Santiago de Cuba, the island’s second most important city, has lots to offer travelers interested in city, nature or beach tourism. One of the first settlements founded in Cuba, Santiago celebrated its 500th anniversary this July, with its Antonio Maceo airport opening a gateway to the world.
The Islazul Hotel Group, one of the largest in the country, is making the most of this occasion to position its hotels among the best options in the island’s eastern region.
Santiago is renowned for its hospitality and cubanía, features prioritized across all services offered by this national entity. Hotels like the Rex, San Juan, Las Américas or Gran Piedra are not only excellent options given their comfortable rooms and exceptional restaurants, but also their location, close to places of interest; providing guests with a more complete tourist experience.
For example, visitors can enjoy an unparalleled view of the city center from the Rex Hotel’s new terrace-bar. Located directly opposite the busy Plaza de Marte and next to the shopping center bearing the same name, this hotel, built in 1952, was reopened in the summer of 2013, immaculately restored to its original condition. Internet is also available via Wi-Fi in the hotel lobby and all its 24 rooms.
Santiago’s roots are firmly planted in the rhythms of son, guaracha, bolero, conga and other popular genres. Thus the Rex hotel, located only a few feet from the Jazz Club and Salón del Son – where guests can enjoy Cuba’s strong musical traditions – is another bonus.
Just like the city, this hotel boasts its own share of history: the room – converted into a museum – where clandestine independence fighter Abel Santamaría stayed in 1953 before the attacks on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Garrisons.
A little further out of the city’s historic center, the Las Américas Hotel also possesses a historical legacy as one of the oldest hotel establishments in the region. Even before it began offering accommodation in 1975 the building already functioned as a tourism complex, which included the Las Américas Restaurant and famous Tricontinental Cabaret.
If it’s a bit more peace and quiet you desire, the Las Américas Hotel – just a five minute taxi ride from the historic center – offers 140 beds, across 70 air conditioned rooms, all en-suit, with satellite television, mini bar and safe; conditions provided across all Islazul’s top hotels. Guests can also select from a wide variety of Cuban and international dishes at the hotel restaurant, as well as enjoy specialist cuisine in its Caribbean eatery.
The Las Américas Hotel is located 14 kilometers from Siboney beach, named after the Taino tribe – also known as the “people of precious stones” – who inhabited the area. Its brown sand and lack of hotel and gastronomic offers don’t rank this place as a top tourist site; however, the breath taking mountain landscape surrounding the beach more than make up for it.
Another Islazul establishment – the San Juan Hotel – is found en route from Santiago to Siboney beach. For visitors interested in historic-cultural tourism, staying at the San Juan means sleeping near an old battleground where the final struggles of the Cuban War of Independence were decided. Today, the hotel is located just a few meters from the Historic Military Park, which contains monuments, remains and examples of artillery used during the historic battle for the city.
In addition to its historical offerings the hotel is located only four kilometers from Santiago’s city center, with 102 comfortable cabins and a swimming pool providing the perfect remedy to the overwhelming heat of Cuba’s Eastern region.
Eco tourism offers a very different kind of experience, where nature becomes the most hospitable setting. The approximately 70,000 tons of volcanic rock which form part of the stunning mountainous landscape is just one reason to stay at the Gran Piedra Hotel. The establishment offers a more specialized variety of tourism and is popular with European visitors who enjoy a compressive program of activities including hiking, visits to the Ave del Paraíso botanical gardens, and exploring this naturally protected zone’s flora and fauna.
The Gran Piedra Hotel, with 17 fully furnished cabins and five bungalows, is nestled in the grounds of the Baconao Park, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve since 1987.