It doesn’t take much time to realize that Havana has almost no tranquil open-air areas – the city vibrates with children’s improvised pelota (baseball) championships, world-class boxing matches in roofless gyms and popular marathons for locals and foreigners of all ages.
Whether you want to watch or partake, here's the lowdown of the most popular sporting activities in Havana.
Baseball is not only the country’s most followed game, but it's also among the top five causes of heart attacks in January (well, not really, but definitely possible). That’s when the National Baseball Series hits the quarterfinals.
The 50,000-seat Estadio Latinoamericano is Cuba’s largest baseball stadium and home to the loved and loathed Industriales team. Cuba’s oldest baseball organization has won 12 Series championships, the most of any province. Visit in January when the postseason kicks off.
Also: Want a chance to take a few at-bats? Head to Coliseo de la Ciudad Deportiva after 5 p.m. or on weekends. The surrounding grounds of the multi-function sports arena includes a couple of baseball fields and several basketball courts.
The Marabana and Maracuba marathons have become increasingly popular among habaneros (Cubans) of all ages and professions. Runners gather before the starting gunshot at 7 am in front of the Capitolio building on the third Sunday in November to take part in either the 10K, half-marathon or full marathon.
Also: The Terry Fox Marathon for Hope is a non-competitive race that takes place in early April. The event draws hundreds of thousands of participants every year, ranging from young and senior enthusiasts to entire families and people with disabilities.
While Sala Polivalente Kid Chocolate hosts the most attractive national and international boxing matches in Cuba, the best place to really gain some knowledge is at the Gimnasio de Boxeo Rafael Trejo. Visitors can get a chance to train with Cuba’s Olympic team (past, present and future). Stop by after 4 p.m. and take a lesson.
The Ernest Hemingway International Billfish Fishing Tournament takes place every May in Havana’s northern coast. It’s organized by the International Nautical Club in Cuba (also named after the famous American writer) and is held at the Hemingway marina in Playa neighborhood. Participants compete for prizes based on who can haul in, and eventually release, the biggest billfish, tuna or swordfish.
Soccer … OK, Fútbol
You’ll most likely see improvised Fútbol (or soccer, as Americans call it) games in many streets and suburban parks, but the place to go for an official match is the Estadio Pedro Marrero in Playa municipality. A few miles East, also in Playa, is the Estadio Eduardo Saborit (formerly the Havana Greyhound Kennel Club) where habaneros meet every Saturday for recreational leagues or local children’s championships.
The Marina Hemingway’s Club Náutico hosts regattas and boat races, and also helps organize snorkeling and diving activities. But for something a little more exciting, visit Havana’s Eastern beaches for kiteboarding and windsurfing. Hit the waters between November and March when the cold fronts from the North send perfect waves to Havana’s coast.
One of best ways to travel around Cuba’s capital city is on a bike. The malecón is a favorite route to discover the city’s main attractions and unique contrasting architectural styles. The rather flat roughly 5-mile (8km) seaside promenade connects Old Havana with Centro Habana and Vedado. Head for the tunnel towards Fifth Avenue for another 5-mile route, which traverses into Playa municipality all the way to Santa Fé town (home of Fusterlandia).