Accept no substitutes. This is the real deal. It's expensive -- in fact, overpriced -- but if you're going to see a cabaret show in Havana, it might as well be at the Tropicana. First opened in 1939, this open-air dinner theater is still the defining cabaret show in Cuba, if not the world. You enter the lush garden theater after passing the club's signature sculpted "Fountain of the Muses." Dinner service starts around 8pm and is an uninspired but acceptable affair.
The show itself begins around 10:30pm. Once the show begins, the stage and verdant surroundings become an orgy of light, color, costumes, and pulsating movement. Scores of scantily clad showgirls and dancers seamlessly weave together a series of different numbers. The 2-hour-long spectacle covers most of the bases of popular Cuban show and dance music, from son to bolero to danzón to salsa, with a bit of Afro-Cuban religious music thrown into the mix. After the show, you can continue the celebration by dancing the night away at the adjoining Salón Arcos de Cristal.
Virtually every hotel and tour agency in Havana can book you a night at the Tropicana; some include dinner and a bottle of rum at the nightclub, others are just for the show (including a complimentary cuba libre), or include dinner first at El Ajibe or another Miramar restaurant. Packages with transportation and dinner are only slightly more than for the show alone, and are therefore a decent deal. Since it's open-air, rain cancels the function. You'll get your money back on a rainout, but they offer no guaranteed reservations for a makeup show. Show CUC$50-CUC$60; packages with transportation and dinner CUC$70. Located in Calle 72, between Calles 41 and 45, Marianao, Havana, Cuba