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 – Sunday :: Arrival Cuba, iconic hotel, Hemingway haunts in Old Havana and welcome dinner

  • Depart to Havana via your arranged flights.
    You should plan arriving Havana by mid-afternoon. It may take you some time 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 Explorer’ 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. On departure from Cuba you will be asked to be at the airport 3 hours in advance. Your first tour activity will be the welcome dinner and your guide will finalize details with you on arrival to your hotel. On departure from Cuba you will be asked to be at the airport 3 hours in advance.
  • Havana’s International 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 your flight before landing.
  • On arrival at Havana’s José Martí International Airport proceed through Immigration. Your carry-on will once again be scanned.
  • Give your ‘Health’ form to the nurses in white uniforms after you go through Immigration & screening. The important question they may ask is if you have been exposed to Ebola.
  • Collect your bags and go through Customs giving them your blue customs form.
  • You will be welcomed at the airport exterior lobby after you exit Cuban Customs. Look for the person holding signage of ‘Cuba Explorer.’
    Tour participant’s arrival times may vary throughout the day. Individualized Airport transfers will be arranged.
  • You can change your money into CUC (the convertible currency used on the island) at the airport on arrival, at a Cuban bank, an official exchange bureau or at your hotel. Your guide will be of assistance. Your passport is necessary to exchange currency. Do not exchange money on the street or with an individual Cuban.
    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.”
  • Hotel Nacional check-in; relaxing time to visit the garden, walk the site depicted in the Godfather Part II movie, enjoy a cigar, a mojito or just 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 check-in with assistance from your guide.
    At the Hotel Nacional and at your leisure, 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. You can go through the bunkers and trenches and be briefed on the happenings of that complex time. (Included)
  • Free time to settle in and get oriented with your hotel.
  • Visit La Bodeguita del Medio where legend has it as the birthplace of the mojito in 1942. Though the authenticity of the framed inscription that reads “My mojito in La Bodeguita, My daiquiri in El Floridita” autographed by Ernest Hemingway is questioned as it hangs proudly behind the bar. (Included)
  • Enjoy a welcome dinner at Floridita Restaurante, adjacent to one of the most famous bars in the world. It is the cradle of the Daquiri and homage to Ernest Hemingway. He frequented the bar, which is at the end of Calle Obispo (Bishop Street), a short walk from the Hotel Ambos Mundos where he maintained a room from 1932–1939. Hemingway's children also noted that in the early 1940s Hemingway and his wife Mary continued to drive from their house Finca Vigia outside Havana to the Floridita for drinks. The restaurant is of international class, located in the round room, adjoining the bar. (Included)
  • After dinner your guide will let you know some evening entertainment options for your personal exploring where you can engage with the local Cubans.

Day 2 – Monday :: Hemingway scholar, Old Havana tour, Museum of Rum, marine warehouse and shopping

  • Breakfast in hotel. (Included)
  • Morning presentation by recognized Hemingway scholar on his life in Cuba and his works based on Cuban experiences and places. The discussion will take place in a private lounge at the Hotel Saratoga. (Included)
  • 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. Meet the private street vendors selling souvenirs out of their homes. This is a private tour led by your Cuba Tours’ guide. (Included)
  • 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 Cuban baroque architecture.
  • Visit the Museum of Chocolate, a small shop with intriguing artifacts relating to the history of chocolate production in Cuba. You can watch chocolates being made at the back of the premises while you sip a warming cup of hot chocolate or a soothing glass of cold chocolate. The Museo del Chocolate also sells artisanal chocolates singly or boxed. (Optional, Included)
  • 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.
  • Visit the cigar shop La Casa del Habano which may be the best cigar shop in Old Havana. It is hidden on the mezzanine which was once slave quarters. Cigar aficionados can enjoy the patio with its vegetation, mahogany rocking chairs and peacocks. The building was the colonial mansion of the Count of Villanueva, leader of the creole Havana society in the 19th century. (Optional, Included)
  • Square of Arms, a military parade ground for Spanish soldiers, surrounded by impressive buildings.
  • Visit La Casa de los Artistas, Estudio La Mina the studio-workshop and exhibition space for five of the significant figures of Cuban art: Zaida Del Rio, Angel Ramirez, Carlos Guzmán, Ernesto Rancaño, Pedro Pablo Oliva and Roberto Fabelo. The colonial mansion that houses the art studio was built in the sixteenth century and was the residence of the bishops of Havana. (Optional, Included)
  • 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.
  • As you stroll through the historic cobblestone streets of Old Havana you will experience the sensations Ernest Hemingway felt and those of the colonialists’ centuries earlier.
  • Lunch at Mojito Mojito private restaurant, great Cuban food and just off of Plaza Vieja in Old Havana. You will enjoy a wonderful meal, live music 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) The shop has all the options of Havana Club available for purchase.
  • Time to shop for souvenirs at Centro Cultural Antiguos Almacenes de Depósito San José, a giant craft market offering some of 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 & gadgets bearing the image of Che Guevara. The souvenirs 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. (Included)
  • Return to hotel.
  • Dinner at the paladar La Casa, private restaurant, one of the earliest established in Cuba and still in the original home. (Included)
  • Evening is free to explore the sights and sounds of Havana. Enjoy street music, dancing and the island experience.

Day 3 – Tuesday :: Hemingway by the Sea, organic gardening, private cooking lesson, Hemingway’s home, a community project

  • Breakfast in hotel. (Included)
  • Travel to Cojimar, a small fishing village 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)
    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 character 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 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 (seafood, 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)
  • Visit Finca Vigía, home and farm of Ernest Hemingway, west of Havana in the small 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, Islands in the Stream and much of The Old Man and the Sea. Now a museum, you will meet the docents and curators who affectionately maintain his library, manuscripts and personal belongings. His boat Pilar (made famous, in part, from Papa’s Marlin fishing and hunting German submarines off the northern coast of the island) and the graves of some of his dogs are all on the grounds. (Included)
  • Proyectongo is a community project focused on art education and opportunities for children to learn and create. Seniors also utilize the facility. It is supported by the sale of the art by local artists and is only a few block from Hemingway's home.
  • Return to hotel.
  • Dinner (Not included). With all the great food you have experienced, this is your chance to re-visit one of your favorite privately owned restaurants you may have heard about. Your guide will be of assistance in helping you select a good private paladar. Plan ahead if you want reservations.
    Your guide can help arrange tickets to the Tropicana or Buena Vista Social Club 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. Enjoy street music, dancing and the island experience.

Day 4 – Wednesday :: Vintage American cars, enjoy Havana, farewell lunch, last night in Havana

  • Breakfast in hotel. (Included)
  • This morning you will have the opportunity to caravan in iconic 1950’s Vintage American cars, a fascinating experience of nostalgia. You will cruise the Malecon (a broad esplanade, roadway and seawall) and stop for photos. (Included)
  • Lunch at Mediterraneo Havana, a small private restaurant located in a Vedado mansion in a quiet neighborhood. A real treat. (Included) Mediterráneo has established itself as one of the best paladares in Vedado serving local farm produced product, organically.
  • Return to Hotel Nacional.
  • Independent time to visit private shops, galleries or cafes.
  • Dinner (Not Included). This is a perfect evening to explore Cuba’s famed paladares to enjoy delicious food and support a Cuban family business, or visit one of the many cafes within easy walking distance of your hotel.
  • Evening is free to explore the sights and sounds of the city. It is your last night in Cuba so enjoy!

Day 5 – Thursday :: Havana and Home

  • Breakfast in hotel. (Included)
  • Depending on the time of your airline departure you may enjoy a relaxing early morning swim or a walk along the Malecon with the Straits of Florida next to you.
  • Hotel check-out.
  • Transfer to José Martí International Airport in Havana for flight home. (Included)
  • Airlines recommend you be at your departure airport 3 hours before takeoff. Please prepare accordingly. Your guide or driver will meet you in the lobby of your hotel.
  • It is prohibited to take Cuban currency (CUC) out of the country. After your airline check-in there is a currency exchange available for you to change your CUCs into US dollars (or another currency). Be sure to do so before entering Immigration.
  • 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. They will accept U.S dollars.
  • When arriving to your U.S. entry airport you will need to clear U.S. Immigration and U.S. Customs. If asked by an Immigration Officer about your trip to Cuba, note that you were on a sanctioned Tour. If asked what you did, 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 date Cost Comments Availability
May 31 to Jun 4, 2020 $ 1999
Book now
Tour meals at your hotel and at fine restaurants
Day12345
Breakfast
Lunch
Dinner
  • A Certificate of Legal Cuba Travel, per participant, in accordance 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) $29 one-time membership fee is included. Membership is a requirement, by Rule, to participate in GR tours.
  • You will receive a series of briefing e mails before departure to assist you in preparing for the trip.
  • All taxes; amounts are quoted in US dollars.
  • Fly to Cuba and you will be met at the airport for transfer to your hotel. On your last day of the tour the transfer to the Cuban airport is included.
  • Airport departure tax from Cuba and the Cuban mandatory Emergency Insurance coverage during your island stay is usually covered in the cost of your U.S. carrier airfare.
  • Hotel in Cuba as listed in your itinerary, or similar.
  • Welcome cocktail.
  • All breakfasts, lunches and dinners as per itinerary.
  • All activities and services, as described in tour itinerary except those noted as “Optional” or “Not included.”
  • Air-conditioned transportation and a Cuban professional driver dedicated to you.
  • Cold bottled water on transport.
  • An expert Cuban English-speaking guide who will also serve as interpreter.
  • 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.
  • Airfare is not included; you select your commercial flights and book them to and from Havana.
  • You will have expedited processing of your needed Cuban Visa at the standard Visa price of $85 and as a member benefit there will be no fee for shipping and handling.
  • Gratuities for your Cuban tour guide, coach driver, chambermaids, restaurant staff, porters, etc. are not included.
  • Optional travel interruption and cancellation insurance. See http://globalrelations.ourcuba.com/insurance/