Rates: $120 CUC and up
Conveniently located on the eastern end of Plaza de Armas in Old Havana, Hotel Santa Isabel is one of the boutique hotels owned by the city’s Habaguanex. It hosted former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in 2002 and enjoys a big American following. Housed in the former palace of the Counts of Santovenia, the quaint hotel exudes a charm that strikes us, counterintuitively, as both rustic and stately. Its Spanish style interiors offer a glimpse of the extravagant life of the aristocratic elite in colonial days. The 17-room hotel has a very spacious courtyard embellished with a fountain in the middle and imposing limestone columns. The hotel is currently under renovation this month, and will re-open in August.
The three-story hotel has a total of 27 rooms, divided into standards, junior suites and suites. The namesake Santovenia suite is the most expensive. Rooms on the third floor also feature open terraces with the views of the Plaza de Armas and Havana Bay. The suites are probably the best value – very spacious, well furnished, and well equipped with necessities. Other former guests include singer Sting, American actor Jack Nicholson.
The hotel faces directly onto the Plaza de Armas, with Havana Bay at the back. Needless to say, its location is one of its biggest attractions for visitors. Commuting in the area is very convenient as taxis and coco taxis are parked along the Havana Bay. One of our top 10 restaurants, seafood-focused El Templete, is just behind the hotel. Hemingway-haunt El Bodeguita del Medio is within 10 minutes walk, and Havana’s other famous squares, such as Plaza de la Catedral and Plaza de San Francisco, are within easy walking distance.
There’s a courtyard bar/restaurant just on the first floor, serving Cuban and Spanish-style food, though don’t expect it to be stellar. The El Globe bar on the rooftop is a breezy place to watch the life on the plaza. Food and cocktails there are more affordable compared with the courtyard bar. The Cañonazo bar offers some tasty grilled food. The hotel offers Internet at $8 CUC an hour.
Address: Calle Baratillo 9, entre Obispo y Narciso Lopez, Habana Vieja, Habana, Cuba
Tel: +53 7 860 8201