With Cuba being the birthplace of three classic tropical cocktails, the pina colada, daiquiri, and mojito, organizing a pub crawl while in Havana is one of the most obvious things a boozy tourist will want to do.  While tracing Hemmingway’s footsteps and visiting some of the trendiest pubs and lounges, a pub crawl will not only give you a buzz, it’ll also give you a great opportunity to explore Old Havana.

Let’s Get Drinking!

First things, first.  Plan to start your pub crawl of Old Havana in the afternoon hours for several reasons.  First, unlike some boozy cities like New Orleans and Key West, most places don’t start serving cocktails til lunch time (no mimosas, bloody mary’s, Irish coffees, or bellinis to be found!).  Also, Old Havana is best seen in daylight hours. Once the sun goes down, it gets awfully dark thanks to a lack of street level lighting, so you won’t see much if you are walking around at night.  Finally, Old Havana goes to bed early. By 10PM, the bars start to empty out and the streets get deserted as things start to wind down for the night with most bars closing around 11PM, or at the latest, midnight.

ChaChaCha Old Havana’s best pina colada

  • friendly, attentive staff
  • air conditioned
  • brand new, very clean
  • eclectic, colorful décor
  • great drinks, best pina colada

I happily stumbled upon ChaChaCha thanks to a lazy taxi driver who didn’t feel like driving through Old Havana to drop me off at my hotel, and instead, dropped me off on the edge of the neighborhood. It was a blessing in disguise, as I found my favorite bar /restaurant for drinks and food in Havana as a result.

I visited in December 2016, and at that time, Cha Cha Cha was brand new.  Although it is more of a restaurant than bar with plenty of seating both at street level and upstairs, it does have a small cozy bar with about 8 stools giving you the opportunity to chat with the bartender.  All the drinks being mixed up at Cha Cha Cha’s looked delicious, and everyone we asked told us their drink was very good.  I stuck with the pina coladas, as they were fruity, frozen and the most delicious I had while in Old Havana.  For the rest of my time in Havana, by midday, my friend and I happily headed over to Cha Cha Cha’s for our daily afternoon pina colada.

Cha Cha Cha’s is located on the edge of Old Havana right across the street from the Museum of the Revolution on Avenida Bélgica.  Google maps links you to a different address, so just look for the museum and locate the restaurant along the eastern side of it.

This is a great place to start your pub crawl of Old Havana because Cha Cha Cha’s not only has some of the best cocktails in Havana, but they also have really good food. Grab some lunch to get some food in your belly before starting your afternoon pub crawl. I recommend the ceviche, garlic shrimp and the chicken and rice dish.

El Floridita – Hemmingway’s  favorite daiquiri

  • historical
  • air conditioned
  • sophisticated decor
  • expensive
  • mediocre drinks

Two obligatory stops for cocktails in Old Havana for any first-time visitor happen to be two of Hemmingway’s haunts, El Floridita and La Bodeguita Del Medio.  There is no doubt, these two bars are extremely popular with tourists, and alas, have become tourist traps.  But nonetheless, they should still be part of any pub crawl of Old Havana.  However, I recommend grabbing the recommended cocktail, get the obligatory picture, and move on.  The drinks are overpriced and not that good.

Of the two most popular Hemmingway joints, El Floridita is the larger and more comfortable bar.  You shouldn’t have a problem finding a spot at the bar or a seat at one of the tables, as people don’t tend to linger here due to the mediocre and expensive drinks.  In fact, I saw plenty of tourists come in to just get a picture and leave (what fun is that?).  Instead, stay for the daiquiri, as El Floridita has the reputation of being “the cradle of the daiquiri”, so you have to at least try one.

El Floridita’s daiquiri might have been Hemmingway’s favorite in Old Havana, but it certainly was not mine.

It’s easy enough to find El Floridta, as it’s just across the street from the art museum (Museo de Bellas Artes) along Avenida Bélgica at the end of the popular pedestrian shopping street, Obispo.

Van Van – best prices for classic cocktails

  • cozy, relaxing, and on a quiet picturesque street
  • eclectic, colorful décor
  • reasonably priced

I think Van Van’s has to be one of the most relaxing and reasonably priced bars you’ll find in Old Havana. Regardless of the drink that you are in the mood for, this place makes some pretty decent cocktails at very reasonable prices.  I went for the trifecta here, trying the daiquiri, pina colada and mojito, and none disappointed.

Van Van’s felt a lot like Cha Cha Cha but on a much smaller scale.  I wondered if they were owned by the same partnership, but I never confirmed this. It’s easy to miss Van Van when you are walking down the street because it’s small and blends in beautifully with the pretty buildings on the quiet block it resides on.

Grab a seat at one of the small tables by the windows to enjoy your cocktail.  If you are there in the middle of the afternoon, it’s the perfect place to sit and relax as it is never overly crowded (this place is not on the tourist route). If you come back in the evening, it’s a bit busier as people will stop in for the local dish, viejo ropa, or to enjoy their drinks with live music.

This very charming bar and restaurant is easily one of my favorites in Old Havana thanks to the friendly staff.  Be sure to say hello to my favorite waiter, Juan.

O’Reilly 304 Bar – Old Havana’s best mojitos

  • small, but trendy and modern
  • air conditioned
  • best fruit flavored mojitos

Immediately upon my arrival in Old Havana, the buzz was all about the “304 Bar” located on O’Reilly Street. A bar simply named after its address was name dropped everywhere I went. My host at the casa particular was praising it, other tourists I bumped into were recommending it, so I finally decided to check it out.  It’s known for its flavored mojitos (the best!) and tapas platters (okay, nothing great). During my visit, they were mixing up watermelon and mango mojitos, and both were equally delicious.

Try to visit this place early due to the crowds that set in after 5:30.  If you do plan to arrive in the evening, you better have reservations.  Yes, this brand new, modern, air-conditioned bar and restaurant that feels like it was plucked out of NYC’s Greenwich Village is that popular (but it’s also that small, so it can’t handle large crowds).

El Frente – Old Havana’s best daiquiri

  • trendy and clean
  • very friendly staff
  • roof top bar
  • super-sized high quality drinks

For the best daiquiri in Old Havana, there’s none other than El Frente and their passion fruit daiquiri.  This trendy bar and restaurant is conveniently located on O’Reilly Street, right across from Bar 304.  It’s owned by the same partnership, so you can expect similar high quality drinks and a very similar (but slightly more expensive) menu.

If you are not able to get into Bar 304, the doorman will refer you across the street.  Be warned, they operate on a reservation system similar to Bar 304, so you probably won’t get a table after 6PM without reservations.  However, their bar area on the roof is bigger than Bar 304, and they also have a small balcony on the 2nd floor above the street with tables for 2 that you can usually grab without reservations.  The only downside is that these drinking areas are not air-conditioned, and on hot steamy days and nights in Havana, it’s not the ideal scenario when you are trying to cool off.

One thing to note about both El Frente and Bar 304 is that they serve the most amazing pico de gallo.  When you order drinks, it will be served with equally delicious banana chips.  It is addictive!   I found out that it is made in-house, and they sell large jars for 10CUC.  I was tempted to bring some home, but I just wasn’t brave enough to transport it in my suitcase full of cigars and risk a costly accident.  Maybe next time!

La Bodeguita del Medio – Hemmingway’s favorite mojito

  • warm drinks
  • small and crowded
  • no air conditioning
  • historical

The other popular Hemmingway haunt found in Old Havana is conveniently located next to one of the prettiest squares in Old Havana so be sure to check it out after you drink your mojito.  La Bodeguita is a very small place that attracts big crowds.  It’s a place I would have no problem walking past if it wasn’t for the fact that Hemmingway supposedly used to like to stop there for mojitos.  So, it is one of those obligatory stops for a quick drink while in Old Havana.

With a constant stream of tourists and just big enough to hold maybe 10 people, you’ll sometimes find crowds of people waiting on the street for a chance to get in to drink a very mediocre mojito.  These bartenders are mixing up hundreds of mojitos a day, you’d think they’d be able to make a half decent one.  But alas, it’s a great picture op and at least there’s live music to help keep your mind off the mojito as you try to get it down the hatch.

 

Have you been to Havana?  What were your favorite spots to enjoy the classic cocktails of Cuba? Share in the comments below.