It’s no secret to anyone that with the growing influx of curious visitors eager to see the island before the American “invasion” changes it, Cuba’s existing hotels are constantly operating at full capacity and there is a desperate need to keep expanding the nation’s limited tourism infrastructure, especially now that more American travellers are able to visit it when falling under either of the 12 categories required for travel to the island.
Cuba also needs to prepare ahead for when (or if) all travel bans for Americans are finally lifted and the embargo comes to an end.
So, the building of new Cuba hotels is at full steam ahead with a total of 36 new properties island-wide currently in the process of being built or planned to be built over the next three to five years.
Thanks to a video released by Gaviota, illustrating the company’s present and future hotel building projects, and through the confirmation of other sources, here we reveal what’s recently just opened, what will soon open and what projects are scheduled for a few years down the line.
Hotels recently opened and soon to open before the end of 2015
One of the latest hotels to open in Cuba early on in the year, on January 2015 was the new Melia Jardines del Rey in Cayo Coco, a beautiful all-inclusive luxury property designed for the refined enjoyment of families and couples alike. With a spacious and creative layout that sees guests accommodated along 25 bungalows all connected by scenic pathways and some offering unbeatable sea views. A long boulevard runs along the resort from lobby to beach with all facilities and attractions located alongside it, so everything is really easy to access. Children will love their dedicated baby club and kids club with outdoor and indoor play areas while parents can relax at the spa.
A year earlier the Valentin Perla Blanca hotel opened in Cayo Santa Maria with a whopping 1,020 rooms in a sprawling romantic setting designed for adults only. The luxury all-inclusive faces the white sands and crystalline waters of Perla Blanca beach, in the protected Biosphere Reserve of Cayo Santa Maria. It features plush Balinese beds set along the resort’s series of pools where you also find submerged bars and soothing relaxation areas. It also offers eight buffet and a la carte restaurants (including a 24-hour snack bar) and six bars and cafes, including a sports bar with disco lounge.
Soon to open in a fortnight’s time will be the Warwick Cayo Santa Maria Resort which was announced to open on 30th on June but which later postponed the official opening until 15th August 2015 (or so they say on their Facebook account). As it stands at the moment you can’t make online bookings prior to 15th August so it definitely looks like the latest date given is accurate. The new resort will be a five-star family-friendly all-inclusive with a total of modern guest rooms and suites with soft pastel tones and sleek elegant décor. There’ll be seven bars and seven restaurants (both buffet and a la carte) to select from including 24-hour snack bars and families will be delighted with the array of options for kids – they’ll have a dedicated pool, kids’ club, playground, mini disco with dancing classes, sand sculpture competitions and a variety of indoor and outdoor games.
Varadero and Cayo Santa Maria will also see the opening of one property each by the end of this year. While Varadero will be home to the new ultra-modern Ocean Vista Azul, the blessed norther key of Cayo Santa Maria will be graced with the addition of the ultra-luxurious Ocean Casa del Mar. Both of these will be five-star family-friendly properties with specialised children’s facilities and clubs, a dedicated spa, gourmet restaurants and an activity centre and both will be managed by the Spanish H10 hotel group under their Ocean brand. Both already have their own dedicated official websites which reveal that they will both operate a 24-hour all-inclusive programme with exclusive privileges.
New hotels opening in Havana
There are nine new hotels scheduled to open in Havana in the next few years, three of which have expected opening dates in 2016 through 2018. The remainder are expected to follow soon after these but no indication as to when they will open or when construction will begin is available as of yet.
For next year we have the Hotel Manzana de Gomez, a luxurious new boutique property managed by the prestigious Kempinski brand and marking the Swiss hotelier’s debut in the island. It’s expected to open sometime in 2016 and it will occupy the Manzana de Gomez block in Old Havana, a centric and legendary location in a historic building that back in 1910 became the first in Cuba to occupy an entire block. Housed in what once was Havana’s first landmark indoor shopping mall, the new hotel will offer full five-star luxury standards and will feature a total 246 rooms spread over the building’s five floors.
Another year down the line and 2017 expects to see the completion and official opening of Hotel Packard, a beautiful boutique property located on the panoramic promenade of Paseo del Prado, right in one of the city’s most prominent corners. The hotel will occupy the vast majority of an entire block facing Paseo del Prado on one side, with its construction being financed by Spanish hotelier Iberostar and its design being put in the hands of Rafael Moreno, a prestigious Spanish architect who oversaw the expansion of the Museo del Prado in Madrid. The building will extend to Calle Genios on one side and a small part of Calle del Morro on its derriere.
Construction works started in 2014 and at the time it was said that the restoration project could take up to four years, since they were building upon the ruins of the former Hotel Packard, an iconic hotel whose guests once included Marlon Brando and Pablo Neruda. Sadly it had been standing as a hollow shell for over two decades but now it will be rescued to its former glory, respecting its original façade while incorporating more modern elements. The hotel will feature around 300 rooms and will offer modern chic interiors with clean lines and sleek touches. One of its most iconic features will be its elevated infinity pool, perfectly set overlooking the Castillo del Morro fortress, the Malecon and the sea. It will be another high-end luxury five-star property managed by Iberostar (who already manages one of Havana’s most successful hotels, the Parque Central which hasn’t been knocked out of its first place ranking on TripAdvisor for years).
Lastly, the Hotel Prado y Malecon, will be located, as its names indicates at the point where Paseo del Prado meets the Malecon seawall promenade. Its completion is expected some time in 2018 and it will become yet another luxury property with a total of 208 guest rooms. Not many details have been released about this one yet, like which hotelier will manage it and who is financing its construction.
Back in 2009 a press release by Qatari Diar published on the Havana Journal said that the hotel would be financed by the Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company after reaching a joint venture agreement with the Cuban Habaguanex Group, the Havana-based hotelier founded by the Historian of the City. None of this has been re-confirmed since this publication six years ago, so we can’t vouch for the accuracy of who will end up managing the property. However what the 3D models released do show with certainty is that this new hotel will also feature an ultra-modern design that is also expected to have an infinity pool with sweeping views of the sea and the Morro fortress.
More hotel openings are in the pipeline for Havana with four more hotels announced, although construction plans for these have not yet been made public. The tentative names revealed are: Hotel Regis, Gran Hotel, Hotel Metropolitano and Hotel Prado 56. We’ll keep you posted when more details are available but it looks as the groundwork for these has not yet been done. What is known however is the exact location of these and if you look at the video you can see where these will pop up, with most of these being grand colonial properties that time forgot, one of which seems to be in near complete ruins. So thumbs up for restoring grand old buildings instead of construction elsewhere! Havana needs an ongoing makeover.
Spanking new properties opening in Varadero
Like we mentioned earlier, expected to open at some point before the end of this year in Varadero is the Hotel Ocean Vista Azul, a luxury all-inclusive resort with five-star facilities and a planned total of 410 guest rooms. Beautifully set along two stretches of powdery soft white sands, main features include a stunning infinity pool overlooking Varadero’s turquoise waters, elegant rooms with ultra-contemporary touches and furniture as well as an array of dining venues offering gourmet buffet and a la carte options. The hotel will also include its signature brand Despacio Spa, Daisy mini club for the younger guests and Exclusive Privilege Rooms.
Other two upcoming properties include the Hotel Conchas I expected to open next year with a total 827 rooms and the Cayo Buba set for a completion date in 2017 and expected to offer a total of 316 rooms. No further details of either of these two properties have been released yet but we eagerly await further updates to keep you in the loop.
Hotels to soon open in Cayo Guillermo
With most of them opening as soon as next year and one due before the end of this year, Cayo Guillermo will sure be transformed by the sudden addition of five brand new hotels. There are currently seven hotels in Cayo Guillermo, ranging from rather basic villa-style 2-star hotels to five-star all-inclusive resorts.
While it looks like they haven’t yet made up their minds about their official names, they’ve announced the new hotels in Cayo Guillermo as follows:
- Hotel Pilar I with 245 rooms (expected to be ready by 2016)
- Hotel Pilar II with 482 rooms (expected to open sometime before the end of 2015)
- Hotel Punta Rasa I with 500 rooms (due date sometime in 2016)
- Hotel Punta Rasa II with another 500 rooms (equally due in 2016)
- Hotel Punta Playuelas with 158 rooms (also due in 2016)
So two of these will be located on the now virginal Playa Pilar which so far had been free of edifications and another two will be placed in yet another isolated corner of the key, ensuring privacy and seclusion. The same goes for the third one, which judging by the number of rooms (and the presentation on the video) looks like a cosier, more private boutique property.
First hotel resorts to ever be built in Cayo Las Brujas are announced for 2016-2017
Up until now the beautiful key of Cayo Las Brujas in Villa Clara only had one small and modest 3-star villa-style property managed by Gaviota (Hotel Villa Las Brujas). For long this pretty and virtually untouched little key had remained undeveloped but a new wave of five new hotels and resorts being added to its landscape will put Cayo Las Brujas firmly on the tourist trail.
The first of these to open will be the Farallon Este, due in 2016 and offering 516 rooms. It will be yet another ultra-modern resort complex, the details of which have not yet been made available.
Other hotels and resorts soon to follow in Cayo Las Brujas include:
- Hotel Farallon Oeste with 660 rooms (due to open in 2017)
- Hotel San Agustin with 252 rooms (also expected in 2017)
- Hotel La Salina Suroeste with 574 rooms (again due in 2017)
- Hotel La Salina Noreste with 680 (projected for 2018)
The names of some of these look provisional and are more suggestive of the location than the type of property they will be and who will manage them. It looks like we’ll have to wait a while to learn more.
New hotels opening elsewhere in Cuba
There is one new hotel opening in Cuba’s sleepy north-eastern coast, in the already popular coastal town of Guardalavaca, in the province of Holguin. Adding to the line of existing all-inclusive resorts, the new development going under what I can only assume to be the temporary name of Hotel Pesquero 7 and 8 (because we know it's safe to assume it'll be located on Playa Pesquero beach) will feature 638 rooms and is expected to be finished and ready to open in 2017.
Also with a due date for 2017 is the Hotel Quebrada 17 in Cayo Cruz, which will become the key’s first ever development when its 550 rooms open to the public the year after next.
Likewise the Hotel Roca Este II in Cayo Paredon Grande will open in 2017 with 584 rooms, also becoming the key’s premier, pioneering property.
Last, and by this, I really (truly) mean last as no opening date has been announced (not even a tentative completion date or date range) a new unnamed hotel and resort will open in the previously deserted Peninsula de Ramon Antilla in Holguin. Absolutely no details of this project have been yet disclosed and seeing it doesn’t even have a temporary name, we can guess it’ll be a long wait before we find out anything else. So far we only know it will have an excess of 3,500 rooms making it possibly (if this figure doesn’t change) Cuba’s largest resort of its kind.
Future projects ahead further down the line – 2018 -2020
Beyond our current scope of measure (that is to say the projects we are about to reveal most likely haven’t begun construction yet and are barely on the initial planning stages) there are 12 further hotels and resorts, all of these to be built on previously untouched and undeveloped locations in Cuba – all of them paradisiacal keys ensuring virginal havens and thriving flora and fauna.
Soon-to-come hotels in Cayo Cruz, Camaguey:
This tiny key is so unknown an undeveloped that Wikipedia doesn’t yet acknowledge it. A haven for fishing, it has only been used by Avalon over the last three years for organised fishing excursions. Soon Cayo Cruz will welcome the following hotels:
- Hotel Quebrada 17 with 550 rooms (the only one with a due date in 2017)
- Hotel Quebrada 21 with 700 rooms
- Hotel Punta Cocina Parcela 32 with 895 rooms
- Hotel Quebarada 24 with 680 rooms
- Hotel Punta Cocina Parcela 30 with 1,145 rooms
Line up of hotel openings in Cayo Paredon Grande in Ciego de Avila:
Part of the Jardines del Rey archipelago and found to the north of the province of Ciego de Avila, this virginal key extends over 8.7 square kilometres and is home to the most blissful white sand beaches. The new hotels announced for this key are:
- Hotel Roca Este II with 584 rooms (the only one of all new hotels in Cayo Paredon Grande to have an established completion date for 2017)
- Hotel Roca Este I with 600 rooms (sometime
- Hotel Roca Norte I with 700 rooms
- Hotel Roca Norte II with 600 rooms
- Hotel Roca Centro III with 600 rooms
New hotel properties for Cayo Sabinal, Camaguey:
With an area of 335 square kilometres, this is the southernmost key in the Jardines del Rey archipelago. Cayo Sabinal will be home to:
- Hotel Carabela 6 with 395 rooms
- Hotel Carabela 9 with 910 rooms
Again we can easily guess that due to the excessive repetition seen here most of the hotel names given are only temporary names before hoteliers eventually make a bid for them and brand them with their own names. Likewise, the number of rooms are likely to be rounded-up tentative figures that could change as construction gets under way.
New Cuba hotel openings by Gran Caribe
There is one hotel opening that at the time of its announcement by Reuters in 2009 caused a great buzz in the tourism industry. A project owned by Gran Caribe and financed by the Qatar Diar Real Estate Investment, the new Gran Paraiso hotel in Cayo Largo is currently under construction and the latest news published on it reveal that it will be open in 2018.
Initial reports announcing the $75 million investment by the Qatari company six years ago said that the new property would be ready in 2012 but we don’t know what has happened since then, whether it changed investors or whether some things put it on hold, that we didn’t hear from it since very recently when a website announced its opening for 2018 without revealing much else.
It is (or at least it was) expecte to be an ultra-luxury resort with the Qatar Investment Authority apparently wanting the property to reflect the customs and traditions of Cuban culture. For sure, I’ll keep my eyes peel to find out more about this mysterious “is it/isn’t it” project that has been in the pipeline for over six years with virtually no revelations or updates on its status.