Salsa music, popularized in New York in the 1970s, originated in the Caribbean (primarily Cuba and Puerto Rico). Known for its African drum rhythms and Spanish guitar, salsa nights in Miami are as hot and steamy as the weather. From off-the-beaten-path, hole-in-the-wall clubs to places with sprawling dance floors, here's where to take your dancing shoes for a twirl.
From the 'hood that never sleeps comes the sensational moves of Salsa Mia. For more than 10 years, this dance club has been showing "salseros" how to dance like a pro from the Mojito room above Mango’s Tropical Café. Go for the nightly classes at 6:30 and 8 pm, but stay for the great food, drinks and live entertainment.
At YUCA Restaurant and Lounge in the heart of Lincoln Road, you'll find a fantastic venue to learn some superstar moves or dance the night away. YUCA, which stands for Young Urban Cuban American, is a long-standing fine-dining restaurant featuring modern Cuban cuisine with signature dishes of seafood paella and oxtail stew, and a variety of tropical-flavored mojitos. It also hosts weekly salsa dancing meet-ups and classes by Salsa Fever every Wednesday and Friday starting at 8:30 pm.
Downtown Miami/Little Havana
Take a trip to Old Havana by way of Miami at Hoy Como Ayer. This lounge tucked away in Little Havana, celebrates "today like yesterday," which is also the English translation of its name. Teeming with nostalgia and despite not having a proper dance floor, Hoy Como Ayer is a haven for son (a Cuban salsa-style dance), romantic boleros and other Latin dances.
Also in Little Havana on the famed Calle Ocho, there's the historic Ball & Chain. Step onto the dance floor or join the dancers on the bar for the liveliest night out. See a variety of artists and DJs play Cuban music and learn some spicy Latin moves for free every Thursday at 9 pm.
Over at the swanky Brickell neighborhood and Miami's Financial District is American Social, a gastropub and sort of quasi-sports bar with locations in Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Among its themed days are "Rumba Wednesdays," which despite its name offers salsa lessons from 9-10 pm. After the lesson you can groove to Latin tunes from 10 pm till close with DJs Mini and JR Sosa.
Popular among singles and the thirty-something and older crowd, La Covacha is one of a small handful of places that offer salsa nights. Locals warn that this is one of the wildest places to find South Beach on the mainland. More than a dance hall, La Covacha is a restaurant and nightlife venue with a steady lineup of new and old salsa, merengue, samba and Spanish-rock concerts. The best days to go are Friday and Saturday nights, but be prepared to pay the pricey cover charges which range depending on the main entertainment.
In addition to the restaurants and clubs, there are dance schools with salsa lessons for every level from novice to advanced. Salsa Lovers is among them. The studio near Florida International University's west campus, is well-known for its 55-minute group lessons of "rueda" or casino-style salsa. Think of it as choreographed line dancing where dance partners are exchanged like a roulette wheel. The circles can get pretty large and can accommodate 100 people dancing at one time. The first lesson is complimentary and the prices range from $8 to $10 a lesson.