Hotel Of The Week: Cuba's Hotel Moka

Birdsong drifts through the windows, the branches of a tree stretch up through the roof... Welcome to Cuba's Hotel Moka, the stopover that doubles as part of an eco-project
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The Independent Travel

A surprisingly strong environmental streak runs through Cuban society, and one of the best examples of this outlook is Hotel Moka, in the heart of the rainforest. The hotel, part of a huge eco-project known as Las Terrazas, gets its name from the banks of trees that surround the property. This three-star hotel comprises 26 apartments built in the Spanish colonial style with whitewashed corridors radiating from a central lobby. All arrivals must nudge past an ancient lime tree that continues its climb through two floors and up through the roof via a skylight. Throughout the hotel, there is wonderful use of tropical light and dramatic flowers, such as helliconia, which are immensely soothing.

The location

Hotel Moka, 50 miles and just under an hour's drive from Havana, has an idyllic setting. Overlooking a lake, it is set among 5,000 hectares (12,000 acres) of sustainably developed and mountainous secondary tropical forest restored over the past 30 years (before that, the area was almost entirely denuded of trees). It is next to a co-operative village set up in 1968 with the intention that it be entirely self-sufficient.

The comfort factor

The 26 air-conditioned rooms have either red-bricked or vaulted ceilings and tiled floors. Some have trees poking through; all have balconies. You are likely to be woken by birdsong. Facilities include a pool and a tennis court.

The bathroom

Soaps are nothing too fancy but the marble bathroom comes with a view - the floor-to-ceiling window makes sure of that, though your modesty is preserved by the fact that most rooms are well above ground level, and a canopy of jungle.

The food and drink

A pleasant bar on the mezzanine level offers coffee and cocktails and wicker chairs from which to enjoy the views. There are a few restaurants dotted around Las Terrazas and of these your best bet is the eco-restaurant El Romero, where the food tends to be a little bolder than traditional Cuban fare. Creole food dominates; ingredients are fresh and local. Around £8 per head for two courses plus drinks.

The people

Varies from couples seeking seclusion to tour groups who pass through and are often gone before dawn. Cuban hospitality means children are welcome.

The area

Las Terazzas is a well-respected eco-destination in the heart of the 25,000ha Sierra Rosario Biosphere reserve. More than 70 species of bird inhabit the reserve and even a casual stroll will bring you into contact with dramatic flashes of colour across your path. A good guide should show you the tocororo, the national bird of Cuba, and possibly one of the smallest frogs in the world, the thimble-sized ranita.

The access

Steps and stairways aplenty, with few concessions to wheelchair-users. The staff are obliging but that isn't quite the point.

The damage

The double rooms start at £51 per night, which includes a full breakfast. The activities which the hotel provides are extra.

The address

Hotel Moka, Las Terrazas, Autopista Nacional Habana-Pinar del Río km, 51. (00 53 82 778600; lasterrazas.cu).

LIKED THAT? TRY THESE

* The Parador De Palma (00 34 92 243 5828; paradores.com) on the island of La Palmas in the Canaries, is a Unesco biosphere reserve.

* La Pascuala Delta Lodge (00 54 11 437 80982; lapascuala.com) is built on stilts in the heart of the Parana River Delta, Argentina, also a Unesco biosphere reserve.

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