Cuba may have a bad rep when it comes to its culinary scene, but we’re here to tell you all that is changing! Away from the mass-produced buffets of the country’s beach resorts are tasty treats being served by indie street vendors and shops, which are now allowed to operate under new government rules for local business.
So these days, if you’re hungry in Havana, you’ve got plenty of options to choose from. But that being said, supplies are still often difficult to come by in Cuba, so you never really know what you’re going to get! Sometimes items that were available one day might not be there the next, so locals know just to go with the flow. We’ll do the same on this Havana food tour – we’ve got our favourite spots picked out, but we may have to change our stops depending on availability. No matter what, though, we promise it’ll be a tasty time!
We’ll start our Havana food tour with an overview of the local business economy, from how locals cope with the ever-changing availability of goods to the differences between “tourist” and “local” currencies. But don’t worry, we won’t linger too long, because your first snack awaits! We’ll dig into delicious cangrejitos — fried dough filled with guava and shaped like crab claws, to give us a sugary rush and send us on our way!
Next up, we’ll visit a shop with a story. As we dig into a savoury, fish-filled crepe (crepe de pescado empanisado, if you’re practicing your Spanish skills!), you’ll meet the owner: a Japanese woman who married a Cuban. You’ll get to hear her story and learn what it was like for her to move to Havana and create a life here amid all the changes.
One of the most popular snack foods in all of Cuba might come as a surprise: it’s that iconic American meal, the hamburger! But because beef is so rare in Cuba (in fact, there’s a serious prison penalty for those who kill cows, that dates back to the revolution — be sure to get the story from your local guide!), true Cuban-style hamburguesas are made from other meats, typically ground pork or chorizo.
We’ll then grab some papa rellena (stuffed, fried mashed potato balls) or maybe some croquetas (fried, breaded balls filled with meat, cheese or vegetables), which are popular among Cuba’s exile community and commonly found in Cuban restaurants in the USA. Alternately, we may pop by a little stand we love, that serves frituras de maiz (corn fritters) — remember, the availability of items can change daily in Cuba, so we’ve got a few different options for stops we can take you to! While you’re snacking, your local guide will share with you all the #localsknow secrets of which restaurants serve the best frituras and croquetas in Old Havana.
There’s a strong Chinese influence and history in Cuba, and we’ll learn all about it with a stop for fried rice (with or without pork). You’ll learn about the popularity of cajitas (cardboard boxes) and cardboard spoons for food orders.
We’ll then grab a refreshing fruit shake, called a batido, from a young entrepreneur in his 20s. He’ll talk with us about the economic reforms that have come into place in 2011 and 2013, which granted licenses for locals to open businesses such as his. You’ll also learn about typical Cuban fruits such as mamey (a creamy, sweet fruit) and guanabana (soursop), and other popular drinks such as sugarcane juice, or guarapo.
Have you heard about the famous “peso pizza” of Cuba? Mentioned in almost every guidebook to Havana, the peso pizza shop is an iconic street food stop, so of course we’ll pop in! Pizza is very popular in Cuba, and we’ll chat about the local production of Cuban cheese.
Finally, it’s time for dessert! Churros are found everywhere on the streets of Havana, a throwback to the country’s Spanish influence. We’ll learn some of the history of Spain and Cuba, and sample these deliciously crispy, fried delights. As we walk, we’ll pass by the famous Museo de Chocolate. We won’t stop in, but we’ll point it out to you so you can come back later and browse at your leisure after the tour (our pick: get the rum-filled chocolates!).
And if your sweet tooth still isn’t satisfied, we’ve got one last tasty treat: coconut ice cream. Our favourite seller is Alex, a guy who is super fun and campy (ask him about his dreams to go to Canada). We’ll talk about the intense popularity of ice cream in Cuba (don’t be surprised if you see people eating it even in the morning!), and how gourmet ice cream parlours are popping up. Ice cream sandwiches, cones and ice pops are all favourites among locals. While you’re in Cuba, be sure to try mantecado ice cream — a Spanish-style shortbread that makes for a totally unique flavour!
We’ll finish our Havana food tour here, but before you go, be sure to ask your local guide for tips on what else to see and do (and where else to eat!) while you’re in town.
(If you’d prefer to travel as part of a regular group experience, please book our Old Havana Street Eats tour)
This tour is priced for a minimum group size of two travellers. A solo traveller may still book this private experience but will be charged the base rate for two travellers.
Inclusions: Local English-speaking guide, street food samples (note that inclusions depend on what is available that day, but snacks could include churros, croquetas, pizza, a sandwich, ice cream or other treats), one drink.
Exclusions: Additional food and drinks, souvenirs and personal shopping, tips/gratuities for your guide, transportation to/from the meeting point/end point.
Dress standard: Please bring water and proper sun protection.
Confirmation of booking: If you have your voucher, your booking is confirmed. We'll see you at the start point. Get in touch if you have any concerns or require more information via the email address or phone number (business hours only) on your voucher.
Closure of sites: All stops are subject to change due to the ever-evolving situation of private businesses in Cuba. If any stop is not available, it will be substituted by a similar and equally awesome vendor. Slight detours may be necessary.
Child Policy: This is a child-friendly tour. Children between the ages of 6 and 11 inclusively are permitted on this tour at the rate listed above. Please select ‘child’ above when booking. Children under the age of 6 are permitted to join this tour free of charge. Please inform us at the time of booking if you’ll be bringing a child under the age of 6. You can do so in the special request box on the checkout page.