Havana Cabana, Key West, Florida

As the sun sinks slowly in the west, we offer one more report from Key West.  Our neighbors, Scott and Julie Hammons and their son, Hudson, were in Key West for part of our stay, as was the redoubtable AJ Guy, and they invited us to spend a day at the Havana Cabana.  Scott works for DiamondRock Hospitality, and one of his projects was the reconstruction of the Havana Cabana after Hurricane Irma had all but washed it away.   Every problem is an opportunity, and boy, did Scott and the DiamondRock folks carpe the diem.  Our day there was a real treat.

As you approach Havana Cabana, the first thing you notice is two restored 1957 Chevys out front.

cabana cars

The “Havana in 1957” theme continues throughout the hotel.  The lobby walls are decorated with murals of Old Havana.  For example:

cabana stairs

(I really like “embracing arms” staircases.)  Behind the check-in desk is a large photo of a Havana icon.

havana cigar woman

(Her name is Graciela, and I gather that she’s still at it in Havana, just around the corner from the Plaza de la Catedral, posing for photographs.)  We got a peek into a room (AJ’s room, pre-maid service), and found it spacious and comfortable.  It was stylishly decorated in the Old Havana theme, including with a large wall hanging of some old Havana graffiti.

cabana room

Each room has a balcony that overlooks the swimming pool — the largest pool in Key West — and the grounds filled with plenty of chaise lounges, and hammocks, games, and quiet spots.  The pool area also boasts more murals.

havana paint

Just off the pool is a large tiki containing a bar and a separate dining area.  As you can see, even the floors bear painted designs.  The food comes out of the “Floridita Food Truck,” an old Airstream trailer.

havana streamline

We all had lunch there — Tanners, Boyds, Hammons., and AJ.   I ordered some sensational smoked fish dip for the table (although after my first taste, the rest of the table had minimal access) and, inevitably, a Cuban sandwich.

cabana cuban

It was a good, tasty sandwich, and with more sour orange and mojo it would be a great sandwich.   The fries were quite good.  Co-grandfather David Boyd ordered the fish tacos.  The tacos were overflowing with fish, much more than expected, and the fish was fresh.  Thumbs up on the fish tacos.

cabana tacos

Nancy, Sue, and Liza all ordered salads, as I recall.  I didn’t pay a lot of attention, frankly, but they all liked their salads.  The big winner among the salad eaters, though, was Julie, who had a salad of avocado, red onion, cilantro, and lime.  She loved it.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit.   The General Manager, James Moore, lknws how to run a hotel.  Havana Cabana would be a great place to stay, and it’ll be high on our list for our next trip to Key West.   I loved the Old Havana atmosphere.  It has everything except Hyman Roth and that solid gold telephone.  There are lots of amenities, including a shuttle to the Harbor/Duval Street area, and you can rent bicycles or motor scooters or water sports equipment.  The consistent and well-chosen decor and the lovely grounds create a very special vacation mood.  If you’re lucky, you can even get a ride in a ’57 Chevy ,the ultimate in Key West cool.

I have to hand it to DiamondRock — and to Scott — for re-creating such a great place, such a cool, hip mood.  If you do nothing else when you’re in Key West, go there for lunch (get the smoked fish dip) and take a look around. But really, you should book a room.


And while you’re at it, click “follow” on our front page to receive blog posts in your email box.  Or bookmark us and check in from time to time.  If you’re planning a trip, you can “Search” the name of the city, state, or country for good restaurants (in Europe, usually close to sites, like the Louvre or the Van Gogh Museum, that you’ll want to visit in any event).  Comments, questions, and suggestions of places to eat or stories to cover are very welcome.  And check out our Instagram page, johntannerbbq.


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