The Malecon in Havana
One of the icons of Havana is the sea wall along the promenade, extending five miles from the harbour. It is a great place for a stroll to get your bearings on arrival, although if it’s hot there’s no shade – in that case save it for the evening as the Cubans do.
It is a good place to take the pulse of the city after arriving for the first time. This long, meandering walk is where Habaneros fish, chat, strum guitar, pick up love interests – and snack. Cadillacs and Buicks judder past, their souped-up stereo systems blasting salsa or regaeton. Gangly beach boys somersault into the waves from the rocks. Tourists mingle with the guitar-strummers, joggers, and lovers. In between them, weave street snack vendors of popcorn, fried pasta, and toasted peanuts. The pregón, or street call, is a soundtrack to Cuban street life. The siren call of the peanut vendor joins those selling chicharrones de macarrones: cooked macaroni re-fried with pork rind. You can also seek out guarapo – fresh sugar cane juice to quench your thirst.
When it rains, silver sheets of water gather on the Malecon and the passing cars drench passers-by in salty water. When it storms, the palms are tossed and the sea whipped into a frenzy as great waves surge over the wall. It is a constant, ever-changing drama in the heart of Havana, the one place where the elements are always on display.