My only impression going into my trip to Cuba of Hotel Nacional was that of my father who had stayed at the hotel two years prior. He told me that one cannot conceive of an image of Cuba without having been there already. Upon returning, I agree, and Hotel Nacional is a perfect example of why Cuba is a hidden gem which has been stuck in neutral for over fifty years. Despite the dilapidated nature of Havana, the city and its people are very hopeful and seem to be quite happy despite the horrendous economic and political conditions they live within. The gorgeous hotel which is still in good shape sits perched upon a hill overlooking the ocean and the Malecon which is the historic wall that surrounds the city. It would be easy to spend an entire vacation sitting in the well-groomed front lawn simply smoking great cigars and watching the incredible, ancient American cars of the 1950s teeter on by. The scene is straight out of a 1950s movie and that alone is pretty amazing to absorb especially as a 23 year old.
We were lucky enough to be staying at the hotel during the annual Latin America film festival which has its home base at the Hotel Nacional. At any point in the day, we were surrounded by fans, critics, producers and Latin American movie stars which was pretty incredible and kept the atmosphere extremely lively. The hotel is in a great location and is a moderate walk or ridiculously cheap taxi ride to the center of Havana and the old city. The services at the hotel were quite good and varied from retail shopping to cigar shops to a few solid dining and bar options. Activity-wise there were nightly music/cabaret shows, bands playing all day on the front lawn, pools/ a small gym and as I said earlier, an immense veranda to watch people and cars, have a drink and a cigar, and simply soak up the excellent views and weather.
As expected, the rooms were nothing special and some of the basic amenities were lacking like working AC and occasional hot water. In the grander scheme, these small issues were inconsequential as the location of the hotel and variety of nearby sightseeing/activities were phenomenal. All in all, I'd say the Hotel Nacional is perhaps the best available lodging option if you're looking for an authentic Cuban experience versus a more expensive four or five star hotel option of which there are very few. I certainly hope to return to the hotel in the future.
If you are sensitive to noise, make sure to ask for a room higher up as the hotel is always bustling...
See more room tips
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.