If you know me for longer than five minutes you probably know that I am obsessed with salsa dancing. Specifically, the style that I’ve been dancing for the past five years is Cuban style salsa. Before that, I had been dancing LA style salsa for about six years. With this in mind, you can understand why I was so thrilled to be able to go to Cuba where I could see if what I’ve been learning in my salsa academies here matches up with what was really happening in Cuba!
First of all, it does match up! If you are ever interested in taking really affordable salsa classes (about $2 USD for a month of group classes) you can come to Venezuela and study with people who are passionate about salsa casino/rueda de casino/Cuban style salsa. Anyway, back to Cuba!
While searching the internet (in English) I couldn’t find much information about places for people to dance and take salsa lessons. I have already talked about my experience in different cities, but I thought it would be helpful to put it all into one place.
For starters, I had many people tell me that Havana is where all of the best dancers go, and I agree. However, you can still find some really nice dancers in other parts of the country. I still had fun dancing in almost every place I went!
In Havana I found the largest number of salsa schools. However, after dancing with their instructors (12CUC an hour) the first day I visited Salsabor a Cuba, I didn’t feel the need to go anywhere else.
Dance Academies in Havana
Salsabor A Cuba
Address of dance school ‘Salsabor a Cuba’: Street Neptuno # 558, between Escobar and Lealtad, first floor, Central Havana, Havana, Cuba Use entrance on the right and go up the staircase. Mobile Yaliuska (also called Yaly or China): (+53) 5 439 59 23
Phone (Cuba): +53 54487039
Salsa Amiga Allstar:
Places to go out dancing in Havana
I went to El Canon three times in Havana because I found so many fantastic dancers there, it had a wonderful dance floor, strong AC, and good drinks.
The only place I heard live salsa music was Café Cantante. The band was great, but I wasn’t so interested in the contest that they did before the band played. I would have rather just danced the night away.
I really wanted to go to the Casa de la Musica in Havana Centro but it was closed for renovations. There was another one open, but it was much further away (like half an hour away, I was told) and I was very happy with El Canon so I didn’t go.
Some people were saying good things about Bar Florida, but that was in a fancy hotel and I only saw a lot of white tourists going in there… so I kept walking.
Another place that many tourists recommended was 1830. It is government owned and there is often live music and dancing that starts at 9:30. It is also a lot further away from Havana Vieja and would require a taxi to get to.
I didn’t go dancing in Vinales because I could barely walk after going horseback riding for five hours! Lol. A local I met said that they always have salsa dancing at the Casa de la Musica in Vinales.
Santiago de Cuba
I feel like Santiago de Cuba deserves a do-over because it seemed like all of the Cubans were spending time with their families during Christmas Eve and Christmas Night rather than out salsa dancing.
I went to the Casa de la Trova in the evening one night. The live band played mostly Son music with a couple of salsa songs thrown in. The cover charge was 5CUC for the evening show. There were mostly white tourists sitting at the large tables blocking what could be a good dance floor. There was hardly anybody dancing and I felt kind of cramped dancing in the small space between the tables. They had a dance performance for a couple of songs, but it was only one couple performing and it was a pretty average performance.
I’ve heard that Casa de Las Tradiciones and La Claqueta Bar are better for dancing with non-tourists, but when I walked by them they didn’t have many people there (probably due to the holidays).
I didn’t make it to Casa de la Trova, but my casa owner assures me that the music here is top notch and that this place is worth the visit. When I stopped by during the day, the man at the door told me that the music doesn’t start until 10pm.
Casa de la Musica– there is live music for much of the day and definitely ALL night EVERY night. I saw the best shows here! If you are looking for great music and even a show or two you have to go here. Just be sure to show up early if you want to get a spot to sit. If you are like me and want to dance, it is probably best if you sit as close as possible to the band (right at the edge of the dance space- it is not a proper dance floor by any stretch of the imagination). Try to look nice, but where comfortable shoes if you plan on dancing because the stone floor is very uneven and heels would be nearly impossible to dance in here.
Dance with the locals at the Casa de la Trova. While the music and shows are arguably better at Casa de la Musica, for the same price, and just half a block away, you can enjoy a more local feel at the Casa de la Trova. The dance floor here is much better than at Casa de la Musica, and so are the dancers. At Casa de la Musica it is packed full of white tourists who sway or hop around drunkenly on the dance floor, whereas Casa de la Trova was filled with Cuban people willing to talk, dance, and share a bottle of rum with you. This was my favorite spot by far!
While you can pay through your nose to take lessons at Casa de la Musica, I preferred the in-home lessons that I was able to arrange through the Casa de la Cultura. I had about four hours of private classes with Rosa and her husband Carlos (two teachers for the price of one!) in their house. I mostly worked with Rosa on ladies styling and then she would have me practice using it while dancing with her husband. I loved these classes and was very happy to pay the 10CUC an hour that she requested.
Sadly the Club Benny More was dead when I passed by with only a couple of people inside. Despite returning the next night, neither “El Benny” (as it is also known) nor Café Teatro Terry had salsa going on. New Year’s is not a good day to party in Cienfuegos!
In Varadero, I went salsa dancing at Calle 62 and enjoyed live music and a show with some friends I made at my posada. It was definitely not as good as the live music I heard in Havana or Trinidad, but it was on par with the group I saw in Santiago de Cuba. Sadly most of the people there were tourists (kinda unavoidable in Varadero), but I made friends with the DJ and danced with him a lot.
I absolutely loved my three weeks dancing my way around Cuba and I really hope I can go back again one day! Some of my friends have gone on dance retreats here during the school year, but sadly I will most likely only be able to return in the summer (July is most likely)
Did you go salsa dancing in Cuba? Please leave the name of the club/academy or of your instructor below!