The Hotel Telégrafo (Paseo de Martí #408, esq. Neptuno, tel. 07/861-1010, CUC5) has a small cabaret espectáculo on Friday at 5 p.m. and Saturday at 9 p.m.
Centro Habana and Cerro
Cabaret Nacional (San Rafael, esq. Prado, tel. 07/863-2361, CUC5), in the dingy basement of the Gran Teatro, has a modest espectáculo nightly at 10 p.m. The campy show normally doesn’t begin until later, and is followed by a disco. A dress code applies. It packs in Cubans on weekends for steamy dancing; ostensibly only couples are admitted.
You can safely skip the cabaret espectáculo in the basement of the Hotel Deauville without fear of missing a stunning experience.
Vedado and Plaza de la Revolución
The most lavish show is the Cabaret Parisien (Calle O, esq. 21, tel. 07/836-3863, CUC29, or CUC58 with dinner), in the Hotel Nacional. The Cubano cubano show is offered nightly at 10 p.m. The dinner special (CUC50–70) is best avoided. The place is cramped and fills with smoke, and while the show is nowhere near the scale of the Tropicana, it has plenty of color and titillation. It’s handily right in the heart of Vedado and thus beats the long trek out to Marianao for the Tropicana.
The Cabaret Copa Room (Paseo y Malecón, tel. 07/836-4051, CUC20, or CUC45 with dinner and cocktail), in the Hotel Habana Riviera, hosts a cabaret (Thurs.–Sun. at 10 p.m.). The venue specializes in the Latin beat and often features the top names in live Cuban music, such as Los Van Van. It’s one of Havana’s top spots for serious salsa fans.
Catering mostly to a tourist crowd, the contrived Habana Café (Paseo, e/ 1ra y 3ra, tel. 07/833-3636, ext. 147, nightly 8 p.m.–3 a.m.), adjoining the Hotel Meliá Cohiba, offers cabaret. A classic Harley-Davidson, an old Pontiac, and a 1957 open-top, canary-yellow Chevy add a dramatic effect, as does an airplane suspended from the ceiling. (Suddenly the car horns beep, the headlamps flash, and you’ll hear the roar of an airplane taking off. Then the curtains open and—voilà—the show begins.) Entrance is usually free, but a CUC5 consumo mínimo applies (entrance costs CUC20 when top bands such as Los Van Van and Charanga Habanera play). It also has a disco on Friday nights. You can make a night of it by dining on overpriced but reasonable-quality burgers (from CUC5) and even a banana split (CUC5). The venue relies heavily on the tourist trade, and there’s no shortage of jineteras—check your bill carefully, as scams are frequent.
Similar third-tier venues catering mostly to Cubans are Karachi Club (Calles 17 y K, tel. 07/832-3485, nightly 10 p.m.–4 a.m., CUC5); Centro Nocturno La Red (Calle 19 #151, esq. L, tel. 07/832-5415, 10 p.m.–4 a.m., CUC1–2), with karaoke on Monday, Latin music on Wednesday, comedy Thursday–Saturday, followed by disco; and the dingy Club Amanecer (Calle 15, e/ O y N, 10 p.m.–3 a.m., CUC5), with a small cabaret espectáculo Monday–Tuesday, karaoke Wednesday–Thursday, and live music Friday–Saturday.
Playa (Miramar and Beyond)
The Tropicana is Havana’s top cabaret.
The small open-air cabaret at La Cecilia (5ta Av. #11010, e/ 1110 y 112, tel. 07/204-1562, Fri.–Sat. 9:30 p.m., Fri. CUC5, Sat. CUC10) has improved and draws monied foreign residents and Cuba’s youthful hipsters for the disco that follows. Top bands often perform (CUC20–25).
Macumba Habana (Calle 222, e/ 37 y 51, tel. 07/273-0568, Sat. 5 p.m.–midnight, Sun. 5–11 p.m., CUC5–15), in the La Giraldilla complex in the La Coronela district, offers a small espectáculo at 9:30 p.m. with a different theme nightly.
Other second-tier venues include the Hotel Comodoro (1ra Av. y Calle 84, tel. 07/204-5551) and Hotel Kohly (Av. 49 y 36A, Rpto. Kohly, Playa, tel. 07/204-0240, free), on Monday and Wednesday at 9 p.m.
Cuba’s catwalk divas strut at La Maison (Calle 16 #701, esq. 7ma, Miramar, tel. 07/204-1543, CUC5), renowned for its desfiles de modas (fashion shows) and cabaret espectáculo (Thurs.–Sun. 10 p.m.) in the terrace garden of an elegant old mansion. Reservations are recommended. Matinees show at 4 p.m. Wednesday–Thursday and Saturday–Sunday.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Cuba, 5th Edition