With only 90 miles separating the two islands, it’s no wonder that the Cuban flavor has been infused into Key West’s laid-back lifestyle. Florida’s backyard paradise has served as a haven for Cuban immigrants for centuries, allowing the Cuban culture to seep into the roots of Key West. This guide will showcase the best spots to learn more about the history and sabor de Cuba around the Conch Republic.
Key West’s Cuban Heritage
The San Carlos Institute is an iconic landmark founded in 1871 by Cuban exiles of Key West as an educational, civic, and patriotic center. Considered to be the cradle of Cuba’s independence movement, this historical building serves as a beacon of hope for many Cuban-Americans. It was there that José Martí united the exiled community to launch the final phase of his campaign for Cuba’s independence in 1892. Located on Duval Street, this institute provides the perfect glimpse into the fascinating relationship between Key West and the Cuban community.
Key West Cigar Shops
The Original Key West Cigar Factory
When Cubans originally migrated to Key West, they brought the Havana cigar business with them. These cigar makers imported tobacco leaves from Cuba and started rolling them by hand. Making sure the historical significance of The Original Key West Cigar Factory didn’t pass quietly, it now stands as a historical landmark and wonderful tourist attraction. Drop by Duval Street and explore their incredible line of cigars, hats, and accessories.
Key West Havana Cigar Company
The tradition of making and enjoying fine hand-rolled cigars has been passed down from generation to generation in Key West. The Key West Havana Cigar Company offers only the finest cigars, providing their customers with a traditional Cuban experience. Located on the historic Duval Street, the shop’s ambiance is ideal for the cigar aficionado.
Explore Cuban History in Key West
Cayo Hueso y Habana
Located in the historic Mallory Square, The Cayo Hueso y Habana Historeum brings some of Cuba’s finest traditions to Key West. Inside the beautiful red brick building you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported back to early Havana. Cuban food, music, art, and spices can all be found within this must stop tourist attraction.
Find the Best Cuban Food in Key West
El Meson de Pepe
Located in the popular Old Town neighborhood of Key West and next to Mallory Square, El Meson de Pepe has been crafting authentic cuban food and drinks for more than 30 years. Enjoy the best mojitos and caipirinhas in paradise and witness the breathtaking Conch Republic sunset by the Patio Bar. This popular Cuban restaurant features classic dishes just like Abuela made them!
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Discover Cuban Cocktails
Walk down Duval street and you’ll find Paradise Restaurant, a hidden gem serving Cuban, Columbian, and Caribbean food. The fun atmosphere and fully stocked bar makes this cuban restaurant the perfect spot for a late night mojito. Walk in for the delicious food, but stay for the lively and fun ambiance.
Cuban Coffee Queen
Ask anybody in the Conch Republic where they can find the best Colada and Café Con Leche in the Conch Republic and you’re bound to hear the Cuban Coffee Queen mentioned once or twice. You can often find the true cafeteros waiting for their fix by the traditional Ventanita. Drop by this Cuban restaurant for a quick coffee or one of their delicious sandwiches and smoothies.
Located on Elizabeth Street, in the Historic Seaport a few blocks away from Mallory Square, this Key West classic features a charmingly nostalgic ambience, cuban coffee, and delicious local cuisine. Serving up island favorites with a modern twist, this walk-up eatery is the rebirth of an old local favorite, where conchs came to swap stories over a morning coffee and catch up on the news of the day. Inspired by cuban food, the menu features a delicious mix of island favorites with traditional Conch Republic ingredients.
5 Brothers Grocery and Sandwich Shop is more of a Cuban bodega than Cuban restaurant, but that doesn’t stop people from lining up for their delicious sandwiches. A menu favorite is their Cuban Sandwich y Cafe duo. A delicious shot of authentic cuban coffee with a side of traditional Cuban sabor. Located on Duval Street, it’s easy to see what makes this spot such an island favorite!
Tourists and locals flock to Kim’s Kuban in Key West for delicious Mexican and Cuban food. This family owned latin restaurant features some of the best Cuban breakfast meals and traditional Mexican tacos on the island. Famous for their breakfast menu, this cuban restaurant is guaranteed to start your day the right way.
Experience Live Cuban Music
Mallory Square + El Meson
Make sure to cap off your day at Mallory Square by experiencing their legendary sunset celebrations. The Key West Sunset Celebration invites everyone to partake in watching the glowing pink and red sun sink into the Gulf of Mexico horizon. The nightly festival hosts visitors from all over. Dance the night away to your favorite salsa tunes at El Meson De Pepe, located within Mallory Square. Or walk along the scenic attraction, enjoying the magicians, jugglers, clowns, psychics, local musicians, artists, and food vendors that star in this incredible cultural experience.
Voted the best bar in Key West, Green Parrot’s is the place to be for live music in the Conch Republic. This fun and vibrant spot features a fully stocked bar and some of the top local musicians playing live music of all genres. Drop in for a quick drink and you’ll be instantly drawn to the charm and fun of this hidden gem.
There’s always an event to enjoy at Sunset Pier. Voted one of the 10 best bars in Key West by Condé Nast Traveler, this outdoor spot features live music and the perfect views of the breathtaking sunsets in paradise. One visit to this tropical oasis and it’s clear to see what makes it so special.
As you can see, the roots of the Cuban culture are infused throughout the entire island of Key West. From the delicious flavors to the vibrant music, it’s hard not to feel the influence reverberate around the Conch Republic. Hopefully this guide has painted a clearer picture for you of the Cuban American experience in Key West.