Things to Do in Little Havana, Miami to Practice Your Spanish

The intense aroma of coffee, children running around while their mothers shout “¡Vénganse para acá!”, signs advertising “Sandwiches Cubanos” wherever we look, and the sultry feel of a beach town in summer… yes, we made it to Miami!

Miami, Florida is home to a very special place for people who are passionate about Cuban and Latin American culture. It’s called Little Havana, and it’s without a doubt one of the best places to visit in the US if you want to practice your Spanish.

The Spanish Language in Little Havana, Miami

When we decided to go to Miami, we knew we were going to interact with Spanish-speakers. However, we were still amazed at the amount of Spanish we heard and used everywhere we went. From the moment we stepped out of the airplane, we noticed a completely different vibe. Airport staff greeted each other in Spanish as they walked past. Families reuniting at the baggage claim carousels were speaking Spanish, and so were people talking on their phones. The signs were all in Spanish too!

In fact, over the three days we spent there, we didn’t speak any English. That’s right! We went to restaurants, bars, parks, stores, and coffee shops, we took Ubers and we talked to the locals, all just using Spanish.

Now, we want you to experience Little Havana for yourself. So, here are our top 8 things to do in Little Havana, along with useful phrases for practicing your Spanish at each place.

Cuban Coffee in Little Havana

You’ll find plenty of opportunities to try Cuban coffee all over Little Havana. They serve it at bars, coffee shops, bakeries, and restaurants. The two most famous coffees are called the cortadito and the cubano.

A cortadito is a shot of espresso with a splash of evaporated milk. There’s no sugar added, but the milk brings down the strength of the drink.

To order it, simply say:

  • ¿Me das un cortadito, por favor? = Can you get me a cortadito, please?

They may ask if you want regular milk or evaporated milk. It’s up to you! You can ask for leche regular or leche evaporada.

The second coffee is called a cubano. It’s basically a shot of espresso sweetened with cane sugar. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, I wouldn’t recommend ordering a cubano. I don’t know exactly how much sugar there is in one, but I imagine it’s more than just a teaspoon!

Here’s how you can order a cubano:

  • Te encargo un café cubano, por favor. = I would like a cubano coffee, please.

Make sure you say CAFÉ + cubano, as there is a very popular sandwich cubano that’s served in all the local restaurants. Specify that it’s a café cubano you want, to avoid any confusion.

I’m not a huge coffee person, but I did try both of these. They were both very tasty, and very strong!

Cuban Mojitos

Mojitos are one of the many Cuban drinks that are popular worldwide. You can find them everywhere in Miami, too. They even make them with different fruit flavors. I like mine the traditional way, which is called an original.

The best part about having a mojito was getting to see the bartender make it from scratch. He put sugar and fresh mint in a glass, added some lime and mashed the ingredients together with a piece of real sugar cane. Then he added ice, rum, and mineral water. He gave it a stir and voilá – a fresh mojito!

This is how you can order one:

  • ¿Me puedes dar un mojito original, por favor? = Can I get an original mojito, please?

If you want to try one of the flavored ones, just say this:

  • ¿Me puedes dar un mojito de fresa/mango/piña/etc., por favor? = Can I get a strawberry/mango/pineapple/etc. mojito, please?

When it starts getting uncomfortably hot in Little Havana, find a bar, order a mojito, and forget about the heat for a while.

The Best Restaurants in Little Havana

We were excited to try Cuban food for the first time in Little Havana. Unfortunately, vegan and vegetarian food was hard to find in most Cuban restaurants. We were told that La Esquina de la Fama and El Palacio de los Jugos had really good Cuban dishes. We tried both places and left feeling disappointed by their vegetarian options. We know… probably not the right place for vegan food, but I imagine their non-veggie options were much better.

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After stuffing ourselves with plain rice, mashed potatoes, and the saddest salad we’ve ever had, we were very lucky to come across a great Mexican restaurant. We didn’t think twice, we just went straight in. Vegetarian and vegan choices are easy to find at Mexican restaurants, and Mi Rinconcito Mexicano didn’t disappoint us.

They serve a wide variety of very authentic Mexican dishes. I had their vegetarian Mole enchiladas and I was surprised by how good they were. Mole sauce at restaurants can be hit or miss. Even in Mexico, not everyone can make a good Mole sauce, so I was skeptical about trying it. But I had no regrets. The Mole was a little bit sweet and a little bit spicy. It was exactly what I needed to make up for the bland food we’d had earlier.

Here are some phrases you can use when you’re ordering your meal in Spanish:

  • Te encargo unas enchiladas de mole vegetarianas, por favor. = I’m going to have the vegetarian mole enchiladas, please.
  • Y te encargo un vaso de horchata, por favor. = And I’d like a glass of Horchata, please.

Have you tried Horchata? It’s a traditional Mexican drink made from rice, milk, cinnamon, vanilla, and sugar. It goes perfectly with Mole enchiladas or with any of the pan dulce pastries they also serve at this restaurant.

*“Te encargo…” is one of the most common and useful phrases you’ll need if you order anything at a restaurant. It doesn’t have an exact translation in English, but it literally means “I’m placing an order with you for…”, or “I would like to order…”, or “Can I order…?” You will hear this phrase all over Mexico, but it might not be as common in other countries. You can also say me traes… followed by what you want to order. Check out our video and blog post on how to order a meal in Spanish for a more detailed explanation of how to survive at a Spanish-speaking restaurant.

Versalles, The World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant

This is another great place to get in touch with Cuban culture in Miami. This restaurant opened in 1971, and quickly became a favorite hangout spot/coffee shop amongst the Cubans of the area. Look for the ventanita (little window). Get yourself a cortadito, grab a guava pastry, take in your surroundings, and just people-watch.

The Best Ice Cream in Little Havana: Azúcar Ice Cream Company

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Mamey, Birthday Cake, Flan, Café con Leche, and their original Abuela María are just some of the decadent flavors served at this ice cream shop. It’s no secret to the locals that Azúcar has the best ice cream in Little Havana. Inside, a picture of the famous Cuban singer Celia Cruz adorns one of the walls. “¡Azúcar!”, as she used to say in each of her songs, is exactly what you’ll get here.

Useful Spanish phrases:

  • ¿Puedo probar la de (name/flavor), por favor? = Can I try the (name/flavor) one, please?
  • Voy a querer una chica/mediana/grande de (name/flavor), por favor. = I’d like a small/medium/large (name/flavor) one, please.

They’ll ask if you would like a cone (cono) or a cup (vaso). You can say:

  • “En cono” or “en vaso,” depending on what you want.

They serve other desserts and drinks too, but everyone comes here for their delicious and unique ice cream flavors.

The Best Salsa Dancing in Little Havana

On our last night in Little Havana, we wanted to find the best place in town for Salsa dancing. It wasn’t difficult, as everybody seemed to be heading towards Ball & Chain, a bar where you can listen to live music and learn the basics of Salsa dancing.

Every Thursday at about 10 pm, they close the doors to the bar and teach a 15-20 minute beginner Salsa lesson. The teacher goes over a few Salsa steps and gets everyone up and dancing, right from the start.

To make sure you don’t miss out on the class, get there a little early, have a drink, and save your spot. It gets really crowded!

Phrases you may want to use there:

  • ¡Hola! ¿Quieres bailar? = Hi! Would you like to dance?
  • ¿Me puedes enseñar unos pasos? = Would you teach me a few steps?
  • Yo no sé bailar salsa pero aprendo muy rápido = I don’t know how to dance Salsa but I’m a fast learner.

Domino Park and the Calle Ocho Walk of Fame

If you want to talk to the locals and learn about the Cuban culture in Miami, you have to visit Domino Park. This is a favorite hangout spot for Cuban exiles and other Latin Americans. These guys are the real locals who get together in this park to see their friends, talk about politics, and enjoy a nice hot Miami day over a game of dominos.

Some useful phrases for you to practice here are:

  • ¿Puedo tomarles fotos mientras juegan? = Can I take pictures while you play?
  • ¿De dónde son ustedes? = Where are you guys from?
  • ¿Puedo jugar? = Can I play?
  • ¿Quién va ganando? = Who’s winning?

6. Cubaocho:

Right across the street from the Domino Park, you’ll find the Cubaocho Museum and Performing Arts Center. Cubaocho holds the world’s largest collection of Cuban Art, with works dating from 1800 to 1956. It also has the world’s largest Rum Collection!

Use your new Spanish phrases to order a drink here, while you enjoy the art and live music that’s on offer.

How can speaking Spanish help you on this adventure?


If you don’t speak Spanish, you can still have a great time in Little Havana. Most people speak, or at least understand, English there, especially in the bars and restaurants. But speaking Spanish when you visit Little Havana will come in handy if you’re interested in talking to the locals. It’s useful if you’re curious about what it’s like to leave your family, your friends, and your home behind to start a new life from scratch. It’s handy if you’d like to listen to their stories of arriving in a completely new place with empty pockets, and then finding their feet. If you want to hear about this neighborhood, learn how it all started and listen to the locals’ stories, then speaking Spanish is a must.

As you can see, if you’re in the US, you don’t have to go all that far to immerse yourself in the culture of millions of Spanish speakers. Practice these phrases and get yourself to Little Havana. ¡Tienes que conocerlo!

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