Are you looking to stay local and experience the authentic Cuba? Then casas particulares are definitely worth checking out. Throughout our trip, casas particulares were our lodging of choice and something we highly recommend for those looking to travel independently in Cuba.
Let us tell you all about casas particulares, what they are, how to find and book one, costs, recommendations and other tips!
What is a casa particular
Casa particular translates directly from Spanish to “private house”. Think of a casa particular as a homestay, quite similar to a B&B (Bed and Breakfast). They are privately managed, most of the times, by the families living there. With the changes in recent years, a lot of casas particulares are now owned by the families and not by the government.
It is common to refer a casa particular simply as casa. This is the way they are known amongst Cubans.
Casas particulares started back in 1997 when the Cuban government officially began allowing families to rent out rooms or houses to tourists. It was a way to provide a new source of income to the Cubans, a lot of whom rely solely on it.
The Cuban government gets an annual tax back from this.
Just like any other lodging options, there are different types of casas particulares. They range from private room accommodation to entire houses or even villas. Most are small houses with only a few rooms available, usually ensuite. Some casas particulares are more than a simple B&B and offer full meals besides breakfast.
It’s easy to identify one by the “roof” sign.
By talking to some of the owners of the casas particulares we stayed at, we learned how they got involved in tourism. Most rely on family members who live abroad and helped them get the business up and running. We’re talking about Cubans that left their country and are now helping their family by buying a house and getting them to manage it. In most cases, brothers or sisters.
Why stay at a casa particular
Staying at a casa particular is an experience you won’t regret! Why? Well, for starters you’re going to stay with (or at least meet) a Cuban family. There’s no better way to get to know their history, culture and how they feel about a country most people know little about. You’ll feel how proud they are about their country, the revolution and even the US situation.
Everyone was extremely friendly, hospitable and eager to share a lot with us. And they were also curious about why a couple from Europe decides to cross the ocean and travel, in some cases, to remote areas of a Caribbean island.
It is fundamental to speak at least some conversational Spanish (and get used to the Cuban accent!) to take the most out of the experience. English is not widely spoken.
There are other things worth mentioning. One reason people seek casas particulares is because of the price of accommodation, which is much cheaper than hotels. Also, a lot of them offer meals as an extra, including breakfast, lunch and dinner. We had delicious breakfasts with a lot of the local fruits and very good home cooked dinners.
How to find and book casas particulares
Nowadays there are countless casas particulares. It feels like there’s one around every corner, but not all are up to the same standards. Finding one still is the hardest part.
A few websites already rent out casas particulares online, including AirBnB for the USA only but not other major booking ones. We found these to include a premium on top of the already inflated prices. Plus, some look dodgy, to say the least. We saw some reports of people booking online and finding out on arrival that the booking hadn’t been processed. The only positive thing is that it is the easiest and quickest way to book a casa.
We opted to do it the manual way. TripAdvisor has reviews on casas particulares and their contacts, including email address, phone number and even website for some (simple stuff!). A lot of houses have exceptional reviews and these sell out quickly.
What we did was send an email to the casas particulares we wanted to stay at. Cubans don’t really have great internet access so it takes them a few days to reply back. A bit of patience is necessary. The advantage? You get the best price and speak directly with the families. For example, for some of them, the price was 10 CUC more expensive (25 to 35) on AirBnB (excluding the service charge). Basic Spanish may be necessary for this!
The last and final way to do it is “word of mouth”. Whether you’re still booking away from Cuba or already enjoying your trip, this is a very common way for things to happen. Casa owners will ask you where you’re headed next and recommend you one! They know people everywhere and we had some asking us about it via email and once already in Cuba.
Prices for casas particulares vary according to the type of accommodation, location and even season. Since the most common one is a private ensuite room, let’s see how much those cost. The prices are usually not negotiable unless you stay for longer periods.
Average room price: 25 CUC
Cheap ones: 20 CUC (can go down to 15 during low season)
Expensive ones: 30-35 (like central Havana or beach locations)
And now, the extras.
Breakfast: 3-5 CUC (cooked breakfast is more expensive)
Meals: 8-12 CUC (fish and beef likely to be more expensive)
Soft drinks: 1-2 CUC
Beer: 1,5-2,5 CUC
Spirits: 2,5-4 CUC
Useful things to know
It’s important to know that you should phone ahead 1 or 2 days before arriving at your next casa particular, even if you’ve made a booking! This is to ensure you’re actually coming since you paid no money up front. Not mandatory, but better do it to be on the safe side.
We found all the places we stayed at to be safe. Leaving our things in the room was just fine. Also, it’s likely that someone will be in the house all the time. It really feels like home.
You’ll be asked for your passport so it can be registered for governmental purposes.
Casas particulares we recommend
We stayed in quite a few casas particulares. Here are 4 that we recommend.
Right in the heart of La Habana Vieja, this casa particular offers a great location for those looking to explore all the major attractions in Havana.
It’s a small house with only 2 rooms available, both nice and clean. Very helpful and friendly hosts. Special thanks to Kiki for showing us around, including places that few people get to see.
Price: 30 CUC Breakfast: 5 CUC
Some of the friendliest hosts we met in Cuba. Recently renovated house with an outdoor space for meals. If you’re looking to explore the western tip of Cuba around Pinar del Río, Villa Manuela is a great choice.
Price: 20-25 CUC Breakfast: 3-5 CUC Meals: 8 CUC Parking: 2 CUC
Right on the beach front! If you’re looking for a beach break in Cuba, this is it. Excellent location to explore the amazing nature and wildlife of Península de Zapata.
Price: 30-35 CUC Breakfast: 4 CUC Meals: 8-12 CUC
Probably the best house that we stayed at. The quality resembles a luxury hotel. It’s only a 5-10 minutes walk to the main square in Trinidad.
The owners are super friendly and will give you tips for your stay in the region. Excellent breakfast!
Price: 25 CUC Breakfast: 5 CUC
Are you going to Cuba? Would you stay at a casa particular? Share your thoughts!