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Little Havana
Photograph: Time Out/Vanessa Rogers

Little Havana neighborhood guide

Get to know Little Havana, Miami’s famed Cuban neighborhood, with our guide to the best restaurant, bars and sightseeing

Ashley Brozic
Written by
Ashley Brozic
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What’s the deal with Little Havana?

As the heart of Miami’s immigrant Latino community, Little Havana smells like tobacco, tastes like Cuban coffee and beats like a timbal. This is one ill of Miami’s most culturally rich, iconic and defining neighborhoods, a welcoming first stop for those seeking out the American dream—with a side of plantains.

In the 1960s, exiled Cubans flocked to the area, opening businesses and settling into the bungalows and mission revival-style apartments characteristic of the neighborhood’s architecture. And by the 1970s, this once Jewish stretch of Miami had become fully Cubanized; delis turned into panaderias with ventanitas, salsa music took over the airwaves and pork was officially put on the menu. Its nickname, "Little Havana,'' stuck.

In 2017, Little Havana was declared a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, an important step in safeguarding the area’s historical and cultural significance as developers swept in. And while much of the diaspora has moved onto greater pastures around Miami, Little Havana continues to be a vital launch point for immigrants from South and Central America who bring their flavors, rhythm and hardworking spirit to this vibrant community.

Yeah, sometimes Calle Ocho can feel a little fabricated and hokey, like a stereotypic sampler platter of Cuban culture, chewed up and spit out for those with only a few hours to spare. But stick with us and we’ll help you experience the neighborhood the right way—with a bit of sazón.

So where exactly is Little Havana?

Little Havana runs west of Downtown and Brickell all the way to Douglas Avenue. It’s flanked by the Miami River to the north and Coral Way to the south.

If you’re visiting, you’ll likely spend most of your time on Calle Ocho between SW 21st and SW 10th Avenues, though there are a few bars, restaurants and cultural hubs off the main drag that are worth the pull.

If you only do one thing…

If you’re visiting Little Havana, chances are you’re looking to immerse yourself in Cuban culture. Luckily for you, much of it is concentrated on Calle Ocho within four blocks. Between SW 13th and 17th Avenues, you’ll be able to find the cigar, guayabera, live salsa bands, café con leche and pastelito de guayaba you were imagining and then some. Start at the Visitor’s Center (1600 SW 8th St) to ground yourself, and don’t shy away from booking a walking tour, such as the long-running Miami Culinary Tours. Be sure to make a stop at Cuba Ocho for live music, mojitos and the largest collection of Cuban art outside of Cuba. This place is beloved amongst true Little Havana locals and visitors alike.

Now, if you really want to immerse yourself, head to Little Havana on the third Friday of every month for Viernes Culturales (Cultural Fridays). This block party of Cuban culture that’s been running for 22 years features music, art, history, food and so much more.

Nearest public transport

Little Havana is street parking only, so ride-sharing and public transportation are advised. We suggest setting your dropoff around SW 13th Avenue and SW 8th Street.

If you’re taking the bus, the 207 and 208 Little Havana Connecting lines will get you to where you need to go. You can catch them from both the Government Center and Brickell MetroRail/MetroMover Stations. Get off on SW 8 Street and 12 Avenue.

And finally, for those looking to take the long, scenic route, hop on the Miami Dade Trolley. It runs counterclockwise from the Brickell Metrorail/ Metromover Station and will take you through the South River Drive Historic District, down Flagler to the Magic City Casino and through all of Little Havana’s Calle Ocho. Hop off where your heart desires!

Get off the beaten track…

… and start where Miami started: The South River Drive Historic District. These two blocks along the Miami River between SW 1st and 2nd Streets boast some of Miami-Dade County’s oldest buildings, six of which were built before 1915, according to Historic Preservation Miami. This whole area is a true window into Miami’s origins that most locals don’t even know about, a slice of old Florida wedged into a city that hardly looks to the past.

While you’re there, duck into Casa Florida for an Instagram-worthy cocktail inside an old '60s liner and meander around the Selina Miami River compound.

What’s a perfect day in little Havana?

Always, always, always start with Cuban coffee. That’s just how we do it in this city. Any ventanita will do, but for something special, we suggest La Colada Gourmet, the only coffee house in town that grinds real Cuban beans. Hold yourself over with pastelitos, but save room for lunch.

See some art. Calle Ocho is a hotbed for Latin American and Cuban art, as galleries and studios abound. Walk a block west from La Colada to Futurama, a community space with 12 artist studios and plenty of art to peruse. For fine Cuban and Latin American art, visit Latin Art Core across the street. And, if you’d like to visit longstanding neighborhood artists, check out Molina Fine Art and Agustin Gainza—both explore Cuban themes in their own colorful style.

Have a Cuban sandwich. For this, there is only one option: Sanguich de Miami. It is possible that this tiny little counter cafe makes the best Cuban sandwich in town (if not the world!), and it does other standards like a pan con bistec and croqueta preparada to perfection. Wash it all down with a guava and cream cheese milkshake.

Smoke a cigar. You can’t go wrong with any of the cigar shops or factories in Little Havana, so much so that Cigar Aficionado calls it “America’s Cigar Central.” El Titan de Bronze, Cuba Cigar Co. and Cigar Boutique of Little Havana are all icons of the neighborhood, but over a dozen shops, lounges and factories exist within a short stretch of Calle Ocho. Pick one, kick back and enjoy.

Check out Domino Park. Maximo Gomez Park, known by locals as Domino Park, is a neighborhood landmark where older Cubans converge for “friendly” rounds of dominos, conversation and. To play, you’ll need to be a member and 55+, but if you come bearing a colada and little thimble cups, you might be on strategy to play.

Sip some guarapo. Fruteria Los Pinareños is an iconic open-air, cash-only fruit market on Calle Ocho that’s like stepping into the Cuban countryside. Family-run since 1963, you can find fresh fruits, veggies, juices, coffee and more, but we recommend their spin on guarapo, which is fresh-pressed sugarcane juice with a little ginger and lime.

Learn the History of the Guayabera Every culture’s got its signature attire and for Cubans, it’s a crisp white guayabera. No one can tell the history of this linen shirt quite like Big Papa at D Asis Guayaberas, and ironically, he’s not even Cuban. Pop in to get a little history lesson and new garment to wear out and about town.

Agara tu pareja… and hit the dance floor! You didn’t come to Little Havana to sit down, did you?! Enjoy live salsa music every day from noon onwards at Ball & Chain, a storied venue with a history that dates back to the early 20th century. If you're rusty, they’ve got salsa, bachata and mambo lessons at 9pm throughout the week—perfect for a date night. Another fantastic option for music and dancing is Cuba Ocho, which we mentioned above. Once you’ve got a few mojitos in your system, we promise you’ll be a star.

Enjoy some Azucar! Nothing like a sweet scoop of ice cream to complement a sultry day exploring Little Havana. Azucar is a Miami-born artisanal ice cream shop that features unique Cuban and Florida flavors made with local ingredients. Think sweet plantain, key lime pie and cafe con leche, though the Abuela Maria, made with guava and Cuba’s most iconic cookie brand, is the shop’s greatest flex.

What’s a perfect night in Little Havana?

Catch the sunset at Terras. Are rooftop bars your jam? Pay a visit to Terras at the newly opened Lifehouse Hotel. It boasts a quiet view of the Miami skyline, Latin American and Caribbean street fare and really good, refreshing cocktails in a chill, tropical setting.

Grab dinner at one of the World’s 50 Best bars. Alright, it’s actually ranked 70th on this prestigious list, but do not, we repeat, DO NOT leave Miami without visiting Café La Trova. This is one of the city’s most essential Cuban dining experiences; the product of James Beard Award-winning chef Michelle Bernstein’s culinary magic and legendary cantinero Julio Cabrera’s elegant beverage savvy.

There’s live music and happy hour seven days a week, and it's standard practice to dance your heart out in between rounds of classic Cuban cocktails and fare done to the highest standards. Stick around after hours; the backroom turns into an '80s bar that recalls Miami’s glamorous, albeit shady, past.

Check out the bar scene. Lately, locals have been swapping late nights in Brickell and Wynwood for Little Havana, and why not? The music’s good, there’s enough variety and it’s less expensive.

If you’re feeling chill, catch a zombie flick over craft beers and natural wine at Union Beer. Want good cocktails? Venture west to Bar Nancy, a no-frills nautical-themed bar that’s popular with locals.

If you’re looking to party, light a candle and pray to avoid a hangover at El Santo, or check out the live music at Sala’o

On a rainy day

Catch an indie or foreign flick at Tower Theater, a 1926 Art Deco landmark.

Where can I find the best Cuban food?

In one of Miami’s most wicked twists, it’s debatable whether you can find the best Cuban food in Little Havana. To dine at Versailles is practically a rite of passage for locals and tourists, and it really is the epicenter of the diaspora, but the food is just as good as you’ll find at many other Cuban restaurants in Miami. The experience is definitely worth a visit, but the fare is pretty standard.

Now, what you can find in Little Havana is some of the best Nicaraguan, Mexican and even Thai spots in Miami proper. (Remember when we said this was the hub of Miami’s Latin immigrant community?) For Nicaraguan fare, Selva Negra, El Guayacan and Pinolandia are fantastic options, but a trip to Yambo will leave you stuffed with food and memories of its bizarre, cowboy carnival surroundings.

When it comes to Mexican food, Miami foodies book it to Homestead—but one needs not be so exaggerated. Mi Rinconcito Mexicano, Taquerias El Mexicano, Taqueria Viva Mexico and Taqueria Los Chilangos (near LoanDepot Park) offer affordability and authenticity all wrapped up in a warm corn tortilla.

And you can’t talk about Little Havana without mentioning Lung Yai Thai Tapas. This is a true favorite among locals, possibly the best Thai food in town, as judged by the throngs waiting to get in.

What else is nearby?

Dine along the Miami River to the north at Garcia’s or Casablanca for the freshest catches in Miami, or get glammed up for a rowdy brunch at Kiki on the River. Coral Gables to the south is one of Miami’s most beautiful and more historic neighborhoods. Drive around and marvel at all the charming Mediterranean-revival style homes or spend an afternoon walking around Miracle Mile.

Things to do in Little Havana, Miami

The best Little Havana bars

The best Little Havana bars

Take a closer look at the historic neighborhood and you’ll find the best Little Havana bars aren’t just shaking up mojitos.