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Miami is a food lover’s dream, and while you’ll find a wide variety of international cuisines, Latin American flavors are particularly abundant. These global menus are not only a feast for the palate, but also a window into the history and culture of immigrants who now call Miami home. One neighborhood offering authentic culinary delights is Little Havana, where Cuban food is intertwined with art, music and, of course, cigars.

RELATED: 7 Havana attractions you can’t wait to see

Miami Culinary Tours offers an in-depth look into the Cuban way of life through its “Little Havana Food and Cultural Tour.” The leisurely two-and-a-half-hour tour covers only eight short blocks along the neighborhood’s famous Calle Ocho (8th Street) and includes the following establishments and points of interest. Tour goers will enjoy nearly full-sized servings at each of the five restaurants (not a mere “sample”), plus a cocktail or two.

Photo courtesy of Miami Culinary Tours

Photo courtesy of Miami Culinary Tours

El Pub Restaurant

Indulge in an empanada, a staple in Cuban cuisine. A traditional filling is picadillo—ground beef, tomato, olives, raisins and spices. This is one of the oldest restaurants in the area and is popular with Little Havana locals.

Cuba Tobacco Cigar Co. Cigar Factory

The Bello family has been making cigars for more than 100 years. Now the fifth generation is continuing the legacy. At their shop, visitors can watch the skilled craftsmanship it requires to roll a cigar, try one, or take one home for a souvenir or gift.

Ball & Chain

Havana is known as the birthplace of the Mojito, a classic Cuban cocktail made with white rum, sugar, lime juice, soda water, and muddled mint. This historic Miami bar and lounge, which dates back to the 1930s, not only serves Cuban-inspired food and drinks, but is known for its live music on the Pineapple Stage.

Domino Park

Officially known as Maximo Gomez Park, the park is named after Major General Maximo Gomez who fought for Cuban independence from Spain. This landmark gathering place has been attracting a typically older Cuban crowd for lively games of dominos for more than three decades. Players come to enjoy the game, the gossip and the company.

Old’s Havana Cuban Bar & Cocina

Located in the heart of Little Havana, next to the historic Tower Theatre, this restaurant serves up an amazing Cubano sandwiches  made with ham, sliced roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard on pressed Cuban-style bread. The walls are decorated with images and memorabilia of a pre-Castro Cuba while a juke box pumps out classic Cuban music.

Bay of Pigs monument

This monument represents the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba by the United States in 1961. The event strengthened Castro’s leadership and relations between Cuba and the Soviet Union, which eventually led to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

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La Ventanita

La Ventanita, or “the little window,” is the walk-up take out window of Miami’s most famous Cuban restaurant, Versailles. People come for the guava pastries and strong Cuban coffees served in tiny cups, but stay for the banter, discussions and gossip. The cortadito, like a shot of super sweet espresso, is a local favorite. This is how Miamians in Little Havana get their day started.

Photo by Sharael Kolberg

Photo by Sharael Kolberg

Cubaocho Museum and Performing Art Center

This cultural arts center is free to the public and features an impressive historic extended collection of Cuban art dating from 1800 to the 1960s, as well as modern-day artists. The venue is also used for music and dance performances.

Photo by Sharael Kolberg

Yisell Bakery

Stop off for a guava pastelito baked fresh daily at Yisil Bakery. The mouthwatering filling is smooth, light, not too sweet, and incredibly flavorful. This is just one of many inexpensive pastries and desserts sold at this bakery favored by locals and tourists alike.

Photo by Hanna Friberg

Photo by Hanna Friberg

Los Pinarenos Fruteria

Enjoy a glass of refreshing guarapo (sugarcane juice) at this tropical fruit stand. Learn about various exotic tropical fruits found in South Florida, such as plantains, coconuts, avocados, mangoes, guavas and more.

Azucar Ice Cream Company

End the day with a sweet artisanal mantecado ice cream at this Miami hotspot where you’ll find exotic flavors such as Platano Maduro (Sweet Plantain), Guarapiña (Sugarcane and Pineapple), Café con Leche (Cuban Coffee & Oreo), and Zapaticos de Rosa (Rose Petal). Made with high quality, all natural ingredients, It’s the perfect way to cool down on a hot Miami day.

Looking to extend your stay in Little Havana? Orbitz has plenty of hotels in the area to choose from.

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Sharael Kolberg

Sharael Kolberg

​Sharael, founder of Family Travel Channel (familytravelchannel.com), has been writing about travel since 1995. Her work has appeared in Sunset magazine, Outside magazine, ForbesTravelGuide.com, MSN.com, and many others. Follow her on Twitter @FamTravChannel.

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