Hotel Habana Riviera, Havana, Cuba, facing the Havana's Malecon, this elegant hotel is considered a classic among Cubans Hotels, looks like something out of 1950s Las Vegas or Miami, an airbrushed postcard taking one back to a very different time and world. Stylishly modernist, the building’s 50s look (and feel) carries past the revolving door entrance over to the grand lobby, whose original structure, furnishings and décor have been so well preserved that one wholly expects to come across a group of velvet-clad lounge lizards savouring mojitos and Cuban cigars or a group of Mafioso talking shop on one of the old-fashioned sofas.
The hotel was established by mobster Meyer Lanski in 1956, and the property’s short-lived immersion in the world of mafia transactions and gambling is well-documented (the curious spherical structure next to the main edifice, painted in vibrant hues, was once a casino, acoustically designed to take the sound of chips and slot machines into the hotel and seduce guests).
A short taxi ride away from Old Havana, chic, comfortable and tinged by a nostalgic air, the Havana Riviera is relatively near most of the more renowned and better nightclubs and restaurants in Vedado (the popular Jazz Café is across the street and in the other side is the Havana Café, in the Meliá Cohiba Hotel). Its proximity to the historical-cultural centre of Havana makes this hotel the perfect place from which to explore the city. In the night time the Riviera offers excellent entertainment featuring both the exclusive Copa Room Cabaret and one of Havana's top restaurants.
The hotel has a fairly ample food and drinks and entertainment offer. The spacious lobby bar is set next to a row of large glass panels that place one almost literally next to the water, and the Mirador de la Havana restaurant has very nice views of the littoral and city. Reportedly one of Havana’s better nightclubs, the Copa Room Cabaret is the stage for a Tropicana-like show and operates as a disco into the early morning.
Thanks to the ingenious building design, all guestrooms, spacious and comfortable, have views of the ocean thanks to the building’s Y-shaped design. Guests seeking ultra-modern comforts might find the rooms somewhat outmoded in terms of furnishings and décor, but lovers of 50s style will certainly feel at home here. The bathrooms are very large and modern. Rooms whose numbers end in 11 and 13 (on every floor) have balconies, and rooms 5 and 6 and 11 and 12 on the 20th floor are connecting quarters, ideal for travelling groups.
Other attractive features at the Havana Riviera Hotel include an outdoor swimming pool (with the original, three-level diving platform), a beauty salon, shops, a humidor and free parking outside. Travelling businesspeople or anyone organizing an event or conference also have many options in terms of meeting spaces, including the former casino, today a conference hall equipped with its own bar and stage. A less publicized detail is the modern artwork that graces the lobby and entrance to the hotel, which includes pieces by renowned Cuban sculptor Florencio Gelabert – a fact that could prove of interest to anyone with an eye for modernist art.