & Playas del Este

The beaches of Playas del Este are quite beautiful. Moreover, the four long, consecutive beaches here are just a 15- to 25-minute taxi or car ride from La Habana Vieja, making it a good choice for combining your fun in the sun with some city pleasures. Of the most significant beaches, furthest east is Guanabo, which is where Habaneros decamp during weekends and the summer months. Santa María del Mar is closer to Havana, and is essentially a strip of hotels and villas. However, the hotel choices here are limited and rather desultory. While there are several all-inclusive resorts, offering a whole range of entertainment and activities options, they are far less polished and attractive than similar options in Varadero or other prime all-inclusive destinations. In fact, if you want a beautiful beach resort just a little bit farther east of Playas del Este, head to Breezes Jibacoa . There are casas particulares in Santa María del Mar and Guanabo.

Inexpensive -- Guanabo has a high concentration of casas particulares. Try the friendly home of Felipa Ciruta, Av. 9 48206 between Calles 482 and 484 (tel. 7/796-4443; magciru@yahoo.es), or La Gallega y Teresa, Calle 472 7B07 A between 7B and 9 (tel. 7/796-6860). At Santa María del Mar, set a kilometer back from the beach due to restrictions on beachfront casas, is the house of Orlando Odio López, Av. de las Banderas 909 between Calles 9na and 11na (tel. 7/797-1219).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.