Where to go after dark in Cuba
With the reputation of being the Caribbean’s prime party destination, and one of the World’s top music hubs, a trip to Cuba would not be complete without an exploration of its nightlife hotspots. Cuban people have a passion for celebration that is infectious, and generally conveyed through their irresistible music, delicious rums, and genuine smiles.
Whilst the country abounds with bars, restaurants, and clubs, the best way to party here is with the locals, and although you may not know any Cuban people on your arrival in the country, chances are you will leave having made friends for life.
Experience the authenticity of the many paladres, discover the country’s latest talents at the various Casa de la Musica, get on a pub-crawl mission to find Cuba’s finest Mojito, or dance the night away at one of the capital’s clubs, or at a local party. Whatever takes your fancy, you’ll soon realise that the night is always young in Cuba!
As a tourist, you will find many opportunities to dance the night away, and Cubans are reputed to be the best salsa teachers. Jazz lovers will find plenty of live jazz clubs in La Havana, such as la Zorra y el Cuervo. Still in La Havana, places like Casa la Musica and Club Torquino are very enjoyable salsa club, but can get a bit crowded for some, who should rather go to Trinidad and Vinales, for live music and salsa in open-air surroundings.
For more live music, free concerts occasionally take place on the towns and cities main squares, usually called "Plaza de la Revolution", and most towns have a Casa de la Musica or Casa de la Trova with regular concerts.
If you happen to be spending New Year's Eve in Cuba, La Havana has a few options on offer to celebrate the new year either the touristy way (expensive organised parties loaded with tourists), or the local way (plan your stay in a Casa Particular on the night and you will have a fantastic time celebrating with the locals). Cuba's New Year's Eve tradition is to roast a pig and, when midnight strikes, to throw a bucket load of water through the window to chase the bad ghosts away.
Tropicana - an open air cabaret located in Havana and that has been running its renowned shows for over 60 years, without a sign of slowing down. La Havana's original cabaret show destination is a highly respected establishment that is still going strong.
Casa de la Musica Centro Havana - considered the best salsa venue in La Havana, this place has a very large dance floor and concert space and is the perfect spot to dance with the locals.
Casa de la Musica Miramar - with nightly concerts ranging from salsa and jazz to bolero, and daily afternoon jam sessions, this place is associated with the national recording label Egrem. Always a treat for the ears.
Callejon de Hamel, La Havana - Here you can catch the Afro-Cuban music and dance show by the renowned folkloric band Clave y Guaguanco, every Sunday from midday to 3pm.
El Gato Tuerto, La Havana - Art Deco and kitsch settings mixed with a dark, bohemian vibe, this venue's nightly shows are generally composed of three or four different acts, ranging from jazz to bolero, with poets, comedians or storytellers sometimes performing between each act.
Sabado de la Rumba at El Gran Palenque, La Havana - every Saturday at 3pm, catch the Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba's weekly Afro-Cuban show, mixing religious and laical dance and drumming at El Gran Palenque.
In Trinidad, go to the town's Casa de la Musica, for live music and dancing, or to the Palenque de le Congos Reales for some great Afro-Cuban beats. For a more relaxed atmosphere, go to the bars La Canchanchara, or Ruinas de Segarte, or go dance the night away in funky dance club La Cueva.
In Santiago, mix with the tourists at the Casa de la Trova, a legendary venue that has seen the birth of many of Cuba's most respected musicians and bands, or at the charming and authentic Casa de las Tradiciones, away from the tourists. If you can, try to catch one of the Ballet Folklorico Cutumba's performances, a highly professional Afro-Cuban dance group, based at the town's old Cine Galaxia.
In Baracoa, the Calle Antonio Maceo is the town's own little version of La Havana's Bourbon Street. At night, the street fills with people going from cafes and bars to live music venues and full-on dance clubs. A great atmosphere for such a small town!