Where’s the coolest place you’ve ever stayed? My list is constantly growing, but a new addition last year shot right to the top. When we were planning our Cuba trip, Kyla decided she wanted to stay in a treehouse. (I mean really, who doesn’t?!) She looked it up, and sure enough, it was *sort of* possible!
In Las Terrazas, an ecovillage about an hour west of Havana (or two hours east of Viñales), there’s an eco-hotel called Moka. The building is a mix of Spanish colonial architecture and forest, with a huge tree growing through the lobby! Moka also owns “rustic cabins“, located about 4 kilometres away, by the peaceful Rio San Juan (map).
The wooden cabins are held up by four sturdy posts, and you enter through a heavy trapdoor, via ladder (maybe only heavy cause I’m weak, but it was a struggle). Then voilà, you’re in (a very simple) paradise! The cabañas are equipped with two mattresses, TP, a towel, a light, an outlet (ours didn’t work), windows that can be propped open, and picnic tables below. Bathrooms and showers are outside, so I highly recommend emptying your bladder before going to bed so that you don’t have to navigate the trapdoor/ladder situation in the night!
There’s a small, open-air restaurant by the cabins, overlooking the natural pools in the San Juan. At this point we had very little money because we’d forgotten to change any beforehand, but we were still able to afford two meals. They turned out to be two of the best meals we had in Cuba! Simple, delicious, and with a great view!
We really felt immersed in nature that night – the rain was soothing on the thatch roof, we woke up to the sound of birds in the trees surrounding us, and we even had some visitors. I woke up in the night to the sound of *very very small* footsteps… after freaking out for a moment, I looked up towards the beam below the roof, feeling around in the dark for my glasses and a flashlight. The light revealed the unmistakable silhouette of two gecko friends, taking refuge from the rain! Breathing a sigh of relief (although I did hope that they wouldn’t come down and join me in bed…), I watched them for a while before drifting back to sleep. So yes, the cabin isn’t completely sealed off from the outside, but that’s part of the appeal.
When I woke up, Kyla was already heading out to catch the sunrise. I joined her in a gazebo near the cabins, as did our new BFF, a doggo that had been following us around since we arrived (but then totally betrayed us as we were leaving, latching onto a couple who had just arrived). It was raining lightly, so we watched the clouds get a little less dark and listened to the birds. We even got to see a group of turkey vultures chattering away in the trees (#birdnerd).
We had an early breakfast at the restaurant before catching our taxi back to Hotel Moka, where we’d arrange transportation to Havana. (We grabbed a cab that was dropping someone off, but I’d recommend setting it up beforehand; there’s not an abundance of taxis driving up the dirt road that leads to the cabins.) We were sad to leave, feeling like we hadn’t had time to take advantage of the location by hiking or swimming in the pools, but it’s on the long list of places I’d go back to.
We’d been planning to zipline in Las Terrazas – their canopy tour is one of the main attractions in the town – but it was too rainy. However, Moka’s tree lobby turned out to be the perfect place to enjoy some tea and watch the rain (and use the wifi) while we waited for our taxi to Havana. Maximum hygge!
I highly recommend staying at the rustic cabañas in Las Terrazas! Like most accommodation in Cuba, it’s super affordable for travellers, and it’s a great experience in any weather. If you don’t have much time to venture outside of Havana, this would be an easy overnight trip and nature escape.
Here are some suggestions, if you go:
- Know where you’re going so that you can plan your transportation! The website was a bit confusing, and we didn’t realize the cabins were so far from the hotel. If you arrive by taxi, ask the driver to drop you off at the cabins. If you come by bus, plan for a short hike or hire a taxi to get to the cabins.
- We had an issue with our reservation and had to pay twice (luckily only about 25 CAD), so make sure you get email confirmation. I actually can’t find a place to book online at the moment, so it might be best to try to contact Moka for availability, and pay when you arrive.
- Bring cash. We only had 24 CUC to play with, but that got us dinner with beer, and a taxi ride back to Moka. Breakfast was included at the cabins (egg, toast, coffee, a juice box)!
- Take advantage of the location! There are lots of hikes around the Rio de San Juan.
- Embrace the experience – if you’re not a fan of camping, you probably won’t enjoy the cabins. If it’s not for you and your budget is a little bigger, consider beautiful Hotel Moka.
- Bring lots of bug spray, a flashlight, and books, cards, etc. The restaurant closes at 6pm and there’s nowhere else to get food, so plan ahead if you think you’ll want snacks.
- If you really want to zipline, give yourself at least 2 days as options, in case the weather’s bad.