West of Miami’s Downtown, just a 15 minutes drive from the ocean, lies the Little Havana district. Many exiled Cubans settled here in the 1960s, bringing with them their culture, music and culinary treats. Most descendents of those immigrants have left now. Nonetheless, Little Havana with its scenic parks, authentic restaurants, street art and live music is still the perfect place to immerse yourself in the Cuban way of life.
SIGHTS IN LITTLE HAVANA
Every trip to Little Havana should start on Calle Ocho. The “8th street” that runs through the district from east to west is lined with art galleries, bars and quaint little cigar shops. Calle Ocho also connects many sights – among them the Walkway of Stars, Little Havana’s answer to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Since 1988 the most famous Latin American celebrities have been immortalized here.
Domino Park is a popular place to meet and hang out. It is here that mostly older Cubans enjoy themselves playing domino, drinking espresso and chattering with their friends. The park is perfect if you want to soak up the Cuban flair – even though you will hardly understand a word if you do not speak Spanish.
Another institution of Little Havana is the Tower Theater, a historic cinema in the Art Deco style. Since the 1920s is has been the district’s top pick to watch movies in Spanish. Art lovers should visit the Cuban Memorial Boulevard with its statues by José Martí and Antonio Maceo. Nearby stands the Tall Ceiba Tree – a sacred place for Santeria worshippers who lay down offerings like chicken bones. In the nearby Santeria botanicas you can purchase all kinds of jewelry, talismans and ointments, and even have your future told.
If you are interested in Cuba’s most famous product (after Havana Rum) you should visit the Havana Cigar Factory. As we all know, it is illegal to buy Cuban cigars. However, connoisseurs confirm that the hand-rolled cigars at this Factory are second best to the original.
MORE ATTRACTIONS IN LITTLE HAVANA INCLUDE:
- Little Havana Welcome Center: visitor center offering brochures about the history and sights of the district
- Jose Marti Park: a shaded waterside park with playgrounds, picnic tables and basketball courts
- Bay of Pigs Museum: an exhibition about the failed invasion of Cuba planned by the US.
- Viventa Candles: a shop that sells handmade candles made from soy wax
- Havana to Go: a gift shop selling jewelry and Cuban garments
RESTAURANTS IN LITTLE HAVANA
One of the main reasons to visit Little Havana is the authentic Latin American cuisine.
Tourists and locals alike love Mi Rinconcito Mexicano, an old-school taqueria. Here, the tacos filled with minced meat, lamb, chicken, onions and hot sauce taste like in the motherland, and prices are more than fair.
A top spot to try Cuban Sandwiches, now a popular dish in Florida, is Sanguich de Miami. Only homemade ingredients like smoked bacon, tender pork and pickles are stuffed between to crispy breads in this traditional restaurant. And if you want to taste the “Cubano” in a truly glamorous atmosphere, you should visit the Versailles. Dubbed “the most famous Cuban restaurant in the world”, it is also perfect for having breakfast and coffee.
Known for its fish delicacies is La Camaronera – a seafood restaurant that even featured on the TV channel Food Network. Little Havana abounds with Old World specialties, too, which you can see and taste at the top-reviewed Spanish Restaurant El Rincon Asturiano.
The Cubaocho can best be described as a mix between bar, museum and performing arts center. Here guests sample Miami’s biggest rum collection before dancing Salsa to live music. Alternatively, you can always just grab a quick Mojito to go.
Located directly opposite the Tower Theater is the Azucar Ice Cream Company, a family business that creates ice cream out of fresh, regional ingredients. The variety is astonishing and even includes exotic choices like pumpkin, avocado and egg liqueur.
EVENTS IN LITTLE HAVANA
On the last Friday of every month, Little Havana hosts the Viernes Culturales. Then, the streets along Calle Ocho are filled with art exhibitions, live music, stages with Latin dancers and vendors selling handmade jewelry.
Calle Ocho Festival, one of the biggest carnivals worldwide, forms the highlight of the year. Not only Cubans, but dancers from all over Latin America proudly present their colorful costumes and make the crowd go wild with live music. Visitors might find themselves in a Conga Line, swept away by irresistible rhythms. This carnival is also perfect if you want to try a wide variety of Latin specialties.
Speaking of specialties: Little Havana houses so many restaurants that it can be hard to find the true gems. Therefore, it pays to join one of the food tours that bring you to the district’s well-kept culinary secrets – perfect if you want to taste them all.
ACCOMMODATION IN LITTLE HAVANA
If you want to spend more time soaking in the vibes of Little Havana, you can choose between many accommodation options for every taste and budget.
There is hardly a hotel in the heart of Little Miami that can match the Caribbean vibes of the Life House. Elegant furniture and traditional fabrics grace its interior, while the Parcela Café is ripe with nostalgic Havana flair. Ernest Hemmingway would have loved it here. The tropical lounge on the rooftop provides the perfect backdrop for some rest and relaxation.
Situated north of Jose Marti Park is the Casa Florida Hotel that attracts guests with its plantation style architecture, lush gardens, outdoor pool and cocktail bar. Visitors who also want to take a trip to the nearby beach feel right at home at the Aloft Miami, a laid-back 3 star hotel offering spacious rooms. And if you want to rent an apartment complete with living room, bedroom, kitchen, veranda and pool, look no further than the Little Havana Paradise.
The My Sweet Havana Hotel offers budget-friendly rooms just a few minutes away from Calle Ocho. This hostel features an extensive common area to hang out, a kitchen for guests to use, and clean dorms with 4 or 6 beds.