One of the top recommendations when I was planning a recent trip to Miami - a visit to Little Havana. We arrived too late on Friday evening to go anywhere and I was tired and frustrated from nine hour flight delay getting to Miami and lost luggage. Saturday morning was spent waiting for the airline to deliver my luggage. Once all of that was sorted, we headed out to Little Havana.
We arrived mid afternoon, parked the car somewhere around 8th avenue and started walking (apparently in the wrong direction) for about 10 minutes before realizing the main attractions are located between 12th and 17th avenue (many thanks to the helpful tour guide who pointed us in the right direction). We turned around and headed towards 12th avenue. We had all afternoon to wander around Little Havana which allowed us to pop in on anything that seemed interesting. Just in case you don't want to spend all afternoon here on your Miami getaway, here is a guide to the best (of the best) of Little Havana.
The main street of Calle Ocho is lined with restaurants, cigar shops, quaint mini markets and fruit markets. First, We walked past the Bag of Pigs monument at 13th and memorial avenue. The monument of an eternal flame burns in memory of those killed in the Bay of Pigs invasion.
Continuing on Calle Ocho, we arrived at Ball and Chain restaurant renowned for live music and authentic Cuban style food - The mojito is highly recommended. Then on to the domino park on S.W 8th and S.W. 15th - stop here to take in a spirited game of dominos and chess. About a half block from the domino park, you will find the only theatre in Miami dedicated to foreign films. I almost missed it. However the blue vintage car packed outside caught my attention. There was a film festival going one and I did not want to brave the crowd so we continued on Calle Ocho. Eventually, we arrived at El Pub -considered one of the best restaurants in Little Havana. We did not stop in for lunch, because I was hoping to get to the world's most famous Cuban restaurant - Versailles restaurant, but it was highly recommended by locals which means a great deal to me.
We continued our walk past more shops and restaurant until we arrived at Cuba Tobacco Cigar Company - known for selling authentic Cuban cigars and the finest cigars outside of Cuba. Since I am not a cigar connoisseurs, I have to take their world for it, but the flow of traffic in and out of this store seems to attest to the claims.
The amazing aroma of coffee drew me to Cafe La Llave where I had a shot of cuban coffee - very dark and strong and quite good. On the corner, there is a shop that claims to have the best Cuban mojito - I did not put that claim to test, however, I can vouch for the lemonade - it was top notch.
A short while later, we arrived at Yisell Bakery Cafeteria, a classic cuban bakery famous for its guava filled pastry (oooh la la) and then on to Los Pinarenos Fruteria - the over 120 year old fruit stand/shop around the corner. Down the street is the Azucar ice cream factory serving the most incredible ice cream with authentic Cuban flavors like plantain, rum raisin and guava. I had two scoops - plantain and guava. I would have been satisfied to return to my hotel after this - It alone is worth the trip to little Havana.
Pay attention as you walk through the neighborhood so you don't miss the fabulous graffiti art that lines the walls and Calle Ocho walk of fame stars dedicated to famous latin entertainers. Our exploration was interrupted several times by light drizzles but nothing major enough to put and damper on the day. We spent a pleasant and entertaining three hours in Little Havana before heading back to our hotel. Don't leave Miami until you have spent time in Little Havana.
Have you been to Little Havana ? What did you think ? Any other recommendations ?