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Cuba Travel Guide

James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
Cuba, May/June 2007

(continued from page 1)

These sorts of shortfalls at the Nacional and Santa Isabel have caused some independent and affluent travelers, especially from Europe, to stop coming to Cuba. Overall, tourism was slightly down last year to just under 2 million visitors. Yet, sources in the government believe the situation can be improved "overnight, the day Americans are allowed to visit Cuba" and "Americans can be more forgiving tourists compared to others from around the world."

Time will tell. Besides, some visitors are already finding a handful of Cuban hotels worth visiting. The spa at Río de Oro, for example, is nearly always fully booked and Meliá is considering expanding the hotel. "We could use another 10 of the beach cabanas at the spa for treatments," says Juan Tuñón, the Spanish manager of the property. "It's already very, very popular."

Here is a list of the best hotels on the island:

Hotel Meliá Cohiba
Calle Paseo, entre 1 y 3
Tel.: (7) 833-3636
Fax: (7) 833-3946

This is where most businessmen stay in Havana, but the 500-plus-room hotel offers everything you need, including two swimming pools, good restaurants, clean rooms, friendly service, satellite television and wireless Internet. It's the only hotel on the island that has entered the twenty-first century.

Paradisus Rio de Oro
Playa Emeralda
Tel.: (24) 3-0090
Fax: (24) 3-0095

The city of Holguín is not the easiest place to get to, especially from Havana, but those who find their way here will discover that this small beach hotel in a tropical forest is secluded and relaxing. Rooms are nicely decorated and comfortable. The pools and beach are serene and enjoyable. The big plus is the small spa, whose many treatments range from conventional Swedish massage to a rum body rub. This could be a sign of what Cuba will offer in the future.

Paradisus Varadero
Punta Francés
Tel.: (45) 66-8700
Fax: (45) 66-8705

With close to 430 rooms, this hotel is the most exclusive on the island, with tropical gardens, beautiful pools and gorgeous beaches. It is an oasis in an area frequented by tourists. For real exclusivity, choose a garden villa and hideaway from all the hustle and bustle of the town of Varadero.

Hotel Santa Isabel
Calle Baratillo, No. 9
Entre Obispo y Narciso Lopez
Plaza de Armas
La Habana Vieja
Tel.: (7) 860-8201
Fax: (7) 860-8391

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