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5 Go-To Spots in Little Havana for Authentic Cuban Culture

It’s no secret that many people travel to Miami for the beautiful beaches that line the coast. Aside from that, though, there is a beautifully bustling culture of Cuban people that is waiting to be explored. If you speak to any local about where to get the experience, they’ll lead you straight to a small neighborhood called Little Havana.

Little Havana, Miami
Little Havana, Miami. Photo by Noelani Soto

Like the name suggests, La Pequeña Habana or Little Havana got its name from the many Cubans who fled the country in the 1950s and 1960s and settled in the area. The neighborhood’s most famous street is called Calle Ocho and is lined with a variety of shops, Cuban restaurants, and museums where tourists often flock to. Whether you’re looking for an authentic Cuban cigar or a delicious plate of rice and beans, this is the place to find it.

Domino Park

First things first, as soon as you arrive, you’ll notice a small park with loads of tables filled with people, usually groups of older gentlemen playing dominos. There is a park dedicated to just playing dominos, a table sport that is very popular in Cuba. Don’t dare disturb the players, though! The business of playing dominos is taken very seriously by those in the park.

Listen to Live Music at Ball & Chain

On Calle Ocho sits a popular outdoor bar and lounge called Ball & Chain. On weekends they play great live music out front and in the back patio as well. You have to order a mojito from here, it will definitely put you in the mood for some dancing.

At night, the establishment turns into a full on party where locals and tourists happily mingle and dance the night away to some of the best Latin beats.

 

Olds Havana Cuban Bar and Cocina

If you find yourself getting a little hungry, you’ll want to eat at Olds Havana. It may look touristy, but you are guaranteed to find some of the most authentic Cuban food in the area. Skip the typical Cuban Sandwich and go for the Frita Cubana, a classic Ropa Vieja, or a Tamal en Hoja. Of course, you’ll need to finish off the meal with Cafe Cubano because a meal that good will put you right to sleep.

Azucar Ice Cream

Still have room for more food? Hop on over to Azucar Ice Cream. You can’t miss it as there is a giant ice cream cone in the front of the building. Azucar means sugar in Spanish and that’s exactly what you’ll find here. Each ice cream has a creative name such as Abuela Maria, which is the ice cream pictured above. The Abuela Maria mimics a typical Cuban snack of guava and cream cheese (in this case, vanilla ice cream) with soft cookies that are from a brand called “Abuela Maria.” There are plenty of other flavors available if you aren’t feeling too experimental, but overall highly recommended.

Los Pinareños, Fruteria

There is a likely chance you’ll be visiting Miami during high temperature days and since Little Havana is a bit inland, it can feel hotter. For a refreshing Latin-American inspired fruit smoothie or a coco frio (cold coconut). Want to pick up some fresh fruit? This is also a great place to do it.

Whether you’re exploring the area on your own or as part of a tour, you can’t skip on these great spots that make the Little Havana community feel a little closer to their Cuban roots.

Words and photos by Noelani Soto