On our recent trip to Coral Gables, we spent a day exploring Little Havana, Miami. This vibrant neighborhood is where many Cuban exiles settled after fleeing Cuba in the 1960’s. The community has maintained much of the culture brought over from Cuba, while becoming an integral part of Miami.
In addition to the rich heritage of this area, it is also known as a foodie destination. That is why we decided to take the Little Havana Miami Culinary Tour, which shows visitors through the best restaurants and sights of the area. We took the morning tour in December 2021 and learned a lot and ate even more! I highly recommend taking your own, and am writing this post to provide an overview of our Little Havana Culinary Tour for anyone interested.
Full Disclosure: We received a free tour in exchange for promoting Miami Culinary Tours, but all opinions expressed here are my own.
Little Havana, Miami Restaurants We Tried
There are so many authentic restaurants to try in Little Havana that you could spend months visiting them all! Luckily, our tour guide knew the local favorites, so we got to try the best Little Havana restaurants.
Our tour started right at 11 AM at Old’s Havana. After introductions and a little about our guide, Amie, we were seated outside in groups of six. We quickly got mojitos to start the tour off right! They were made traditionally with sugar cane and we got a lesson about that.
Along with mojitos, we were also served a Cubano sandwich and some shoestring fries! This was honestly way more food than I expected, but it was too good not to eat.
Later, on this Little Havana Miami Culinary Tour, the other savory dish we had was from El Pub. This was a picadillo empanada. The filling had just the right amount of spice wrapped perfectly in a tender, flaky crust. Everything we ate on this tour was amazing, but the empanada was my favorite!
Sightseeing in Little Havana
Another fun aspect of this tour was getting to learn about the local landmarks. First stop was Tower Theater, which has been showing movies since 1926! You can still catch both English and Spanish films here, but all the English films have Spanish subtitles to preserve its identity.
One thing I loved seeing was the famous Domino Park. My parents are avid domino players so it was fun to see such serious players. This public spot has been a place for domino players to gather for at least 35 years. Many of the best players are here daily and only the best can challenge them.
We also learned about the stars on the Calle Ocho Walk of Fame. Also known as Hispanic Hollywood, these stars honor Latino celebrities from South Florida. You can find many famous musicians and actors here, including Gloria Estefan.
Sweets and Treats on the Tour
In addition to the restaurants above, we also stopped multiple times for treats! The first was something I had never had before- Guarapo Juice. This is sugar cane juice and we got to see how sugarcane is ran through a machine to get all the delicious juice out.
Some of us were a little tired after the big Cubano sandwich, but Amie had just the thing. At La Ventanita, we tried a cup of their famous Café con Leche. This sweet, coffee drink is typically drank every day alongside buttered Cuban bread.
Another sweet treat I couldn’t resist on the tour was a churro from ChurroMania. I have always thought churros are a Mexican tradition, but were introduced to Latin America during the Spanish Inquisition. Each country has their own variation. Cuban churros are often made with yucca, but we tried the flour ones which are crispier and lighter than others I have had in the past.
The last stop of the tour was Azucar Ice Cream, a favorite of Calle Ocho. This shop owner was inspired by her abuela who loved making tropical ice cream, to open up her own shop here. You can try a variety of flavors, but everyone loves the Abuela Maria. This is a vanilla ice cream mixed with guava marmalade, cream cheese, and Maria cookies! Though it might sound a bit odd, the flavors are heavenly!
The History of Little Havana
The aspect of this tour I find most special is learning about the history of the Little Havana, Miami from a local. Amie shared personal stories about growing up here and touching accounts of her family leaving their life in Cuba behind and coming to America. Between this and the food, we had such an eye-opening experience!
Some of the landmarks we passed had rich stories behind them. One Little Havana sight everyone needs to see is the Eternal Torch of Brigade 2506. This a memorial to the soldiers lost in the Bay of Pigs invasion. There are multiple other statues around this section with the names of Cubans who fought against the Castro regime.
We also learned the history behind so many gorgeous murals. The notable “Ladies in White” mural was inspired by the Damas de Blanco movement where Cuban women where white on Sundays to protest the wrongful imprisonment of dissidents.
Other murals were more whimsical, including some with images of dominos or roosters. My favorite was the colorful Azucar mural of Cuban-American singer Celia Cruz. Another referenced guayabera shirts and we learned that these originated in Cuba for farm workers to carry more guavas from the field in the shirt pockets!
Of course, this would not be a Little Havana tour without going to a cigar shop! We stopped at the Little Havana Cigar Factory and were shown how Cuban cigars are traditionally rolled. I recently read Of Women and Salt, which references the history of this, so I found it especially interesting. We ended up getting some as a souvenir and will remember this tour for years to come!
Know Before You Go: Taking a Little Havana, Miami Culinary Tour
If you are looking to learn about the history of Miami and try some unique cuisine, this tour is a must-do! I truly do not think I would have gotten the full Little Havana, Miami experience if I had explored on my own. Being able to chat with a local and getting to a try a variety of signature dishes was well worth the cost of the tour. Here are some things to keep in mind before booking your own Little Havana Miami food tour!
- Little Havana Miami Culinary Tours depart daily at 11 AM, 11:30 AM, 12:00 PM, 12:30 PM and 3:30 PM.
- The tour lasts about two and a half hours and accommodates a maximum of 12 people.
- The cost is $69 per person. This does not include a tip or parking.
- If you have any food allergies or sensitivities, mention that when you book the tour. Keep in mind, many of the dishes we had contained meat or gluten. The tour is able to cater to vegetarians, but not to gluten-free or vegan diets. If you book a private tour, they can accommodate all food restrictions.
- Little Havana, Miami Culinary Tours can be booked through this website.
- You can also do a culinary tour of Wynwood, South Beach or the Miami Design District with this same company!
Have you ever been to Little Havana? Let me know what your experience was like if you have! For more tips for experiencing the Miami culinary scene, check out my foodie guides to Miami Beach and Coral Gables.