Together with Havana & Trinidad, Vinales forms a triumvirate of Cuba’s most popular traveller destinations and yet only has 3, somewhat basic hotels to choose from. As a result, casa particulares in Vinales are reaping the rewards.
When I first visited Vinales, way back in the mid-90s, I’m not sure if casa particulares even existed. There were a small handful of paladares in town, (private restaurants) but accommodation options were very limited.
On my most recent trip to Vinales, in June 2016, it seemed that the majority of homes on pretty much every street had become a casa particular. Does this take away something from the overall experience? Yes, I think it does, but such are the laws of supply and demand and the Vinales Valley area is still a must-see on any holiday itinerary to Cuba.
Nobody knows quite how many casa particulares there are in Vinales but most guesstimates would suggest at least 400. Has anyone visited all of them? For their own sake, I hope not. Across my own numerous visits to Vinales, I have faced the hot, tiring task of walking around town and ‘inspecting’ as many casas as possible. The overall outcome is a slightly underwhelming feeling.
Unlike Havana & Trinidad, homes in Vinales were often small and simple. Many casas in the centre of town are attractive from the street but relatively homely inside; don’t expect the grand colonial houses with high ceilings and grand front-rooms that are common in Trinidad.
If truth be told, there probably still aren’t any really great casa particulares in Vinales, at least from an architectural point of view, but, although fairly similar in overall standards, some casas are more equal than others.
Deciding where to stay probably comes down to individual preferences and priorities. Some casas might not score highly for location or aesthetic appeal but have lovely owners who go out of their way to make their guests feel welcome.
Other casas are best suited to visitors who want to be as close to the open countryside as possible; such casas tend to located slightly outside the town centre but are still an easy walk.
Alternatively, there are also casas in the very centre of town that have the best rooms and / or facilities and, very often, a roof terrace with views out over the famous mogotes.
From a purely practical point of view, if you are booked on an escorted tour of Cuba that includes Vinales in the itinerary, chances are that your tour operator will plump for a casa that has 5 or more rooms. Although more practical (having a group split between a number of different casas can be a real headache), these larger casas often lose a bit of their original charm.
In terms of prices, Vinales is very egalitarian with very little cost differential. Because of this, and the fact that Cuba is so busy at the moment, the best and most popular casa particulares in Vinales can book up a very long way in advance, especially during the high season from November through April.
Having not visited every casa particular in Vinales, it is impossible for me to objectively claim to know which the best ones are. All I can do is point prospective travellers to some of my favourite Vinales casas. These are, and in no particular order……Villa Cristal, Papo y Niulvys, Villa El Habano, Vista Al Valle, Osvedy y Leyani, Villa Susana, Los Panaderos, Villa Los Croton, Villa Sonia, El Cafetal & La Terraza and Sunny Balcony.