- Tropicana, Havana (tel. 7/267-1010): This is the original and still reigning cabaret show in Cuba. The Tropicana has been at it for over 60 years and it shows no signs of slowing down. The sea of lithe dancers, the exuberance of their costumes, and the sheer excess of it is worth the trip. It all occurs under the stars in the shadow of tall overhanging trees.
- Casa de la Música Centro Habana, Havana (tel. 7/860-8296): With its massive dance floor and concert space in the heart of Centro Habana, this is currently considered the best salsa-dancing venue in town. The crowd is predominantly Cuban, and most of the folks can really dance.
- Casa de la Música Miramar, Havana (tel. 7/204-0447): Housed in a beautiful, former Masonic Lodge Hall, this place is associated with the national recording label Egrem. It has nightly concerts that range from bolero to salsa to jazz in the in-house club, Diablo Tun Tun. Still, for me, the real treat here is the afternoon jam sessions, which take place daily from 4 to 7pm.
- El Gato Tuerto, Havana (tel. 7/838-2696): The mood is dark and bohemian, although the decor mixes Art Deco and kitsch in equal measure. The nightly show usually features three or four distinct acts, which can range from sultry boleros to up-tempo jazz. A storyteller, poet, or comedian might perform between sets.
- La Zorra y El Cuervo, Havana (tel. 7/833-2402): This is Havana's best jazz club, and that's saying a lot. The vibe is mellow and unpretentious in this compact basement club, but the music and acts are usually culled from the best Cuba has to offer.
- Callejón de Hammel, Havana. Between noon and 3pm each Sunday, this is the site of a weekly Afro-Cuban music and dance show and celebration headed up by the renowned folkloric group Clavé y Guaguanco.
- Sábado de la Rumba at El Gran Palenque, Havana (tel. 7/830-3060): Every Saturday, Conjunto Folklórico Nacional de Cuba hosts the weekly Sábado de la Rumba, a mesmerizing show of Afro-Cuban religious and secular dance and drumming; the show takes place at 3pm at El Gran Palenque.
- Trinidad: Trinidad's popularity has ensured a steady menu of live-music offerings. Cuban bands play under the stars on the steps of the Casa de la Música until more energetic dancing and music get underway inside. The Palenque de los Congos Reales regularly hosts an outstanding folkloric Afro-Cuban music and dance performance. Small, relaxed spots like the patio bars La Canchánchara and Ruinas de Segarte feature live son. If that's too traditional, then check out La Cueva, a funky dance club in a cave.
- Casas de la Trova, Camagüey and Santiago de Cuba: Perhaps the country's two best Casas de la Trova, the traditional Cuban live-music spots, are in Camagüey and Santiago de Cuba. Camagüey's casa is agreeably low-key, while Santiago's is legendary, having given birth to dozens of Cuba's most respected musicians and bands. Both are great places to mix with locals, try out some dance moves, and sip a mojito.
- Casa de las Tradiciones, Santiago: This neighborhood music venue oozes charm and authenticity. It's not touristy and makes for a great night out regardless of the changing musical genre.
- Ballet Folklorico Cutumba, Santiago (tel. 22/65-5173): Try to see a performance by this extraordinary, exciting, and highly professional Afro-Cuban dance group; its base is in the old Cine Galaxia in Santiago.
- Calle Antonio Maceo, Baracoa: Tiny Baracoa rocks at night with its own little version of Bourbon Street. People spill out of a half-dozen cafes, bars, and live-music venues, shifting gears from traditional trova to son and dance music to full-throttle dance club. Amiable emcees entertain audiences with romantic poetry and humor.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.