Home to the city’s flashiest neighbourhoods, Miramar and the western suburbs comprise Havana’s alter ego, replete with sleek Miami-style residences, swish new business developments and brash five-star hotels. Among the last sections of the city to be developed before the Revolution, this is where the wealth was then concentrated, and it’s slowly trickling back through a growing clique of international investors and wealthy foreign residents. The area still has its share of broken sewage systems, unlit streets and overcrowded buses, but a gentler pace of life exists throughout the western suburbs, calmed by the broad avenues and abundance of large drooping trees.
Though there is an aquarium, one or two small museums and plenty of wonderful houses and embassies to gawp at, most visitors to this part of the city come here for the nightlife and entertainment, particularly the famous Tropicana cabaret, as well as for the area’s swanky international restaurants and its upmarket paladars, which between them offer the most diverse and sophisticated eating options in Havana. You’ll have to go all the way to the western extremities to find the only proper beach, at Club Habana and, just beyond that, Marina Hemingway, where boat trips and diving expeditions are the main draw.
The whole area west of the Río Almendares is occasionally mistakenly referred to as Miramar, but this is in fact the name only of the oceanfront neighbourhood closest to Vedado, the two linked together by a tunnel under the river. Most of this western section of the city, including Miramar and its even leafier neighbour Kohly, belongs to the sprawling borough of Playa, stretching out for some 15km along the coast.