I started seriously smoking cigars in the 1990s after my first trip to Havana with The Wine Spectator, which was about to launch the American magazine Cigar Aficionado.
This legendary Cuban paladar is located right in the heart of Vedado’s “el Hueco” area. When it first opened in...
La Foresta is worth the 30-minutes drive from Old Havana to the exclusive Siboney neighborhood. Very close to the Havana...
1. SOUVENIRS Clandestina: Villegas #403 e/ Tte. Rey y Muralla, Habana Vieja +53 53814802 This centrally-located shop in Old Havana...
Templete remains one of the best restaurants in Havana delivering excellent fish dishes in a Spanish inspired cooking technique and presentation....
Set right in the middle of 23rd Street,"Efe" Bar is a tropical oasis of palms and banana trees that invites you to exchange the city's heat and asphalt streets for refreshing Daiquiris.
Just one block off the Malecón is Havana’s newest restaurant, which is putting an emphasis on local ingredients and attentive service.
5 Esquinas Trattoria is located on the corner of the peculiarly-named “Sword alley,” a charming cobblestone street in the historic center of Havana. Indeed this is one of the most exciting restaurants in Old Havana. Pizzas here are the real deal and made in wood-fired oven.
Located in Vedado just a few steps away from Havana University and “La Rampa”, La Moraleja is a classic Cuban restaurant that gets it right.
Bartenders at the newly-opened San Juan sling top-notch potions, including a sharp and balanced Bloody Mary and a tropical-haven mango daiquiri.
Havana saw its first Indian restaurant open earlier this year and already the kitchen is off to a stellar star.
You'll be hard pressed to find a better restaurant view in Havana than the one at Vistamar.
After touring the Museum of Revolution, cool off across the street at Cha Cha Chá with a frosty strawberry Daiquirí and a fresh Caesar salad.
Music is mostly electronic, a rare genre to find in Havana, and DJs from around the world frequently run the floor.
Roma is a lunchtime favorite for out of towners looking for superbly fresh and authentic pasta and for Italians looking for a taste of home.
Though people can take down a cocktail and nibble on some cocktails during the day, this establishment is all about the night life.
Eggplant mousaka, plantains rolled in bacon and homemade “Picadillo a la Habanera”(mincemeat) are standouts.
Inside you’ll find reviews of top restaurants like Amigos del Mar and Casa Grande and bars like Roma and Espacios.
Themed nights like Diversity Night on Monday and Karaoke Night on Wednesday are worth checking out.
Chef Jorge Falcó Ochoa runs this “big house” in Cojímar only 7 kilometers from downtown.
Cuba’s most famous musicians can be seen hanging out in the VIP section at Fantaxy, which parties until 5 in the morning and enforces a strict dress code.
Specialties of the house are octopus and the “garbanzos marineros” served in a ceramic pot chock full of fresh shellfish.
How many restaurants in Havana take their best customers on sailboats?
When the bar takes up as much real estate as the tables, you should know where to invest your calories.
Popularity isn’t always an indicator of quality, but the crowds standing in line just off the Plaza del San Francisco are there for good reason.
Like so many of Havana's best spots, Espacios is hidden from plain sight set behind what looks like a typical Cuban residence.
If you’re looking for the Havana you’ve seen in movies, this is it.
Fabulous cocktails and locally sourced dishes are served in a dramatic, refurbished factory.
My Top 10 list this year makes a statement: Large, classic cigars like double coronas and torpedos remain some of the benchmarks of Cuba.
This is a cigar that will improve with age. A regional edition for Mexico released this fall.
This is a consistent torpedo that always delivers a rich and layered character of tobacco, spice and coffee character.
This is indeed a fantastic smoke. Light coffee and nut flavors highlight the tobacco richness.
The short robusto delivers all the richness and spicy character you could hope for in a cigar.
Decadent and beautiful like the classic Double Coronas from this producer I used to smoke in the 1990s.
Starwood’s entry to the market is a promising sign of future partnerships.
If the city of Oz from the classic movie Wizard of Oz ever had a restaurant and bar, this is what it would look like.
The story goes that Ernest Hemingway liked to sit at the corner table overlooking the bay off the northern coastline of Cuba.
We are excited to announce that the third issue of Havana Insider is now out. Inside you’ll find reviews of...
It's the view that will really call you back. A sleek landing right on the water has picture-perfect sunset views.
It’s easy to imagine large groups sitting in this open-air pizzeria, downing Cristals, and never wanting to leave.
I really enjoy the aged tobacco character in this cigar, even though other añejados have been slightly inconsistent.
You could miss this understated restaurant that exudes exclusiveness the minute you walk through the gates.
Dinner for four at Le Cameron might run you close to 200 CUC, but few restaurants in Havana offer the same kind of getaway experience.
This La Gloria Cubana, which was made exclusively for the Asian market in 2015, is one of my contenders for Cigar of the Year 2016. I have smoked it several times in Hong Kong and I like it more and more.
Tin Hao is well on its way to becoming a city-wide destination.
The major regulatory change marks the end of the $100 cap on Cuban rum and cigars that U.S. travelers can bring back from Cuba.
This annual event never fails to attract cigar enthusiasts from around the world.
The Mexican owner went as far as bringing in a chef from his native country to whip the kitchen into shape. It shows.
A legendary smoke that was the talk of Wall Street in the heyday of the 1990s.
This major cigar used to be one of the legends of Cuba in the 1990s, but as we all know,...
Tucked along a quiet street in Cojimar behind wooden doors is one of Havana’s most exciting restaurants.
Even the Chinese and Italians could learn a thing or two from the grandmothers in the kitchen.
I have to wonder how many people who smoke these bother to actually focus on the quality of the tiny cigar.
This is a cigar that really starts off mellow and refined with spice, chocolate and vanilla, then turns rich and powerful at the end of the smoke.
In a strikingly high-ceilinged 120-year-old Vedado mansion, this stylish second-floor paladar offers competently done international meat, poultry, pasta and seafood dishes that satisfy even if they don't always totally dazzle.
We just revisited this newish and slightly more spacious annex of Havana's coolest but enduring "in" bar, O'Reilly 304, just across the street. Their drinks are still some of the very best in a city.
A complex and sophisticated aged rum, delivering rich aromas of dried fruit with notes of cocoa, wood, and tobacco.
Even if other Korean restaurants were around, we doubt they could capture the same magic that we found at Club Su Miramar.
Cubans are obsessed with eating pizza, and few obsess over making it quite like Ivano at La Siciliana.
This is an amazing short and thick cigar that delivers so much character from dried spices such as cloves and nutmeg to aged tobacco and black tea.
Coffee is another sign of changing dynamics between the United States and Cuba. Swiss giant Nestlé SA recently announced its Nespresso division would begin selling "Cafecito de Cuba" single use coffee pods in the United States.
I have written in the past about the Golden Age for Cuban cigars, pinpointing the period from 1988 to 1996 when the island made excellent smokes.
JetBlue announced today the first direct commercial flights between United States and Cuba in over half a century.
This is a phenomenal cigar still. It was boxed the year the cigar was launched, 1998. As I wrote in the past, this cigar was originally the special gift that Fidel Castro gave away and only came in unmarked boxes of 100 sticks.
This cigar is from 1996 and shows the glory of Cuban cigars from this period.
In 2012, Havana Cigar Festival commemorated 520 years of Cuban tobacco in the world. American actor/singer Jim Belushi was among the 1,500 guests that attended the event.
Today, private restaurants or paladars in Cuba seem to be opening up everywhere in Havana. But you would hardly expect, in the crowded and bustling streets of Centro Habana, to find a Swedish restaurant.
I really enjoyed this cigar in the 1990s, but this one has nothing to do with the brand back then.
If you like O’Reilly 304, one of the coolest bars/restaurants in town, you'll love their newest venture, just across the street.
This tiny panetella has always been a good smoke with a quick espresso, whether you are hanging in the morning in Havana or London or anywhere else.
A spicy and flavorful cigar with lots of black pepper and spice character. Hints of nuts too. Full and intense. Lovely draw.
La California, a few blocks away from the Malecón in Centro Habana, occupies a 19th century house that was a “cultural center” back in the 1930s.
I have been a long time fan of this long and elegant cigar. In fact, I still have a few boxes of the original release from 1998.
I have never had such a refined tequila as this. It was first made for the Rolling Stones tour in 1972 and Jose Cuervo sponsored the event.
Our second print edition of Havana Insider is now available on the streets of Havana, and via free download on HavanaInsider.com.
I remember first drinking this rare rum in early 2000 and being impressed. Today, it is a limited production spirit from the distillery of Santiago de Cuba – 3,000 bottles are apparently made every year.
This was one of my go-to cigars in the 1990s as long and elegant cigars were very in fashion.
The dryness of this rum accentuates its incredible fruitiness and freshness.
This new rum is very rich on the nose with so much toffee, burnt orange and creme brulee. Full-bodied, sweeter and denser than Union.
Santiago’s flagship blend, from old stocks, is a beautiful dark amber tribute to 500 years of Cuban culture. This rich...
This cool new tapas restaurant, opened in early January, is owned by Partagas Cigars' former manager for quality control, Támara Diaz and her husband Alexis Ortas.
I heard a few people from Habanos S.A., the global distribution company for Cuban cigars based in Havana, say that this thick cigar is made for the U.S. market because it is so light in flavor.
This is a very mild and fresh cigar with cedar, light tobacco and dried flower character. Medium body, clean draw.
I was surprised how much I liked this cigar even though it is so tiny. I feel like you can smoke it in five minutes.
Located on the second floor of a 19th century house in Old Havana, Los Mercaderes is one of the most popular Cuban restaurants in Havana.
Of course, this cigar has not been released on the market since 1991, but it remains a legend.
This is a brand that has never excited me except when it was first released in the last 1990s. But I don't think the cigars have ever been as good.
Rightly named after its Spanish owner Pilar, this private restaurant or known as paladar here opened its doors three years ago, and is – without a doubt - one of the best Spanish restaurants in Havana.
This cigar is still dominated by the dark wrapper like most limitadas when they are young.
This has always been a go-to smoke for me and it is good just about anytime, with the exception of outside in a breeze!
Nero di Seppia is an Italian restaurant that opened in June 2015, a new venture from the previous owner (and chef) of La Carboncita - Walter Ginevri.
Great potential in this Trinidad just released at the 2016 Habanos Festival. For now the dark wrapper dominates much of the character with coffee bean and spice character.
You wouldn't expect President Obama to have dinner in a private restaurant on the evening of the first day of his official visit to Cuba - the first in nearly 90 years. But we think he made a good choice. President Obama chose Centro Habana's San Cristóbal - one of our favorite places to eat in the city.
This was a cigar developed with the world's biggest seller of Cuba cigars, Phoenician. The company had a prestigious tasting in Havana in 2015 during the Habanos festival to finalize the blend and wrapper and this is what they finally delivered.
This shows some age now with cedar, spice and sweet tobacco. Very fresh and fine. Full body and very strong for a Por Larrañaga.
The XVIII Habanos Festival in Havana concluded last Friday with a closing gala that was celebrated in Pabexpo in the residential neighborhood of Siboney.
This was released in 2012 and was the first ever Gran Reserva from Cohiba. It smokes wonderfully now with so much spice and richness.
I smoked this the afternoon I arrived in Havana from Miami for the cigar festival on March 1. What a great smoke!
The opening night of the XVIII Habanos Festival (18th Havana Cigar Festival) took place on February 29 at the Viejo Almacen de Tabaco y Madera.
The 18th Festival del Habano began on the 29th of February in a bright and warm Havana. The festival took off with the usual press conference at the Palacio de la Convenciones where journalists and professionals from the industry came for a review of the events during the festival as well as new releases and business figures from Habanos S.A.
Seven months after its July 2015 launch, HavanaInsider.com continues to lead the field. It is the single most useful website for travelers to Cuba who want to savor the very best the island has to offer. We extend a big thanks to all our readers for their great support and feedback.
This is a thick and chewy smoke with lots of cedar, wet earth, nuts and coffee. Spicy. Full and so flavorful.
A long time favorite of mine, especially in cedar cabinet boxes of 50.
Commercial rapprochement between Cuba and the U.S. seems to be a slow and cautious process, full of sand-traps and regulatory hurdles on both sides.
The White House announced February 17 that U.S. President Obama would travel to Cuba March 21-22, 2016. This is a political milestone in the measured but steady process of normalization between the two countries.
This is dense and layered with an almost chocolate mousse sensation on the palate.
So fresh and smooth. I don't understand why more people are not smoking this now. it was the cigar to smoke in the 1990s.
The name of this private restaurant in Old Havana may evoke the delicious distillates produced on the island. Or maybe the sound of an old American car engine starting.
We tasted Havana Club's ultra premium Union rum recently in Havana. It's a powerful and amazing expression of an aged rum, blended to pair with a Cuban cigar. The target was the powerful Cohiba Siglo VI.
The only problem with this tiny smoke is that it’s so short that it burns a little hot.
This small jazz venue located in the middle of Vedado area is owned by one of Cuban jazz giants, Lázaro Valdés.
It always seems strange drinking bottles of mostly Spanish and Chilean wines in the few restaurants that offer them in Havana and outside the capital. Most often, everyone else is drinking cocktails, rum or cold beers. There is no wine culture in Cuba.
This is like the old Bolivar style. A powerful and very rich robusto with so much coffee, bitter chocolate and powerful tobacco.
This sensational bar, situated on the 34th floor of the tallest building of Cuba - FOCSA, has probably the best views in the city.
Very fine and fresh with cedar, nutty and tobacco character. Medium body, clean and creamy.
Named after Richard Egues, a flute player and soloist in Cuba’s legendary Orquesta Aragón band, who went by the nickname “the magic flute”, this bar is located on the rooftop of a 10-floor building that is right in front of the United States Embassy in Havana.
This gem Havana bar located in the iconic FOCSA building, the tallest building in Cuba in Vedado, fits all the criteria Luis Buñuel, the Spanish film director, described except one - music.
HavanaInsider.com has only been online for about six months, but you know that I have been rating Cuban cigars since 1992 - first with Cigar Aficionado magazine and then with my own website JamesSuckling.com starting in 2010.
HavanaInsider.com was launched in July 2015 by JamesSuckling.com, as the U.S. and Cuba resumed diplomatic relations. It quickly became the go-to reference for visitors to Havana who want to experience the best of an amazing 500-year-old city.
This special edition aged cigar delivers what it is supposed to with an aged tobacco character of almonds and cedar plus hints of subtle spicy character.
The first añejados I tried a few months ago unfortunately did not draw very well, yet a second cigar (47 ring gauge by 178 mm) showed lots of spice and wet earth character with a wet mahogany undertone and a silky texture.
Located in Old Havana on a small street facing Havana’s Capitolio, this privately owned bar resembles more like a cantina
Following James' recent interview with UK Cigar Scene Magazine, a popular London-based online cigar magazine, James shared more of his thoughts on the future of Cuba's cigar industry in this extra bonus video.
Located in Vedado, not far from the Melia Habana hotel, L'Atelier is a sweet spot of great food, atmosphere, and service that make it a stand-out among Havana's best restaurants.
Amazing richness and spiciness in this short smoke with cedar, nut and cappuccino character. Nutty and flavorful.
This is a classic cigar (7 inches by 47 ring gauge) that should be in everyone's smoking portfolio. I have always liked it for outdoor smoking.
We have been tasting (drinking) Maximo for years and it is clearly the greatest Cuban rum – and one of...
A pleasant restaurant serving international cuisine with crisp modern and contemporary decor.
Located on the lower floor of an restored traditional limestone building with a few tables scattered in the pedestrian street, the food here is mainly Cuban, with pork and fish dominating the menu, which actually changes daily depending on the fresh ingredients available.
The Atlantic Council, a prestigious Washington DC think tank, just released the results of a recent poll—in four electorally important U.S. "heartland" states—that shows strong support for President Obama's Cuba policy.
This seaside restaurant is located off a small bay right where Miramar meets the Malecon and where the Almendares river ends.
The mesmerizing campus of Havana's Instituto Superior de Arte was once the city's premier country club.
The Partagas Selección Privada Edicion Limitada 2014 came into the market this year, and I smoked one in the P&L Club in Hong Kong the other day.
A friend handed this cigar to me the other evening while I was eating outdoors on an island off the coast of Hong Kong called Lamma.
This is a phenomenal cigar released in the United Kingdom this June. It has such depth and richness like the great Ramon Allones of the 1990s.
Located on the second floor of one of the newly restored buildings that surround the Plaza Vieja in Old Havana, this loud, funky and eclectically decorated lounge-like restaurant commands one of the most envious views of the ancient Plaza Vieja from its terrace.
I was thinking about a Japanese whiskey and cigar tasting I did a week ago in Hong Kong at the Red Chamber cigar club prior to a Zachys wine auction on October 31. I said a few words about the cigar, a Montecristo Edmundo, which was My Cigar of the Year in 2014.
The hip Café Laurent is located on the top floor of an eclectic building in the heart of Vedado, just a few blocks away from the historic Hotel Nacional. This paladar is refurbished from an old apartment, but one can still have the cozy feeling of dining in a living room.
I had a 10-minute break so I decided to smoke a Partagas Serie D No. 6 (ring gauge 50 x 90 mm long). This is a short but thick cigar.
One of the best new Cuban cigars released ...
James recently did an interview with UK Cigar Scene, a popular online cigar magazine based in London, where he looked back to his more than 30 years of experiences writing about Cigars when working as the bureau chief of Cigar Aficionado magazine.
Al Carbón, a new restaurant that opened only a few months ago in Havana, is a new addition to Havana's fine dining scene. Created by the same owners of the immensely popular Iván y Justo, the restaurant strikes out in a different but equally successful direction, specializing in traditional Cuban dishes cooked over charcoal.
Cigar Paradise: New opportunity to get an up close experience staying on an estate in Cuba's finest tobacco region for cigars.
Habanos S.A., Cuba’s state company that distributes and markets Cuban cigars, has launched a new website, which according to the cigar company, will provide users better site navigation and more comprehensive information on cigars.
President Barack Obama met with President Raul Castro last week for the second time this year, on the margins of the annual UN General Assembly in New York. This followed steps by the U.S. Administration to further ease restrictions on individual U.S. citizens' travel and doing business in the island country.
This is hands down the best fish restaurant in Havana. Far from the salinas and commotion of Old Havana, it is tucked away near the mouth of the Jaimanitas river in a fishermen’s village of the same name in western Havana.
This is a new cigar out on the market from Cuba, and it shows lots of spice, smoked nut and coffee bean character with dry tobacco.
Café Bohemia offers a light menu that ranges from salads to Italian style panini named after both movie and novel titles.
This large cigar was not what I was hoping for, showing spicy, slightly young and uncured tobacco character that delivers a rough and powerful flavor.
This is a corona gorda-sized cigar that has always been a little under the radar, especially for the Linea 1492 range.
Pope Francis just ended his four-day visit to Cuba, during which he met with President Raul Castro and, privately, with Fidel Castro and his family at the latter's home. HavanaInsider was present at the large mass in Revolution Square and noted the enthusiasm of the crowd for the Pope's message of reconciliation and human service.
In one of Cuba’s best tobacco growing areas, Pinar del Rio’s San Luis region, tobacco grower Hiroshi Robaina wakes up every year at midnight on September 21 to check the direction of the wind at his plantation, Cuchillas de Barbacoa.
This spectacular venue, which is located upstairs at the legendary Teatro Nacional in Vedado, offers some spectacular performances anything from trovadores or Cuba’s singer-songwriters to some of the most sought-after salsa ensembles.
September is usually quieter in Havana. Now things are changing and you notice it clearly from month to month. New restaurants and bars are popping up everywhere. Numerous direct flights from the U.S. are arriving full every day, and the number of American visitors is clearly up a lot.
This restaurant, whose name translates as "The Printer," is owned by Habaguanex, an enterprise of the Havnana City Historian's office. It is located on Calle Mercaderes in Old Havana, one door away from the famous Conde de Villanueva hotel, where you can also find one of Havana’s best cigar shops.
Visitors to Cuba has increased 17 percent so far this year compared with the same period last year, says the country’s Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero.
The Yellow Submarine, a bar located in Havana's Vedado, owes its name, as some of you might have guessed, to the Beatles’ seminal record - Havana's homage to the British pop band.
La Domínica, a lovely Italian restaurant facing Hemingway’s Ambos Mundos hotel in Old Havana, is one of the best Italian restaurants in Havana. The food is reasonably priced, and the live music performance really upped the experience.
The legendary Jazz musician Wynston Marsalis just released a new jazz album recorded before a live audience at the Mella Theatre in Havana, Cuba. Titled "Live in Cuba", the album explores the connections between American jazz and different types of Afro-Cuban music.
I have always been a fan of tubed cigars, or tubos as they say in Spanish. Tubos are so convenient for carrying single cigars, and they preserve the cigars beautifully.
Café Cantante Mi Habana is located in the basement of the Teatro Nacional, one of the corners of the iconic Plaza de la Revolución. It is very lively and well-kept, with lots of space for dancing, and some of the hottest, up-and-coming bands on the local scene are often jamming there.
This is one of the least popular sizes of the Cohiba Siglo range as a petit corona, yet it offers wonderful light mint, sandalwood and tea leaf, as well as green coffee bean.
Celebrated in popular and jazz circles in Cuba and far beyond, Roberto Carcassés' spirited, innovative style is on full display at Havana's Corner Café in Vedado area.
This is a cigar for every moment with cedar, light creme and tobacco character. A good cigar for those new to Cuban cigars.
American airlines could start operating weekly charter flights from Los Angeles to Havana as early as December this year. Plus more stories on Cuban youth and essentials to know for Americans who want to invest in Cuban property in our weekly news digest.
Corte del Príncipe is an understated and unassuming little restaurant in Playa, one of the best Italian restaurants we've had so far in Havana.
Today marks a special moment in history of the United States and Cuba as the U.S. flag once again unfurls in front of the U.S. Embassy in Havana after 54 years. As a journalist who has been traveling to Cuba on a regular basis for more than two decades, this has left me breathless this morning.
The U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, presided at an official flag raising ceremony today outside the U.S. Embassy building on the Bay of Havana. Read our report and watch the flag raising ceremony here.
One of the quirky bars in Havana, Bar Bohemio has more of a touch of elegance than what the name suggests.
This video clip offers a beautiful overview of how a Cuban cigar is made--from picking the tobacco at the planation, to curing the leaf, and rolling the cigar at the factory, and, finally, to smoking and savoring a world class cigar. All in two minutes.
Vintage Classic American cars in Cuba from the 1950s have become poster images of Havana, but riding one is not always great. Don't be surprised to see duct tape and odd bits of homemade fixtures holding things in place.
Gastón Joya Perellada is one of Cuba's finest bass players. At 28, he has already played alongside Cuban piano legends Chucho Valdés and Ernán López-Nussa. A versatile and rounded musician, he has also performed with the Latin American Symphonic Orchestra under the direction of master conductor Claudio Abbado. Watch him perform a masterful solo during a show with the Ernán López-Nussa Trio.
Vintage Champagne and cigars is a great combination. Louis Roederer Champagne Cristal 2002 and Cuban cigar Romeo y Julieta Wide Churchill is a great match.
A top Italian restaurant in Havana, Il Piccolo serves some delicious pizzas and pastas, a nice switch from rice and beans.
Cuba is renowned for its sensual and lively music. Pianist and composer Ernán López Nussa is one of Cuba's top musicians. Read our profile of him and watch his live piano performance.
One of the great benchmarks for Cuba. This robusto almost smokes itself with such a gorgeous draw and construction.
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee voted in favor of lifting the travel ban to Cuba, just days after the U.S. and Cuba re-established diplomatic relations on July 21.
This is really a classic cigar that delivers all the richness and finesse of Cohiba.
La Carboncita brings Italian flare with all the trimmings to an opulent area in Miramar. It's the most modernly styled Italian restaurant in Havana.
U.S.-Cuban relations are improving, but our societies are already close and increasingly linked. Respect can grow on both sides as our people have more direct contact with each other.
Cuban cigars are still the best in the world. No cigar delivers the unique aroma, special taste, and vivid freshness like a fine Cuban cigar, or “habano” as some Cubans call them.
Beginning March 1, 2015, MasterCard officially began handling credit card transactions by its American cardholders in Cuba, the first US credit card company to do so. However, the range of establishmnets accepting credit cards is limited, and many travelers have reported difficulty using U.S. Mastercards.
Rum went global centuries ago, but its cradle is in the West Indies, and the most famous rum comes from from Cuba.
This really describes the vibe in Havana at the moment: everyone seems incredibly excited with the prospects ahead of more Americans visiting Cuba.
I don't think the person who wrote the caption has ever stepped foot in Havana or Cuba. One key reason why Cuba is so safe is that the government’s security is extremely strong and its police force innumerable. However, more importantly, the Cuban people are friendly and do welcome visitors. They also understand how important tourism is to their economy and are looking forward to more Americans visiting following the recent change in U.S.-Cuban relations.
I was in Havana earlier in February for Havana Cigar Festival. Immediately when I landed, I lit a Cohiba Siglo I in the taxi. It's nice to be legally smoking a Cuban cigar after ten years of it essentially being illegal for Americans to smoke them. Nonetheless, in most cases it appears Americans still should not be smoking Habanos.
Havana's dining scene is hot, with greater variety and quality than ever. Here are the top ten restaurants in Havana that you should try out.
Havana’s bar scene is really varied. There are venerable places, steeped in history or associated with major literary figures, such as Hemingway’s favourite, El Floridita. Most of these are state-owned and major draws for foreign visitors.
Cuba is the holy grail for cigar smokers. Stream the award-winning documentary on Cuban cigars to better understand what makes the cigars so special.
La Guarida, one of the first private restaurants in Havana, has become synonymous with fine dining in Cuba.
Clenching the second spot on our Havana's top ten restaurant list, El Cocinero in the residential Vedado is the coolest restaurant in Havana.
Havana's best hotel, Hotel Saratoga in the heart of Havana, opposite the landmark Capitolio, is the place of choice for visiting stars and other VIPs.
O'Reilly 304 in Old Havana probably is the trendiest and hippest restaurant in Cuba at the moment. Its tacos, ceviche and daiquiri are must orders.
The Barrio Chino or Chinatown in Central Havana has become a unique sight in Havana, an essential fabric of the Chinese immigrants' history in Cuba.
This 22-floor, 462-room Hotel Melia Cohiba in Havana’s Vedado area is Havana’s most luxurious and modern business hotel.
Located on Plaza de San Francisco in Old Havana, San Felipe y Santiago de Bejucal Hotel skilfully combines tradition and modernity.
Cuba has two currencies: Pesos Cubanos, or National Currency (CUP), and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC).
Tipping is always a nice way to show your appreciation for good service. You can tip in both CUP and CUC.
Accommodations and restaurant rates vary considerably, as anywhere. Here is a detailed break-down of travel budget to Cuba.
Like many things in Havana, getting a shave is like stepping into a time-machine. While I was in Havana attending the Habano Cigar Festival in February, I couldn't resist stopping by a local barbershop. Where else in the world can you get a shave and smoke a cigar at the same time? Now that's what I call “the good old days.”
Our Cigar of The Year 2013 is the Romeo y Julieta Churchill Reserva 2008. We have loved this cigar since the first time we smoked it in Havana back in 2012.
Café de los Artistas, opened less than a year in Old Havana, is a purveyor of great food and feeling. It serves some great ropa vieja and the best tostones.
Microbreweries are catching on in Havana, and Cervecería Antiguo Almacen de la Madera y el Tabaco is at the forefront. It serves the best beer in Havana.
The University of Havana is the oldest university in Cuba and one of the oldest educational institutions in Latin America....
Ten years after its official global launch, the Montecristo Edmundo is indeed a phenomenal cigar harking back to the glory days of Montecristo from the 1950s and 1960s.
The bottom line is that Cuban cigars can be bought like fine wines, following the vintage or date on the bottle (wines) or box (cigars). I believe that one can buy Cuban cigars according to the box date.
Tien Tan, hidden at the end of Barrio Chino (Chinatown) in Central Havana, is the best Chinese restaurant Havana has to offer.
El Templete, a nautical themed restaurant close to Plaza de Armas in Old Havana serves the best fish and seafood dishes in Havana.
Located in Central Havana just behind The Capitolio, Sia-Kara bar is a gem that has not yet made it onto many tourists’ radar.
Otramanera, a Spanish-Cuban fusion paladar run by a husband-and-wife team offers the best quality Spanish food in town.
People talk about Starbien as being one of the best restaurants in Havana. And, yes, the food is excellent quality.
Some people have been berating state-owned Cuban restaurants for shoddy service and bland food. They clearly haven’t been to El Aljibe yet.
Conveniently located on the eastern end of Plaza de Armas in Old Havana, Hotel Santa Isabel is one of the boutique hotels owned by the city's Habaguanex.
When owner Hubert Corrales told us La Esperanza is the “last vanguard of home-styled cooking in Havana,” we were very skeptical at...
We were excited to smoke a vintage Vegueros Especiales No. 1 , but when we took a cool draw off the cigar before we put the lighter to it. IT WAS PLUGGED!
Habana Café, located inside Hotel Melia Cohiba in the heart of Vedado, is Cuba's answer to the ubiquitous Hard Rock Café.
Cuba has a very sound health care system. Cubans citizens receive free medical care through a national health service.
There is a network of SERVIMED pharmacies, which require payment in CUC. Here's a list of SERVIMED pharmacies we compiled for tourists in case of emergency.
Cuba does not present any unusual health risks to travelers, but visitors should take routine precautions, such as drinking only bottled liquids.
There is a network of SERVIMED clinics in Havana for tourists in case of emergency. Here is a useful list.
The Colón Cemetery has become known nowadays more than a burial ground, but a place that showcases Cuban history and architecture.
La Rampa, which means “the slope” in Spanish, is the last stretch of the famous Calle 23, leading up to the center of Vedado, Havana.
King Bar in Vedado, Havana is definitely ruling the night scene like a king. This is one of the top bars the city has to offer.
Overlooking 17 Street in Miramar, Havana, where old American cars roam by, the atmosphere in Madrigal is unfettered by the bustling on the street.
Sloppy Joe's bar was perhaps one of the most luminous and lustrous places along side with Tropicana and Salón Rojo del Capri during the 1950s in Havana.
The annual Havana Cigar Festival kicked off on the morning of February 23rd, 2015. The day took off with a press conference, where Jorge Luis Fernandez Maique, Commercial Vice-President of Habanos, the global distribution and marketing organization for Cuban cigars; and Javier Terres Ercilla, company Vice-President of business development, gave some insight on the sales of cigars around the world. Please click here to read our report on the first day.
This is the first of a series of interviews with the different managers of the great cigar shops in Havana. In this video, we talk to Leonerto Pérez Hernández, director of La Casa del Habano at Club Habana.
The store is located in Hotel Conde Villanueva in the heart of Old Havana. Old Havana is the historic centre of the city - the first neighborhood to ever exist in Havana.
Hiroshi is the head of Finca Robaina, the legendary estate where Hiroshi’s family has been growing tobacco since 1845. Hiroshi would not be where he is if it weren’t for his grandfather, the great Alejandro Robaina.
In this second segment, Hiroshi and James discuss the importance of technology in the curing process. The curing of the tobacco is one of the most important parts in the process of making a cigar – it adds balance as well as that beautiful golden copper color to the wrapper.
Once the cabaret salon of the luxurious Capri casino, Salon Rojo del Capri remains one of the classic spots in Havana’s nightlife.
La Casa de la Música de Miramar has been continuously delivering some of the hottest salsa performances in Havana since...
La Zorra y el Cuervo, a subterranean, cramped, smoky jazz club is the epitome of the genuine jazz joint –think of the Village Vanguard.
Many people are surprised to find there is a museum in Cuba dedicated to the French emperor Napoleon, and that wouldn’t...
The Museo de Artes Decorativas (Museum of Decorative Arts) is a work of art in its own right. The site is the original residence of María Luisa Gómez Mena, a wealthy patron of Cuban artists. Built in 1927, the sumptuous, French Renaissance-inspired mansion was designed by French architects P. Virad and M. Destugué. The residence was claimed by the Cuban government in 1964 and became what is known as today - the Museum of Decorative Arts.
This is a stop that visitors to Cuba have to make. Otherwise, what’s the point of visiting a country that is famous for its national drink - rum? Opened in 2000 by the country’s most famous rum brand Havana Club, the museum uses visuals and models to guide visitors through the whole rum-making process, from harvesting at sugarcane plantations to the final bottling process.
Cuban’s devotion to ice cream is almost religious, and there’s good reason why Coppelia is popularly known as the “ice-cream Cathedral”.
Hotel Nacional’s striking architecture, commanding seaside location on the Malecón in Vedado, Havana and retro feel make it a natural draw. The hotel has soul.
Tropicana, a legendary cabaret that first opened its doors in 1939, remains to this day one of the classic spots in Havana’s night life.
El Floridita is an institution in Havana for its daiquiri and its association with the towering literary figure Ernest Hemingway.
Ivan & Justo is a place where you can’t get in without a reservation. We chanced it twice, each time we were politely turned down by the doorman downstairs.
La Terraza is inarguably the best barbecue restaurant in Havana. The smoked pork chops in pineapple sauce, barbecued ribs and...
Under the influential Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC), Galería Villa Manuela in Vedado, has been pushing the boundaries...
The first day of the 2015 Havana Cigar Festival took off a with a press conference at the Palacio de las Convenciones in Havana, where Habanos’ business development vice-president Javier Terrés Ercilla and commercial vice-president Jorge Luis Fernández Maique commented on the new releases as well as the company’s relevant commercial information.
Bella Ciao, a lush Italian restaurant deep in the Miramar area delivers stellar classics that stay faithful to their Italian roots. With outdoor seating under a roof of green ivies and trees, there’s a casual atmosphere that plays nicely off the classic austerity of many of the dishes on the impressively packed menu.
On the second day of the 2015 Havana Cigar Festival, the press and participating guests had the opportunity to visit some of the top plantations in Vuelta Abajo, recognised by many as the best tobacco region in the world.
A taste-off between two top Cuban cigars - a Partagas Serie D No. 4 and a Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2. See which one wins.
Located in Central Havana, it is often referred to as “La Casa de la Música de Galiano” to differentiate it from its Miramar analogue.
Opened in December 2009 by a Spanish art aficionado Concha Fontenla, this spacious art gallery on O’Reilly Street in Old...
The magnificent Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts) is a showcase of world and Cuban art, setting Havana's tone as a major art city.
At a quaint paladar like Doña Eutimia, offering hearty Cuban food at extremely reasonable prices, foodies beat a path to this top Cuban eatery.
La Bodeguita del Medio in Old Havana, popularized by Hemingway has never seen a shortage of patrons. If you want mojitos, this is the place.
Some rancio, butter and dried fruits here. Caramel too. A full-bodied rum with a dense and rich mouthfeel. Soft and...
I smoked a number of these current production torpedo cigars and they were all fabulous. I forgot how great the cigar can be since I seldom buy them myself.
Located in the upscale Embassy neighborhood of Miramar, the Meliá Habana Hotel is unquestionably one of Havana’s better hotels.
Visitors to Cuba (including Cubans living abroad) are required to have medical insurance adequate to cover medical expenses that may arise while in the country. Travelers may be asked to show proof of such upon arrival, and should check with their insurance companies beforehand to confirm coverage.
Very clean with a sherry barrel sort of aroma. Floral. The lightness and oak barrel treatment here gives this rum...
Corner café comes alive during the night when hip young Cubans converge in this pub for live music performances, DJ jam sessions and sultry jazz dancing.
This small torpedo is a bit rough.
I smoked this baby blockbuster Robusto during a lunch outside at a friend's winery. Temperatures were close to 100 degrees fahrenheit, even under the shade of the dinning area. So I wasn't sure it was the right time to have a smoke. But what a cigar!
I love Cohiba in the morning. This tiny cigar – four inches long by 40 ring gauge – packs a lot of flavor for its size. Great smoke. Great morning smoke.
An urban jungle just under the bridge of Calle 23, the Parque Almendares is located in the heart of the lively Vedado area.
I smoked a number of new releases at the 2015 Havana Cigar Festival, and the best cigar so far was actually not one of the official releases from Habanos, the global marketing and distribution company for Cuban cigars.
A lot of cigars were smoked during the 2015 Havana Cigar Festival, the annual mega-cigar festival in Havana celebrating the greatest of Cuban cigars from February 23 to 28. I smoked and rated just about everything that was handed out during the five-day event that including various dinners, seminars and visits to cigar factories and tobacco plantations.
Fábrica de Arte Cubano, an avant-garde artistic bar in Vedado area in Havana, is born out of the initiative of renowned Cuban musician X-Alfonso.
Café Miramar, a sleek jazz Club, located right next to the old Miramar cinema, has recently become one of the hot spots of Havana's jazz scene.
Statistically speaking, Cuba is very safe, with the lowest crime rate in Latin America.
Shopping is not Havana's draw, and travelers should bring an adequate supply, even of such personal staples as toothpaste, deodorant and shampoo.
This is very powerful with masses of flavor of walnuts, tobacco and cappuccino. Full and incredibly rich with so much density and length. It goes on for minutes. A cigar to age for years. What a cigar!
Most of Old Havana is eminently walkable - the best way to experience it. Traffic city-wide tends to be light by most urban standards, as few Cubans own private cars.
Very clean fresh and bright. It’s the right choice for mixing drinks whether Havana libre or mojito! Bueno.
Now. If you mean weather,high season is also dry season, and Havana's limited hotels can quickly fill up in this November-April window, when daytime temperatures average in the low 80s.
Tourism in Cuba is booming as relations between the U.S. and Cuba continue to thaw. In the first five months alone, the island country welcomed around 1.7 million people, a 15% increase over the same period last year.
Founded in 1983 as a tribute to Wifredo Lam (1902-1982), Cuban’s most celebrated surrealist painter, it has grown into an important cultural institution.
This art institution was inaugurated on November 15th, 1986, and is best known for its photographic exhibitions. La Fototeca de...
Founded in 1962, Galería Habana is the first art gallery opened after the revolution. It is the country’s benchmark fine art gallery.
José Martí Memorial located on Plaza de la Revolución is dedicated to Cuba’s national hero José Martí.
Though Plaza de la Revolución is not particularly distinguished for its architecture or design, the square carries important historical weight for the Cuban Revolution.
I loved this smoke when I first tried it...
Museo de la Revolución has a large exhibition of photographs, documents and memorabilia detailing Cubans’ struggle for independence and Fidel’s guerrilla revolution.
This dark wrapper Cohiba smells like dark chocolate and roasted coffee beans. It's always a great smoke.
The resplendent El Capitolio standing solemnly in Centro Habana is one of most iconic buildings in the country. Inspired by...
I was really surprised by the quality of this...
The 2015 Havana Cigar Festival concluded with a gala dinner at Pabexpo in Havana's Siboney neighborhood. The night was dedicated to to the 80th anniversary of the Montecristo brand. Throughout the dinner guests were entertained by various musical numbers while they smoked cigars handed out after each course.
This was better with sandalwood, dried flowers and a delicate tobacco character.
A cool smoke. Great draw already. Burns really great. I like the size. You know the Montecristo No. 2 is a great smoke, but a lot of times you don't have the time.
I loved the white pepper, cappuccino.
Day four of the 2015 Havana Cigar Festival saw Phoenicia, the regional distributor of Habanos in the Middle East, continental Africa, Cyprus and Greece, organize a cigar tasting session at El Laguito cigar factory, where many Cohiba cigars are manufactured.
This is a cigar showing very refined cedar.
Located in Havana’s Vedado, El Gato Tuerto is a dimly lit bar with gleaming furniture, crowned with a small stage and a few tables distributed around it.
Until the Saratoga was operational this was the best hotel in Havana. This attractive, large (427-room) hotel in Parque Central, opened in the '90s, is one of the newer additions to the city’s roster of top hotels.
Five years of tobaco, five years of age...
This little cigar delivers wonderful spice and dark chocolate character. Full body, fresh and inviting.
During this year's Havana Cigar Festival, Habanos, the global distribution and marketing organization for Cuban cigars, reported sales of $439 million.
This cigar always delivers such finesse and beauty. Medium-bodied with delight and fresh tobacco character that resembles fresh flowers and cream.
The Parque Central is huddled by some of Havana’s most famous landmarks such as El Capitolio, Gran Teatro de La Habana, Manzana de Gomez and Payret Cinema.
A round and velvety textured cigar with...
There’s no better place to enjoy the pinnacle of Cuban performance arts than in the Gran Teatro de La Habana (The Great Theatre of Cuba).
More caramel than Añejo Reserva. Burnt sugar. This standard bearer of Cuban rum delivers a full body. Lots of caramel...
An incredible cigar with great depth and flavor. Peppermint, maciato, and cream. The texture is truly superb. Full and flavorful. Goes on for minutes. What a cigar!
This at one time was the biggest selling premium Cuban cigar in the world. It was synonymous with Cuban cigars in such countries as Spain.
Iglesia del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús is one of a few Gothic buildings in Havana. It remains the country’s tallest and most beautiful Catholic church.
This is a long cigar (47 ring gauge by 235mm). I haven't smoked it in years because it takes so long. But it's a rare cigar.
The former residence of Count Villanueva was turned into a courtyard-style boutique hotel in Old Havana in 1998. One of the 20-odd hotels run by the city’s hotel brand Habaguanex, the nine-room hotel has a red façade that opens up to a lush courtyard. A café is hidden in the back of the courtyard, where free-roaming birds and peacocks amble lazily. The lobby and reception are well furbished and the front desk staff are more than willing to provide suggestions for visiting Old Havana.
I am a big robusto smoker and this is a robusto that many seem to overlook, but it is consistently outstanding quality. The 50-ring-gauge thick by 4.8-inch long cigar delivers plenty of spicy and cappuccino like character. A beautiful smoke.
El Palenque, a large Havana food court, a local institution, stands out as an unpretentious and authentic eating spot that that attracts a large number of Cuban families and foreigners.
Incredibly clean, gorgeous and aromatic. Shows subtelty and finesse in the nose from real wood aging. Extremely rich and layered...
As I wrote already, it’s one of my all-time favorite Habanos and constantly delivers rich character of tobacco, leather, cedar, and cocoa as well as an underlying mineral or minty flavor.
The balance to this cigar is phenomenal...
The smallest of the trio of Behikes, this 52 is one of the best I can remember smoking. I usually prefer it the least.
The thick 54-gauge smoke is a force of nature and delivers plenty of spice and intense flavors. This is the bomb.
Established in 1995, around the same time as La Guarida, La Fontana in Miramar endured through the years and worked...
This is the most popular premium cigar sold in Cuba to visitors. A spicy smoke with cappuccino and cinnamon character shows the richness and balance I expect in a Serie D.
Balanced and harmonious with cedar, light coffee, cream and light spice. Long and flavorful. This never disappoints.
I have been a little disappointed.
This is one of the most upscale restaurants in Havana, located in Plaza de San Francisco in Habana Vieja (the very professional and jacketed waiters traded off-street salsa with classic live piano performance). The decor is striking and grandiose; you'll regret it if you dress down.
In a short span of two years since its opening in 2013, Mediterráneo has already amassed a loyal following among Havana foodies and visitors. The restaurant’s overall environment is agreeable: Mediterranean blue and white decor, spacious, airy, attractive and modern.
A dense and fresh deluxe rum with aromas of dried fruits, light toffee and citrus fruit such as oranges and...
This was a big surprise for me.
If you are pressed for time and have to pick one place to go for great food and drinks, make it O’Reilly 304, a hip and trendy bar in Old Havana.
Intense aromas of caramel, candied fruit and cedar. Amazing depth and richness, this subtle yet rich rum has breathtaking depth...
This torpedo was launched in 2012. It's a gorgeous smoke with a layered, cream texture with cedar, tobacco and white tea flavor.
This is the oldest square among Old Havana’s five squares built in the early 16th century. Plaza de Armas, was originally known as Plaza de la Iglesia.
This started off a tiny bit bitter but calmed down to what it should be as I smoked it own with spice, mahogany, and walnut character and some dried earth. Read more: http://www.havanainsider.com/cigar/montecristo-edmundo/
El Cocinero, an airy bar in Vedado, has one of the most extensive drink menus in Havana. There are over 30 different cocktails.
Extremely complex and subtle aromas of dried flowers, cedar and sandalwood. Clean spirits. This is really rich and complex with...
Subtle and complex with flan and cream aromas. This has always been a favorite with just the right balance of...
The cigar was rich and spicy...
Plaza de la Catedral, the best preserved of the old squares in Habana Vieja, owes its name to Catedral de San Cristobal...
Clean and floral aromas. Good standard rum for mixing drinkings with body and cleanliness.
Aromas of smoked wood, dried friut and citrus. Full-bodied, round textured with a rich palate of dried fruits and cedar....
It has a lot of spicy flavors, but it is very refined. I love the floral character. It takes on this intense espresso character. I love it.
Originally known as Plaza Nueva, meaning “new square” in English, Plaza Vieja was constructed in 1559, and was considered Havana’s...
Aromas of dried fruits, hints of cedar. Complex and subtle. The palate is a little underwhelming with a hot and...
This is a great cigar as always.
French-style bakery is still a new concept in Havana, and you’d be surprised by how some local bakeries can turn out jaw-dropping, hard-as-a-rock chocolate muffins. Bianchini is in a class of its own, a bakery-cum-café that first opened near Plaza de Sanfrancisco over ten years ago.
Floral and woody with cedar and toasted oak. A little hot and unbalanced with some plastic and slightly unclean spirit...
It has a hint of acidity that old Montes...
Café El Escorial is the closest thing Havana has to Starbucks, minus the takeout services. If you insist, bring along your own mug or even a Ziploc bag (like Cubans do) for a café con leche, the holy grail at this quaint café shop on Plaza Vieja, for only $1.2 CUC!
Very spicy, molasses and brown sugar. Very sweet style with candied apple, caramel and toffee character. Too much for a...
Castillo del Morro (Morro Castle), short for Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro, standing at the mouth of Havana Bay, is an iconic landmark in Havana.
Pretty dried flowers, spice and light caramel. Round and rich with some wood and cream texture on the palate, but...
This is a little soapy and very strong.
Very different from La Zorra y el Cuervo, Jazz Café is located on the second floor of a glass covered...
A little waxy with plastic undertones. Light toffee. A pleasant and well-done rum with cedar and spice character. A little...
From the usher, dressed in a Russian sailor suit, greeting guests at the front entrance, to its vintage Soviet propaganda...
In recent years, Don Cangrejo has become one of the most sought-after venues on a Friday night in Havana. Also...
Light caramel and light brown sugar. Clean spirit. Dense and flavorful with a slightly burn but delicious and satisfying. Where...
Lots of caramel and molasses, dried fruits on the nose. Full and spicy, with light cedar, honey and caramel character....