Miami does offer many opportunities for you to try not only Cuban meals but also almost any meal from Latin America and the Caribbean. When looking for a Cuban meal, you can visit any Cuban coffee shop or restaurant to delight yourself with the classic ropa vieja or vaca frita de pollo washed down with you favorite classic mojito (or flavored: strawberry or passion fruit) followed by a cortadito.
My personal favorite for Cuban meals will always be Versailles Restaurant; although I you can also head to the nearby restaurant La Carreta which can also fill your cravings for a lesser price, and an authentic vibe being alongside the locals.
Once you have had your dose of Cuban meals, make sure you head to the Fashion District and try Michael's Genuine Food & Drinks which happens to be one of those restaurant experiences you can't miss.
Herein you will find my favorite Cuban eateries ... lesser known by tourists BUT frequented by locals:
1821 SW 8th St., Miami, FL 33135
This spot in Calle Ocho (the original location) shares the spotlight with their other two locations in Miami and another one in Hialeah. Nonetheless, this IS a place you can't miss as eating a frita or Cuban burger, is something worth trying. Do note that they do serve other Cuban favorites as well.
Next on the list ...
186 NE 29th St., Miami, FL 33137
Enriqueta's sandwiches stay true to their Cuban origin. For example, the above photographed Media Noche sandwich is a mouth-watering combination of slow-roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard. Check out their menu here.
This is the place where locals - at the moment, mainly the next door construction workers - nearby hipsters and tourist alike come together to enjoy a sandwich or the meal of the day.
Although their parking lot can handle a maximum of 12 cars at a time, do take this into consideration when making your way there. Other alternatives may include parking along the street or finding a spot in the construction workers' parking lot (if lucky) just diagonal to Enriqueta's.
Miami is home to one of the biggest collections of Art Deco architecture, a true melting pot for food and cultural infusions that can be of inspiration for almost any traveler.
Miami is also the indisputable capital of Latin America; so make sure you do make proper arrangements in advance if you plan to head there and truly live the Miami experience.
In this post, I will include some of the districts and locales you can't miss when experiencing this part of paradise in Florida.
The Wynwood Art District:
For Instagram lovers and alike, the Wynwood Art District is a must visit. The entire neighborhood is covered with murals and graffiti that will appeal to every artistic taste as each one of them is worthy of a photo. Therefore, do pace yourself and make sure you put on enough sunscreen as you visit the following top 10 galleries listed here but also make sure you make your way to the Wynwood Walls.
Within the Wynwood Walls, you will encounter a free curated exhibition of international artists to get you started in this district. The entire courtyard offers a stunning urban art collection of murals and paintings that draws crowds year-round.
Herein, a very small (tiny) representation of their collection:
But do not despair, the majority of the murals and graffiti designs are all over and around the district.
Personally, I was mainly interested in finding the mural by Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra who uses kaleidoscopic-themed murals to make his statements.
The one below was unveiled in 2015 and became quite a social media sensation from the very beginning.
The Art Deco architecture:
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Miami's South Beach is part of the city's Art Deco District. The streets that stretch from 18th Street and south along Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue are home to the largest collection of this type of architecture.
If you happen to be into the unique styles of architecture predominant here such as Art Deco, Mediterranean Revival or MiMo (Miami Modernism), check out this listing.
For a true experience of Art Deco infrastructure, stroll along the Ocean Drive strip and head north along the beach side of the road in order to see the neon lights in their most dazzling glory.
Do check out:
My photo of the Hanauma State Park in O'ahu was featured on IG:
When in O'ahu ... do book the Grand Circle Island Tour! Do note that it's almost impossible to circumnavigate the entire island due to the lack of roads; therefore, let your tour operator take the wheel and enjoy the scenic views the east half of the island has to offer.
My friend and I booked this tour online through Roberts Hawaii but we did so without paying extra for the deluxe upgrade which includes a buffet lunch at Kuala Ranch.
Although you can find more details through Roberts Hawaii, this post will portray the highlights of my experiences while on this tour:
You can always come back, watch the introductory film about the park and then just sunbathe, relax or start your search for the State fish of Hawai'i - a triggerfish - called Humuhumunukunukuapua'a.
This location is also the site of the Battle of Nu'uanu where former King Kamehameha I on 1795 was able to join all of the islands that comprise Hawai'i. Our tour guide told us that during the battle, many warriors were driven to this high pali or cliff and were pushed or forced to jump off the cliff.
Hear the wind roar and for a few seconds, feel its strength as if the wind would lift you up
and carry you away!
Later on, as you have already soaked in the views and imagined the battle that took place here, it's time to start descending from being all elevated and almost nearly touching the clouds, to being back on the O'ahu coastline.
The tour always turns left when it arrives at the junction near the bottom; otherwise you could go straight into the azure ocean for some R&R at Kailua Beach.
As the tour continues through the coastline and into the North Shore, it's time to head to:
Before lunch, the tour operator has organized a tram ride throughout part of the Kualoa Ranch which makes you feel as being in the movie Jurassic Park; but as a matter of fact, most of the Kualoa Regional Park was the site where most of the footage took place. So if you decide to come back later, do check out the different activities that this ranch has to offer.
Moreover, this area was considered sacred to Hawaiians:
While on the tram ride, you will be able to have this great panoramic view of the surroundings but more specifically, that of the Chinaman's hat island.
The Chinaman's Hat island is known to locals as Mokoli'i meaning little lizard as legend has it that a Hawaiian goddess slew a dragon and cut off its tail tossing it into the ocean and thus the remains of that tail is known as Mokoli'i Island. To others (the general public), this island is known as Chinaman's hat island as it resembles the hat worn by Chinese peasants in rural China.
More info on this island here.
My advice: If it's that crowded with other tours and tourists, just head straight to the far back right counter to order their world famous Dole Whip!
... and well, that's all for now folks, I hope you enjoyed my highlights from this Grand Circle Island Tour!
A trip to O'ahu is not complete without attending a luau!
My friends and I chose Germaine's Luau as the winner of our last minute decision to attend a luau before departing the great island of O'ahu. There are two main choices out there but this one had a less expensive yet well-reviewed profile.
So, what exactly is a luau? I'll leave it to our hosts to better explain it to you here.
Good to know:
This pig has been underground for at least 6-7 hours absorbing the smoke and steam from banana leaves, koa wood and its own fat in order to create a consistent flavor! Hmmmmmm!
So on your next visit to O'ahu ... make Germaine's Luau a must!
House without a key which is the best place to wind down and enjoy a mai tai (but not cheap) while listening to a live band accompany one of the former winners of Miss Hawai'i dance; and all of this set, having the beach of Waikiki and Diamond Head (volcanic crater) as background.
So once you have gotten your fair share of stumbling upon ABC Store after ABC Store, just head to the beaches that form part of this stretch of white sand, lay back and relax.
These same pigeons are known for being used in years past as messengers as they are quick to recognize individuals and even letters. In short, whether these white rock pigeons are a menace or not, it will definitely be a conversation starter with the Waikiki residents!
I only knew about this place thanks to a colleague/friend of mine with whom we exchanged text messages while I was in Hawai'i and she told me not to miss this ice-cream parlor; and let me tell you, after a full day of sightseeing and perusing around the area ... a well-crafted and exquisitely delicious ice-cream came in as a blessing and a well-deserved reward!
Amongst their gourmet ice-cream selection, I would recommend coming up with your own creation (Hana Hou) but do make sure to try out the Can't decide if you just simply can't.
Depending on the season, you may also be lucky enough (but be cautious) to see some monk seals resting and sun bathing on the beaches nearby.
Just a few minutes East of Waikiki, you'll reach the Diamond Head park. I would highly recommend that you head out there as early as 7 a.m., and even at this time, you will still find quite a crowd making their way up to the summit of this 760 foot tuff crater, being O'ahu's most famous landmark.
The views from above are stunning as you gaze at Waikiki and O'ahu's southern shores.
Heading a bit further north, you'll come to ...
A little hasta pronto with a Hawaiian flair ...
... and although there are many other sites to visit, places to explore and food to try out, these are my best memories while in Waikiki and the Honolulu area as I shared them with new friends.
So to conclude, make sure your visit to O'ahu is not void of getting "leid".
My trip to the island of O'ahu was mainly to participate at an intensive summer institute at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa sponsored by its National Foreign Language Resource Center (NFLRC). At this summer institute close to 20 world languages educators came together to learn how to implement PBLL (Project-based Language Learning) in our classes. If you happen to be a WL educator, please follow my blog about this summer institute here.
Our accommodations were made possible at the East-West Center Housing facilities; and although very grateful, I can tell you that it was quite the experience to once again be part of a university life, like being back in Grad School!