Heading west of Downtown Miami you arrive at Little Havana with its many historic monuments, colourful murals, restaurants and souvenir shops doused in authentic Cuban culture. Earning its name from the Caribbean country’s residents, who descended upon the area in the 1960s, the neighbourhood – a destination in its own right – hosts monthly gallery nights Viernes Culturales and the annual Calle Ocho Festival which, as part of Carnaval Miami, is one of the largest street festivals in the world.
Calle Ocho (8th Street), a booming burst of fusion, flavours and sound, is where the hustle and bustle takes place. Watch its elderly residents pitting their wits against each other in a tense game of dominoes at Máximo Gómez Park – Domino Park to the Americans – and brush up on your Spanish, earwigging politically-charged exchanges. The collection of pink marble stars on the Walk of Fame is no Hollywood and Vine, yet their tribute to artists such as the renowned Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz, remain significant.
The Little Havana Cigar Factory is an inviting space with large leather sofas from which to roll and smoke your own Cuban’s finest, whilst CubaOcho is a pioneering force in promoting arts; be it via their extensive art collection, book library or regular music nights. Claiming to own one of the world’s largest rum collections – including Miami Club Rum which is distilled in the nearby Design District – their Mojitos made with the freshest mint and your choice of rum, are the best in town.
Latino sounds charge the streets, the aroma of Café Cubanos (stronger and sweeter than any espresso I’ve drank) linger in the air and Azucar Ice Cream Company offers a welcome refreshment in the form of Café con Leche (Cuban Coffee & Oreo), Mantecado (Cuban Vanilla) artisanal ice cream and Red Sangria or Lemon-Basil sorbet.
It may be the robust street vibe that attracts visitors to Little Havana , yet thanks to its unique galleries, authentic live music bars and Miami cultural icon Tower Theatre, you can guarantee that, day or night, you’ll be partying with a young, artistic local Miami crowd.