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Beachfront Hotel in Havana?

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I've been looking around and can't really find the answer I'm looking for. Can anyone recommend a hotel or resort that is beachfront, has a pool, and is in close proximity to Old Havana? Anyone know anything about the Melia Habana or Melia Cohiba? Anything you would suggest? Looking to relax on a beach/pool, drink, smoke cigars, see Havana, etc. Not looking for any crazy clubs, more into the Afro-Cuban Jazz than a dance club. Any help you can give is appreciated.

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    I'll be curious to read other responses that you get to your question. I don't recall there being any beach front property in Havana. We stayed in Old Havana at the Parque Central, ok hotel, but could have been located any where. Wouldn't be my choice.

    I remember driving by one of the Melias. Not within walking distance of Old Havana.

    I think to get to good beaches, you're going to have to get out of the city.
    But, it's been awhile since I was there, and the beach wasn't the purpose of the trip, so I could be wrong.

    Enjoy Havana, it's a very special place.

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    Just to add, it doesn't have to be walking distance to Old Havana, just close enough to get there by cab for a couple of dollars, and without having to drive more than 10 minutes.

    I really don't know where things are located in Havana, like what area would you go to listen to music (ie. Afro-Cuban Jazz), best restaurants, where the best cigar places are, etc. I want to have the comfort/fun of lounging all day at a beach or pool for some days as well as having the opportunity to explore Havana some others, and maybe do both some days.

    Any advice anyone can give would be appreciated, no matter how little. Just trying to research it all to figure what I'm going to do.

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    Sorry to say, but you're simply not going to find what you're looking for.

    Havana is a city that grew up (historicaly) around a very good harbour and safe anchorage for the Spanish fleet in historical times. The closest beaches would be about 20-25 minutes away to the east, but the "resorts" there at only 3-star at best. It's sort of like saying that you want to visit Manhattan and enjoy the sights, and still only be 10 minutes away from great beaches. Just not possible.

    All that being said, there are two choices for you. There are some GREAT hotels in Havana with rooftop pools where you can certainly relax and be spoilt, but be withing minutes walk to the best of Old Havana. The 5-Star Hotel Saratogo comes to mind (Paseo del Prado No. 603 esquina a Dragones. La Habana Vieja) and also the 5 Star NH Parque Central, Hotel (Calle Neptuno e/ Paseo del Prado y Zulueta. La Habana Vieja)

    You can find reviews on these hotels, and maps etc., at this website.

    http://www.cubaroutes.com/

    Just select the map for Habana Vieja and then look for the correct numbered circles that mark hotels, attractions, etc. Details are in the list on the right.

    You other alternative is to stay at Breezes Jibacoa, a hotel complex that is located about 45 minutes to the east of Havana. Excellent resort with great reviews, great beach, and snorkeling and reef right off the beach for those who enjoy snorkeling etc. It's a traditional beach resort (also 5 Star) with all the amenities, but as I said, about a 45 minute cab ride from Old Havana. (If you're looking for this resort in the listings on the web, you often find it listed under the Varadero resorts, but in reality it is almost 1 hour out of the actual town of Varadero. Approximately 1/2 way between Varadero and Havana.

    The Melia Habana (5 Star) is in the Miramar suburb of Havana (west end) where many of the embassies are located. Lovely area, but not much of a beach (great pool and patio on the water's edge however) but is about a 15 minute (8 to 10 CUC cab ride) from Old Havana.

    The Melia Cohiba is located in Vedado at Ave. Paseo and while a lovely modern 5 Star hotel, it's more modern glass/chrome and to me lacks the atmosphere of really being in Havana.

    And for ultimate old world charm there is always the classic Hotel Nacional. it's on the coast and has a pool (but no beach) but is one of the old CLASSIC hotels of Havana. The walls inside are lined with photos of many of the famous guests from Cuba's past. It's where Presidents/Prime Ministers, etc stay. Wonderful sheltered patio to sit and have a cold Mojito and simply watch the world pass by. Like being transported back to the elegance of the 1940's and 50's. Deja Vu!

    As to what to see and where to eat, well here are some of my recommendations. (BTW, I've spent a cumulative couple of months exploring Havana on many trips)

    Havana and what to do?

    Here in no particular order are some of my favourites. You can't possibly do the whole list in one day, but it might give you some ideas of where to start.

    1) Plaza Revolution and Jose Marti monument and museum. View from top is great. Postal Museum is right around the corner as well if you like stamps.
    2) Coppelia for Icecream at top of La Rampa. (Calle 23 esq. a L, Vedado.) 30,000 a day are served. Cubans love icecream.
    3) Parisienne Cabaret (at Hotel Nacional) for show, or Tropicana Club for dinner show.
    4) Muesum of the Revolution (Just down the street from Parque Central on Ave. Agramonte (Zulueta)
    5) Calle Obispo. Very bohemian with lots of galleries, shops, cafe's. Just around the from Parque Central and the Capitolo.
    6) La Floridita Bar for Daquiri (just at Parque Central and Calle Obispo)
    7)Cathedral Square.
    8)La Bodeguita del Medio for a Mojito. Just around the corner from Cathedral Square.
    9)Plaza Armas for Sunday bookfair (if it fits your schedule)
    10)Free Market (hard currency) on Tacon in Parque Cespedes, at the waterfront just behind Castillo la Real Fuerza for hand made souvenirs.
    11) El Morro Castle. Canon firing at 9:00 p.m. ceremony. Make sure to climb Faro (the lighthouse) for a fabulous view across the harbour at old Havana.
    12)Bocoy Rum factory (Fábrica de ron Bocoy, Calzada del Cerro No. 1417, Cerro) or the Havana Club Fundacion Outlet (San Pedro y Sol, Ave. del Puerto #262) Here's the link to the Havana Club Fundacion website.
    http://www.havanaclubfoundation.com/en/default.asp
    13) Plaza Vieja at the bottom of San Ignacio for the tremendous architecture and also there's a microbrewery in the southwest corner.
    14) Museo de la Revolucion, Calle Refugio #1, Habana Vieja.
    15) Hemmingway Marina
    16) The Capitolo. 3rd largest indoor statue in the world inside under the dome.
    17) All the rest of Habana Vieja (Old Havana).
    18) Chinatown. Just to the west of the Capitolo by a few blocks. Walkable distance on Dragones at the south end of the Capitolo.
    19) Castillo Real Fuerza. Right off Plaza Armas and very nice to walk through.
    20) The Malecon. Oceanfront drive that is very popular for strolling along the seawall.
    21) University of Havana (up near la Rampa and Coppelia)
    22) Cemetary Colon. Many mausoleums and artistic graves. Very historic. Near Plaza Revolution.
    23) Parque Lenin and Las Ruinas for lunch. Very pretty.
    24) Partagas Cigar Factory (Casa del Habano Partagas, Industria No. 320) Phone 537-33-8060 Tours every 15 min, 9:30-11:00 and 12:00-3:00

    So that's my basic starting list. In addition in Old Havana there are many galleries, museums of various types and it's nice to sit in one of the many small cafes and just soak up the ambience, a cold beer, and listen to some great music. Usually a combo, trio or quartet. For me personally that is the real soul of Habana... it's music.

    For shopping and souvenirs, there are several places that are almost a must see/do.
    There are many small shops along Calle Obispo in Old Havana that have some nice stuff. Also in Parque Cespedes located between Av. del Puerto and Tacon (right behind Castillo de la Real Fuerza) is an Artisan Market where lots of handmade handicrafts and stuff is available. It's also a neat place to just wander about. Keep an eye out in this park for the guys that husk/slice and open fresh coconuts for the tourists. A fresh coconut and a straw is a nice refreshing drink. Not too many as fresh coconut milk can upset your GI system.

    For regular shopping in a Cuban version of a shopping mall, there is the Galeria Paseo located at Av Paseo & the Malecon (across the street from the Melia Cohiba.
    Another Galeria is located on the south side of Av Salvador Allende between Calzada de Infanta y Oquendo. You can walk to it from the Capitolo quite easily in about 20 minutes by walking up Av Simon Bolivar.

    To orient yourself, here is a good map site for Cuba.
    http://www.cubaroutes.com
    Select the City of Havana map on the left & when that opens select List all Places in City of Havana on the right hand side. You can check the boxes for Accommodation, attractions etc. Will give you a good map showing where stuff is located. Zoom the map in closer for a better look.
    Here is the site of INFOTOUR, the City of Havana Tourist Office. Good info and there's a map showing the location of their stores in Havana. A good place to get maps, info etc., once you are actually in Havana.
    http://www.infotur.cu/index.html

    And what's Havana without EATING. So here's my favourite list of good places to eat.

    1) EL ALJIBE in Miramar (Calle 7ma. e/ 24 y 26, Miramar. Playa. Ciudad de La Habana Phone:(53 7) 204-1583 · 204-1584) offers a great house specialty, Lemon Chicken. Grand and not too pricey at $12. Good wine selection as well. El Aljibe is popular with the Cubans and I've always enjoyed eating there. It's one of my "Must Eat" places everytime I am in Havana.

    2) EL FLORIDITA in Habana Vieja serves the absolute BEST frozen daquiri imaginable. But at $6.00 per drink it is a little pricey. But that's the bar and drink made famous by Hemmingway and there's lots of photos of Papa Hemingway on the walls (with Fidel no less). Food is pretty good as well, but I've only eaten in the bar section, not the dining room.

    3) EL PATIO in Plaza de la Catedral is also great. You can dine inside or outside in the square under unbrellas. I prefer the outside because the music isn't quite as loud, and I simply love to soak up the atmosphere in the Plaza. Service can be a bit slow however. I often stop here for lunch (Sandwich Cubano) with a cold Crystal Beer. Very nice.

    4) LA BODEGUITA DEL MEDIO
    If you are in Havana and want a great Mojito at the legendary bar made famous by Ernest Hemmingway, then you have to have a drink at The Bodeguita Del Medio, Empedrado 207, Habana Vieja (Old Havana). Comida Criolla y Mojitos (Native food and Mojitos), what a great place to eat and drink. Located just around the corner from Cathedral Square. The walls are covered with signatures of its patrons from the day it opened. Famous signatures such as Hemmingway's and Salvadore Allende's are protected under glass. No visit to Havana is complete without a Mojito at la Bodeguita.

    5) LA DIVINA PASTORA. Parque Histórico Militar Morro-Cabaña. Tucked into the berth of the sailing ship El Galeón at the foot of El Morro Castle, it is a good spot for dinner after the cañonazo (cannon blast) at La Cabaña. I took my girlfriend here and the atmosphere is terrific. Soft breeze, soft music and soft lips. What a treat. Very romantic spot with the lights of the harbor glimmering. The food is good too. Not a place where you have paid for the view and get substandard fare. Worth every penny, though it does take quite a few of them. If you only have one night and want to make it special, then this is the place to go.
    Also, right alongside La Divina Pastoria is a small annex bar called BAR EL MIRADOR which also offers terrific city views and the same menu as the main restaurant next door. A breezy terrace makes it one of Havana's romantic getaways. Standard criollo dishes -- plátanos a puñetazos, frijoles negros, ropa vieja -- are available along with international specialties.

    6) AMELIA - Also in Miramar suburb in the Miramar Trade Center directly across the street from the Melia Habana Hotel. (Calle 3ra. e/ 78 y 80, Miramar. Playa. Ciudad de La Habana) Classy dining but won't break the budget. I've eaten there three times and have always enjoyed it and felt I received value for the money.

    7) La TERRAZA - which is an outdoor patio/grill at the Melia Habana Hotel which I had a very nice steak dinner at. Also their fish was good the night I ate there.

    8) Cafe La MINA - Calle Obispo No. 106 esq. a Oficios, right at the edge of Plaza de Armas at the corner of Oficios. Excellent food and a reasonable wine list. There's a nice Cuban Chardonnay called San Cristobal that is quite enjoyable at $14 / btl. You can eat outside and watch the world pass by, or for a more intimate dining experience, the central patio courtyard with it's lush vegitation is a nice spot. The food is great and dinner for two including a nice bottle of wine and dessert will set you back about $50.

    9) DULCERIA DONA TERESA - Also on Calle Obispo just north of Plaza Armas. Good food and here is where I usually have a nice sandwich Cubano for lunch and a cold beer. They also have good hearty chicken soup that I have enjoyed. Outdoor patio area only.

    To the west of the Capitolo on Ave. Dragones is a small China Town. Not bad actually. I wandered around and ate at a place that looked nice. Sorry, didn't note the name.

    Also, in the Miramar suburb just about opposite the El Aljibe (and near the Canadian Embassy is a place called Sandwichteria (not sure of exact spelling) which is a very cheap place to eat. Sort of a cross between a sub-shop/burger stand/ice-cream parlor where you can eat cheap but good. Six of us ate there (3 adults, 3 kids) and got out for less than $30 US. It's very popular with the local Cubans so its also a fun place to eat. Very informal.

    Other good eats can be found in Paladars which are restaurants licensed by the government but run by private owners. Here's some suggestions sent to my by one of my good friends in Havana.

    La Guarida
    Calle Concordia #418, entre Gervasaio y Escobar (8669047).
    Open 7pm-midnight daily; reservation required.
    Main courses $15-$20.
    Perhaps the best-known paladar of them all, La Guarida owes its fame to Fresa y Chocolate, the successful 1993 Cuban movie, which was filmed on the premises. Finding this place among the Havana rubble is a rewarding experience; the surrounding buildings are near to collapse, but the restaurant has been restored beautifully. The prices here are a little higher than at the average paladar, but the choice and quality of the international food justify this. Although the normal 12-covers rule doesn't apply (the owners must be well connected), it is still necessary to make an advance booking to secure a table.

    La Cocina de Lilliam
    Calle 48 #1311, entre 13 y 15, Playa (2096514).
    Open noon-3pm, 7-10pm Mon-Fri, Sun; closed Sat.
    Main courses $8.50-$10.
    La Cocina de Lilliam offers the best cooking in Havana and has earned a deserved reputation among expatriates for well prepared, well presented and tasty food. The chickpeas, fish and the ropa vieja are especially recommended. Dining in the garden is a delight and service is quick and unobtrusive. This place is something of a trek from the main tourist scene, but it's totally worth the taxi fare as La Cocina de Lilliam represents the best value for money in Havana. Note the unusual opening times. "

    "La Esperanza
    Calle 16, No. 105, esq. Avda. 1 y 3
    Miramar
    Tel.: 22 43 61
    Friday to Wednesday, lunch and dinner
    Moderate
    La Esperanza reminds me of some of the small, family-run restaurants I knew in parts of San Francisco in the 1980s. It is located in a 1930s-era middle-class family house in the chic district of Miramar. Diners are invited to take an aperitif in the living room and relax on a big, fluffy couch while gazing at an eclectic collection of modernist paintings, sculptures, religious icons and dusty family photographs. The handful of tables, also in the living room, have lovely family china, cutlery, tablecloths and napkins. There's a deft, light touch to the cooking, whether a crisp and refreshing salad of grilled eggplant or a main course of roasted chicken in a spicy tomato sauce. The friendly service is as if you are eating in a friend's home. This isn't really a restaurant; it's a dinner party.

    La Casa
    Calle 30, No. 865 e/26 y 41
    Nuevo Vedado
    Tel.: 81 70 00
    Monday to Sunday, lunch and dinner
    Moderate
    This is a cool hangout for those looking for the 1950s Miami/Havana atmosphere. This tiny restaurant is on the ground floor of a stucco family home built during that decade, complete with an industrial iron staircase, veneered wooden furniture and brightly painted rooms. (I thought I even saw a lava lamp and a wooden Spanish galleon clock.) Ask for a table on the tiny patio with a small pond with turtles floating by. The food is good, straightforward fare. A mixed starter of delicious fish ceviche, fried yucca, onion rings, potato balls and squid in a spicy tomato sauce is a meal in itself. The fresh fish, usually snapper, is always delicious for a main course, as well as grilled chicken or pork chops. Stay away from sauces, since they can be heavy, especially on a warm summer's night.

    La Fontana
    Calle 3ra A, No. 305, esq. 46
    Miramar
    Tel.: 22 83 37
    Monday to Sunday, lunch and dinner
    Inexpensive
    This is basically a Cuban barbecue joint serving up very good meat, poultry and fish on an outdoor grill. Seating is in the garden and in the cellar. The food is typical Cuban Criollo cuisine, with lots of fried yucca and marange; black beans and rice accompany everything. The spare ribs and small pork cutlets are particularly good. Come with an appetite; this is bold, pull-your-stomach-in Cuban home cooking."

    Al Medina:
    Calle de los Oficios 12, Havana, Cuba
    Phone: 7/863-0862
    Reports say this is a great restaurant for vegetarians though I have not been there.

    You must think all I do is eat, but it is a great hobby. In my trips I have found some nice spots and plan to spend more time just relaxing and absorbing the atmosphere.

    Have fun and FORGET THE DIET...... ha, ha, ha.

    I've been to Havana many times and still have lots more to see. If you feel like looking at some photos of Havana (with full captions and descriptions) then have a look at my website at.
    http://photopilot.tripod.com

    Hope you enjoy yourselves and have a Mojito for me.

    Steve

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    Canuck,

    Thanks so much for all the information. I was wondering why I was having a hard time finding what I was looking for, that's because it doesn't really exist! The Manhattan analogy was a perfect way to explain, very well done.

    Looks like I'll change the way I think of vacationing in Havana. Less of a caribbean beach vibe, and more of a visiting a great city vibe. Got it. If I do go the resort/beach route maybe it'll be the Melia Habana, but i think it makes more sense to just stay in Havana, hang at the pool, and run around the city exploring.

    Thanks again for taking the time, much appreciated.

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    i just got back from Havana / Playa Santa Maria. I stayed at a hotel that was a 20 min bus ride (free shuttle bus twice a day to and from the hotel) Otherwise, the cab ride is 30 CUC return.

    Granted, I stayed at a 2 or 3 star hotel. Nothing fancy. But I really wanted the best of both worlds.

    I would wake up, eat my mediocre breakfast and hop on the 9:30 am bus and would be dropped off in old Havana before 10am. I could either spend 3 hrs in Havana, catch the 1pm bus going back, grab a mediocre lunch and hang out at the beach or at the pool.

    Or, after arriving in Havana at 10am I could choose to spend the whole day and catch the 6pm bus back to the hotel and still catch an all inclusive mediocre dinner.

    All in all, considering most of my meals were taken care of, AND the transportation cost (again keep in mind, it would be 30 CUC a day otherwise) it was a pretty good deal. I didn't care that the hotel wasn't fancy. And travelling as a single young woman, I didn't really expect to be going into Havana every night. Although I did hook up with people in my hotel that rented cars and would go into town with them

    We were apprehensive to go to Casa de la Musica, thinking it would be too touristy, but ever the locals went. Amazing energy, amazing music and dancing.

    I didnt care how fancy my room was, I just wanted the beach when i wanted it, and I wanted to explore Havana on the days that I wanted exploration.

    It was perfect for me. I wish they had better resorts in this area. I could use a 4 or 5 star hotel, but oh well.

    For 2 weeks I spend $975 cdn all inclusive.

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