Located west of Downtown Miami, Little Havana is well-known for its thriving cultural scene, brightly-colored murals, and easily one of the best places in Miami to grab some authentic Latin food.
This atmospheric area was once a thriving Jewish neighborhood back in the 1930s, but the name as we know it today “Little Havana” emerged in the 1960s when a growing number of Cuban immigrants settled here after fleeing Fidel Castro’s regime.
Evolution of Little Havana, Miami
A few years back, a Michigan transplant friend and I were discussing friends coming into town for the weekend, and she casually mentioned she’d be taking her visitors’ sightseeing in Little Havana’s Calle Ocho. I proceeded to give her a judgmental look, followed by, you’re taking them where? Little Havana, she replied, you know with the mojitos, the giant ceramic roosters, the cigar shops, and Cuban food.
Oh, okay, I said, bewilder. It was then I realize a shift was taking place in – what some would call off-the-beaten-path – Little Havana neighborhood.
Witnessing the area’s evolution has been astounding. Growing up in Miami, Little Havana was just a humble residential area, where I’d pass through on the way west, to Coral Gables or South Miami, nothing out of the ordinary, or particularly distinct, just another neighborhood – at least I thought it was.
And now, I find myself frequenting the neighborhood for its restaurants, festivals and ironically even bringing (visiting) friends and family to experience the neighborhood’s lively atmosphere. Oh, how things have changed.
Please keep in mind these details are subject to change. Due to COVID-19, social distancing and face coverings may be required. Be sure to check local health officials’ safety regulations and each establishment’s website for updated information before making final plans.
This post contains affiliate links, meaning if you buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Please read my full disclosure policy for more information.
Planning a trip to Miami? Here’s some posts you might find helpful:
Planning a Visit to Little Havana, Miami – Calle Ocho
Calle Ocho, the stretch along Southwest 8th Street, between 12th and 27th Avenues, is considered the heart and center of social life in Little Havana. Most of the neighborhood’s festivals and events take place along this main strip.
Well-known for its brightly painted roosters, colorful art-deco architecture, family-run fruit stands, and Cuban coffee shops, the lively strip is full of sights, sounds, and delights. Consider booking a guided Little Havana Walking Tour for cultural and historical insight into the area.
Getting to Miami’s Little Havana Neighborhood
Little Havana’s Calle Ocho is a highly visited area with lots of vehicle traffic. Getting to and around Calle Ocho is relatively easy, and the best way to explore the neighborhood is on foot.
- Public Transportation: MetroRail does not go through Calle Ocho, but you can access the area via public transit bus, the free trolley, taxis, ride-sharing service, or joining a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour.
- Driving: If driving, be mindful the main strip along Little Havana’s Calle Ocho is also referred to as Southwest 8th Street, US Route 41, and the Tamiami Trail
- Parking in Little Havana’s Calle Ocho: Finding parking off the Calle Ocho strip can be a challenge, as the area mainly consists of street parking. In place of parking meters, you will find (as within most areas in South Florida) the mobile parking app Pay by Phone. You will be required to download the app onto your device to pay for parking in the designated areas.
- Citi Bike: For your convenience, there is a Citi Bike docking station (#610), an hourly public bike-sharing program, located on Calle Ocho at 819 SW 10th Avenue.
Hotels in Miami: Where to Stay Near Little Havana
Plan Your Stay: Search top-rated Miami hotels and accommodations – read reviews, check rates, and availability here!
Things to Do in Miami’s Little Havana – Calle Ocho
From the authentic Cuban fare and numerous art exhibits to salsa-dancing, there are loads to check off your Miami bucket list when visiting Little Havana’s Calle Ocho. Here are a few highlights to get you started.
1. Little Havana Viernes Culturales a.k.a Cultural Fridays
There is no shortage of cool events in Little Havana, and Viernes Culturales (Cultural Fridays) is one of them. Held every third Friday of the month from 7 to 11 p.m., this cultural event is all about showcasing the area’s art, music, and food.
Whether you wish to admire art, shop, or try some tasty Latin cuisine, Viernes Culturales appeals to the senses, and won’t leave you disappointed. Want to dress the part? Don’t forget to pop into one of the stores to buy a breezy guayabera.
2. Tower Theatre
Open since 1926; the iconic Art Deco designed style Tower Theatre is one of Miami’s oldest cultural landmarks. Lovingly restored with its brightly-lit marquee sign and vintage seats, it’s like being back in time!
The theatre is a quirky place to grab some hot, buttery popcorn and see alternative and cultural films, in both Spanish and English.
Address: 1508 SW 8th St, Miami, FL 33135
3. Dr. Paul George’s Walking Tour During Viernes Culturales
Want the real deal on Little Havana? Be sure to join Miami’s premier local historian, Dr. Paul George’s free walking tour. Meet in front of the Tower Theatre at 7 pm, during each Viernes Culturales (every third Friday of the month).
The tour will take you along Little Havana’s main drags and side streets, with Dr. Paul chatting about the architecture, history, and colorful stories that make Little Havana so special. On my tour, we also stopped at local restaurants and a variety of galleries along Calle Ocho.
Even if you’ve lived here for years, it’s a fascinating way to get to know more about the history of Little Havana while taking in Viernes Culturales festivities.
Here are a few great resources for more history on Little Havana:
Images of America Little Havana by Paul S. George
A History of Little Havana by Guillermo J. Grenier
4. Maximo Gomez Park a.k.a Domino Park
To get a feel for the true spirit of the neighborhood, head to Máximo Gómez Park (Domino Park), and you’ll find the small area fringed by palms and quirky domino-tiled walkways.
It’s a popular neighborhood gathering space, especially for older locals who can be seen debating politics and having spirited games of dominoes or chess.
It’s an intriguing place to sit, sip some Cuban coffee, and watch the locals socialize. The park is open from 9 am to 6 pm daily, while you can enter, you have to be 55 and older to join a game.
Address: 801 SW 15th Ave, Miami
5. Kcull Marketplace Little Havana
This cute little shop offers a variety of distinctive pieces by local Miami artisans and creatives. You’ll find everything from jewelry to handbags, books, and contemporary art pieces. The vibe is similar to the artisan work found at the Little Haiti Caribbean Marketplace.
The local feel and flavor are apparent in the variety of works and artists represented. It’s the perfect place to pick up a fun and unique souvenir marking your time in Calle Ocho.
Address: 1358 SW 8th St, Miami
6. Calle Ocho Walk of Fame (Paseo de las Estrellas)
To get a grasp of some of the figures who have shaped this part of Miami, make sure you take a peek at Little Havana’s own walk of fame, stretching between 12th Avenue and 17th Avenues.
This segment of the strip boasts a series of pink marble stars, lining the sidewalk, honoring prominent figures from the Latin community, including salsa singer Celia Cruz, boxer Roberto Duran, and singer Gloria Estefan. Take a walk down the strip and see how many of your Latin favs you can spot.
MORE: Popular activities to include in your Little Havana itinerary
7. Little Havana’s Calle Ocho Cigar Shops
No trip to Little Havana is complete without stopping at a cigar shop or two! Full disclosure: I’m not a cigar smoker, but Little Havana is famous for its cigar shops, so I’ve made the obligatory stop or two to a few Calle Ocho cigar shops.
From the Cuba Tobacco Cigar Company to the popular Little Havana Cigar Factory where you will find premium hand-crafted cigars and a smoking lounge to Havana Classic Cigar, a casual tobacco shop with a nice coffee bar. You can spend a whole day in Little Havana going from one cigar shop to another.
A reminder, the U.S. has an ongoing trade embargo with Cuba, so while the cigars maybe are hand-rolled by Cubans, the tobacco used in most cases likely came from Central America or elsewhere in the Caribbean.
8. Calle Ocho Festival
For a full-fledged cultural experience, check out the Calle Ocho Festival. It’s the largest Hispanic festival in the region, taking place every year in March, as part of Carnaval Miami.
A celebration of Latin and Caribbean cultures, the wild and upbeat fiesta features multiple stages showcasing live music and entertainment, including salsa and folkloric dances, plus food, drinks, and outdoor activities for children.
It’s an all-out party along a 20-block stretch of Calle Ocho with all the dancing, eating, and socializing one can handle.
For more Miami events, here’s our round-up some of South Florida’s best annual events.
9. CubaOcho Museum & Performing Art Center
If you are looking for a unique way to learn about Cuba’s rich history armed with a cocktail in hand, then a trip to CubaOcho is not to be missed.
Home to Miami’s most extensive collection of 19th century and early 20th-century Cuban art, this space’s walls are lined with both modern and pre-revolutionary work.
CubaOcho is also a live music venue with an impressive rum collection, making it an eclectic place bringing together various art expressions—with delicious cocktails! It’s one of my preferred stops for live performances, particularly on Viernes Culturales nights.
If you’re a fan of the arts, a stop at this lively art, cultural, and entertainment space is a must on Calle Ocho.
Address: 1465 SW 8th St #106, Miami, FL 33135
10. La Casa de los Trucos (House of Costumes)
Known as Miami’s oldest costume shop, La Casa de los Trucos got its start almost 50 years ago, as a tiny, family-owned shack in the heart of Calle Ocho. It’s expanded somewhat, and it’s worth a stop for the staggering amount of costumes and accessories, including traditional Cuban regalia.
For the young at heart, you’ll also find a wide selection of prank and gag gifts. I’d avoid the store like the plague during Halloween, but the shop is open year-round.
Address: 1343 SW 8th St, Miami
Exploring Art on Calle Ocho
Besides the Wynwood Art District, Little Havana’s Calle Ocho is another area in Miami to admire fascinating pieces of street art. Expect to see everything from rainbow-colored works of art to brightly painted roosters sculptures. The restaurants, theaters, and even the ice cream shops offer exquisite art and architecture to soak in during your walk through Little Havana.
11. Painted Roosters
As you wander about this neighborhood you will notice a number of rooster statues dotted about the place. These were part of an art installation a number of years ago, and were then adopted by the local businesses. The rooster is an important animal in Cuban folklore, as it represents strength and power.
The painted roosters located throughout Calle Ocho are among the most popular attractions in Little Havana, with many stopping to pose for an obligatory selfie. The two large gallos (roosters) located right outside the El Pub restaurant are among the most popular.
12. Futurama Building
Check out the work of a local artist at Futurama Gallery. There’s always something going on here, whether it’s an artistic showcase or a networking event. The modern art gallery offers works by artists chosen to display their work temporarily.
Take a walk through and admire the striking and colorful work produced by the artists in residency. Pro Tip: There is a fabulous mural located right outside of the gallery well worth a visit.
Address: 1637 SW 8th St, Miami
Restaurants in Little Havana: Where to Eat in Calle Ocho
As you might imagine, Latin food is a staple in Little Havana and you’ll certainly find your fill. From fried arepas (cornmeal patties) to sizzling short ribs and rich Cuban sandwiches, there is plenty here to tease the palate. Here are a few restaurants and bakeries in Little Havana worth a visit.
15. Ella’s Oyster Bar
When I’m on Calle Ocho, and I want seafood, Ella’s Oyster Bar is the place to go. The drinks are reasonably priced, and the seafood menu is extensive. Great ambiance, superb Latin inspired food, with a killer happy hour menu!
Address: 1615 SW 8th St, Miami
16. Doce Provisions
Doce Provisions, a hidden gem tucked off the main strip. With a sun-filled patio and modern Latin-Asian fusion cuisine, this laid-back eatery is a must for lunch or dinner.
I discovered this place while on the Dr. Geoge walking tour, and it’s now one of my local staples. I’m partial to the fried chicken on sweet plantain waffles, while the hubby, on the other hand, can’t get enough of the lechon asado buns or the masa de puerco chino.
Address: 541 SW 12th Ave, Miami
17. Azucar Ice Cream Company
Travelers with a sweet tooth can check out the Azucar Ice Cream Company, this brightly-colored ice-cream parlor is a feast for both the eyes and the palette.
With 24 flavors to choose from, it’s chock full of ice cream and sorbet made in-house, using fresh, mouthwatering ingredients from local fruit stands. It’s a perfect place to appreciate some of the exotic tropical fruit flavors, like sweet, pink guava or creamy avocado.
Address: 1503 SW 8th St, Miami
Join a local expert and uncover Little Havana’s hidden food gems
18. Los Pinarenos Fruteria (Fruit Market)
The Latin American-inspired smoothies are best at the Los Pinarenos Fruteria. This family-owned fruit stand is a true landmark on Calle Ocho, with crates of coconuts, papayas, bananas, and avocados stacked high and its doors rolled up to embrace the street culture.
With a cash-only policy, it’s reminiscent of a rustic island market. The fresh-pressed juice and tropical fruit shake options are endless, from cold coconut milk to creamy melon to freshly-squeezed sugar cane juice. Or you can just order a café Cubano and sit at the sidewalk counter, and people watch.
Address: 1334 SW 8th St, Miami
19. Ventanitas (Cuban Coffee Windows)
The Cuban coffee culture in Little Havana is an experience in itself. The neighborhood is dotted with bustling sit-down cafes as well as ventanitas; walk-up coffee windows, where conversations among locals take place while coffee and pastries are consumed.
For a good cup of Cuban coffee every local can point you in the direction of a ventanita. Step up to a window, order a traditional café Cubano, a small but mighty shot of coffee, usually sweetened, and its sure to wake up your senses.
Go ahead and try this specialty the way the locals prefer it, but first, be sure to brush up on your Cuban coffee vocabulary: cafecito (café Cubano), colado, cortadito, or café con leche.
Little Havana Nightlife
The bar and nightlife scene in Little Havana is just what you would expect: vibrant, sultry, and dynamic. With patios spilling onto the sidewalk, live Latin music, and salsa dancing, not to mention some killer rum cocktails, this neighborhood is a great place to dance the night away.
13. Ball & Chain
This place used to be a hotspot for jazz musicians like Chet Baker and Billie Holiday back in the 1930s. Today, Ball & Chain is a neighborhood mainstay and one of the most popular spots in Little Havana for live jazz and salsa plus delicious late-night tapas and cocktails. The cocktails here, from the mojito criolo to canita and pastelito daiquiri, are crafted to perfection.
Address: 1513 SW 8th St, Miami
14. Hoy Como Ayer
Hoy Como Ayer is a small, but lively venue on 8th Street and the ideal place to be if you want to hear – and feel – the Cuban experience. The walls of this intimate space with dim lights and low ceilings are lined with portraits of famous Latin icons. As for entertainment, there are many great live music acts throughout the week.
Address: 2212 SW 8th St, Miami
Little Havana Calle Ocho Itinerary Map
Overflowing with energy, Little Havana’s Calle Ocho offers a warm introduction to the city’s vibrant community and is the perfect place to spend some time while in South Florida.