10 Traveller reviews from Holiday Watchdog
More of the "Monk's Life" than anticipated!
"Since variety is the spice of life, I decided that, after returning to Habana after a week-and-a-half in the provinces, that I would stay at Los Frailes rather than my usual hotel (Ambos Mundos). The hotel's theme, that of a monistary, staff dressed as munks, rooms decorated with munkish themes, appealed to me. Arriving after midnight off the ViAzul bus from Santiago de Cuba, my first surprise was that my reservation was for the next three nights, but not the night of my arrival. The carpeta did call around, however, and got me a room at the nearby Hostal Beltran de Santa Cruz. (A hotel where I would have liked to have remained, save for the fact that I had already paid of three nights at Los Frailes.)
The first problem encountered was with the air conditioning of my (windowless) room on the second floor rear. Try as I might, both through my own efforts, and that of the staff, I could never get it to work on any consistent basis. The room was often semi-sweltering, offering no haven upon returning from the hot streets. I was grateful when the air conditioning periodically and only occasionally kicked in, on a capricious basis. Perhaps this was all in keeping with the munkish theme of the hotel (i.e. the guests must pay a certain amount of penance for the sins of the body!)
Unlike other hotels, there seemed to be an excessive charge for everything (e.g. security box $6, mineral water from mini-bar $1.50 CUC's, etc.) Also, the light on my writing desk was out, and a request to change the bulb resulted in a promise that it would be done the following day. (My solution: change it myself, exchanging one bulb for another in my room.)
As previous reviewers have stated, the corner restaurant where guests can breakfast is quite mediocre, both in service and in content of the buffet.
Oh, and the extra staff hanging around the carpeta and the bar? They are there to offer you deals on "real Cohibas" from "my friend at the factory!"
There is e-mail access from a computer in the lobby. Unfortunately, to use this, you cannot buy a half-hour or hour access card from the carpeta, but have to go to another hotel to purchase this card.
Not all is dark, however. The two women behind the counter at the carpeta were very helpful, and the housekeeping staff were very friendly and did a good job.
In the end, though, there are better choices in Habana Vieja, and Habaguanex needs to address some fairly serious issues to bring Los Frailes closer to its potential.
- Travel date: Wed 10th of May 2006
Great location, comfortable hotel
"Thanks for all the previous reviews. They are representative of our experience there. It is a very pretty hotel. We loved the location sandwiched between the two plazas and convenient to restaurants, fun stuff to do, banks, the casa de cambio, the post office, and the taxi stand on the Plaza San Francisco (with a manager who speaks English and will help negotiate fares).
The women who cleaned our room were both very nice and helpful. We did not tip until the last day so the good service does not seem to be dependent on that.
We stayed on the top floor. Los Frailes does not have much action in the courtyard so it is probably quieter than many but some noise does echo up. The band that plays at the bar the lobby is very pleasant.
The elevator was not working and it is a bit of a climb so some people may want to request a room on a lower floor.
We gave up on the Taberna even though they serve lots of fresh fruit. We usually had breakfast at Mercurio's on the Plaza San Francisco where the staff was nicer and the coffee was hot and delicious.
The door is locked at 11 p.m. and you have to knock and rouse a sleepy staff person if you come in later. It is a bit of a drag but they answer the door promptly and the street where you wait seems pretty safe.
The person who showed us to our room offered to take us on a walking tour. We decided to go. It was interesting and gave us a good sense of the layout of the city, how to navigate our way to all the places we had read about and introduced us to a couple of things we had not heard of. He took us to a paladeres for lunch and we treated him to what turned out to be the most expensive meal we had in Havana - unnecessarily huge portions of relatively uninteresting food. He would not give us a price for the tour and we had no idea how much to pay. We guessed but are still not sure if we got it right. He offered more tours but we decided that we were okay on our own after that. He was a little persistent and we had to say no more than once.
We lost our hotel key and the key to the room safe when a bag was snatched from my shoulder in a moment of inattention. The hotel receptionist was very concerned about the problems we were causing the hotel. I am not sure she believed our story even though I produced the broken strap as evidence. She told us that there were no duplicate keys and that we would have to wait 2 days until they could change the locks. She charged us 20 pesos to replace the keys.
Other staff were more sympathetic about our experience but all told us that we had been in a bad area (behind the house where Jose Marti was born, near the train station) which confused us because it was on the tourist map they gave us. The maid found us a key for our room and another staff person found the key for the safe and then replaced the safe lock in case we lost the remaining key.
Things ended up being fine and we enjoyed the rest of our stay."
- Travel date: Wed 22nd of February 2006
Beautiful Hotel, Great Location
"We stayed at Los Frailes for three nights at the beginning of September 05. Our room was on the first floor and was lovely, very sympathetically decorated and spotlessly clean. Our only quibble was the fact that the room had no windows and it transpired that it's only the four mini-suites on the front of the hotel that have windows and a balcony.
This hotel is a major tourist attraction and you can see why it is quite possibly the most beautiful place I have ever stayed in and suprisingly peaceful considering it is right in the middle of Old Havana. The staff at the hotel are very helpful and all speak very good English for those that don't speak Spanish.
The only downside to our stay was the breakfast which is provided at a Cafe at the end of the street. A mixture of stale bread, tired looking fruit and cold coffee! I would recommend that people stay at Los Frailes on a room only basis and seek out your breakfast in one of the many restaurants in Old Havana."
- Travel date: Wed 14th of September 2005
Lots of character
"The best things about this hotel are its location in the old part of Havana and its character. A lot of effort has been put in to make this resemble a monastery and there has been a lot of attention to fine detail, so you can understand that people who walk past this hotel stop and have a look inside. It is intriguing to say the least.
On the negative side, there were no windows in the room. I imagine this was done purposefully in keeping with the theme of the hotel, there are instead little slats in the door. I found it hard to get up in the mornings as it was pitch black, so had to set the alarm otherwise would think it was the middle of the night.
The breakfast at the cafe on the corner was very average. The staff weren't particularly friendly down there and they didn't make any effort to set the tables properly, so we had to quite often take a cup from another table and a spoon from another etc. There were some meats and fried foods which I didn't like the look of, so I stuck to fresh fruit, which was quite nice. The bread wasn't that fresh.
There seemed to be a lot of hotel staff in Los Frailes, I'm not sure what their roles where, as they seemed to hang about quite a bit. On our last day before we left we sat in the bar area and I wanted to use the toilets but felt afraid to go as there were a bunch of staff hanging around the loos. Renee was a friendly chap but some of the others didn't seem overly friendly. The drinks were very expensive in the bar compared to other bars in Havana.
The rooms were kept clean and tidy, you do have to pay for use of the safe though. Be aware if you use the mini bar. On our arrival we had bought some beers but they were warm so we swapped a cold one from the fridge with one of ours which was exactly the same brand. We still had to end up paying for this despite replacing it, as the manager put his signature on the items in the fridge. Perhaps this is normal practice, I don't know?
I liked this hotel for its character, it did grow on me, but I'm not sure if I'd go back there again. The lack of natural light in the rooms did put me off a bit, though like other people have said on their reviews, this probably made the room quieter."
- Travel date: Mon 13th of June 2005
Good hotel in Havana
"We stayed at the hotel for a few days in April, 2005 and had a mini suite, with balcony. The room was excellent, although suffered from a 5am pump noise in the street outside every morning. The breakfasts are in a local cafe (50m away) and were very good - the best of our stay in CVuba. I was intrigued by the comment of an earlier poster to avoid the cereal. I have no idea why though, unless it was because of the non refrigerated milk (one lump or two?).
I would have said the stay was excellent, but for 2 scams. The first was not a problem for the visitor, as the receptionist appeared to keep the money for the safe key (no receipt and no credit card permitted), but the minibar scam on leaving was VERY irritating.
We checked the minibar was OK and went downstairs with our cases, locking the door. A maid was sent from reception and reported 2 bottles of water were missing and demanded $3. This was clearly untrue. After an argument with the management and the maid, I resolved the matter by taking my tip back from the maid and paying for the water out of her money. Rough justice but fair."
- Travel date: Mon 25th of April 2005
great stay at hostal Los Frailes
"We spent 5 nights at Los Frailes in Feb. 2005 and it was very enjoyable. We stayed in a regular room for 4 nights, and a mini-suite on the 5th night. Both rooms were nice, but the suite was very nice and spacious, had a beautiful balcony, and good value for the price. Overall the hotel was very clean and had good bathrooms (a plus in Cuba!).The staff was extremely friendly and very helpful. The hotel was accessible, and within walking-distance of most of the major sights. I would definitely stay there again.
(NOTE: if you stay here, you will eat breakfast at Cafe Taberna. There is a nice selection of food, but don't eat the cereal! You'll regret it!)"
- Travel date: Mon 28th of March 2005
Los Frailes - not for the claustrophobic
"While Los Frailes has been updated, they have kept the charm of the old building. Even the bathroom had the old pull chain toilet and antiqued 'brass' fixtures. The maid service was wonderful possibly helped by the gifts of soap, shampoo, etc. we left everyday.
The only drawback was the lack of windows. We kept the door open unless we were sleeping. Back from the street, our room was wonderfully quiet. Having to walk down the street for breakfast was great. We got to see what was going on in their world, the students having gym classes and on Sunday, the pigeon market.
Right in Old Havana, it was close to everything."
- Travel date: Tue 22nd of March 2005
"We really enjoyed staying in this hotel. A very unusual theme - with the monks - and very well set out.
The only drawback was that we had an early bus so went for breakfast at 7am (the time we were told it opened) to find they weren't ready for customers and so gave us a plate of cheese!
The room didn't have any windows but that may have been a bonus, as we stayed at a different hotel later in the week that was exceptionally noisy because of the street.
Very friendly and clean hotel."
- Travel date: Tue 4th of January 2005
Great find in Restored part of Old Havana
"This Hotel is in a fantastic spot, in the Mix but down a side street. Did not hear any street noise, rooms are on the small side and windowless, but the bathroom is clean, modern, with running hot water and a flushing toilet (no small feat in Havana!) clean bedding, friendly staff and good to have an included breakfast as finding acceptable food will be your hardest task in Cuba, will stay there again."
- Travel date: Wed 30th of June 2004
enjoyable stay at hostal los frailes
"Hostal los frailes is a wonderful, quiet and clean hotel in old havana.It used to be a monastery and was recently remodeled into a hotel. the staff dresses in monks gear...they do not have a restauraunt in the hotel ,so you have to walk down the street to eat at cafe taverna-its an extremely short walk.the rooms are pretty but on the smaller side ,not recommended for those who have claustrophobia.the other drawback is that it is not easily accessible to cars .so, carrying your luggage from your taxi to the hotel is about 2-3 blocks..but this turns out to be an advantage ,as the street is very clean and quiet.we had a great time!"
- Travel date: Sun 20th of July 2003