Tour introduction and overview of activities

Travel the path of the Cuban Revolution from Fidel Castro’s birthplace in eastern Cuba to the capital of Havana where strongman Fulgencio Batista was toppled and fled the island

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 - Thursday :: Arrival Cuba, Fidel's birthplace and childhood home, welcome dinner

  • Depart to Holguin, Cuba, via your arranged flights.
  • Arrival at Holguin (HOG) 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.
  • Holguin (HOG) Airport arrival hall does have bathrooms. They may not have seats or tissue. This is normal in Cuba, 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 & screening. The important question they will ask is if you have been in Africa and exposed to Ebola.
  • You will be welcomed at the exterior of the airport by your guide after you exit Cuban customs. Look for signage of “Cuba Explorer.” They will have your flight number and arrival time and will be waiting for you.
  • While bags are being loaded on your motor coach, you will have time to exchange currency and get a sandwich or snack.
  • Depart Holguin to Biran.
  • Visit Fidel’s childhood home outside of the small village of Biran on the Castro family 25,000 acre plantation. It is the birth place of Ramon Castro in 1924, Fidel Castro in 1926, and Raul Castro in 1931. (Included)
  • Depart Biran to Santiago de Cuba.
  • Check-in at Casa Grand Hotel, the century old, newly renovated hotel facing the famous Parque Cespedes.
  • View Ayuntamiento (City Hall) located on the same Plaza as your hotel. Fidel Castro gave his Revolution victory speech from its balcony on January 1, 1959.
  • This evening you will enjoy a welcome dinner at La Fondita de Compay Ramon. A small paladare with authentic Cuban country style food prepared and served by Ramon and his wife. A wonderful start for your Cuban adventure. (Included)
  • Evening is free to explore Santiago de Cuba.
  • Overnight Casa Grand Hotel.

Day 2 - Friday :: Fidel's Tomb and changing of the guard, Moncada Barracks-Cuba Revolution and Spanish-American War, San Juan hill

  • Breakfast in hotel. (Included)
  • Visit Santa Ifigenia Cemetery and see Fidel’s tomb and the final resting place of Jose Marti. You will see the changing of the guard. (Included)
  • Visit the Moncada Barracks where, on July 26, 1953, Fidel Castro led an armed attack which failed and he was captured. (Included)
    The Moncada Barracks was a military barracks in Santiago de Cuba, named after a hero of the Cuban War of Independence. On July 26, 1953, the barracks was the site of an armed attack by a small group of revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro that became widely accepted as the beginning of the Cuban Revolution. The date, 26 July, was adopted by Castro as the name for his revolutionary movement, which eventually toppled the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959.
  • Lunch at El Morro restaurant; it is cliffside on the sea and adjacent to El Morro fortress. Paul McCartney enjoyed eating here. (Included)
  • Visit San Juan Hill. (Included)
    The Battle of San Juan Hill (July 1, 1898), also known as the battle for the San Juan Heights, was a decisive battle of the Spanish–American War. The San Juan Heights was a north-south running elevation about 2,200 yards east of Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. The names San Juan Hill and Kettle Hill were given to the location by the Americans. This fight for the heights was the bloodiest and most famous battle of the war. It was also the location of the greatest victory for the Rough Riders, as claimed by the press and its new commander, Theodore Roosevelt, who was to eventually become first vice-president and then president, and who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2001 for his actions in Cuba. (Text from Wikipedia)
  • Afternoon discussion on the importance of Santiago de Cuba in the Revolution. (Included)
  • Return to hotel.
  • Dinner (Not included). This is a perfect evening to explore Cuba’s famed paladares or visit one of the many cafes within easy walking distance of your hotel.
  • Overnight Casa Grand Hotel.

Day 3 - Saturday :: Basilica of Cuba’s Patron Saint, Hemingway's Nobel prize, travel west 

  • Breakfast in hotel. (Included)
  • Hotel check-out.
  • Depart from Santiago de Cuba following the path of the Cuban Revolutionaries on their move to Camaguey and eventually Havana, via Bayamo and Las Tunas.
  • Visit Basilica de Nuestra del Cobre. This is the country’s most sacred pilgrimage site since the Virgin of Charity is the patron Saint of Cuba. In the Afro-Cuban religion she is associated with Ochun, the Yoruba goddess of love. This is the home for Ernest Hemingway’s Nobel Prize medal for literature. (Included)
  • Rest stop in Bayamo, a city predating both Havana and Santiago. It is known as the city of horse carts because nearly half the population use horses for daily travel.
  • Lunch in Bayamo. (Not included)
  • Depart Bayamo to Las Tunas.
  • Rest stop in Las Tunas, a sleepy agriculture town and provincial capital.
  • Arrive in Camaguey, Cuba’s third largest city. The colonial center is a World Heritage site.
  • Check-in at Hotel Santa Maria in Camaguey, a boutique hotel on the historic Plaza del Gallo.
  • Dinner at Santa Teresa Restaurant, a mix of options between Italian and Cuban. (Included)
  • Evening free to explore Camaguey. Tour by bicitaxis. (Optional)
  • Overnight Hotel Santa Maria.

Day 4 - Sunday :: CDR, Ciego de Avila y Santa Clara

  • Breakfast in hotel. (Included)
  • Hotel check-out.
  • Group discussion with your guide about the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (Included), a network of neighborhood committees across Cuba.
    The organizations, described as the "eyes and ears of the Revolution," exist to promote social welfare and report on counter-revolutionary activity. As of 2010, 8.4 million Cubans of the national population of 11.2 million were registered as CDR members.
  • Depart Camagüey to Ciego de Avil.
  • Stop at Rancho Rio Azul outside of Ciego de Avil to freshen up. Time for a refreshment and a snack. (Not Included)
  • Depart Ciego de Avil to Santa Clara.
    Che Guevera’s liberation of Santa Clara in 1958 marked the end of the Batista regime.
  • Check-in Hotel Central Santa Clara, newly renovated vintage hotel on the plaza.
  • Walking tour of the plaza and central Santa Clara.
  • Dinner at the Hotel Central Santa Clara, options for a fine meal and accommodating staff. (Included)
  • Overnight Hotel Central Santa Clara.

Day 5 – Monday :: Cigar factory, Armored Train Monument, Statue of Che,  Decorative Arts Museum

  • Breakfast in hotel. (Included)
  • Visit Cigar Factory (Fabrico de Tabaco Costantino Perez Carrodegua), one of Cuba's best, that makes Montecristos, Partagás and Romeo y Julieta cigars. (Included)
  • Visit the Armored Train Monument, a memento of one of the most relevant events near the end of the Cuban insurrection against the Batista dictatorship, and see the American made Caterpillar bulldozer used to rip-up the railroad tracks in Santa Clara. (Included) 18 men under the command of Che Guevara, equipped with rifles and grenades, captured a 22-car armored train containing 350 heavily armed Batista troops. Amazingly, this battle, which took place on December 29, 1958, only lasted 90 minutes.
    This is a unique site for those interested in Cuba’s Revolution history. In 1958, troops led by Guevara struck a hard blow to Batista’s tyranny by derailing an armored train carrying reinforcement soldiers to fight the Rebel Army in the eastern area of the island. The monument consists of four original train cars, the Caterpillar bulldozer used to rip out the railway and a steamroller.
  • Visit Statue of Che holding a child. (Included)
    A life-size model of Che with hidden symbols all over. Sculptors took their time to create intricate details. You will find small models of 38 men who were killed with Guevara in Bolivia hidden in his belt buckle, a girl looking out through the window on his left rib, a small boy riding a goat on his right shoulder and a man riding a horse on his shirt pocket. All are symbolic references acknowledging different parts in Che’s life.
  • Visit the Decorative Arts Museum (Museo de Artes Decorativas) . The former home of a Cuban born countess was abandoned just prior to the Revolution. She was a true collector of the arts and it is now open to the public. (Included, optional)
  • Return to hotel. Explore the plaza and surrounding area and lunch. (Not Included)
  • Afternoon free to discover Santa Clara.
  • Dinner at Complejo Gastronomico Cultural Santa Rosalia (Santa Rosalia Cultural Gourmet) across the Plaza from your hotel. (Included)
  • Overnight Hotel Central Santa Clara.

Day 6 – Tuesday :: Che, Bay of Pigs, Revolutionary Armed Forces Command Museum-Cuban Resistance, vintage American cars 

  • Breakfast in hotel. (Included) Plan for a long day of travel.
  • Hotel-check out.
  • Visit the monument, mausoleum and museum of Revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara. Che Guevera’s liberation of Santa Clara in1958 marked the end of the Batista regime. (Included) There is a 22-foot bronze statue of Che.
    Santa Clara was chosen for his interment in remembrance of Guevara's troops taking the city on December 31, 1958, during the Battle of Santa Clara. The result of this final battle of the Cuban Revolution was Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista fleeing into exile. The memorial in Che Guevara Square houses the remains of the revolutionary hero and twenty-nine of his fellow combatants killed in 1967 during an attempted armed uprising in Bolivia after Che had left Cuba.
    Guevara was buried with full military honors on October 17 1997 after his remains were discovered in 1995 in southern Bolivia, after having be lost for decades in an unmarked grave, were exhumed and returned to Cuba. Che's remains, and those of six comrades who died with him, arrived in Santa Clara by a motorcade from Havana in small wooden caskets aboard trailers towed by green jeeps. As the remains were unloaded before a crowd of several hundred thousand people a choir of school children sang. Fidel Castro declared: “Why did they think that by killing him, he would cease to exist as a fighter? Today he is in every place, wherever there is a just cause to defend. His unerasable mark is now in history and his luminous gaze of a prophet has become a symbol for all the poor of this world.”
  • Depart Santa Clara to Havana, via Playa Giron - the Bay of Pigs (Bahia de Cochinos) and Australia.
  • Lunch at Punta Perdiz restaurant, open air and on beach front. (Included)
  • Along the road leading to Bay of Pigs, there are commemorative monuments to Cuban soldiers who died during the invasion.
  • Visit the Bay of Pigs and the Museum Playa Giron, devoted to the Cuban victory against the invasion orchestrated by the United States Central Intelligence Agency on April 17, 1961. In all, 200 attackers were killed, 1197 captured and 11 planes were shot down. A lasting legacy is that the entire Bay of Pigs is off limits to cruising boats. (Included)
  • Depart Playa Giron to Australia.
  • Visit the small village of Australia, north of Playa Giron. Population is approximately 8,850 and was the first sugar town in Cuba to stop using slave labor. This is where, in 1961, Fidel personally staged operations in response to the Bay of Pigs invasion. You will tour the Revolutionary Armed Forces Command Museum in the former office of the factory. The museum tells the story of the deeds by the Cubans in the invasion, graphic pictures, weapons and wreckage of an American plane. (Included)
  • Depart Australia to Havana.
    Quote from Lonely Planet: “No one could have invented Havana. It’s too audacious, too contradictory, and – despite 50 years of withering neglect – too damned beautiful. How it does it is anyone’s guess. Maybe it’s the swashbuckling history still almost perceptible in atmospheric colonial streets; the survivalist spirit of a populace scarred by two independence wars, a revolution and a US trade embargo; or the indefatigable salsa energy that ricochets off walls and emanates most emphatically from the people. Don’t come here with a long list of questions. Just arrive with an open mind and prepare for a long, slow seduction.”
  • Welcome to Havana!
  • Private check-in Hotel Nacional with assistance from our guide. Relaxing 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.
  • Enjoy a welcome cocktail (Included) after your private check-in with assistance from your guide.
  • On the grounds of the Hotel Nacional, stroll by cannons of battles from the 1800’s and visit the bunkers used during the Cuban Missile Crisis, built 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. (Included)
  • Free time to settle in and get oriented with your historic hotel.
  • Early evening you will have the opportunity to caravan in iconic 1950’s Vintage American cars, a fascinating experience of nostalgia. You will cruise the Malecon (Seawall), stop for photos and be dropped off for dinner. (Included)
  • Dinner at Mediterraneo Havana, a small private restaurant located in a typical Vedado mansion in a quiet neighborhood. A real treat. Mediterráneo Havana has established itself as one of the best paladares in Vedado. (Included)
  • 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)
  • Evening is free to explore the sights and sounds of Havana.
  • Overnight at Hotel Nacional.

Day 7 – Wednesday :: Plaza de la Revolucion, Hemingway by The Sea, organic gardening, private cooking lesson, Hemingway's home, last night in Habana               

  • Breakfast in hotel. (Included)
  • Visit the Square of the Revolution (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. Fidel Castro would give hours long fiery speeches there. 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 and President Barack Obama visited during his historic trip to Cuba (March 2016). (Included)
  • Depart Havana to Cojimar.
  • Travel to Cojímar, a small fishing village approximately 7 miles east of Havana. It was Ernest Hemingway’s favorite fishing port in Cuba and the basis for Old Man and the Sea. This is the harbor where Hemingway’s boat Pilar was moored and where Papa and Gregorio would depart to marlin fish or hunt German Submarines. On water’s edge see Hemingway’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 where they show you how herbs, vegetables and fruits are raised for the private restaurant where you will be cooking later. Up close see mangos, bananas, plantains, squash, avocado, coffee and maybe even the Cuban Bee Hummingbird, the smallest bird in the world, endemic to Cuba. See how organic gardening in a residential neighborhood produces private income and supplies a local business. (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. Humble paladar, but visited by food networks from around the world and a number of notable celebrities such as Kevin Bacon and Sigourney Weaver. (Included)
  • Much of the inspiration for The Old Man and the Sea came from Hemingway's time in Cojimar. La Terraza, is a fisherman’s bar on the Bay of Cojimar where Hemingway docked his boat, Pilar. The bar is where he spent many an afternoon drinking with the fishermen, one being Gregorio Fuentes, the Captain of Pilar. Many believe him to be the model for the charater Santiago—the old man of the sea. Some say the young boy in the story, Manolo, was based on the young son of the owner of La Terraza, Manolito.
  • Visit Finca La Vigía, home and farm of Ernest Hemingway, 10 miles west of Havana in the town of San Francisco de Paula. He lived longer in his Cuba residence than any of his other homes. It was here he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature and wrote portions of A Moveable Feast, For Whom the Bell Tolls and much of The Old Man and the Sea, among other compositions. This unique National Museum also includes his boat Pilar (made famous, in part, from Papa’s Marlin fishing and hunting German submarines off the north coast of Cuba) and the graves of some of his dogs. The fully furnished home displays his library, manuscripts and personal effects which you will be able to see. (Included)
  • Return to Havana.
  • Dinner (Not included). With all the great food you have experienced, this is your chance to re-visit one of your favorite restaurants or check out a paladar you may have heard about. Your Cuban Guide and GRTC Team will be glad to help. Plan ahead if you want reservations.
  • Evening is free to visit the vibrant plazas of Old Havana or the night life in Vedado to enjoy street music, dancing and the island experience. It is your last night in the Republic of Cuba, so enjoy!
  • Overnight Hotel Nacional.

Day 8 – Thursday :: Havana and Home

  • Breakfast in hotel. (Included)
  • Hotel check-out.
  • Transfer to José Martí International Airport in Havana for flight home. (Included)
  • Airlines recommend you need to be at your departure airport 3 hours before takeoff. Please prepare accordingly. Your guide 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.
  • 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 “People to People” Educational trip. 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. To be clear: You were not on a vacation.
  • Memories of a wonderful visit to the Pearl of the Antilles: Cuba! (Included)
While in Cuba, our attentive island team ensures your trip is magical and memorable.
Tour meals at your hotel and at fine restaurants
  • As a GRTC member, Global Relations Travel Club leadership will make available to you a teleconference to go through the itinerary, answer questions and offer suggestions.
  • As a GRTC member you will receive a series of briefing e mails before departure to assist you in preparing for your trip.
  • All taxes, amounts are quoted in US dollars.
  • Airport departure tax from Cuba and the mandatory Emergency 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 your last day of the tour the transfer for departure to the Cuban airport is also included.
  • Hotels in Cuba as listed in tour itinerary, or similar.
  • Welcome cocktail upon arrival.
  • All breakfasts, lunches and dinners as per itinerary except those noted as “Optional” or “Not included.”
  • All activities, services, speakers and meetings as described in tour itinerary except those noted as “Optional” or “Not included.”
  • Air-conditioned coach transportation and a Cuban professional driver dedicated to your group. Cold bottled water on board.
  • An expert Cuban English-speaking guide and interpreter, along with a GRTC Team member from the U.S accompanying your tour.
  • As a GRTC member you will receive ongoing travel support from the Global Relations team before and after your stay.
  • Emergency collect call access to the United States while in Cuba.
  • Certificate of Legal Cuba Travel in compliance with the US Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) section 31 C.F.R. § 515.572(a)(1)
  • Global Relations Travel Club (GRTC) lifetime membership: $29 is not included 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.
  • As a GRTC member you will have expedited processing of the needed Cuban Visitor Visa at the standard price, not included, with no fee for shipping and handling when paid for at least two weeks prior to U.S. departure.
  • Gratuities for Cuban tour guide, coach/van driver, chambermaids, restaurant staff, porters, etc. for group activities are not included. You will be asked to participate in a ‘gratuity collective’ of $189.50 in which all gratuities for group activities will be collectively paid in Cuban Currency on your behalf. Details will be sent to you.
  • Optional travel interruption and cancellation insurance. See