Cuban Coffee & Where to Find The Best in Havana


The Cuban Bean

Cuban coffee, most commonly referred to as café Cubano, is one of the most well-known coffees around the world. The signature taste of the Cuban bean comes from a unique combination of the climate, altitude and soil of the Sierra Maestra Mountains, located in the eastern side of the island, where most of Cuba’s coffee is grown in small farms. With the rich soil and sub-tropical climate of the Sierra Maestra region, the coffee beans are able to grow organically, without the need of any artificial fertilizers or pesticides. 

With limited to no access to advanced farming technology, Cuban coffee farmers continue to use the same traditional farming methods for the last 100 years. The beans are carefully selected by hand and mules are used to transport the coffee beans for processing. The coffee beans are passed through the farmer’s hand at every stage of the cultivation process. Many say, it is because of this level of care, it remains to be one of the most precious commodities in Cuba. 


Coffee in Cuba

In contrast to the Western world, coffee is considered a luxury in Cuba. Due to government restrictions and shortages, Cubans typically have access to coffee through monthly rations. Therefore, coffee is consumed in small amounts in little cups called ‘tacitas’, typically brewed at home. Espresso makers, known as ‘Moka’ pots, are a household essential. ‘Tacitas’ of ‘Café Cubano’ are often sold from Cuban homes through window shops called ‘ventanillas’, to locals and tourists. In Cuba, the moment of drinking ‘una tacita de cafe’ is one to savor and share with your loved ones.


How Cuban Coffee is Made

Believe it or not a tacita of Café Cubano will be enough to suffice your coffee fix. Packed with bold flavor and sweet undertones, this smooth brew unites all coffee lovers alike. Cuban coffee is typically drunk with Demerara sugar, which gives the café that significant caramel-like sweetness. It is usually whipped into a thick frothy paste and layered on top of a freshly brewed cup of coffee. The paste is known as Espuma due to its whipped consistency. 


Where to Find the Best Coffee in Havana

Are we making your mouth water yet? Good. We have a list crafted by our own Cuba experts to the best coffee hotspots in Havana:

    • Café El Escorial
    • Café Bahia
    • Café Fortuna Joe
    • Belview Arts Café
    • El Dandy
    • Café Galeria Mamaine
    • Cuba Libro
    • Any Cuban household- through ventanillas, window shops!

Best Havana Cuba Airport Transfer

You’ve arrived in Cuba! Now, how do you get to Havana City? Do you take a risk and look for a taxi when you arrive or do you play it smart and save money?

I’m a fan of saving money the smart way, so I took the Shuttle Transfer hosted by Cuba Travel Services. It’s the best way to get into the city. They speak English (thank god) and are super friendly. They also allow you to take a free checked bag on the shuttle (a lot of taxis or buses will charge extra for this). For $30.00 they meet and greet you at the airport and drop you off at your hotel or casa particular.

The best part is that you can order your shuttle pick up on-line and pay in US dollars. This will save you from having to exchange USD in the long line at the airport. In most cases you can get a better exchange rate at your hotel or an exchange center. As a bonus they gave me a free bottle of cold water! Don’t under estimate how hot it is in Cuba, a cold water was just the thing I needed to cool me down.

Ready to hit the town? View the Shuttle Transfers here.

Top 5 Havana Pools

The iconic city of Havana with so much to see will leave you amazed. The hot heat present throughout the island will also leave you finding ways to cool down. May we suggest refreshing yourself with a mojito poolside while still enjoying the spectacular views this city has to offer? With that being said, we present to you the top 5 pools in Havana.

#5 Saratoga Hotel Rooftop Pool

 The rooftop pool in the modern yet classic Hotel Saratoga overlooks El Capitolio and the Opera house. This glorious hotel that exhibits a baroque and colorful culture will transport you to the colonial times. Enjoy the architecture of this hotel as well as the rooftop views while sipping on a cocktail poolside. It’s to no surprise Beyonce chose to check out the views from this pool herself.

#4 Iberostar Hotel Parque Central

 The pool within this cosmopolitan yet elegant hotel offers some of the best views of the city. With the hotel’s perfect location, you will be able to enjoy panoramic views from the pool. It’ll be a relief to take a dip and refresh yourself with some mojitos in this rooftop pool after a day of touring the city. You’ll get to enjoy the best sunset views from here as well.

#3 Melia Cohiba Pool

Located near the infamous Malecon, the Hotel Melia Cohiba’s pool offers great views of the city and the sea. This outdoor hydro massage, fresh water, lagoon style pool has palapas, shady areas, sunshades, sunbeds and chairs for its guests. You definitely won’t be bored during your time in this pool as the stages throughout the pool allow for entertaining musical and dance performances. Salsa dancing in the water, anyone?

#2 Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana


This pool had us at “infinity” and “rooftop” pool. With spectacular, direct views of El Capitolio and the Great Theater of Havana, you’ll be swimming in the heart of the Old Havana. After a swim, you can continue to enjoy the views of Havana while sipping on a cocktail and soaking up the sun at the bar located poolside. In addition to its magnificent pool, this recently inaugurated, European style, luxury hotel will leave you impressed with its “246 large rooms or suites with extra high ceilings and French windows opening out to the old city. Experience a variety of restaurants and bars, which also includes a one of a kind cigar lounge and a roof top Panoramic Restaurant and Bar with spectacular views over the old city.”

Note: Due to U.S. regulations, Americans are no longer allowed to book this hotel (unless booking was made prior to November 9, 2017) until further notice. 

#1 Melia Habana Hotel


This classic hotel situated between the city and the sea that has 3 freshwater pools come in as the #1 contender in our “Top Havana Pools” list. With amazing panoramic views of the ocean and its large size (the largest of all the city hotels in Cuba), this pool has a lot to offer – Literally. This pool features palm trees, palapa over the water, hydro massage, hot tubs, aqua bars, shady areas, sunshades, sunbeds, chairs, showers, toilets, lifeguard and towels at the gym club. The 2 smaller pools offer a more intimate setting: One is surrounded by charming gardens, sunbeds and two palapas with canopy, and the other is a smaller indoor pool with cushions and candles. So whether you decide to soak up the sun while on a sunbed or on a chair, or enjoy the shade under the palm trees or sunshades, the many features this pool offers will provide a paradisiacal atmosphere.


Want to take a splash within any of these stunning pools? Contact our reservation team to book your stay.

Travel Advisory Significantly Downgraded for Travel to Cuba for U.S. Citizens

CYPRESS, Calif., August 24, 2018 — Cuba Travel Services, a leading U.S. based travel company with offices in California, Florida, and Havana, welcomes the U.S. State Department’s decision to amend the travel advisory to Cuba to “Level 2.” It is now listed in the same advisory category as France and Germany. Prior to the announcement, interest in traveling to Cuba has increased sharply over the past several months and projections for 2019 are trending upward.

“Although we believe Cuba should be considered a ‘Level 1’ destination for U.S. citizens, we are encouraged by this positive development,” stated Michael Zuccato, general manager of Cuba Travel Services. “Our customer’s safety and security is paramount and Cuba Travel Services regularly conducts thorough and comprehensive inspections of its offered hotels and excursions in efforts to ensure a safe, secure, and rewarding experience for our travelers.”

About Cuba Travel Services
Headquartered in Cypress, California, Cuba Travel Services is a premier travel service provider specializing in all things Cuba. As a leading tour operator and destination management company serving the destination, Cuba Travel Services offers hotels, cruise services, excursions, transportation, and tour programs as part of a turnkey travel solution for qualified individuals and organizations. The company has been arranging flights to Cuba for nearly 20 years and utilizes the most extensive network in the industry. For more information follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or visit

For additional information about travel to Cuba, please contact us at or at 1-800-963-2822.

Related Links

SOURCE Cuba Travel Services

Top 5 Havana Hotels

Have an upcoming trip to Havana and you’re wondering what hotel to book? Well let us enlighten you with our “Top 5” Havana Hotel Picks. If you decide to take our advice, which we highly suggest you do 😉 feel free to give us a call or email us so we can help you with your hotel accommodation arrangements. Here’s our top 5 picks from 5 – 1…

5. Hotel Nacional: A classic hotel considered a symbol of history, culture, and Cuban identity

With its privileged location in the center of Havana, it stands on a hill just a few meters from the sea, and offers a great view of the Havana Harbor. The hotel´s majestic figure combined with a modern concept of hotel comfort make it the ideal for those wanting to experience the classic Havana experience. The hotel, which is 20 kilometers away from Havana’s international airport, ranks among the world’s ten Palace Hotels and was the only five-star hotel in the Caribbean region from the 1930s to the 1950s. It has been visited by hundreds of celebrities from the spheres of art, science and politics – it was even featured on the TV Show, “The Simpsons”.


4. Saratoga : A luxurious hotel with a vintage vibe in the city center of Havana.

The elegant colonial-style hotel known for its vintage vibe Hotel Saratoga lies at the heart of Havana. It overlooks the Parque de la Fraternidad and the Capitolio, and it’s within sight if the Partagas Cigar Factory and the opera house. The hotel was originally opened in the 1930s but it has been rebuilt behind its original façade, offering a luxurious mixture of style and comfort. The hotel has two fine dining restaurants, a spa, a business center and a rooftop pool. Celebrities such as Jay-Z and Beyonce stayed here while visiting Cuba.


3. Melia Cohiba: The hotel opposite of the city coastline in a modern district of Havana.

Located in El Vedado (where the city’s main cultural centers are located) and across from the popular Malecón Avenue (seaside promenade), the Meliá Cohiba Hotel offers spectacular views of the sea and the city. It has become an ideal destination for business people who stay in its Royal Service section. The Habana Café inside of the Melia Cohiba has also attracted many guests. From the Meliá Cohiba Hotel, guests can easily go to sites that are located within a 12-kilometer radius, including Old Havana, Revolution Square, and the Havana International Conference Center. Additionally, guests can enjoy popular cafes in the area such as Habana Mia 7 and the Havana Jazz Café.

2. Melia Habana: A classic hotel between the city and the sea. 

Surrounded by beautiful tropical gardens and with the largest swimming pool in the country, the Meliá Habana is a leading business hotel and welcomes important VIP guests due to its close proximity to the Miramar Business Center and the Havana International Convention Center. Additionally, this hotel offers its exclusive Royal Service. This hotel recommended for business and incentives trips. Not visiting for business? Enjoy its 3 freshwater pools opposite the sea with panoramic views.


1. Iberostar Parque Central: An Elegant hotel known for its colonial-style architecture.

Nestled in the heart of (central) Havana. Known for its colonial-style architecture, which pulls in the rich culture of the streets, this hotel is regarded as the best hotel in Havana. The polished hotel is a 6-minute walk from the National Capitol Building and 14 minutes on foot from the Malecón promenade.

Warm rooms feature satellite TV, minibars, coffeemakers and balconies; some have wood floors and/or views of the National Capitol Building. Suites add antique furnishings and separate living/dining rooms. Other hotel amenities available to guests include an outdoor rooftop pool, a spa area and an exercise room.

Guests as well as visitors alike can enjoy visiting their 3 restaurants offering international, Creole and Mediterranean dishes. Live Cuban music is provided nightly in the palm-flanked lobby bar.


How to fill out your Cuba Visa Card

image1Order your visa on our website  After you have submitted your order, and once processed, you will receive a FedEx tracking number from FedEx via email (check your spam if you don’t receive it). Please allow 7 business days for arrival or 2 business days if you selected the “next-day shipping” option. Note that we do not deliver to PO BOX addresses.


image2Enclosed within your Fedex envelope, you will find your visa along with instructions on how to fill it in. The visa is a blank 2-panel paper slip that you must fill-in with your information. Use a black pen and read all fields before filling it in to avoid making mistakes. Have your passport handy, as the form requires that you write-in your passport number. Any errors on the visa may result in the visa being null and a new one must be purchased.
image3Fill-in the visa with your Last Name, First Name, Birth Date (day, month, year), Passport number and Country of Citizenship. Please note that date format is Day, month, and year. All information should reflect exactly what is in your passport. The left side and the right side must be filled in with the same information.
image6On the day of your flight, make sure to have your passport and visa in order to travel. All documentation will be verified at check-in. If you are not an American citizen/resident (green card + passport from citizen country) and require additional documentation, please verify what additional documents you will need upon return to the U.S. For example, as an International citizen residing in the U.S. under a student visa may require additional documentation to fly back into the U.S. The same may apply if you are a ESTA visa or multiple entry visa holder.
image7Upon arrival at Cuba, Cuban immigration officials will keep half of the visa. Keep the second half of the visa for departure from Cuba. Keep in mind Visa is valid for only 30 days and it is for one time use only.

Make it a Cuban Turkey Day!

Thanksgiving Day is tomorrow and although it’s not celebrated in Cuba, it has become a tradition for many Cuban Americans in the US.

Cuban or not, chances are your plans include cooking a Thanksgiving meal and rather than doing the same thing you did last year why not add a little Cuban spice and flavor? With that in mind we’d like to share with you the Cuban turkey recipe. Hope you like it and if you try it let us know what you think.


3 heads of garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon of black pepper
1 tablespoon of ground cumin
1 tablespoon of dry oregano
2 tablespoon of salt (or to taste)
2 cups of fresh lime juice
1 cup of white wine
6 ounces of orange juice (concentrated)
1 turkey (15-16 pounds)
Crush the peeled garlic and place in a large bowl. Add salt, pepper and oregano to season. Add the lime juice, white wine and orange juice. Whisk until all ingredients are mixed.
Pierce the turkey breasts, legs and thighs with a sharp knife forming holes for the mix to enter. Pour the mixture over the entire turkey and into the holes. Stuff the crushed garlic heads inside the holes. Cover the turkey and refrigerate overnight to marinate.
Preheat oven to 325° F.
Roast turkey until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the turkey reaches 180° F, this should take about 5 hours. Baste the turkey every 30-40 minutes. Once the breast is golden, cover loosely with a piece of aluminum foil to prevent burning.
Serves 20
Total Preparation time 13 hours 40 minutes (preparation 40 minutes, cooking time 5 hours, marinate 8 hours)

Alumni vs. Student- Who’s Better Off?

When I tell people what I do and where I work (Cuba Travel Services) their first response is “Wow, I didn’t think people from the US were allowed to go to Cuba!” Most people don’t even think it can be done, but like many questions the answer is often “it depends”. On what? Well, it depends on the purpose of your travel. Then of course a series of probing questions follow because it’s complicated and it really does depend.

So instead of telling you about all the categories and regulations which OFAC (Office of Foreign Asset Controls) operates under when it comes to traveling to Cuba, my goal today is to break it down and focus on only one form of travel- general vs. specific or students vs. alumni.

The main question is: Are you a student who’s getting school credits when you travel to Cuba? If the answer is yes then you wouldn’t need a license at all from OFAC because this falls under their General Category. If the answer is no and you are alumni and no credits will be granted then the association would have to travel under a specific license (often a people-to-people license) and this has to be granted by OFAC. The process takes 3-4 months and the sample itinerary provided to OFAC needs to be bullet proof, meaning that it has to clearly demonstrate that “meaningful interaction between the travelers and individuals in Cuba” will take place.

So that answers the question, as a student you are better off as long as you get school credit from your institution because there is no drawn out process. If you’re part of an alumni group; however, you now would have to travel under a license whether it’s granted to your own alumni association or another organization. I think of this license as an umbrella, you can’t travel to Cuba from the US without an umbrella (it doesn’t have to be your umbrella but you have to have one).