With the exception of one establishment in Havana, Cuba does not have hostels. The best option is to stay in casa particulares. Not only are they cheaper than the hotels, for those of you who like me are on a budget, but they offer an opportunity to mingle with locals, which I am all for. Cubans rent out rooms in their houses, just like a bed and breakfast. Most casas charge 25 CUC per room (not per person) and they generally offer breakfast and dinner as a paid extra.
You can spot a casa particular by the blue sign, shaped like an anchor
that means the casa is registered.
I travelled accross Cuba for 6 weeks and my hands-down best experience was at Villa Las Flores in Viñales. I stayed there at the very start of my trip and loved it so much I went back when I had a few free days at the end. They did not want any money for the food and drinks I had when I went back, such is the extent of their generosity! (Though I left the cash in the room for them.)
Villa Las Flores is the home of Carlos and Danirka and their two children, some of the kindest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.
Breakfast: a paid extra. Danirka piled the table high with an omlette, freshly squeezed fruit juice, coffee, fruit salad, bread and freshly fried ´cangrejos´, delicious little crab-shaped doughnuts
that Carlos makes to sell.
Hot water: yes although I didn´t really want it in hot hot Cuba.
+ the casa just outside of the town and is set back from the road so it is nice and quiet
+ in walking distance of Viñales centre for bars/bus ticket office/shops/restaurants (though I strongly recommend that you eat Carlos´ food)
Price: prices are negociable in Cuba so see what Carlos offers you!
+ the guest´s room is separate from the family´s living area
+ a family member is always around
The room has a double bed and a single bed, a fridge and an en suite bathroom.
Welcome: the BEST welcome I have ever received in all my travels. Carlos and Danirka are always smiling, and are gentle, humble people. I believe that they wanted me to feel as relaxed and welcome as possible, and they did everything in their power to ensure that. They like to hear about the world outside of Cuba will chat if you want to, but will leave you to it if you want to sit in peace or go in the room and close the door.
I spent the warm evenings sat on a rocking chair on the terrace answering their questions about England, asking them about life in Cuba, and telling them about other countries I have visited as they listened, fascinated.
They can provide information about the town, tours, and onward travel connections. If they don´t know the answer to a question, they will call someone or go and ask a neighbour who does!
Wifi: dream on. Not in Cuba.
Extras: dinner is an optional extra and Carlos´ cooking is fantastic. Expect a mountain of rice and beans, salad, sweet potato, and either spicy fish, chicken or pork. Followed by fruit and more cangrejos for pudding. Carlos and Danirka are very accommodating and will be happy to provide vegetarian food.
They also offer a variety of rum based cocktails.
Steps at the side of the house lead to the roof of the one-storey building, a lovely spot to admire the valley and sip a mojito.
Stars: ***** I award Villa Las Flores 5 stars, top marks!
Contact: 48684253, 54055591 or 58539898 firstname.lastname@example.org
Address: Villa las Flores, Carretera a Puerto Esperanza, Las Maravillas, Viñales, Pinar del Rio Province, Cuba
Tip: If you arrive on the Viazul tourist bus, you will be met by a stampede of casa owners who will wave flyers in your face and try to drag you to their casa. Walk away from the commotion. If you arrive by car you will be saved this hassle. Go past the petrol station on your right and follow the main road out of town. Pass the police station on your right, and you will soon see the Villa las Flores sign on the left. Ask anyone for Carlos ´El Cangrejero´ and they will point you in the right direction.
If you go to Villa las Flores, please tell Carlos and Danirka that Hannah recommended them to you!
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