I recently returned from a Caribbean cruise with a small group of friends, sailing out of Port Miami. The time gap between disembarkation and our evening flight home meant being creative with our time, especially having luggage in tow.
We discovered Luxury Tours Miami, part of a larger company called Local Luxury Tours LLC and found the perfect solution. Instead of dreading the drudgery of travel days pre and post cruise, this company has come up with unique tours that allow travelers to conveniently enjoy the best sites of the city …. while sitting back and relaxing!
Our driver and a guide met us at the port after disembarkation and whisked us off to see Damien Hirst’s golden mammoth at the uber luxurious Faena Hotel… a unique glimpse into the Miami Beach lifestyle. What a great start before heading to Miami’s signature district known as Little Havana. Our guide and host, Shylar Bredewold seemed to know everyone as we strolled Calle Ocho, sampled Cuban food and dropped into shops for authentic experiences by local business owners.
Our first stop after a quick taste from the local bakery, was at Havana Classic Cigars where we met both Brenda and Lazzaro, the husband and wife team who operate one of the last two remaining hand-rolled Cuban cigar factories in Miami. They have fully embraced their business as a showcase for their products. The full staff of rollers, originally from Cuba achieved their qualifications over 19 months of intense hands-on schooling. Some of them have been rolling for a number of decades and have their own signature cigar rolling techniques and strengths.
A discussion of the history of cigars in Cuba alongside a hands-on demonstration was followed by an optional cigar and brandy/gourmet coffee pairing. We had exclusive access to the walk-in humidor and the showcase room which boasts ever changing local Cuban artists for all to enjoy. This was a genuine neighbourhood “gathering place” for all things Cuban!
Next, we moved on to Cuba Ocho, a cultural and research centre which houses treasures and history rescued and preserved by collector Roberto Ramos. At certain times of the day, Cuba Ocho is alive with music and dance performances taking place at the entry to the business, leaving the rear stage a quiet spot for reviewing the artwork. At front of house we saw Frank Sinatra’s own hotel bar where they host hands-on mojito mixology lessons and later on as happy hour kicks in they host a rum tasting, pairing a selection of tapas chosen specifically to help bring out the flavours. Cuba Ocho claims to have the world’s largest rum collection, while I’m a little unsure how to verify this, they certainly have a lot of nice rums!
Our next stop was at the Agustin Gainza Art & Tavern, the working gallery of celebrated Cuban artist Agustin Gainza. He has had some of his works published in books indicating the history of Cuban artists but his pieces are fairly unique and easily recognized in that part of the city. Agustin and his wife Esther have run the gallery for a great number of years and raised a family in the area. The artist still paints and sketches in the front of the gallery most days but he also makes a mean mojito!
Some days, Agustin closes his doors to regular patrons to instruct Luxury Tours Miami’s special guests in painting sessions using the Gouache style. This time allows guests to complete their own masterpiece as a keepsake. Esther mixes up some Cuban style mango sangria which guests enjoy while they paint. When complete, homemade Cuban snacks and appetizers are shared – Esther is a great hostess and cook! Of course I couldn’t leave without buying a small memento from our time with Agustin and his family. My colourful mug now sits on my desk and makes me smile as I write this article.
Without a doubt this was probably one of the most interesting tours I’ve taken in quite some time. I loved that it was authentic, and not staged while our hosts at Luxury Tours Miami were genuinely caring and respected by the local community.
Travelling need not be tiresome, so I recommend you put a few dollars aside in your travel budget to make your vacation last just a little bit longer. Look for more delightful experiences and destinations coming from Luxury Tours Miami in the months to come.