Little Havana just jumped out of the screen when we searched for places to visit in Miami. We entered it on Google Maps and drove straight there. We just knew we had to look for Calle Ocho, (Southwest 8th street) according to the Nat Geo website. It said it was the lively main thoroughfare in Little Havana (Find out more about this DIY walking tour here). And that was all that we needed to know...
Finding Little Havana's Calle Ocho
It was not hard to find Calle Ocho. But we had to find parking. And in any city, that was quite tricky. This was especially so since we didn't know scratch about Miami. Thankfully, we found out about Miami Parking's Pay by Phone App. It was so easy to register and pay for the parking fee directly through that app. We didn't need to worry about parking tickets. Yay!
We started walking to where the action was. But it wasn't until the cross-streets of SW8th and SW13th Avenue that Cuban vibe started setting in. We arrived in the late afternoon. The sun was still out, so the streets looked like it was a regular sleepy town. We may have had a mistake seeking this out.
But Nat Geo did not fail us. As soon as we walked past that intersection, this was the song playing in the background...
And then, we knew we have arrived. Hello Little Havana!!!
Walking into Guantanamera
We looked left and right to find out where the music was coming from. Pretty soon, this huge space caught our eye. The steady stream of tourists told us this is a good place to start our Little Havana store crawl.
Guantanamera Murals on the Street
The Guantanamera Entrance
Steps to the store entrance, a man met us at the door. He asked us if we were looking for Cuban coffee. As if in a trance, we said yes. Before we knew it, we were seated in a table inside. We saw art. We found a fancy cigar room. Vibrant salespeople worked the cigar and coffee counter, and the mojito bar. All these different sights, sounds and smells brought our senses to life!
This coffee/cigar shop is also an art gallery!
Guantanamera's Top Draws
When we sat, we found a woman by the corner rolling cigars for the taking. She looked chilled out in her own corner. She seemed like she could do the chore even with her eyes closed!
She is a cigar roller and her name is Margarita
Later we found out, her name is Margarita. And she's been rolling Cuban cigars for about 50 years-- a lifetime's worth of work. I think she deserves a star on Calle Ocho's Walk of Fame!
Calle Ocho's Walk of Fame
You could get a cigar fresh off her table for $5. But one of the owners told J that it will be too moist to smoke, they have to age it first. He got his cigar rolled two days ago for $12. I didn't understand the pricing, how the price doubles after two days of aging. But hey, okay for the experience, I turned on tourist mode on boost.
Our Cafe Cubano came after a few minutes of people watching. It was served espresso style, very strong, sweetened with brown sugar. Our coffee cups even had Cuban flags on display. There was no doubt we were in Little Havana!
While sitting, they tried to upsell us into buying their cigars. But we stood by our resolve to JUST have coffee. After they tried a couple more times, they left us in peace. We watched people go in and out of the store. Some bought cigars. Some bought coffee. Some drank mojitos. Some people were even dancing to the piped in music. There were so many things going on. It was touristy alright. But the energy? Absolutely fascinating.
The Mojito Bar and Photos of Iconic Faces Having A Smoke
What We Thought of Guantanamera
After an hour of people watching and sipping our coffees, it was time to leave and cash in. We spent $15 for a cigar and two coffees. This spot is a well-oiled machine, with enigmatic salespeople offering you cigars, coffees, mojitos, paraphernalia. Name it, they got it covered. They really knew how to work it!
Guantanamera was a great first stop for our Little Havana walking tour. We packed as much Cuban as we could during our hour's visit in their shop. And that is time very well spent.
1465 SW 8th ST #105 Miami, FL 33135
Phone: (786) 618 5142
P.S. This article originally appears in my personal blog, Chowpowwows, where chow is always on the lowdown.
Published by Michelle Africa