Tour introduction and overview of activities

8 days and 7 nights of learning and laughs during a ‘People to People’ experience in Cuba organized by Global Relations Travel Club (GRTC), adhering to all U.S. Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Asset Control Rules & Regulations. This is a Small Group Tour, escorted by GRTC Leaders Dan Rutherford and Josh Lanning. Lodging will be at iconic Cuban hotels, meals at the best private restaurants and time in the rural area seeing ox carts and tobacco farms and back to Havana for the thundering night life.

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 – Friday :: Arrival U.S. departure city to go to Cuba

  • Individual arrival, accommodations arranged and included

Day 2 – Saturday :: Arrival and hello Cuba

  • Depart to 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 Education Tours guide and our professional bus chauffeur, included
  • Private transfer to Hotel Riviera, included. The 1950’s iconic hotel of Meyer Lanskey. Ginger Rogers flew in for opening night at the famed Copa Room. The Revolution changed all of that
  • Private check-in with assistance from our guide and a welcome cocktail, included
  • Free time to settle in and get oriented with our historic hotel
  • This evening we will enjoy a group dinner at the restaurant Café del Oriente in old Havana, included
  • Evening walking tour of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We 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 our Cuba Education Tours guide, 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 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)
  • We 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
  • AFTER WALK: Our guide will keep us posted on local entertainment options

Day 3 – Sunday :: Hemingway, organic gardening and private cooking lesson

  • Breakfast, included
  • Travel to Cojímar, small fishing Village one of Hemingway’s favorite’s places. Visit local gardener where owner shows us how herbs, vegetables and fruit are raised for El Ajiaco Paladar’s use, how compost is produced and water conserved. See how production 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 we helped prepare, included
  • This is a unique experience; in the kitchen, with the chef and staff preparing multiple dishes and then at the bar learning how to properly prepare a Cuban mojito - - - all before the paladar opens to the public
  • Return to our hotel
  • Dinner, not included. This is a perfect evening to explore Cuba’s famed paladares

Day 4 – Monday :: Viñales valley of magnificent mogotes

  • Breakfast in hotel, included
  • Morning departure to the western agricultural province of Pinar del Río
  • Visit and tour of Francisco Donatién Cigar Factory and see how some of Cuba’s premium cigars are made, by hand, 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 locally as mogotes. Mogotes 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. They were formed by eons of erosion. 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), 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
  • 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 5 – Tuesday :: Viñales valley activities, tobacco farming and dinner in a country-side paladar

  • Breakfast in hotel, included. We will have a very large lunch and evening meal, plan breakfast accordingly
  • Optional activities: Horseback riding (Highly Recommended), hiking, massage or bird watching tour, not included; or relax by one of two swimming pools, included
  • Lunch at Finca Agro-ecológica El Paraíso, included (be sure we get a special drink ‘Stress Reliever’ blended from fresh grown organic herbs). Other than the seafood and beef, all of the food we will enjoy at lunch will have been grown on the site
  • 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 the outstanding view of the valley, included
  • Visit a privately owned tobacco farm that produces product for the world-renowned Cuban cigar, included
  • Return to hotel
  • EXCEPTIONAL EVENING AT, SMALL, LOCAL PALADAR: Dinner at private restaurant El Campesino, on the edge of a tobacco field with the mogotes as a backdrop & meet Yuri and Nino, mother and daughter owners, included. Discuss with Yuri what it’s like to have a baby in Cuba, she will have just had her second child, and discuss the evolution in Cuba of private business operations, included

Day 6 – Wednesday :: Havana return, vintage american cars and top paladar in habana

  • Breakfast in hotel, included
  • Hotel check out
  • Visit an open air craft market as we depart Vinales, included
  • Lunch will be provided on the coach ride and hosted, complimentary, by GRTC Leaders, Dan Rutherford & Josh Lanning, as to-go sandwiches in order to save time to get to Havana, optional
  • Hotel Melia Cohiba check in; 5 star Hotel in Vedado, Havana, included
  • Our group will caravan in Vintage American cars along the Malecon, and stop at a small park for photos & continue on through the ‘ancient’ forest, included
  • Dinner at an exceptional private restaurant LaGuarida, included. (Location for filming the internationally acclaimed film “Strawberry and Chocolate”, the only Cuban film to be nominated for an Academy Award.) Repeatedly rated as the #1 restaurant in Havana by Trip Advisor
  • Evening is free to explore the sights and sounds of the city

Day 7 – Thursday :: Revolution, a community transformed by art, Hemingway home and last night in Habana

  • Breakfast in hotel, included
  • Visit the Museum of the Revolution, included
  • Visit the community Project Muraleando, an art center in Havana which was inspired by the children of the community. Music, dance, sculpting, painting and other fine arts are all part of the project which transforms children’s lives. Many of them come from low income families or have behavioral problems, art is their outlet
  • Lunch at Muraleando, included, after having the opportunity to meet many of the artists
  • 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 we will be able to see inside, included
  • Return to hotel
  • Dinner not included. With all the great food we have experienced the past week, this is our last chance to re-visit one of our favorite restaurants or check out a paladar we have heard about. Our Cuban Guide and GRTC Team will be glad to help. Plan ahead, even earlier in the week if you need reservations
  • 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 – Friday :: Havana and home

  • Breakfast, included
  • Check-out of hotel
  • Transfer to José Martí International Airport for flight 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
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Breakfast
Lunch
Dinner
  • Teleconference with the 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
  • Hotel in the U.S. the night before your Cuban departure
  • Airport transfers: You are met at the airport in Cuba and will be taken to your hotel upon arrival. You are taken back to your airport in Cuba for departure
  • 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 and GRTC Team member from the U.S. escorting the tour
  • Ongoing support from Cuba Explorer staff and the GRTC Team before, during and after our stay
  • Emergency collect call access to North American while in Cuba
  • Emergency cash advances for tour participants who face complications accessing funds, from abroad, while in Cuba
  • Global Relations Travel Club (GRTC) membership: $29 http://www.globalrelations.us/membership.html Membership is a requirement, by Rule, to participate in GRTC tours
  • Airfare is not included, you select your flights
  • Fly into your U.S. departure city the first night of the Tour and your lodging is included. The next day fly to Cuba and your transfer at the Cuban airport is included. On the last day of your Tour the transfer to the Cuban airport is included. Flight reservations are the responsibility of the participant. GRTC Team will be of assistance
  • Cuban Visa and departure tax from Cuba will be arranged by your airline, along with mandatory Cuban medical insurance coverage during your island stay. GRTC Team will be of assistance
  • Gratuities for Cuban tour guide, coach/van driver, chambermaids, restaurant staff, porters, etc. for group activities. You will be asked to participate in a ‘gratuity collective’ of $154.89 in which all gratuities for group activities will be collectively paid on your behalf. Details will be sent to you
  • Optional travel interruption and cancellation insurance. See http://globalrelations.ourcuba.com/insurance/