Tour introduction and overview of activities

A Cuba expedition focused on people-to-people education, nature and cultural exchanges. The program is geared to naturalists, and lovers of the arts, history and architecture. The tour has a very diverse itinerary and features comfortable accommodations and tasty Cuban cuisine.

Cuba’s big! Its land mass is 42,426 square miles – about 80 percent the size of Alabama. Cuba is nearly as large as Louisiana, and larger than Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Ohio or Indiana. Altogether it’s bigger than Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont combined.

Day 1 – Tuesday :: Arrival Cuba and hello Havana

  • Arrival at Havana’s José Martí International Airport. Collect our bags and go through customs. We will be welcomed at the airport lobby by our Cuba Explorer Tours guide and our professional coach chauffeur
  • In route from the airport you will make a brief visit to Revolution Square (Plaza de la Revolucion). Conceived by French urbanist Jean Claude Forestier in the 1920s, the large square today is the base of the Cuban government and where large political rallies are held. Popes John Paul II (January 1998), Benedict XVI (March 2012) and Francis (September 2015) all celebrated an open air Mass during their visits to Cuba. The Square was also visited by President Barack Obama during his historic visit to Cuba (March 2016). (Included)
  • Private transfer to Hotel Ambos Mundos located in heart of Havana’s Old City. A historic hotel with a seasoned elegance and home to Ernest Hemingway, on the 5th floor, in the early days when he stayed in Havana. Be sure to visit his room, it is open during the day. (Included)
  • You will need to wheel your bags a few blocks to the hotel because vehicles are not allowed in the Old City. Private check-in with assistance from your Cuban guide
  • Free time to settle in and get oriented with your historic hotel and the streets of Old Havana where you are ideally located
  • Dinner in Old Havana at El Zaguán private restaurant. (Included)
  • It has been a long day, but your hotel location puts you in a safe and easy walk to live street music, cafes and coffee shops. Your guide will be of great help for the group in strolling the Plaza’s

Day 2 – Wednesday :: Old Havana

  • Breakfast. (Included)
  • Morning walking tour of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will visit the historic plazas that make Havana unique in the western hemisphere. It contains the largest collection of remaining colonial-era architecture. This is a private tour led by your Cuban Guide. (Included)
  • Start at Plaza Vieja, the only civic square of colonial times. Absent are churches and government buildings, and is in contrast surrounded by opulent aristocratic 17th century residences, the area you are staying
  • Cathedral Square, the most beautiful and private 18th century colonial plaza on the island. Named after the masterpiece of Cuban baroque architecture: the Catedral de San Cristóbal de la Habana built by the Jesuit order
  • Square of Arms, an ancient military parade ground for Spanish soldiers, surrounded by impressive buildings such as:
  • Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, former seat of colonial government. Today the building houses the Museum of the City
  • Palacio del Segundo Cabo [Palace of the Second Lieutenant] dates from 1770. Today it houses the Instituto Cubano del Libro [Cuban Book Institute] and the Galería Raúl Martínez (famed poster artist)
  • You will continue on to San Francisco Square, one of the oldest plazas in the historical quarter. The square is named after magnificent Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco de Asís dating from the 16th century. The basilica is a striking example of Cuba baroque architecture
  • As you stroll through the historic cobblestone streets you will also see the area Ernest Hemingway would walk when he stayed in the city
  • Visit the Museo del Chocolate (Museum of Chocolate)
  • Stop by the outdoor flee market for vintage books and Revolution memorabilia
  • Lunch at El Template in Old Havana, along the Bay of Havana and an active street of vintage cars, horse drawn carriages and ships in the harbor. (Included)
  • Visit Centro Cultural Antiguos Almacenes de Depósito San José, a giant craft market offering the most iconic objects of Havana: garish-colored paintings by local artists, guayaberas (short-sleeve, open-neck Cuban shirts), sculptures, leather, jewelry, and various trinkets and gadgets bearing the image of Che Guevara The souvenirs here are of high quality, which is why you'll see as many locals as tourists among the shoppers. The metal-framed structure itself, an old, fully renovated maritime warehouse, very retro and Art Deco, is worth the trip in itself. (Included)
  • Return to your hotel
  • Dinner at Mediterraneo. A small private restaurant in a quiet neighborhood, a real treat. (Included)
  • View a Havana tradition which started hundreds of years ago. At 9 o’clock a cannon is fired from the ancient Fortress of San Carlos de Cabana. (Included)

Day 3 – Thursday :: Hemingway

  • Breakfast. (Included)
  • Travel to Cojímar, small fishing Village and one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite’s places in Cuba. See the harbor where his boat Pilar was moored and he and Gregorio (the bases for Old Man and the Sea) would depart to marlin fish. Tour the small town, see Hemmingway’s bust made from metal donated by the local fishermen and get photos in front of the 17th century Spanish Lookout Fort, included
  • Visit the small organic garden of Jesus and Julio which supplies all of the herbs for the private restaurant where you will be cooking later. Up close see tropical fruits, bananas, plantains, squash and maybe even the Bumble Bee Hummingbird, the smallest bird in the word. (Included)
  • TOUR HIGHLIGHT: Cooking & mojito making lesson at paladar (private restaurant) El Ajiaco followed by lunch, which you helped prepare. This is a unique experience; in the kitchen, with the chef and staff preparing multiple dishes (lobster, ropa vieja & el ajiaco soup) and then at the bar learning how to properly prepare a Cuban mojito. (Included)
  • Informal discussions with restaurant leadership staff on the government requirements of licensing and permitting a private paladar in Cuba. (Included)
  • Visit Finca La Vigía, home and farm of Ernest Hemingway. This unique National Museum also includes his boat Pilar (in part made famous from his book Old Man and the Sea), the graves of some of his dogs, and the fully furnished home which you will be able to see inside. (Included)
  • Return to hotel
  • Evening is free to visit the vibrant plazas of Old Havana, all within easy walking distance of the Ambos Mundos. Cafes abound for a snack or dinner, enjoy street music, dancing and the island experience

Day 4 – Friday :: Pinar del Río

  • Breakfast. (Included)
  • Morning departure to the western agricultural province of Pinar del Río
  • On the coach ride your Cuban guide will have an interactive discussion on Cuban business, private compared to government. (Included)
  • In Pinar del Rio visit and tour Francisco Donatién Cigar Factory, located in a former prison and on this site since 1961. You will see how some of Cuba’s premium cigars are made, by hand. Seated side by side at special wooden benches, the cigar makers carry out their work, producing cigars of identical weight and length. (Included)
  • Drive through Viñales village, a picturesque town in the heart of Cuba's prime tobacco growing region. The town itself sits in the center of a flat valley surrounded by stunning formations known as mogotes. They are irregularly shaped steep-sided hills that can rise as high as 985 feet and have bases ranging from just a few hundred yards in diameter to as much as a mile in length. Many consider this the most beautiful nature spot in Cuba
  • Late lunch at private restaurant Balcón del Valle (Balcony of the Valley, and we will see why when we get there), one of the most spectacular views of the entire trip. (Included)
  • Hotel La Ermita, located for a spectacular view of the Vinales Valley, check in
  • Late afternoon get oriented to your surroundings
  • Dinner buffet at the hotel and at your leisure. (Included)

Day 5 – Saturday :: Viñales Valley

  • Breakfast. (Included)
  • Visit Cueva del Indio (Cave of the Indian) for a brief walk and then a short boat ride to come out on the other side. Part of the National Park and surrounded by rainforest type vegetation, optional. (Included)
  • Visit the town of Vinales with brightly colored buildings, shops and the church. Experience small town Cuba. (Included)
  • Lunch at Finca Agro-ecológica El Paraíso, included. Other than the seafood and beef, all of the food you will enjoy at lunch will have been grown on the Finca. (Included)
  • Tour Finca Agro-ecológica El Paraíso, learn about the family that claimed part of a rocky mountain side to grow vegetables and herbs organically, included. Discussion with a member of the team that helped establish the Finca. Learn about the process the family went through to attain the land from the Cuban government and the regulatory permitting that was required. (Included)
  • Visit a tobacco farm and in the valley of best production on the island for the leaves that make the world famous Habanos. Learn the growing process, meet the farmers and see the drying shed. (Included)
  • Return to hotel
  • Dinner buffet at the hotel and at your leisure. (Included)

Day 6 – Sunday :: Havana

  • Breakfast. (Included)
  • Hotel check out and return to Havana
  • In route you will visit a rest stop where snacks and sandwiches are available. (Not Included)
  • On the coach ride to Havana there will be an engaging discussion on the “Special Period” in Cuba’s history of when the Soviet Union fell, the U.S Embargo was maintained and the economic stress it placed on the Cuban people: what laws and regulations were changed. (Included)
  • Check-in with assistance from our guide to the Hotel Presidente, in the Vedado area
  • Afternoon group activities, discussions on hotel veranda
  • Dinner at the small and intimate Decameron restaurant, known by some as one of the best paladares in Havana. (Included) Eclectic arrangements of antique clocks and instruments on the walls. A boutique location treat

Day 7 – Monday :: Havana

  • Breakfast. (Included)
  • In Hotel Florida, special presentation and dialogue: "Overview of Cuba Education System" by a former professor of Havana University. (Included)
  • Arrive Havana and visit the Museum of Revolution housed in the palace of former dictator President Fulgencio Batista. Behind the Palace and a part of the grounds is the newly refurbished glass enclosure which houses Granma, the boat which took Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, Che Guevara and their revolutionaries from Mexico to Cuba for the Revolution. There is a surface-to-air missile of the type that shot down a U.S. Lockheed U-2 spy plane during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the engine of the American U-2 airplane itself. It is an amazing look at history through the eyes of the Cuban government. (Included)
  • Visit Muraleando, a neighborhood in Havana which was inspired by the children of the community and housed in an abandoned water tank. Murals, sculptures and paintings adorn the buildings and street corners of what was once a very depressed area. Instruction of music, dance, sculpting, painting and other arts are available for the children, many who come from low income families or have behavioral challenges. Jeanne Schulz, the widow of cartoonist Charles M. Schulz (cartoonist best known for his comic strip Peanuts which featured Charlie Brown and Snoopy), visited Muraleando and subsequently funded and authorized an artist to paint a few Peanuts murals for the community center. A large Snoopy will greet you at the entrance. (Included)
  • Late lunch at Muraleando restaurant that employee members from the community to manage. Enjoy live music and an opportunity for a dance instruction. (Included)
  • Community project assistance at Muraleando where you will be able to interface with young people and local members of the community to assist with art projects, talk, smile and share donations you may have brought
  • Dinner not included. With all the great food you have experienced the past week, this is your last chance to re-visit one of our favorite restaurants or check out a paladar you heard about. Your Cuban Guide will be glad to help
  • Evening is free to explore the sights and sounds of the city. It’s our last night in the Republic of Cuba so Enjoy!

Day 8 – Tuesday :: Cuba departure

  • Breakfast. (Included)
  • Check-out of hotel
  • Transfer to José Martí International Airport for flights home. (Included)
  • Memories of a wonderful visit to the Pearl of the Antilles: Cuba! (Included!!!)
Cuba travel is a challenge. Our staff and Cuban partners work super hard to make your tour unfold seamlessly despite Third World conditions on the island. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Flexible travelers understand this is part of their Cuban adventure.
Tour meals at your hotel and at fine restaurants
  • Teleconference with your tour group and Global Relations Travel Club (GRTC) leadership to go through the itinerary, answer questions and offer suggestions on opportunities not on the schedule.
  • A series of briefing e mails, starting weeks before departure, to assist you in preparing for the trip.
  • All taxes, amounts are quoted in US dollars.
  • Airport departure tax from Cuba and the mandatory Cuban Medical insurance coverage during your island stay will be included in the cost of your airfare. GRTC Team will be of assistance if you have questions.
  • Hotels in Cuba as listed in tour itinerary, or similar.
  • All breakfasts, lunches and dinners as per itinerary.
  • All activities, services, speakers, meetings and meals as described in tour itinerary except those noted as “optional” or “not included”.
  • Luxury air-conditioned coach transportation and a full-time Cuban professional driver, dedicated to your group. Cold bottled water on board.
  • An expert Cuban English-speaking guide whose background matches tour content.
  • Ongoing support from Cuba Explorer staff and the GRTC Team before, during and after your stay.
  • Global Relations Travel Club (GRTC) membership: $29 Membership is a requirement, by Rule, to participate in GRTC organized tours. This is being provided complimentary.
  • Gratuities for Cuban tour guide, coach/van driver, chambermaids, restaurant staff, porters, etc. for group activities, will be given to your Tour Leader to distribute.
  • Airfare is being coordinated by Culver-Stockton College.
  • Cuban Visitor Visa is included.
  • Travel interruption and cancellation insurance is being coordinated by Culver Stockton College.
  • Certificate of Legal Cuba Travel in compliance with US Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control regulations (OFAC) section, 1 C.F.R. § 515.565(b)