Written by Kieran

Is Cuba A Travel Destination For Foodies?

Cuba is not a travel destination for foodies. The best food in Cuba is often mediocre at best. And can ...

Cuba is not a travel destination for foodies. The best food in Cuba is often mediocre at best. And can be downright terrible at its worst. Foodies should skip visiting Cuba.

Here’s what you need to know about food in Cuba.

Best Food In Cuba?

The food in Cuba is mediocre at best. The two best restaurants in Cuba are in Havana. They are La Guarida and Costa Vino. And neither of Cuba’s two best restaurants are anything to write home about.

If you’re looking for Michelin star restaurants in Cuba you won’t find any. Cuba has no restaurants or eateries that are in anyway near Michelin standards.

Most restaurants in Cuba are staffed by cooks and not chefs with professional culinary training. Cuba is not a foodies paradise despite what you might see on Instagram.

The best food in Cuba as portrayed on Instagram by local Cuban foodies is a farce. The images on Instagram of food in Cuba are heavily digital edited in Adobe Lightroom. And reviews by local Cuban foodies are paid for by the restaurants.

You won’t find genuine reviews online about food in Cuba. Any review online that claims a particular restaurant has the best food in Cuba should be treated with skepticism.

Beware Of Food Reviews By Local Cuban Foodies!

I can’t stress this enough. But you should beware of any recommendations or food reviews posted online about Cuba.

I can’t even count how many times I’ve wound up in ‘restaurants’ that gave me food poisoning, had atrocious service or were downright awful because I fell for a review online.

Hotels, restaurants and other establishments in Cuba all promote themselves through Instagram. And they do this by hiring young locals to give them good reviews.

Restaurants in Cuba will pay for reviews and Instagram posts so they can pose as the hottest new spots in Cuba. And then charge customers like you or I several times more than they’re worth.

Instead of becoming better in order to get better reviews, restaurants in Cuba will pay Instagram influencers to promote their businesses through social media. Social media is big business in Cuba.

Best Seafood In Cuba?

If you think Cuba has fantastic seafood you’re mistaken. And the only thing worse than seafood in Cuba is the pasta or any food containing beef.

Steak is often flown into Cuba frozen and for a premium from Spain. It’s awful.

The pasta in Cuba will have the consistency of chewing gum. Cuban’s have absolutely no idea how to cook pasta.

Yet the seafood is the biggest let down for the island nation. You’d think the octopus, lobster, shrimp and fresh fish would be amazing in Cuba. Yet it isn’t.

The prawns and shrimp in Cuba are often so small I find myself surprised that they were able to catch the little blighters. The shrimp really are shrimp sized. They look more like plankton.

The Lobsters in Cuba are about the size of prawns anywhere else in the world. And if you order the Enchilado de Langosta (Cuban Lobster Creole) from somewhere like Costa Vino it will taste like tomato flavoured sand.

Best Food In Cuba
Looks delicious? It should with the amount of digital editing this photo received. In actuality it tasted like tomato flavoured sand.

Food Hygiene In Cuba Is Atrocious!

I’ve personally sat in a VIP area of an upscale restaurant in Havana and watched as the cook picked his nose while cooking. And when he wasn’t cooking he was hanging his head out the door to have a cigarette. Food hygiene in Cuba is atrocious!

It’s no wonder to me that people often get food poisoning from that restaurant. And while food poisoning in Cuba isn’t as frequent now as it was in 2021, it’s still pretty darn common.

During 2020 and 2021 Cuban’s were often hoarding eggs for resale. And any product that contained milk or eggs, such as the croquettes in Cuba, would be guaranteed to have you running for the bathroom.

Today in 2023 it’s generally the longer life foodstuffs that are subject to hoarding in unsanitary conditions. And I would definitely advise against buying anything from small shops or street vendors in Cuba that isn’t in a vacuum sealed bag.

As I found out when trying a peanut bar in Havana, Cuban’s are trained from birth by their mothers to detect the faint odour of cockroaches. They have a cockroach sniffing superpower.

Cockroach contaminated food in Cuba

Cocktails In Cuba?

This is the one bright spot in Cuba. If you’re at an upperclass bar or restaurant the cocktails can be quite good in Cuba.

While you have to be quite selective about where you drink and which bar tender makes your drinks, when you find a good place the drinks can be excellent.

Consistency does plague bar tenders as much as it does cooks in Cuba. In the same way the food can be good one day and terrible the next, so can the drinks.

If you’re willing to pay more for cocktails in Cuba than you would in other nearby countries with better food and drinks, you can get some quite good cocktails in Cuba.

Cuba has a whole host of domestic cocktails you won’t often find in other countries, like the ‘canchanchara’. The ‘canchanchara’ is my favourite Cuban beverage and it’s made from aguardiente, lemon and honey with crushed ice.

Canchanchara in Havana Cuba
A Cuban Canchanchara

The Cuban canchanchara is exceptional and I’d recommend everyone try one. That is, when there isn’t a shortage of aguardiente in Cuba.

When there is a shortage of aguardiente which happens often, it leads to the canchanchara being made with cheap local rum. And with rum the canchanchara is less than ideal.

See shortages are one of the main problems in Cuba. And it’s what leads to inconsistencies in menu items at restaurants. It’s something that drives me bonkers whenever I’m in Cuba. Well, that and the often horrible service, food standards and food hygiene.

At least the more rum you drink in Cuba the less likely you’ll be to get food poisoning. At least for me anyway, the alcohol helped prevent food poisoning.

Food in Cuba
Also heavily digitally edited.

Are There Good Food Tours In Cuba?

Let me answer this question by stating I’m currently editing a YouTube video that will be entitled ‘feeding dog to American tourists on Christmas Eve’. And it’s about an American tour group getting exactly what the title suggests.

Personally I’d go it alone without a food tour in Cuba. And I’d look for places where you see lots of upperclass Cubans.

I would also check the reviews on Google. But specifically paying attention to recent reviews by foreigners and older Cubans.

Avoid any reviews by Cubans under about 40 years of age. They’re likely paid reviews by some local Cuban foodie or other Instagram ‘influencer’.

In my experience these aren’t genuine reviews. And they certainly aren’t reviews worth paying attention too.

I’ve had better luck finding decent food in Cuba by myself using this method. Without an organised food tour in Cuba. I’ve also avoided being served dog meat dressed up as Ropa Vieja.

Where Can I Get More Information About Cuba?

I’ve made my Complete Guide To Traveling Cuba available on this website. And I would strongly advise you to read it before travelling to Cuba. It will help you navigate Cuba and Cuban society.

My Complete Guide To Cuba will save you a lot of time and a significant amount of money on your trip to Cuba. Cuba is not the sort of destination in which you can just arrive unprepared. 

Read the most Complete Guide To Traveling Cuba here.