Cuban Cigars

The Experience of Buying Cuban Cigars in Cuba

J. Bennett Alexander Alexander's picture

J. Bennett Alexander

So, you love Cuban cigars and you’d love to visit Cuba and go on a shopping spree. Cuban cigars are less expensive in Cuba than in other countries and it’s relatively easy to visit the island these days, though you have to jump through a couple of hoops. I’ll leave the travel plans to you, but I think you should know a few things about buying Cuban cigars in Havana, since you’re almost certain to go to the capital, and that is where to buy cigars in Cuba. First, a warning.

Do not buy cigars from someone on the street offering you a great deal. While the cigars this great humanitarian is willing to part with for a pittance might have been made in official factories, they are most likely knock-offs or counterfeit. Don’t think about it too much, just don’t buy them. With that in mind, there’s one shop you should avoid. It’s at the La Corona Cigar Factory and there are always people outside the shop trying to sell you fakes.

Now, Cuban cigars are less expensive in Cuba than in other countries. What you should do is figure out the best cigars to buy in Havana while you’re there. You’re not always going to be able to buy the cigars you crave, because supply is erratic, but you can scout a few shops to see what’s available and then decide.

WHERE TO BUY CIGARS IN CUBA

Where to buy cigars in Havana is a pretty simple proposition. Your hotel probably has a shop in it or nearby, but the best shops are the official La Casa del Habano (LCDH; The House of Havanas) locations around the city and, while the following might seem like sponsored content, that’s the result of a state monopoly on cigars. Some of the older stores were sold to individuals and are often called ‘Tienda del Habano’ or ‘Casa de Tabaco,’ with signs in the same font as LCDH. Do yourself a favor and stick to the official shops. All the prices for cigars are the same in every LCDH and you avoid the headache of wondering if you got the real thing.

La Casa del Habano, Miramar, 5th Avenue & 16th Street

My personal favorite, and I think the consensus choice among knowledgeable visitors, is the “Quinta Avenida” (Fifth Avenue) store in the Miramar neighborhood. This store, like the others in the group, has a bar and some seats, but Quinta Avenida is alone in having a full-service restaurant. But hey, you’re there for the cigars, right?

The walk-in humidor is a serpentine configuration and you can find some real beauties in there when supplies are plentiful. If large cigars are available – and they are often in short supply due to their popularity – this is where you have a good chance of finding that Hoyo de Monterrey Double Corona. I bought a gorgeous box of H. Upmann Sir Winstons, 47 x 7, here. The store has nearly 100 lockers. Get a little Havana Club rum or a cafecito (short Cuban coffee) and smoke a cigar. Then you can check that off the list.

La Casa del Habano, Club Habana, Miramar (Beach), 5th Avenue between 188 & 192

This shop is also on 5th Avenue in Miramar, but way out there on this long street. The LCDH is housed in the old Biltmore Yacht & Country Club. There’s usually a featured special cigar here and that makes it worth investigating, as well as a glimpse of the now faded pre-revolutionary lifestyle. Because this store is a bit inconveniently located, you have a pretty good chance of finding some older stock. (By the way, you should always check the code with the dates on the bottom of the boxes.) I like to visit this shop to slow things down. It has a small bar and very good Cuban coffee, not a given in Cuba.

La Casa del Habano, Hotel Habana Libre, L Street between 23 & 25

The Cuban cigar industry knows where its customers are and, traditionally, the Hotel Habana Libre (formerly the Hilton), in the Vedado neighborhood, has provided great choices and great service to guests of the hotel and drop-in visitors. This shop is larger than Quinta Avenida and frequently has many cigars you can’t find elsewhere. This shop is built for sampling. While some of the stores have a good selection of boxes, the Habana Libre humidor has a lot of single sticks available. I’ve seen a lot of limited editions here that have not been in other LCDH stores. Recently, the shop added shelves dedicated to Añejados, the specially aged Cubans. There’s now also a cigar lounge next to the store.

La Casa del Habano, Hotel Meliá Habana, Playa, 3rd Avenue between 76 & 80

The Hotel Meliá was one of the first Spanish-Cuban joint-venture hotels to open in Havana and help modernize the hospitality industry. This shop is elegant and among the prettier ones. Lots of bottles of rum and lots of shapes and sizes of cigars. There’s a small, horseshoe-shaped bar and an adjacent lounge. The service here is outstanding. For cigars, this is where to look for the boxes of 50.

These four should keep you busy and, as previously mentioned, when supply is good, offer you just about all the cigars you want. If you’re intent of going to more shops, here, without comment or ranking, are some more.

La Casa del Habano, Partagás Cigar Factory
Calle Industria No. 530, Centro Habana

La Vega at Palacio de las Artesanías
Calle Cuba No. 64, entre Cuarteles y Peña Pobre Habana Vieja

La Casa del Habano, Hotel Conde de Villanueva
Mercaderes 1202, Esquina Lamparilla, La Habana Vieja

La Casa del Habano, Hotel Nacional
Calle 21 y O, Vedado

La Casa del Habano, Hotel Palco
Calle 11 y 146, Cubanacan, Playa

La Casa del Habano, Hotel Meliá Cohiba
Avenida Paseo, entre 1 y 3, Vedado

Casa del Tabaco La Escogida, Hotel Comodoro 
Avenida 3 y Calle 84, Playa

El Aljibe (Restaurant) Tienda de Tabaco 
Avenida 7 y Calle 24, Miramar

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