seven days and six nights in the Pearl of the Caribbean
Single room supplement $0
Tour introduction and overview of activities
This itinerary was specially prepared by the Global Relations Travel Club Team to give you an experience of Cuba in which lifetime memories are made.
Walk the historic cobblestone streets in the footsteps of Hemingway, visit his home. Experience colonial-era architecture and historic plazas. Enjoy vivid island colors, friendly Cubans and lively jazz in Old Havana.
Experience some of the finest cuisine in Cuba and dine where Presidents have dined. Experience Cuban country style cooking in a valley surrounded by mogotes, once underwater formations that emerged from the Atlantic Ocean during the Jurassic Age and the creation of the island.
Cuban rum and cigars enjoy international acclaim. For decades the highly sought after forbidden fruits for U.S. citizens have been hard to come by. Experience both the making and tasting.
Experience a ride along the Malecon in a Vintage American car. Shop for art, crafts and your own guayabera.
Your senses will have an experience.
See history from Colonial times to a Revolution.
Feel the bright Caribbean sun.
Smell the salty ocean air and the morning mist of a rainforest.
Taste the organic food.
Hear the jazzy pulsating Cuban music.
PS: if you prefer your own dates for a group (4 minimum/ 10 maximum) to Experience Cuba please email DanRutherford@GlobalRelations.US with the days you are interested, the number of participants and your complete contact information. We will follow up.
PS PS: To receive a copy of the detailed itinerary of the Experience Cuba Tour with hotels, restaurants and activities please email DanRutherford@GlobalRelations.US your complete contact information.
Day 1 – Sunday :: Arrival,Old Havana and Welcome dinner
- Depart to Havana via your arranged flights
- You should plan arriving Havana between early and late afternoon the first day. It will take you about 2 hours to clear Cuban immigration, get your bag and go through customs. You will be met in the arrival hall, after clearing customs, by our Cuban representative holding a ‘Cuba Explore’ sign to take you to your hotel. They will have your name and will be monitoring your flight arrival in case there is a delay. We will send you your guide’s name and photo closer to your departure from the States. Your first tour activity will be dinner around 6:30, but your guide will finalize details with you. On departure you will be asked to be at the airport 3 hours in advance
- Arrival at Havana’s José Martí International Airport. Proceed through Immigration, collect your bags and go through Customs, giving them your blue customs form. Participant’s arrival times will vary throughout the day. Airport transfers will be arranged for each flight of arriving participants
- Havana’s International Airport arrival hall does have bathrooms. They may not have seats and they may not have tissue so you may wish to bring packets of tissues. It is suggested to use the restroom on the flight before landing
- Give your ‘Health’ forms to the nurses in white uniforms after you go through immigration & body screening. The important question will be if you have been in Africa and exposed to Ebola
- You will be welcomed at the airport exterior lobby by your guide. Look for signage of “Cuba Explorer”. They have your flight number and arrival time and will be waiting for you
- Private transfer to the iconic Hotel Sevilla located close to the Malecon and the lively pedestrian Obispo Street. This historic hotel, seasoned with elegance, was where Al Capone and his bodyguards would book the entire 6th floor, when he stayed in the city. (Included)
- Enjoy a welcome cocktail (Included) after your private check-in with assistance from your Guide
- Free time to settle in and get oriented with your historic hotel
- This evening you will enjoy a welcome dinner at restaurant Café Del Oriente in Old Havana. This is the restaurant where Secretary of State John Kerry visited in 2015 and Raul Castro entertained Jimmy Carter in 2011. (Included)
- Your hotel location puts you in a comfortable and easy walk to live music, cafes and coffee shops. Your guide will be of great help for keeping you posted on local entertainment options
Day 2 – Monday :: Old Havana, crafts & cannons and Hemingway's home
- Breakfast in hotel. (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 Cuba Education Tours guide. (Included)
- As you stroll through the historic cobblestone streets you will also see the area Ernest Hemingway would walk when he stayed in Old Habana
- Visit the Museo del Chocolate (Museum of Chocolate)
- 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 was 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 Center for the Interpretation of Cultural Relations Cuba-Europe
- Stop by the flea market to discuss with the locals about the vintage books and Revolution memorabilia
- 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
- Then on to 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
- Lunch at Mojito Mojito, perfectly situated behind Plaza Vieja of Old Havana. You will enjoy a wonderful lunch and friendly staff. (Included)
- Visit the Museum of Rum. An important cultural site where historians affirmed it was built in the 17th century (1772-1780). Your guide will show you all the steps in the manufacture of the original Cuban rum. The explanation goes from the raw material in the sugar cane field, history, slavery and up to today’s distribution. In conclusion you will enjoy a toast with Havana Club Rum in the tasting bar. (Included)
- From Old Havana you travel to the outskirts of Havana
- Visit Finca La Vigía, home and farm of Ernest Hemingway. He lived longer in this residence than any of his other homes. It was here he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature and wrote A Moveable Feast and The Old Man and the Sea, among other works. He left the island in 1960 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)
- Evening is free to visit the vibrant plazas of Old Havana. Cafes abound for a snack or dinner, enjoy street music, dancing and the island experience. This is a perfect evening to explore Cuba’s famed paladares
- View a Havana tradition which first started hundreds of years ago. At 9 o’clock, a cannon was fired from the ancient Fortress of San Carlos de Cabana to indicate the gates of the Old City were about to close. A large chain was then raised from the water and put across the entrance to the Havana Harbor to keep pirates from sailing in. You will go to the fort for the ceremony where the tradition continues, other than the chain which is no longer used. (Included)
Day 3 – Tuesday :: Valley of magnificent mogotes & the richest agriculture land in the nation and cigar factory
- Breakfast in hotel. (Included)
- Morning departure to the western agricultural province of Pinar del Río
- 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 internationally renowned 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 the picturesque Viñales village 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 locally as mogotes. They are irregularly shaped steep-sided hills that can rise as high as 985 feet and have bases as much as a mile in length. The mogotes were once underwater and during the Jurassic Age, about 200 million years ago, they were the first formations to emerge from the Atlantic Ocean during the creation of Cuba. Many consider this the most beautiful nature spot on the island
- Late lunch at private restaurant Balcón del Valle, Balcony of the Valley and you will see why when you get there, one of the most spectacular views of the entire trip. (Included)
- Hotel Rancho San Vicente check in: a unique hotel in a forest setting and overlooked by mountains. This is a bird watchers paradise with several endemic species and at dusk bats emerge from the multiple caves
- Evening relaxing time by one of the two pools at the hotel. (Included)
- Dinner buffet at hotel at your leisure and a relaxing evening. (Included)
Day 4 – Wednesday :: Viñales activities, tobacco farming and meals in country-side paladares
- Breakfast in hotel. (Included) You will have a very large lunch and evening meal, plan breakfast accordingly
- Morning optional activities: massage, hiking or guided birding tour (will need to be reserved the day before, the guide, not the birds)! Visit Cueva del Indio (Cave of the Indian), a short walk from your hotel for a brief boat ride through the cave. It is part of the National Park and surrounded by rainforest type vegetation. There are two swimming pools to sun and enjoy. (Optional)
- Lunch at Finca Agro-ecológica El Paraíso (be sure you get a special drink ‘Anti-Stress’ blended from fresh grown organic herbs). 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 and a cashew tree. Enjoy the outstanding view of the valley. (Included)
- Visit a tobacco farm (you will have to walk part of the way to get to there, horse or oxen are the only other form of transportation) that produces product for the world-renowned Cuban cigar. Meet the owners, third generation women who run the small farm, and have a personal demonstration of hand rolling a Habano cigar. Discussion with the ladies about the government oversight of the tobacco production and sales. Learn the Cuban government’s process for pricing and delivery of the product (Included)
- Return to hotel to relax and freshen up
- ENJOYABLE EVENING AT, SMALL, LOCAL PALADAR: Dinner at private restaurant El Campesino, on the edge of a tobacco field with the mogotes as a backdrop & meetYuri and Nino, mother and daughter owners. Enjoy a wonderful meal of Cuban Country Style Cooking (Included)
Day 5 – Thurdays :: Havana return, Revolution and vintage american cars
- Breakfast in hotel. (Included)
- Hotel check out
- Visit the open air craft market as you depart Vinales, with brightly colored buildings, shops and church. Experience small town Cuba. (Included)
- In route back to Havana, lunch or snacks are available to purchase at the rest stop. (Optional)
- In Havana you will visit the Museum of Revolution housed in the palace of former dictator 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 Revolutionaries. (Included)
- Hotel Capri check in. An iconic 1950’s hotel once owned by Santo Trafficante of American mobster fame. Actor George Raft was retained to be the public face of the casino. It closed immediately New Years Eve, December 31, 1958 when it was obvious the Revolutionaries had toppled President Batista’s forces. Opened and recently remodeled for top class accommodations. Your hotel is in the heart of today’s Vedado action
- Your group will caravan in Vintage American cars, stop for photos and continue on to dinner at Hotel Nacional. (Included)
- Before or after dinner at Hotel Nacional, take time to visit the garden, walk the site depicted in the Godfather Part II movie, enjoy a cigar, a mojito or have a rest on the veranda where some of the world’s most interesting personalities’ have taken a break while the winds from the Straits of Florida breeze by
- Dinner at La Barraca in the gardens of Hotel Nacional with a spectacular ocean view. You will enjoy a menu of excellent local food cooked on charcoal and served in clay pots. (Included)
- After dinner while at the Hotel Nacional be sure to stroll by the cannons of battles from the 1800’s and see the entrance to the bunkers overlooking the Malecon and the Straits of Florida to Key West. For 13 days in October 1962 the world hinged on the brink of a nuclear war. The epicenter of the conflict was on the island you will be standing. Diplomatic understandings were formulated, treaties were contemplated, blockades occurred, embargoes were strengthened and international legal precedent was challenged. You may go through the bunkers and trenches and be briefed on the happenings of that complex time
- Your hotel Capri is just a few block walk out the front door of the Hotel Nacional. Your guide will advise you on entertainment options
- Enjoy the evening exploring the sights and sounds of the city. You are easy walking distance from Hotel Nacional and your Hotel Capri to some of the island’s best jazz
Day 6 – Friday :: A community transformed by art and last night in Havana
- Breakfast in hotel. (Included)
- Visit the community project 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 (best known for his comic strip Peanuts which featured Charlie Brown and Snoopy), visited Muraleando and subsequently authorized an artist, her son, to paint two Snoopy murals for the community center. A giant Snoopy will greet you at the entrance. (Included)
- Lunch at the Muraleando restaurant which employs members from the neighborhood. (Included) Enjoy live music and maybe even sneak in a dance instruction. If time allows, you can visit the artesian shop on the way out.
- Traveling back through Old Havana you will visit Centro Cultural Antiguos Almacenes de Depósito San José, a giant craft market offering some of the most favored objects of Havana: garish-colored paintings by local artists, guayaberas (short-sleeve, open-neck Cuban shirts), sculptures, leather, jewelry, and various trinkets & gadgets bearing the image of Che Guevara The souvenirs here are high quality, which is why you will 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 visit alone. (Optional)
- Return to hotel
- Dinner not included. With all the great food you have experienced this week it is your last chance to re-visit one of your favorite restaurants or check out a paladar you may have heard about. Your Cuban Guide will be glad to help. Plan ahead if you want reservations
- Evening is free to explore the sights and sounds of Havana. It’s your last night in the Republic of Cuba so Enjoy!
- Your guide can help arrange tickets to the Tropicana, Buena Vista Social Club or the Jazz Café if you like. We suggest informing your guide soon on arrival to ensure tickets. (Optional)
Day 7 – Saturday :: Havana and home
- Breakfast in hotel. (Included)
- Check-out of hotel
- Private Transfer to José Martí International Airport in Havana for flight home. (Included)
- You need to be at your departure airport 3 hours before take off, please prepare accordingly. Your driver will meet you in the lobby of your Hotel
- After you clear Cuban Immigration you will be screened and your carry on will be scanned. In the departure hall there is a duty free shop, places to buy snacks and drinks, as well as souvenirs so you may want to have some Cuban Currency (CUC). There is a currency exchange in the departure hall (1) if it is open and (2) if they have USD $ to exchange for you. They do not take CUC coins. Regardless, if you have CUC coins when you get home, mail it to Global Relations and we will buy it from you
- When arriving to your U.S. entry airport you will need to clear U.S. Immigration and U.S. Customs. If questioned by an Immigration Officer about your trip to Cuba, note that you were on a sanctioned Tour of “Humanitarian Activities”. If asked what that is, tell the truth and explain it was an opportunity to directly engage with Cuban people, learn about their life and country. You were not on a vacation.
- 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.
Included in tour cost
- 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
- Airport transfers in Cuba: Your transfer at the Cuban airport is included. You will be met at the airport in Cuba and will be taken to your hotel upon arrival. On the last day of your Tour the transfer for departure to the Cuban airport is included
- Hotels in Cuba as listed in Tour itinerary, or similar
- Welcome cocktail upon arrival
- 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 Global Relations staff before and after your stay
- Emergency collect call access to the United States while in Cuba
- Certificate of Legal Cuba Travel in compliance with US Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control regulations (OFAC)
Not included in cost
- Global Relations Travel Club (GRTC) lifetime membership: $29 is not included http://www.globalrelations.us/membership.html Membership is a requirement, by Rule, to participate in GRTC tours
- Airfare is not included, you select your commercial flights and book them to and from Havana. Flight reservations are the responsibility of the participant. GRTC Team will be of assistance
- Cuban Visitor Visa to enter the country is not included, but may be arranged by GRTC at the same price as American Airlines and will be expedited for GRTC members
- Gratuities for Cuban tour guide, coach/van driver, chambermaids, restaurant staff, porters, etc. are not included
- Optional travel interruption and cancellation insurance. See http://globalrelations.ourcuba.com/insurance/