Hotel Santa Isabel
10 Traveller reviews from Holiday Watchdog
Perfect location for exploring Havana
"The sevice and atmosphere at the Santa Isabel was faultless. It was great to be right on the doorstep of most of the places to see in Havana. It is located on the Plaza de Armas and breakfast was served outside where we could watch the morning start for locals in Havana. Staff were most helpful with many speaking fluent English. Rooms were luxurious with the third floor having terraces overlooking the square.
- Travel date: Fri 19th of October 2007
Perfect stay in Old Havana
"Perfect base for exploring old Havana located on a one of the nicest squares I have seen (Plaza de Armas).
Although it is true that 5* service in Cuba is not what you are used to in the rest of the world, must say that we had very nice time on our 5 days there."
- Travel date: Thu 13th of September 2007
You feel scalped
"Lovely location, beautiful building. Nice looking rooms. And that's about it. It's basically a scalpers paradise. Can't charge drinks to room bill as bar run seperately (and when asked they can't produce a receipt) - and if you don't have the cash on you that night they'll come banging on your door at 8:30 in the morning demanding it. Want a late check out - that'll be $10 per room. Car park run seperately and charges fee that hotel claim they have no control of. Internet fee $6 for an hour. You name it they will fleece you. Leaves a really bad taste in your mouth. Oh, and in a $200 a night hotel there ain't much hot water, you don't get a bath plug unless you ask for one - and check your sheets as mine had hair on them. Lots. Plenty of other places to stay in Havana that are as beautiful and don't have such unpleasant practices."
- Travel date: Fri 2nd of March 2007
Great base for exploring Havana
"We stayed 3 nights here and I would definitely recommend it.
The hotel is beautifully restored, couldn't fault the room,it's cleanliness and the lovely balcony overlooking the Plaza del Armes. The great thing about this hotel is that it's not on a busy street like so many other hotels so it's a peaceful retreat after a busy day yet it's moments away for everything you want to see in Havana Vieja! The breakfast was average however that's good by Cuban terms! After reading other peoples comments , we paid for everything in cash at the time so there were no issues with mystery bills."
- Travel date: Wed 18th of October 2006
thumbs down! corrupt people!
"This is a delightful hotel. the structure that is.
The staff here are HUSTLERS! If Cuba is trying to stop jinaterismos they should start here! I visited from Australia and was delighted to hook up with relatives of a great friend of mine who came from Havana. We decided to meet our friends at the hotel and when my guests came to meet me, a sleazy security guard intervened and told me that If i wanted to invite Cuban people into the hotel that I would have to look after him... to the tune of 60 CUP (60 Us dollars) (I am aware of Castro's policy of keeping tourists and locals separate). Neveretheless, I was very embarrased and my friends were nearby so I just gave him the cash, we all had a drink and split. It's despicable that Havana is touting this as their #1 hotel. Sure it's a beautiful hotel in an amazing location, but If you want a sense of authenticity or respect for being a touris, it is not here. THIS PLACE IS VERY CORRUPT."
- Travel date: Thu 12th of January 2006
had a terrible time at the Santa Isabel
"I've noticed that none of these reviews, have been written this year,with the new rulings on dollars, a whopping 20% in some cases to convert them and a fee of 11.24% every time you use a credit card(including when you withdraw cash) the prices have been really inflated -we ended up paying about 300â¬ a night for our room in the Santa Isabel, I mean, those are London prices! and I have never felt so ripped off. The hotel itself is ok - it's in no way a five star hotel, but the location is wonderful and it is a beautiful building,the problem for us was the staff,I've never experienced such surly, sullen service and never experienced being harrassed and ripped off by the staff of a hotel.The problem was actually quite serious,we arrived after a ten hour flight from Paris and two hours trying to get through customs, checked into the hotel and decided to get a beer in the lobby bar, we had two beers each and a small bottle of water-then we asked for the bill and asked to put it on the room, to be told by the barman that the bar operated seperately to the hotel and we could only pay in cash(!?)and that it would be 22CUC, we said we hadn't converted any money and the barman said he would happily take dollars-28$.My husband then asked for a receipt and suddenly it was possible to put it on the room bill - we later found out the correct price for our drinks was actually 11CUC, and the bar kept on trying to insist, aggressively,that we paid in cash and inflating our bills.The doorman, having seen my husband smoking a cigar, kept sidling up to him and hassling him with offers of selling him cigars from his personal stash and wouldn't take no for an answer.The hotel has a lovely internal courtyard, which all the rooms open onto, with a 24 hour bar in it-this makes it extremely noisy - all night, we needed ear plugs to get any sleep.When we came to check out, the girl behind the desk handed us the bill and when we tried to pay by credit card, said they were testing a new computer programme and so they couldn't process credit cards, we would have to go and get cash out, we'd stayed 5 nights,so by this time the bill was quite large,my husband then lost it and told them the running of the hotel was a disgrace and he was sick of all the staff insisting on cash so they could skim their piece off, that we were going out to dinner and that when he came back he was going to pay with a credit card.When we got back the "problem" had been "fixed",and we went to pay, the girl now looking extremely bootfaced,said she was too busy to process the transaction and we would have to wait,when asked how long -she said, until she was ready.Our taxi was picking us up at 6:00am the next morning and I tried to get a cup of coffee from the 24hour bar, before we left-the barman (same one who doubled our bill and was consistenly creative with his accounting,Alberto)sighed and said no, the coffee machine was cleaned - get one in the breakfast area, which sighed and said they didn't open til 7:00.It was just such an unpleasant experience, dismal service, bare-faced lying and constants attempts to gouge money-really beware, check all prices,( including that of your room!)and check EVERY bill.It really coloured our experience of Havana, which was a real shame, we'd heard about being hassled in the street but to be honest that really didn't happen - until we got into our hotel.I really advise anyone to try another hotel.Oh, and take cash- LOTS of it-in Euros, which don't have a fee to convert,and ignore the very out of date advice that dollars are accepted anywhere,and are practically interchangeable with the peso- they aren't,with the hefty conversion charge,it's not worth it to Cubans, to accept them."
- Travel date: Fri 30th of December 2005
Best location in Havana
"Once you get over the fact that hotels in Cuba are probably not at quite the same standard as in Europe, the Santa Isabel is one of the best in "Habana Vieja" - the old town. The location is outstanding and you can walk to all the restaurants, bars, sights etc that you could wish.
Our room was at the front overlooking the square and had a terrace, which was perfect for late afternoon people-watching. It's small enough (27 rooms) to feel intimate and friendly
The (many) staff were charming and attentive, and all spoke perfectly good English. Breakfast was excellent.
What didn't we rate? The restaurant, where we ate once, was lacking in atmosphere, very formal and the food wasn't great at all. They were very unhappy about us charging the meal to our room, and when we did come to pay the hotel bill, the restaurant bill we had signed had mysteriously disappeared and another, more expensive one, had been attached to our hotel bill. However, when we pointed this out, the manager was on hand immediately and took our word that it was incorrect and was very apologetic.
The money changing facility with the Bank was not always available, for no obvious reason, even when it had been open at the same time on the previous day. This is more of a problem in Cuba than elsewhere in the world given that credit cards are not widely accepted.
The other thing was that the bed really wasn't very good. The mattress was saggy and creaky and there were boards under both sides, so the management were obviously aware.
These were not major gripes though, and having heard stories from other tourists we came across, I still think it was the best 4* option available, providing you like "small and friendly with some quirks", rather than modern, large and anonymous."
- Travel date: Sun 13th of March 2005
"Arrived at Santa Isabel at about 1am after a long flight only to be told that our room would only be available thenext day around 3pm. We were sent to Ambos Mundo, which was just around the corner but not very good.
The Hotel has by far the best location in town and is very charming. The rrom are simple with cold floors. Service varies from person to person in the hotel, but can be quite good.
Next time in Havana would stay here again since the Melias are very far away and the other hotels are not so good or have bad locations."
- Travel date: Thu 10th of February 2005
"Apart fom the fact that one of our rooms was unavailable when we arrived at 3 o' clock in the morning (despite having warned them the night before), we enjoyed our stay at the Santa Isabel. The position is great - I would definitely choose a hotel in Calle Obispo if you want to be near the action and walking distance to everything in habana Vieja. The rooms and bathrooms are charmingly though simply decorated. The inner courtyard is lovely. Breakfast is nothing to write home about. Overall the hotel is a little overpriced but i would reccomend it.
Half our group ended up in Ambos Mundos down the road the first night and that too is a fun place to stay though the rooms are not as elegant."
- Travel date: Mon 7th of February 2005
Overpriced and not 5 star
"I was really looking forward to staying here at the end of our trip and specially requested one of the rooms on the 3rd floor with a terrace. The terrace was great and had a lovely view of the square and the room had some nice old pieces of furniture as did the public rooms. However, the rest of the furniture was really cheap (particularly the bed) - there was mould all over the ceiling and I could have done a better job on fitting the bathroom myself and I'm highly inept. If this had been a 2 star 50 dollar place I would have loved it, but as it was supposedly a 5 star and cost 200 dollars we were disappointed. The service was poor apart from an efficient guy on the front desk and there was the sort of shabeen feel to it that you get in places in Africa - I'd been expecting poor service in the government run hotels that we had been staying in but with the help of the PR person/entertainer these places actually had excellent service. Personally I think the Parque Central is better located (if a little bland)with a bit more life going on around and the standards are much better."
- Travel date: Mon 13th of December 2004