How to Book a Casa Particular in Cuba | My BEST Airbnb Experience yet!

A recap of my experience living with an Angel in a Casa Particular during my short time in Cuba. Keep reading to find out how you can stay with a local during your visit to Cuba. 

When I arrived at my casa particular after dark, Mirtha was sitting outside on her steps waiting for me with a smile on her face.


When I struggled to lug my bags up the stairs to her 3rd-floor apartment, she used all of her strength to help me out even though I insisted that it was fine.

When I couldn’t understand her fast Spanish, she remained patient & slowed her speech without getting annoyed or giving up altogether.

When I was in her presence, she would basically force me to eat whether I was hungry or not - the ultimate sign of love in many cultures. This included Ropa vieja, Arroz Congri, Arroz con Leche, Malanga, Yuca Frita, Maduros, Pan con queso, Guayaba. ALL of the food! 

When I told her I felt sick(vomiting 5 times in one day), she immediately rushed out the door & returned with fresh bread, Malanga, activated charcoal, and hot tea to make me feel better- no questions asked.

When I asked her about bus tickets, she spent 3(1 hour waiting on the bus bc Cuba) hours in the heat to accompany me to the bus station.

When I had no plans, she prompted me to join her in watching her favorite telenovelas.

When I said goodbye, she gifted me with a necklace made out of material that can only be found in Cuba & a piece of her art because she loved art and she remembered that I did too. 


So what was the catch? I wondered the same. 

There wasn't one.

This woman treated me as if I was her daughter, simply out of the kindness of her heart. 

Listening to her tell stories, grocery shopping with her, meeting her family members, watching her cook, and simply being in her presence gave me special insight into the life of a Cuban woman.

After a long day spent in the streets loud streets of Havana, her quiet home was like a refuge to return to. How could a stranger be so kind?  I nearly cried when I left. 



If you're headed to Cuba and have yet to decide where to stay - a casa particular is the way to go! In 1997, Cuban citizens were given permission to rent out their private homes to tourists giving them a chance to become self-employed and earn extra income. A casa particular is essentially a homestay or B&B. You can reserve a room or an entire home.

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  • Under the 'Support for the Cuban People' category, US citizens must spend most of their time interacting with locals and this is one way to fulfill that requirement. Due to new restrictions, it's illegal to stay in many hotels anyway.
  • This is the best way to immerse yourself in the culture of Cuba and learn about how the people truly live. To eat, drink, & dance with the locals. That experience up there? You can't get that in a hotel. 
  • The owners can give your recommendations, book taxis for you, make phone calls for you, and simply be your lifeline while in Cuba. 
  • You are putting your tourist dollars directly into the hands of Cubans, giving them a chance to earn more than the typical $25-$30 a month.
  • Casa particulars are typically affordable, ranging from $15-$50 a night.
  • Probably the best dang food you'll have in Cuba




They aren't hard to find. Everyone & their mother seems to rent a room out. You can either book a casa particular online in advance or you can just show up once you arrive in Cuba.

I'd highly advise you to book in advance online for the first several days or so, especially during high season(Mid December - March). I booked my first week online so that I could have a place as soon as I arrived in the city without having to carry my bags around in a place I'd never been. I left the remaining week open & simply showed up. 


When you book through Airbnb:  

  • You can read reviews. This is always huge to me. You can know exactly what to expect in regards to cleanliness, A/C, surrounding areas, service, what the host is like, and other things that you might not normally think of. 
    • I chose Mirtha's Airbnb because reviewers described her as very "warm" and "talkative". They were right. I simply showed up at the other two casas I stayed at and the hosts treated the experience solely like a transaction, which is fine. Clearly, it paid off to know what I was getting myself into beforehand. 
  • You have a guaranteed place to stay.  This is huge during high season. Sometimes casa owners overbook, so it feels safer to know that you've already got a place to stay. There's no need to waste time going from door to door for a room. 
  • It's a trusted site. As a solo female traveler, I felt better booking through Airbnb because my records were available in case something went wrong. I frequently use the website, so I felt more comfortable by booking here than through other sites or by just showing up. 
  • Less cash. You pay upfront when booking through Airbnb. This limits the amount of cash you need to carry around, especially since ATMs don't work for US citizens. This is also ideal if you need to stick to a certain budget. 

Note: You cannot book through the Airbnb site while you are IN Cuba, so you must book before you arrive. If you need to book a room after you've arrived, you can simply try to message the host or ask a friend back home to book it for you.

You can also search for Casas on Booking.com


When you just show up:

  • More options. There are way too many Casas to choose from & many aren't listed online. This includes Casas that might be lower priced. You also might be able to negotiate the price.
  • You have flexibility. Since you haven't paid online in advance, you can hop around without feeling tied to one place. If you realize you don't like Havana after 2 days, you can leave without money being wasted. 


  • Most rooms will have a double bed with a private bathroom, with A/C & hot water. The rooms are very basic.
  • Casa owners are required to keep very detailed guest records, so you will need to hand over your passport at check-in. Don't worry, you'll get it back right away. 
  • In Havana, many Casas are on the 3rd, 4th, or 5th floor. There are no elevators, so this is something to consider if you plan to bring heavy luggage.
  • Every host is different, some are more involved/open than others. Some see the experience as more transactional. Either way, you are not expected to spend all of your time with the host family. You'll have as much privacy as you wish because they understand that you are there to see the country. 
  • It might be difficult to locate your casa. Be sure write down the street address or ask around because neighbors usually know each other. 
  • NO WI-FI. 
  • Most hosts will only speak Spanish. Do yourself a favor & download Google Translate before going if you struggle with Spanish. 
  • The experience is what you make it. Try to talk to the hosts, ask them questions, treat their home as more than a hotel & you'll likely get the exceptional treatment in return. 

While my homestay in Trinidad was more mediocre, my time in Mirtha's was the highlight of my trip. If I ever return to Cuba, her home will be my first stop. If you're interested, you can find her home here. She deserves ALL of the business. 


Would you stay in a stranger's home for the ultimate cultural experience? Share below!


My AirBnB Experience and 5 Reasons It Is Better Than A Hotel Stay

In one of my more recent posts, I briefly discussed my experience staying at an AirBnB in San Juan, Puerto Rico. If you don't already know, Air BnB is a website where you can "Rent unique accommodations from local hosts in 190+ countries." The types of accommodations on the site vary depending on the listing shown. Each place that I have rented has been a private room where the host was still in the house during my stay. This is my 3rd time using AirBnB, and I've used the 'Private Room' option each time. There are always other options available, but the way post-grad my budget is set up................I try to go for the more affordable option. :)

Sign Up at this Link for $20 off your 1st AirBnB Stay

A recap of our AirBnB stay in San Juan, Puerto Rico:


So upon our arrival we headed straight to the beach, meaning we changed in the airport bathroom. Yes, we were eager, ok?! Anyway, I'd been messaging our host about a meeting time while we were out and about. After leaving the beach and driving around old San Juan, we finally found a parking spot on the very narrow cobblestoned streets. Once again, I was texting the host and describing my outfit so that he would be able to recognize me right away. Meanwhile, I look over and I can tell that Ivonna is internally freaking out. Why? Because she's never done this(AirBnB) before. I assure her that its fine and that we aren't going to get murdered by this guy that we've never met. He(the host) notices us right away, so we greet each other and he walks us up to the third floor of the apartment building. We go inside and the apartment is SO cute with an adorable black cat to go along(we were informed prior)! We're impressed so far. He shows us our room and tells us to sit our bags down so that he can give us an introduction to the city. We do just that and walk back into the dining room where he is seated with a map & glass of wine for each of us. I'm thinking, "Ok...I could get used to this". He then proceeds to pin point and write notes on the map to all of the coolest places to go and best places to eat in the city. He even hits us with a bit of an Old San Juan History Lesson. We get to know each other more, he makes us a few of his specialty cocktails, and then we separate for the night because we each have our own plans. A pretty great introduction, right? And thankfully, the rest of our stay went smoothly and without any problems. His wife and kid were there the following nights, but we hardly saw them and it wasn't an issue at all. We had our own keys and went about as we pleased. For the remainder of our stay, we found ourselves saying "I could definitely live here". The location, hosts, and apartment itself were all ideal.


Here are the 5 reasons I prefer AirBnB to Hotels

Cheaper Prices

More often than not, I've booked with AirBnB because of the affordable prices - "post grad budget", right? Sharing a home as opposed to renting an entire home definitely makes a difference in the price. I've also found that rooms are much more affordable outside of the US where the costs of living are lower overall. I've seen places in Cancun and Thailand that were beautiful, yet dirt cheap. You'll also find it reasonable to split a large home with a large group for a pretty good price. Cheaper prices aren't always absolute, because in US cities that happen to be more expensive, a decent airbnb can cost you more than a standard hotel. It's best to do some research to compare prices. 2.

Endless Options

The types of rooms you can stay in at a hotel are usually very standard and limited. Air B&B offers so many options - Apartments, Studios, Mansions, Treehouses, Castles, boathouses, etc. You can choose a shared room, a private room, or an entire apartment/house. The list is endless. Even when I'm not booking, I enjoy searching through the various homes of people around the world. As someone who visits places and imagines of what people's homes looks like on the inside, it's so fun to see the interior decor.

Great For Longer Trips 

While I've never stayed in an AirBnB for longer than a week, I can see the benefits that come along with having a kitchen to cook in and a place where you can do laundry for free, which will save you loads of money. Many places have options for people to rent months at a time, which is great for anyone doing long term travel. I think we can all agree that the comfort of a home will always outweigh that of a hotel.

Local Experience  

One of my favorite things about traveling is meeting the people that have lived in that area and know it well. They can give you the best tips and some great insight to their way of life, just like our host in San Juan. Airbnb's motto is 'LIVE THERE' - experience a place like you live there. You get the chance to stay in areas which may have no hotels at all, which gives you a different perspective of the city. 

Its an adventure  

Now, this may scare a lot of people. For me, it's so exciting. You honestly never know what you're going to get until you arrive. You don't know what your host will be like or if the accommodation will even live up to your standards. On the other hand, a hotel stay is pretty standard. Although this is comforting, I enjoy the surprises that come along with staying in an Air BnB. You could end up making life-long friends with the host or simply having a unique experience. And that's what adventures are all about, right?

Although hotels will always be a great and convenient option, it can be nice to switch it up from time to time. At this point in my life cleaning services, hotel breakfasts, concierge services, and spa services that hotels offer don't matter much to me. Staying in an AirBnb is quite a different experience, but its can be a great option depending on what you're looking for. If you do end up checking out the rentals on their site, be sure to look at the reviews, location, and the full description to ensure that you know exactly what you're getting.

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This is not a sponsored post - All opinions are my own.