Last Updated on January 11, 2023
Minutes beyond the gorgeous high rises of Brickell Avenue, famed wall murals of the Wynwood art district, and gleaming waters of Biscayne Bay is a modest neighborhood that was founded on dreams of freedom and a better life.
Once the landing spot of Cuban exiles who fled Cuba after Castro’s Revolution, today Little Havana beams with culture and charm so big and vibrant that hop on hop off buses bring tourists in droves. The next time you find yourself in Miami here’s how to experience Cuba, no passport required.
10 Best Things to Do in Little Havana
Watch Cuban Cigars Being Hand Made
The scent of Cuban cigars draws you into the many cigar shops that line Calle Ocho, the main drag and heart of Little Havana. Master Cigar Rollers are often lined up behind storefront windows, attracting visitors who stop to watch.
Large bundles of dried tobacco leaves hang overhead, while a razorblade for slicing the leaf into strips and a water bowl for sealing the strips can be found on the tables. These are, as they say, the tools of the trade.
From factories to retail shops with bars serving wine, coffee, and cigars, a visit to Little Havana isn’t complete unless you step inside.
Tours are available for those who want to learn the history of Cuban cigars, or cultural facts, for instance, Cubans don’t make enough money with their state salary in Cuba to buy the cigars they make for the outside world, or that what sets the good from the best apart is the aging, drying, and blending process.
Alongside the cigar shops, there are plenty of food tours that explore the neighborhood of Little Havana and teach its cultural history. All while making stops at local Cuban restaurants along the way, see below for such tours.
Officially named Maximo Gomez Park, but better known as Domino Park, you can find older-generation Cubans gathered here daily to have coffee, discuss politics and neighborhood gossip, and play Dominos. With its ability to draw people together, if anything was considered the capital of Little Havana, this would be it.
Domino Park is not like a park in the traditional sense of the word, but it is part of the City of Miami Parks and Recreation department. Located across the street from the Visitor’s Center, and just steps away from the Latin Walk of Fame, if it’s the culture you’re after, this is a sight to experience.
Get your cameras out. This is selfie time. And Instagram-worthy for sure. As you arrive at Calle Ocho, you’ll know you’re in Little Havana the moment you start seeing the larger-than-life colorful painted roosters. A nod to Cuban folklore that represents strength and power.
Walk of Fame
Like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, only in Little Havana. Often referred to as the Latin Walk of Fame, these stars showcase Cuban stars with ties to South Florida including Gloria Estefan, Celia Cruz, and Julio Iglesias. Located just outside Domino Park, right on the sidewalk.
Cuban Coffee at a Ventinita
Café Cubano aka Caffecito. Colada. Cortadito. Café con leche. There’s a lot to learn before you order a coffee in Little Havana.
One of the more popular options, especially if you want to make a friend, is the Colada. Served in a larger Styrofoam cup with 5-6 shots of espresso and sugar, it’s the addition of smaller shot glass-sized cups for sharing that help create instant friends.
If you get there in the early morning hours, you’ll really think you’re in Cuba as you watch men dressed in traditional white Guayabera shirts lined up on the sidewalk for a Cuban coffee and guava pastry at these traditional coffee windows.
This family-owned fruit market is the oldest open-air market in Miami and is worth a stop to look around and enjoy fresh squeezed exotic fruit juice.
Specialties include fresh guarapo (sugar cane) juice and Mamey Batido (basically a milkshake made with mamey). Don’t expect perfectly merchandised waxed fruits or spotlights to enhance the colors. This is the kind of fruit market you remember from yesteryear, before people photographed their food.
If you only go to one ventinita, go to Versailles, the “World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant”. At least that’s what they call it. One look at the vintage sign out front and you know Versailles is a Miami icon.
When you’re looking for real Cuban food, at fair prices, in an authentic setting where it looks like time has stood still, don’t miss Versailles. With ornate etched glass, statues, mirrors, and golden chandeliers, Versailles Restaurant and Bakery is a throwback to the Palace of Versailles in France. Only this is Little Havana, with a nostalgic Cuban cafeteria vibe circa 1971.
With its large dining hall that seats 370 people on vinyl chairs at Formica tables, its bakery, and la ventinita out front, Versailles is a neighborhood staple and must-do for visitors in Little Havana.
Ball and Chain
Notice the pine plank ceiling and rattan fans that spin overhead reminiscent of 1940s Havana. The interior of Ball and Chain has been restored to look just as it did in its heyday when greats like Billie Holiday and Count Basie once played here. Don’t miss the patio out back with clamshell stage, bar, and plenty of seating.
Today, mojitos, ropa vieja, and live local bands featuring everything from jazz to salsa are the mainstay.
If you could pick any time to visit Little Havana, go the last Friday of the month. Between 13th and 17th avenue, all along Calle Ocho, people come out in record number to celebrate the arts and culture of Cuba.
Don’t let the name Visitor’s Center fool you! This place is more like a souvenir shop where you can find t-shirts, coffee mugs, magnets, dominos and the like. You’ll also find a free shot of Cuban coffee, and if the guy with the coco frio cart is outside selling cold fresh frio with a straw, get one. It’s the perfect way to hydrate and the ultimate Welcome to Little Havana.
Where to Stay in Little Havana
Looking for where to stay in Little Havana? Check out these hotels located in Little Havana.
Is Little Havana Worth a Visit?
There’s a lot to see and experience in Little Havana. But perhaps the best way to experience the very essence of Cuba is to stop and chat with the locals. It’s then that you see the pride they have in their culture, and the love they have for their new homeland.
Over the years many Cubans have moved to other parts of Miami and new immigrants from other Latin American countries have moved in. But the essence of Cuba remains. Houses are still small, colorful Mediterranean-style stucco homes, where an occasional chicken or two can be seen running through the streets. And it’s still not unusual to find a statue of the Virgin Mary in front yards.
But Little Havana is ripe for gentrification. Just a few miles from high-rent districts in downtown Miami, it’s all residents can do to hold off developers from bulldozing this culturally important neighborhood. Just this past year it was decided that a historic church would be torn down and replaced with a midrise apartment building which leads to the reality that nothing lasts forever.
If you’d like to experience Cuba, no passport required, now is a good time to visit Little Havana.