If you’re looking to truly experience Cuban hospitality, it’s possible to arrange to stay in a private home, known as a casa particular.
These are private homes where the owners rent out rooms or apartments to travellers, and it’s a great way for the owners to get a bit of extra money.
I stayed in casa particulares in both Viñales and Trinidad, and was a bit apprehensive beforehand and anxious about staying in a stranger’s home. I had no idea what to expect, but those fears were soon put to rest as my hosts were incredibly kind and welcoming, and the accommodation excellent.
The first casa I stayed in was in Viñales. It was a one-storey blue house and I was struck at first by how small it seemed. But on our arrival, we were taken up a little path to the back of the house where we discovered a number of small buildings.
My roommate and I were housed in our own private building complete with a bedroom, bathroom and a veranda with four rocking chairs.
The casa was peaceful and relaxing, and although our hostess and her family were close by, they left us alone apart from to say hello when we saw each other.
I especially enjoyed sitting on the veranda, rocking back and forth reading my book, the only sounds those of the birds chirping and the roosters crowing.
Our hostess was very friendly, although unsurprisingly she spoke only Spanish so our communication was rather limited – if you’re planning to stay in a casa particular in Cuba, it’s definitely worth having a smattering of Spanish so you can chat to your host.
In the morning, our hostess knocked on our door to let us know that breakfast was ready and I was amazed at how much food there was – we were treated to a bowl of bread, fresh butter, slabs of fruity jams and cheeses, a platter of pineapple, papaya, banana and mango, as well as a jug of mango juice and flasks of coffee and hot milk.
As if that wasn’t enough, our hostess then asked how we’d like our eggs – I opted for fried, my roommate scrambled – and we sat and ate our breakfast on the veranda. The food was fantastic and the portion sizes very generous, and all in all it was a lovely way to start the day.
The second casa that I stayed in, in Trinidad, was similar. We were again led to the back of the house where there was a series of smaller buildings – we were staying in a small annex with a bedroom, bathroom and a veranda complete with rocking chairs.
There was also a small bar, a dining area and a well-stocked fridge with beer, wine and water. Our host in Trinidad was just as welcoming and hospitable as our hostess in Viñales, and the breakfast was equally as plentiful and delicious – we were even given homemade biscuits each morning!
Staying in the casa particulares was a wonderful experience and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone planning a trip to Cuba.