Latino culture thrives in this lively Miami neighbourhood
Working closely with our intrepid travel bloggers, we’re dedicated to bringing you up-to-date videos and destination information that inspires, educates and gives you great ideas for your next overseas jaunt.
All the activities and locations featured in our quick videos are covered with Budget Direct Travel Insurance – because when you’re out there having fun, it’s important to be covered.
Little Havana: The old neighbourhood
Little Havana has been a part of Miami’s multicultural scene since the 1960s, when migration from Cuba was at its peak. Today, the city has a predominantly Hispanic community.
In Little Havana, Cuban cultural influences have now been joined by other nationalities, including Mexican, Nicaraguan, Venezuelan, Puerto Rican and more.
In this neighbourhood, the food is authentic, the cigars are hand-rolled, the coffee is strong and the retirees take their games of dominoes seriously at Maximo Gomez Park.
SW 8th Street, locally called Calle Ocho, is the main tourist strip in this part of town, with the Cuban Quarter located roughly between the 12th Avenue and 17th Avenue intersections. Here you can explore art galleries and check out names on the Walk of Fame, which honours well-known Cubans, including singer Gloria Estefan and Celia Cruz, ‘the Queen of Salsa’.
A sacred tree and a classic theatre
Strolling along Memorial Boulevard, you can’t miss the gigantic ceiba tree with its large, above-ground roots. This tree is considered sacred by practitioners of the Afro-Cuban Santeria religion. You might see offerings of cloth bundles or chicken bones placed around the base. Special neighbourhood stores called botanicas sell candles, oils and religious articles to Santeria followers as well.
At the corner of Calle Ocho and SW 15th Avenue, the historic Tower Theatre showcases Cuban and Latin American films and also features commercial releases in English, with Spanish subtitles.
Walking and bicycle tours
The central part of Little Havana is pretty small, so it’s easy enough to wander around on your own. However, taking a local tour has some advantages – you can see ‘all the good stuff’ more efficiently.
On the Little Havana Food and Walking Tour you can savour Cuban food and drink, listen to Cuban music and watch locals play dominos and hand-roll cigars.
The Little Havana Food and Walking Tour, for example, guides you through the streets as you visit several family-owned Cuban restaurants, where you can try local dishes such as chicken plantain cups, guava pastries and flan ice cream.
Make sure you sample Cuban coffee and guarapo (sugar cane) juice as well. Along this leisurely route, you’ll also listen to Cuban music, meet local artists, check out the competitive action at Domino Park and watch cigars being hand-rolled at the El Credito Cigar Factory.
Another option is the Little Havana Bike and Food Tour, which departs from the Bayside marketplace in Miami Beach and lasts three-and-a-half hours. Highlights include food tastings at several restaurants, a visit to the iconic Freedom Tower (where thousands of fleeing Cubans were accepted into the US in the 1950s) and of course, the obligatory visit to a cigar factory.
The entire tour covers about 13 kilometres at an easy pace.
Little Havana nightlife
This part of Miami always promises a great night out, whether your cravings run to food, drink, music or all of the above. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Ball & Chain
Starting its life as a saloon in 1935, this historic lounge bar shut its doors in 1957 but recently re-opened. It features live performances, imaginative cocktails, free salsa classes and atmospheric indoor lighting. Extroverts can go wild at the karaoke bar. It’s open every day of the week.
Casa Panza Cafe
If you’re in the mood for some Spanish flavour, head to the Casa Panza, where you can indulge in lobster, tapas and Spanish wines while enjoying a Flamenco dancing performance. The decor is cosy, with statues of Sancho Panza and Don Quixote adding to the ‘Viva Espana’ vibe.
Hoy Como Ayer
Voted ‘Best Latin Club in Miami’ in 2013, Hoy Como Ayer (which translates to ‘today as yesterday’) is the place to go if live music, all-night dancing, cool drinks and tapas sound like your idea of nocturnal heaven. Inside this rather exclusive club there is some brilliant wall art. It’s only open Thursdays through Saturdays, so a reservation is advisable.
This is your one-stop shop for entertainment in Little Havana. The lounge features an art gallery (with pieces for sale), so a night out here is always different: it could be an art exhibition, piano-bar evening, concert or jazz jam session. The tapas and mojitos will keep your energy levels up for whatever the evening brings.
Little Havana is only one small part of what Miami has to offer visitors. This is a city of beaches, sunny parks, museums and endless opportunities for shopping, dining and adventurous outdoor activities.
Catch a concert or watch a Miami Heat basketball game at American Airlines Arena. Hop on an airboat for a tour of the Everglades. Instead of hiring a car, take advantage of the free Metromover system to get around. Wear out your feet and your wallet at the giant, air-conditioned Dolphin Mall. Sit on a bench and take in the ocean view at Bayfront Park, where you can also join boat tours that glide past all the expensive mansions.
If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, you’re spoiled for choice – there’s Zoo Miami, Safari Adventure, Monkey Jungle, the Zoological Wildlife Foundation and more.
Many visitors come to Miami for the beaches, but which ones are the best? Everyone has their own preferences but for relaxation and a natural feel it’s hard to beat Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. In the park you can chill out on the sand or hire a bicycle or quad bike to explore the surrounds.
Visit the historic lighthouse, go snorkelling or kayaking, or try some fishing. This park is ideal for family picnics too.
At Sunny Isle beach, you’ll find clean white sands, an attractive pier, clear water and a bit more personal space than at many other Miami beaches. Lots of quality eateries will keep you well supplied with sushi, steak and local seafood after you’ve worn yourself out swimming.
It’s a long way from Australia to Miami, so you’ll feel better if you take the time to stop over in Hawaii, Los Angeles or another US airline hub along the way.
Once in Miami, you’ll find no shortage of accommodation, from high-end hotels and AirBnB apartments to economical hostel digs. Budget Direct can assist you with travel insurance for Miami so you’re suitably covered.
Check out our United States Travel Guide for more tips, facts and advice for your next trip to the US.