If you’ve been to Miami but never visited Calle Ocho (Eighth Street), I’d say you’re missing out on one of the city’s real treasures. It took me years before my curiosity finally got the better of me and I discovered this delightful corner of Cuban culture.
Located in the heart of Miami, between 12th and 27th Avenues, Calle Ocho takes you back in time to another era. When you visit, I recommend parking your car so you can enjoy walking the streets that make up Little Havana.
My first experience was a combination of “oohs” and “aahs”… I was excited to take everything in: the sights, sounds and aromas. I was amazed to find that you can live Little Havana right in Miami. It was like visiting Chinatown in New York: a unique cultural experience.
In Calle Ocho, you can find hand-rolled cigars, meat markets, greengrocers, herbal stores, typical restaurants and traditional ventanitas to enjoy a warm cafecito. You can even spend an afternoon in Máximo Gómez Park (informally known as Domino Park), adorned with domino tables where people play for hours.
Right around the corner is the Little Havana Walk of Fame, resembling the one in Hollywood. The stars on the sidewalk celebrate the accomplishments of actors, writers, musicians and other Latin American artists. You’ll also find Cuban heroes like José Martí and Antonio Maceo, among others, honored in various monuments at the local cemetery park.
For an authentic Calle Ocho experience, plan your visit around the end of the month. The last Friday of each month—starting at 7 pm—is known as Viernes Cultural (Cultural Friday), a public street fair featuring music, dancing, food, local artists and entertainment for the whole family. Sunday is also a good option for a more relaxed day to shop around the stores or enjoy traditional dishes in eateries like El Pescador, El Pub, or Versailles Restaurant. And you can’t leave without savoring a warm café con leche and a guava and cheese pastelito.