Even If You Like Hemingway, Avoid the Tourist Traps.

The Way of Hemingway

American writer Ernest Hemingway’s love for Cuba is widely known. Living there for 20 years, it was where he wrote his most famous novel, The Old Man and The Sea and became a friend to Fidel Castro. His love for the island was so great, he even gifted them with his Nobel Prize for Literature.

As such, Hemingway became a Cuban institution. Fans of the author can learn more about him by visiting “The Museo Hemingway” which houses thousands of books and photographs from his private collections. Those who fancy a drink can stop by some of his former hangouts, La Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio to sip his favorite daiquiris and mojitos.

When planning out my Cuban vacation, I included a visit to both of these bars on my list of things to do. It seemed a cool idea. So walking around Havana one afternoon, I stopped at La Floridita looking forward to a break from the heat and a chance to have a cold drink. I had hoped to take out my notebook and write for a while. Cuba leaves an impression on you, especially as a first timer and I was anxious to put it on paper.

What did I find? An old bar that wasn’t really that nice. Overpriced food and drinks. American themed music playing in the background. A small space crowded with tourists, fighting their way towards the Hemingway statue for that token photo opportunity. Drunken men paired with local women who could only afford to be there because of their companion’s financial generosity. Pressure by wait staff and fellow tourists to consume my drink and meal as fast as possible so someone else could occupy my seat.

La Floridita - A Hemingway Haunt in Havana
It was hard to feel inspired there. So I ate my sandwich, drank my mojito, took my Hemingway photo and quickly escaped the bar. I’ll never return and opted to skip La Bodeguita del Medio entirely.

Both bars are a tourist trap and a complete rip-off. Stay away!

For those of you who would like a more authentic Cuban experience. Try staying at a casa particular instead of a hotel. Walk along El Malecon at sunset. Check out a live rumba performance at Callejón de Hamel. Do something, anything, other than visit these bars.

Founder of cherylhoward.com. Canadian in Berlin. Frequent traveller now at 43 countries and counting.

18 Comments

  1. I loved that link to that Smithsonian article! As crazy as this sounds, I actually had the pleasure of spending a week with her in Israel on an archeological dig with my university back in June before this article. She is a very sweet woman and told us stories about Ernest and her family. I do miss her.

  2. Thanks Michael! I didn’t go to the Hemingway museum myself but heard it’s worth a visit. I’d avoid the bars for sure.

    If you have any questions about Cuba, drop me a line (cheryl dot howard at gmail dot com).

    Most of all, have a GREAT time on your trip. It’s a beautiful place!

  3. Hope you make it there …. it truly is wonderful .. so much so that I’m kinda itching to go back.

    If you ever need Cuba tips, definitely let me know. 🙂

  4. I have never visited Cuba. But if I ever do I will remember your tips. It’s very useful to post more tips like these.

  5. Yeah … it all depends on what you’re looking for I guess? I certainly didn’t find what I was expecting. At least now I know and if I ever return to Cuba … I’ll avoid the spot. 🙂

  6. I’ve commented before on this blog but would like to add an add’l comment. I am reading a book right now by Chen Lizra called My Seductive Cuba – A Unique Travel Guide. It is unique, it’s packed with info & I recommend it.

  7. @Leigh – thanks, I’ll add it my long list of travel books to read. I also read one called Es Cuba shortly before heading there and it was also quite good, especially how it shed light on living conditions there and helped let me know what to expect. It also convinced me to stay at a casa particular! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.