Restaurant serving Italian and international food for all three meals
Modern gym and small spa with massage room and whirlpool tub
Free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel (rare for Havana)
Street noise in rooms can be an issue (soundproofing plans in the works)
Some rooms have internal courtyard views
Wi-Fi can be slow (typical for Cuba)
Breakfast not included in all rates
For leisure travelers who want to stay in Old Havana, the 96-room Hotel Saratoga is the best luxury option (and it's priced accordingly). The chic rooftop pool with great city views, upscale, stately rooms and plush suites, impressive art displayed throughout, swanky bars, free Wi-Fi (rare for Havana), and air of historic elegance help make this a top pick. Hotel Nacional is typically more affordable and has even grander common spaces, but it's not right in Old Havana and its rooms aren't quite as nice.
A chic, historic luxury boutique right in the heart of Old Havana
Hotel Saratoga is an elegant historic boutique first opened in 1926 and reopened in 2005. It lacks the scale of the Hotel Nacional, which has sprawling ocean-view gardens in Vedado, but the tradeoffs are significant: Guests here get nicer rooms instead, and a location that's walking distance to Old Havana's attractions. It's the top luxury option in Old Havana and arguably in Havana as a whole. In Old Havana, only the much larger Parque Central can compare, but it lacks the intimacy here and some of its rooms are far more dated in style. Guests should expect to pay premium rates for this experience, but in return they'll also get extras that are otherwise unheard of in Havana, such as free Wi-Fi.
The lobby sets the tone guests can expect throughout; it's historically elegant, with a quiet, mature vibe. Expect marble tile floors, impressive local art -- ranging from the grand, avant-garde clock featuring a carved sleeping angle in the entryway to the eye-catching mural behind the front desk -- plush seating, wood accents, a marble staircase with wrought-iron banister leading to the mezzanine level, and wooden reception desks for a seated check-in experience (no waiting in line here). Upstairs, the 24-hour mezzanine bar is perhaps even more impressive with its high glass ceiling, potted palms, checkered floor tiling, and white wood latticework, all if which make it feel a bit like a grand Old Florida establishment. Many of the guests here are North American couples and there are frequent tour groups from the U.S.; it's one of the few Havana hotels where North America is a primary market (Hotel Nacional is another), and it's no small accomplishment in Cuba that this hotel is able to live up to the standards of its discerning clientele. Guests from Germany and the U.K. are also common.
Most luxury hotels in Havana trumpet their celebrity cachet with walls of fame, and staff members that are only too happy to regale you with stories of their notable past guests. Not so at the Hotel Saratoga, which prides itself on its discretion. There's a wall detailing the hotel's history, but no hall of fame here, and non-guests aren't allowed at the rooftop pool -- unlike at the Parque Central, where non-guests can get access with a fee. All of this helps Hotel Saratoga feel like a true sanctuary from the noise and bustle outside.
Right in the heart of Old Havana, right on the Prado and facing El Capitolio
Hotel Saratoga has an ideal location in Old Havana. It's right across the street from El Capitolio, the grand domed building that now houses the Cuban Academy of Sciences. Old Havana is always bustling, with taxi drivers soliciting fares, old cars whizzing by, and both tourists and locals milling about against a backdrop of colorful and often crumbling colonial buildings. The hotel is right on the Paseo del Prado, often called the Prado for short, a busy thoroughfare that separates Old Havana and Centro Habana.
Seven-minute walk from Calle Obispo, a pedestrian shopping street where the historic El Floridita restaurant, once frequented by Hemmingway, is located
10-minute walk to Calle Empredado, lined with galleries by local artists
13-minute walk to the Museum of the Revolution
15-minute walk to Plaza Vieja, a charming historic square with popular restaurants and bars
15-minute walk to Plaza de San Francsico
17-minute walk to Plaza de la Catedral
15-minute drive to José Martí International Airport
Rooms have classic style and separate tubs in the bathrooms; some have internal views while others have balconies and city views.
Rooms at Hotel Saratoga are traditional and elegant, though the standard Deluxe Patio Rooms aren't quite as plush as one would expect for the price, and not up to the advertised five-star rating -- but this is typical for Cuba. Decor in most comprises dark woods, tile floors (sometimes painted), and bedding in either red or white with green accents. Rooms on the second and seventh floors have a slightly different and more modern look. Amenities include quality coffee/espresso makers with free pods, iPod docks, flat-screen TVs with channels in multiple languages and DVD players, safes, and minibars. All have AC that guests report works well. There are both 220 and 110 volt plugs. Bathrooms are typically done in green mosaic tile and all have separate tubs and showers.
All rooms in this category face a large internal air shaft (the bottom of which is the glass dome for the mezzanine bar) or into the bar itself, and have a Juliet balcony. They have a king-size, queen-size, or two twin beds and fit a maximum of two guests (no additional children). They start at 32 square meters (344 square feet) -- significantly smaller than the standard rooms at the Melia Habana, but that's not unsurprising given the Saratoga's central location. Rooms with internal views get less natural light but tend to be quieter; during our visit the hotel had plans to soundproof all external-facing rooms to help with street noise, but recent guests still report noise issues from these rooms.
Upgrading to one of the Junior Suites allows for more space, external windows, and in some units, cushioned window seats along the length of the room. These rooms can fit a crib or child cot. Some units have balconies. There are seven suites are truly decadent, and start with the Capitolio Suite, which is 60 square meters and has high ceilings, a chandelier, roll-top bathtub, separate living room with half bath, city and ocean views, and a blue and cream color scheme. The Havana Suite is the largest and nicest option. Even the hallways are stately, with red carpets and dark woods. All rooms are smoking, except for those on the seventh floor.
A chic rooftop pool, modern gym, small spa, swanky bars, and Cuban restaurant
The infinity rooftop pool at Hotel Saratoga may not be the biggest in Havana, but the size is perfectly adequate for this intimate hotel and the setting is decidedly chic, with orange cushioned patio furniture and loungers, and great city and distant ocean views. There are adjacent bar with snacks and drinks and nearby bathrooms.
The gym is located a few steps down from the pool area and has two treadmills, free weights, an elliptical, rowing machine, weight bench, bike, and strength training machine. The management has plans to replace the mirrors with windows overlooking the city. The spa is also located in this vicinity and has two treatment rooms, a sauna, and a whirlpool tub.
The bars are a highlight due to their swanky ambience; the bar off the lobby has a clubby atmosphere with dark woods, and the second-floor mezzanine bar has live piano music every night around 7 p.m. The restaurant (accessed through the lobby bar) has Moroccan-inspired decor and serves Italian, Cuban, and international food for all three meals, but the breakfast isn't included in all rates. The food is pricey and gets mixed reviews.