Nature, arts, culture and history
eight days and seven nights in the Pearl of the Caribbean
Single room supplement $250
Day 1 – Saturday :: Hello Cuba, bienvenido a La Habana
Your Western Cuba Culture Tour commences with the arrival of group flights from Florida.
On the way to your hotel relish views of one of the oldest and most stunning cities in the New World. During our many excursions around the capital, and beyond, your guide provides historical commentary on all points of interest.
After having settled in and had a chance to rest and freshen up, enjoy a first taste of island cuisine at a group arrival dinner prepared by the hotel’s restaurant chef. Afterwards your guide may have some fun evening activities to suggest, time permitting.
Day 2 – Sunday :: Getting to know Old Havana and its people
Greet the day with tasty breakfast served at your hotel. Then examine Cuba's greatest visual masterpieces spanning three centuries at Havana’s museum of modern art – Palacio de Bellas Artes. Sections are devoted to landscape, religious subjects and narrative scenes of Cuban life. A gallery devoted to the 1970s displays the latest generation of Cuban artists whose works reflect the strong symbolic imagery prevalent in recent decades. Together the exhibits account for the richness of the island's Spanish, French, Chinese, African and Aboriginal cultural roots.
Ernest Hemingway described Havana as the "Paris of the Americas." He was alluding to its incredible architecture, arts, and of course the city's engaging outgoing people. We’ll have a chance to share this impression on a walking tour of four historic plazas that make Havana unique in the western hemisphere. These plazas contain the largest collection of Spanish colonial-era architecture in the Americas. Witness Cathedral Square, the most beautiful and private 18th century colonial plaza on the island. Explore the Square of Arms [Plaza de Armas], an ancient military parade ground for Spanish soldiers.
Continue onto Plaza San Francisco de Asís, one of the oldest plazas in the historical quarter. The square is named after the magnificent Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco de Asís dating from the 16th century. And, finally visit Plaza Vieja, the only civic square of colonial times. In contrast to the churches and government buildings of the previous squares, opulent aristocratic 17th century mansions characterize Plaza Vieja. All of this takes place in the company of Cubans eager to engage with the American cousins.
You will enjoy lunch at one of the newest paladars in Old Havana. With the double invocation of one of the most emblematic drinks of Cuba, this space wants to stay in the gastronomic memory of its clients. Specializing in paellas and seafood dishes, Mojito-Mojito invites you to spend a pleasant time marked by the wide and varied cocktails, but above all, by the distinctive taste of its essence.
We’ll participate in an open group discussion led by a longtime member of the the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba [Unión Nacional de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba, UNEAC]. The theme is “Cuban Society Today.” The workshop is a freewheeling opportunity to exchange ideas about Cuban culture and US-Cuban relations. Our American guests consider this close encounter a tour highlight.
Dining highlight. On the corner of Zanja and Lucena, in the Centro Habana neighborhood of Cayo Hueso (Key West), the ground floor of an old apartment building has been transformed into a magnificent new restaurant. The owner baptized it with her name: Barbra. Her Madrid-inspired menu offers a variety of international food with distinctly Cuban touches. Barbra's exquisite taste in food is reflected in the modernist architectural details and furnishings she designed. Barbra provides a refreshingly quiet, yet ample interior for families and groups. You'll enjoy the intimate bar sporting tasty Cuban cocktails and live music played on a baby grand piano.
Afterwards you will attend to the fabulous Buena Vista Social tour performance. Though the original social club shut down in the early 1960s, the Buena Vista Social Club’s influence in music still lives on to this day. Its story has been made into major albums and even an award-winning film, defining the careers of many talented musicians once lost in the past. With these factors, we explore the critically acclaimed and publicly praised legacy of the Buena Vista Social club. (Men must wear shoes and pants. Sandals and shorts not permitted.)
Day 3 – Monday :: The natural splendor of rural Cuba
After breakfast we begin a day excursion to the amazing Las Terrazas region just one hour to the west of Havana. Once mired in poverty and completely deforested as a result of centuries of charcoal production for coffee processing and cooking, Las Terrazas today is a vibrant self-sustaining eco-community.
Located in the Sierra del Rosario mountain range Las Terrazas spans the provinces of Artemisa and Pinar del Río. Tour the rural village called Rancho Curujey and enjoy a welcome cocktail while learning about this self-sustaining community's successes in reforestation, historical preservation, environmental balance, and a good life. Later we'll walk the incredible ruins of a French Coffee Plantation built in 1801 worked by African slaves.
Enjoy lunch at an open-air restaurant specializing in traditional country cuisine – La Casa del Campesino – ever popular with tour participants and locals alike. The eatery is located on the fresh water shore of the Río San Juan making it lush tropical paradise. Your local guide will explain the restoration of the jungles and forests of Las Terrazas and learn the principles, approaches and practices that combined serve to sustain the region.
Return to your hotel in Havana and freshen up.
Dinner tonight is not included in tour cost. You are free to explore the many excellent local paladares (private restaurants) in the neighborhood. Your guide will gladly suggest the best eateries as well as evening entertainment options.
Day 4 – Tuesday :: Urban agriculture, Hemingway house
Greet the morning with a hardy breakfast at your hotel.
In preparation for this morning’s activity, check out this riveting British Broadcasting Corporation feature from Around the World in 80 Gardens on urban organic farms in Havana including a walk-through of Vivero Organopónico Alamar by fab host Monty Don.
We’ll visit the UBPC Vivero Organopónico Alamar, 15 km (9.3 miles) east of Havana. It’s one of the most successful urban organic farms in Cuba raising ornamental plants, medicinal herbs, and sprouting millions of seedlings for neighboring private and collective farms. Established in the early 1990s by a dozen people, the Alamar cooperative now has over 400 members who together supply a vast range of healthy, organic vegetables to nearby communities.
We have lunch at Ajiaco paladar, considered one of the best private eateries in the region. Located in the romantic coastal fishing village of Cojímar (the setting for Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea"), Ajiaco paladar [restaurant] is amongst the top rated eateries on TripAdvisor. It's noted for it fantastic service, atmosphere and food. Organic fresh produce and other ingredients come from Vivero Organopónico Alamar.
Now savor a visit to Finca Vigía [Lookout Farm] where North America's literary giant Ernest Hemingway spent twenty-one of his most important and productive years penning the building blocks of English literature. Claimed by both the United States and Cuba as their son, it was Hemingway himself who declared the island his true home. The house has been preserved just as it was when Hemingway lived there. You'll see his personal objects, thousands of books and photographs, as well as some "trophies" bagged on his frequent safaris.
- We return to our hotel and freshen up.
- Dinner tonight is not included in tour cost. You are free to explore the many excellent local paladares (private restaurants) in the neighborhood. Your guide will gladly suggest the best eateries as well as evening entertainment options.
Day 5 – Wednesday :: Historic Cienfuegos and Trinidad de Cuba
Early morning departure to Trinidad following breakfast at our Havana hotel.
En route to Trinidad, we stop in beautiful Cienfuegos founded by French immigrants at the beginning of the 19th century. The city is renowned for its wealth of stunning historical buildings. Your guide will recount the story of the origins of this quaint yet cosmopolitan city, known as the "Pearl of the South." You'll walk its main Plaza Martí where the ceremony of its foundation took place, as do many important events still today. We'll visit such neoclassical buildings as the Cathedral built with donations from wealthy slave owning families – enduring names like Lebranc, Albi, and Terry. Inside the Cathedral a marvelously rendered stained glass mural of the Twelve Apostles imported from Paris will awe you. The original machinery of the Cathedral's tower clock was also crafted in France and keeps on ticking to this day. Cienfuegos, founded by French colonists, naturally sports a replica of the Arc de Triomphe in its central plaza.
Lunch at private restaurant Villa Lagarto.
Now we journey on to the historic city of Trinidad and check in to your hotel. Following time to freshen up, the hotel will host a welcome dinner.
This evening you might choose to visit Casa de la Música or Casa de la Trova – both great sound venues and opportunities to chat and dance with Cubans and your tour companions
Day 6 – Thursday :: Mountaintop excursion in Soviet Army trucks
This morning, following a buffet breakfast, we board Soviet Army trucks to climb the peaks of Topes de Collantes in the Escambray Mountains. The Escambrays comprise the island's second highest range, reaching to 3,700 feet atop Pico San Juan. The Escambrays are home to small villages and a true delight for birders and naturalists alike. Dramatic slopes are swathed in Caribbean pines, ancient tree ferns, bamboo and eucalyptus. It’s the perfect environment to spot the Cuban parakeet, Fernandina's flicker, the Cuban parrot, the Cuban pygmy owl (about the size of a robin), and the Gundlach's hawk.
Upon arrival at Hacienda Codina, an old Spanish coffee plantation, we'll enjoy a traditional Cuban lunch, Next we'll take a walking tour of the area to admire the beauty of the surrounding landscape and the animals and plants it hosts. After some exploration by foot, descend the mountain and return to Trinidad.
Board our bus and stop at a mirador [lookout] high above the Valle de los Ingenios [Sugar Mill Valley], also an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sugar was king in Cuba for centuries. Spaniards introduced the sweetener in 1512. It enriched conquistadors and nobles returning more wealth than all the gold and silver extracted from Peru and Chile. It helped make Cuba the wealthiest nation in Latin America. Sugar’s stellar profits allowed select families to built incredible mansions and monuments. The lust for sugar was the engine of the African slave trade, redefining ownership of human beings along color lines for the first time in history. Today sugar plays a greatly diminished role in the economy.
This evening is free to explore the sights and sounds of Trinidad, or entertainment options and amenities at your resort.
Day 7 – Friday :: UNESCO World Heritage Sites
After a tasty breakfast buffet at your hotel we'll explore on foot the historic central plaza of Trinidad de Cuba. Its 16th century edifices are the most pristine and unblemished on the island. Road access to Trinidad happened after 1959. Prior to that it was only accessible by ship and sea. The village was established in 1514 on orders of the conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar who traveled to Cuba with Columbus in 1493. It was from Trinidad de Cuba that conquistador Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro (1485–1547) launched his attack on the Aztec Empire, toppling its capital Tenochtitlan, the world's largest, most opulent and hygienic metropolis of the day.
Visit Plaza Mayor, Museum of Architecture, Museum of the Romantic Era, the main town parish and other amazing sites, some dating back centuries. We will wander the streets of Trinidad's historical center and examine the oldest architecture in the Americas with local Cubans. You’ll immediately see why UNESCO declared the city a World Heritage Site in 1988.
Trinidad is well known for its pottery makers. We'll meet a family that has been passing on the tradition for generations: the Santanders. We spend time talking with these artisans and perhaps learning some secrets of their craft.
After lunch at a local paladar in Trinidad, we will drive back to our Havana hotel and have some time to freshen up in preparation for a fabulous farewell group dinner. In the heart of Vedado, set in an elegant mansion is one of Havana's best restaurants: El Atelier. Its menu changes daily at chef's discretion and availability of fresh produce. Aside from its selection of to-die-for dishes, and excellent service, the atmosphere is worth the visit if only for a cocktail. El Atelier has been among the city's best eateries for years with Cubans and foreign guests – one of who was Michele Obama and friends in 2016.
Day 8 – Saturday :: Say goodbye to Cuba – for now
Breakfast at our hotel is followed by packing and checking-out of your hotel for transfer to Havana’s José Martí International airport for your flight home.
Keep in touch with your new Cuban friends – exchange email addresses! Bring some business cards to pass out. Take pictures and keep a journal. Upon your return, we'll post them on this website for all to see and enjoy.
We'll miss you and hope you will return soon! In Cuba we say: A true friend remembers the song in your heart when you have forgotten the lyrics.
Costs, dates, book now
|Jun 20 to Jun 27, 2020||$ 2199|
Two rooms remain
|Jul 18 to Jul 25, 2020||$ 2199|
Space for two more
|Aug 15 to Aug 22, 2020||$ 2199|
Two rooms remain
|Sep 12 to Sep 19, 2020||$ 2199|
Filling up fast
|Oct 10 to Oct 17, 2020||$ 2199|
Filling up fast
|Nov 7 to Nov 14, 2020||$ 2469|
This date is popular
|Dec 5 to Dec 12, 2020||$ 2469|
This date is popular
|Dec 26 to Jan 2, 2021||$ 2599|
This date is popular
|Jan 2 to Jan 9, 2021||$ 2519||Book now|
|Jan 30 to Feb 6, 2021||$ 2559||Book now|
|Feb 27 to Mar 6, 2021||$ 2559||Book now|
|Mar 27 to Apr 3, 2021||$ 2559||Book now|
Included in Cuba tour package cost
- Cuban Tourist Visa and delivery, up to a $100 value
- Certificate of Legal Cuba Travel ensuring compliance with US regulations
- Small group size – ten guests or fewer
- Knowledgeable, fun, attentive Cuban guides from arrival to departure
- Flexible tour payment options, you decide payment schedule
- Quality accommodations as listed in this itinerary
- Air-conditioned transport, professional chauffeur, and bottled water daily
- Airport-accommodation transfers on tour start and end days
- All activities and fees listed unless noted as optional or suggested
- Emergency telephone and internet access from Cuba to America
- Cash advances for participants caught short of funds in Cuba
- Ongoing support from our US and Cuban staff before, during and after travel
- Participants become Club Cubano alumni and receive future tour discounts