Cuba’s story is like many stories - composed of shadows and light, sombras y luz. A study in chiaroscuro. Repression and revolution. Dilapidated plazas next to opulent palaces. The silhouette of cigar smoke drifting across the luminous shimmer of the Tropicana Cabaret. The beauty is in the contrast; the temptation in the unpredictability.

Even though it’s been half a decade since the glamourous days when Hollywood flew down in droves for weekends of dissipation and decadence, Cuba retains the air of flash and magnetism. Stepping into Havana can be like stepping into a self-indulgent novel or one of Frank Sinatra’s film sets. We invite you to experience Cuba’s indulgent side, its glamorous side, its uninhibited side. The side that enticed legends to its shores and then created them.

Step into Cuba’s most illustrious bars, drive around in timeless classic cars that take you back to another era, and indulge your senses with Cuba’s puros and libations. Follow in the footsteps of Hemingway, Sinatra, Gary Cooper, and Tennessee Williams. Sit in the Tropicana and imagine Nat “King” Cole singing into the hot Havana night. Sip on a daiquiri and see where Hemingway toiled away at his novels. Wander through tobacco farms where the world’s best cigars are produced and made - and then sit down and enjoy one.

Experience classic, classy Cuba on our new Classic Cars, Rum, and Cigars tour. Don’t just read Cuba’s story - live it. Live it while learning richly from this Educational Exchange program, flooded with the knowledge of our teachers – cigar aficionados, rum connoisseurs and classic car enthusiasts. Designed for small groups of two to six people, and perfect for a private journey, this tour dives deep into Cuba’s history and pleasures.

*Note: this tour is available with TWO accommodation options: 1) Hotels, or 2) Casas Particulares. Casas Particulares are private home accommodations similar to B&Bs in the United States, but typically with more of a family feeling. Tours staying in Casas Particulares are less expensive and provide even more contact with Cuban people.

Itinerary

Commercial flights from the United States to Havana began December 1st, 2016 and are effectively replacing group charter flights as the standard mode of travel between the two countries.  We now ask that our guests book their own travel between the U.S. and Havana. This tour will begin in Havana at approximately 11:00 AM on Day 1. Our meeting point on Day 1 will be Havana's Jose Marti International Airport where your Tour Leader and local guides will meet you to begin your tour.

If you are unable to fly all the way to Havana on Day 1 with an arrival before 11:00 AM, we recommend that you consider a "Day 0" for your tour and choose either of the following:

Travel to Havana on Day 0.  With this option, we recommend that you overnight in a casa particular (a private home with rooms for rent) of your choosing and make your way back to the Havana Airport to meet your Tour Leader, guides, and fellow travelers the next morning. 

Travel to Miami on Day 0.  With this option, we recommend that you overnight in Miami and take a flight to Havana on the morning of Day 1.  

We are happy to offer guidance with scheduling your travel to and from Cuba, and our office staff is ready to answer any questions you may have.

Note: The itinerary and activities you see below are subject to change due to factors such as weather, transportation schedules and availability of guest speakers. We always attempt to replace missed activities with similar opportunities that maintain the same spirit of the tour as well as our focus on People-to-People exchanges. We utilize the Classic Cars whenever possible. However in some cases (due to our schedule and the Classic Cars availability) we will use regular taxi transportation.

Havana Hotspots La Bodeguita del Medio, El Floridita, and Tropicana

“My mojito in La Bodeguita, My daiquiri in El Floridita”—Ernest Hemingway

Land in Havana after an early flight. A tour leader greets you and provides a brief orientation before you head out into Cuba’s most dynamic city. You’re picked up in Cuba’s iconic classic cars that you will be able to ride in a few times throughout the trip. Roll down the windows, smell the mimosa sifting through the air, and hear the rumble of engines as we make our way to La Bodeguita del Medio.

La Bodeguita del Medio may translate to the unassuming name of “the little bar in the middle of the block,” but the restaurant and bar is anything but bland. La Bodeguita’s claim to fame lies in being one of Hemingway’s endorsed haunts where he discovered the mojito. The bar now serves double rum portions for the “Double Papa”—Hemingway’s specialty serving that leaves little doubt for the writer’s love of rum. Although the restaurant has a framed piece of parchment blazoned with Hemingway’s seal of approval and signature, stepping into La Bodeguita means you’ll be swilling some rum where Hemingway wasn’t the only famous patron. Joe DiMaggio, Nat “King” Cole, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Francis Ford Copolla, Pablo Neruda, and Benny Moré also found their way here. The bar’s walls are slathered in autographs, centerfolds, and photographs—some from illustrious guests and some from simple passersby who want to make their mark.

After lunch and possibly a Double Papa, we stretch our legs with a walking tour of Habana Vieja. Colonial Havana’s colonnaded streets are as colorful as our cars. As you walk through a rainbow of pastels listen for rumba riffs rumbling down the cobbled streets and the sounds of people working behind walls of mystery. Our walking tour takes us to Habana Vieja’s historic district and the Havana Club Museum of Rum, which offers a real-time journey through the rum-making process—from the sugar-cane mill to the cooper shop where the aging casks are made to the tasting room.

Once we’ve finished our walk, we make our way to another of Hemingway’s illustrious watering holes: El Floridita. Hemingway sat in a corner seat, drank daiquiris, and conceived then wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls there. Hemingway must have been a trend setter because the bar also saw visits from Ava Gardner, Tennessee Williams, Spencer Tracy, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Gary Cooper. Papa Hemingway remains their favorite, and his seat remains forever unoccupied and chained off. Hemingway drank here a lot and drank a lot here. Have a daiquiri and see if you feel some literary inspiration yourself.

We finish off our day of literature and libations with a trip to the legendary Tropicana. Set in the open Cuban sky, the decant night-club has retained the glamour and glitz over the years. Salsa shows and señorita showgirls survived the revolution and continue to set nights ablaze. Enjoy the performance and Havana’s most notorious nightlife spot before we return to our hotel for the evening.

ACCOMMODATION : Casas Particulares or Havana Hotels (San Felipe, Palacio O’Farrill, Amadores de Santander or similar)
MEALS INCLUDED : Lunch, Dinner

Ernest Hemingway Museum, Cojimar, Miramar’s La Casa del Habano, and Fábrica de Arte

After breakfast, we continue our exploration of Papa Hemingway’s Cuba as we make our way to his former estate at Finca Vigía and the recently renovated Museo de Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway lived in the Moorish-style home with his third wife, Martha Gellhorn, and wrote nine novels within its walls. Wander the rooms and the grounds of the estate and see where Hemingway lived his life as a man while writing novels that made him a legend.

Our day of all things Hemingway continues with a short jaunt to the small fishing town of Cojimar, which inspired The Old Man and the Sea and saw frequent visits of Hemingway and his boat, Pilar. We walk through the town and stop at some of his favorite sundowner spots before joining our friends at El Ajiaco restaurant. We visit the gardens where some of their vegetables and herbs are grown, then have a lesson in how to make a stunning mojito. With our minds ablaze and stomachs prepped, we sit down for the best lunch in Cojimar.

After lunch, we return to Havana to visit a vintage car restoration garage. The garage brings nostalgia-laden classic cars back to their original comfort and elegance so that all guests can have the opportunity to travel back in time.

Following our time with chrome and engines, we learn about another one of Cuba’s passions: cigars. We tour one of Cuba’s oldest and most esteemed cigar factories and see the modern production process taking place in a building overrun with history.

Once we’ve finished the tour and sampled some of the fine products, we head to Miramar to visit La Casa del Habano—considered one of Cuba’s finest cigar stores. Tour the picturesque store and hopefully get a chance to talk to Carlos Robaina, son of Cuba’s Godfather of cigars. Sip on a Cuban coffee served on tobacco leaves while trying out some aromatic products before we return to our hotel for a brief rest.

Then it’s off to enjoy an authentic Cuban meal at one of Havana’s finest paladars before hitting the town for a night out. While the Tropicana might be Havana’s most iconic nightclub, the Fábrica de Arte Cubana is its most entrepreneurial. Not just a nightclub, Fábrica de Arte teems with artists and musicians who don’t simply entertain but press the boundaries of Cuban culture. Take in the sights, mix and converse with the locals, and move to the beat in this stunning performance space before returning to our hotel for the evening.

ACCOMMODATION : Casas Particulares or Havana Hotels (San Felipe, Palacio O’Farrill, Amadores de Santander or similar)
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Finca del Pinar Robaina and Pinar del Río

We breakfast early, then climb into our classic wheels to head west toward Pinar del Río and the province’s tobacco mecca: Vuelta Abajo. Boisterous Havana recedes into the bucolic countryside as we drive to Finca del Pinar Robaina, whose founder, Alejandro Robaina, was considered “The Godfather” in the Cuban cigar business. The Godfather developed the farm that is now the world’s most renowned plot for growing cigar tobacco. Enjoy a lively, informative and personal tour of the farm, educational at heart, and marvel at the brilliant green panorama of tobacco plants plotted in neat rows, rustling in the wind. It’s the only tobacco zone which grows all types of leaf—wrappers, fillers, and binders—and we get to see the phases of production before sitting down at the plantation café for lunch and indulging in the creamy aroma of puros that saturates the air.

We leave the tobacco fields for the town of Pinar del Río. After checking into our classic hotel with Spanish Colonial architecture, we head out for a walking tour and a visit to a liqueur factory.

Cuba may be famous for its rum apéritifs, but locals have another favorite: Guayabita del Pinar. Growing in the Pinar del Río province is a plant with tiny guava berries called guayabitas. Infusing guayabita flavor with sugarcane liquor produced the Guayabita del Pinar liqueur, with dry and sweet varieties. Produced locally and limited in production, it’s a definite treat even more special for its rarity. It even has its own song—Cuban musician Cándido Fabré’s “Guayabita del Pinar” that you can appreciate as you sample the Cuban delicacy.

We then saunter over to the Francisco Donatién Cigar Factory, housed in a former prison that was repurposed in the 1960s. Not a huge factory, there are 58 cigar rollers who artfully hand-roll cigars of the Trinidad brand, as well as Romeo y Julietas. The workers appreciate our visit, with obvious pride in their pride in their work as we learn a bit of their lives and trade. Across the street is the Casa del Tobacco where some may wish to buy a few cigars while also viewing historic cigar posters that show the long tradition of this economically and culturally important industry in Cuba.

Later, we dine at a local paladar whose food is almost as good as the region’s cigars before returning to our hotel for the evening.

ACCOMMODATION : Hotel Vueltabajo
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Valley de Viñales and Habana Vieja

Our morning leads us to one of Cuba’s most stunning landscapes: Valley de Viñales. Surrounded by the pine-clad hills of the Sierra de los Órganos, Valley de Viñales is a fantastical sprawl of lush green grass and limestone mogotes that rise precipitously from the hallowed ground. A maze of caves curve through the mountains and defined paths are a rare luxury in Cuba’s create-your-own-adventure playground. We explore the hidden sights of the valley flecked with tobacco farms before we head to a nearby organic farm for lunch. Meet with the people who tend the land, learn about organic agriculture in Cuba and sample their fresh, carefully cultivated produce.

Our adventure continues as we cruise in style to Havana and enjoy the panorama on the way. We return to Habana Vieja’s cobbled streets and head to the Mercado San José. This crafts fair has a palpable soul with its handcrafted goods, colorful stalls, and cheerful vendors. It also features theatrical performances and art exhibitions—transforming the space from a market to a cultural center. It’s the perfect place to visit on our last full day on the island if you’re hoping to take a piece of Cuba with you!

After we pick up a souvenir or two at the market, we celebrate our final evening together in Cuba with a farewell dinner that features the best of Cuban dishes. Take a page from Hemingway’s book and sit down with a mojito or daiquiri Papa Hemingway style.

ACCOMMODATION : Casas Particulares or Havana Hotels (San Felipe, Palacio O’Farrill, Amadores de Santander or similar)
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Museum of Fine Arts and Adios Havana!

If the return flight schedule allows time this morning, we visit the Museum of Fine Arts in central Havana (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana). This fabulous museum has two impressive buildings. One is dedicated to Cuban art and includes a wide range of subjects and styles. The other is a divine European masters collection including originals by Goya, Murillo, Velasquez, Gainsborough, Rubens and various impressionists. The museum also houses one of the most important collections of Greek and Roman art in Latin America.

Once done, we make our way to the airport to catch your return flight home.

Note: We suggest getting a hotel on this day when arriving back in the U.S. from Cuba as the flight may be delayed departing from Havana, arriving late into the evening. Please contact us for any questions regarding this.

Also note: Travel in Cuba requires a flexible attitude. Our days are full and things don’t always run on time. Note that the activities and visits listed are not guaranteed but we endeavor to do our best to provide the content intent of this Educational Exchange program. Visiting developing countries can be eye-opening and life-changing, and hopefully visiting Cuba is both. Accommodations may not be up to the standards you are used to. We ask all our guests to appreciate the authenticity of your cultural encounters as well as the people, food, culture, and adventures that are exceptional in their difference.

MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast

Map

Dates & Rates

Supplementary Information

Rates (all prices below are per person in USD)

Casas Particulares:

  • 2 guests (1 car) - $2,245
  • 3 guests (1 car) - $2,045
  • 4 guests (1 car) - $1,945
  • 4 guests (2 cars) - $2,145
  • 5 guests (2 cars) - $1,945
  • 6 guests (2 cars) - $1,845
  • 6 guests (3 cars) - $2,045

Hotels:

  • 2 guests (1 car) - $3,045
  • 3 guests (1 car) - $2,795
  • 4 guests (1 car) - $2,545
  • 4 guests (2 cars) - $2,795
  • 5 guests (2 cars) - $2,645
  • 6 guests (2 cars) - $2,545
  • 6 guests (3 cars) - $2,745

Single Supplement (Hotel option only): $500

Note: Christmas departures have a supplemental cost ($300 per person) due to our increased prices for accommodations.

Group Size: This trip is perfect for one or two couples traveling in one car, but we can group several cars together if you have a larger group. Because you will also have a guide and a driver with you, two couples per car is the absolute maximum and you would likely be more comfortable with just one couple per car.

Dates: Trips depart daily on demand

Included:
•    Experienced Cuba Unbound Tour Leader
•    Experienced Cuban Group Guide
•    Specialized activity guides based on activity of trip (kayaking, biking, hiking, etc.)
•    Specialized equipment needed for activities such as kayaks, bikes, helmets, paddles, personal flotation devices, etc.
•    Private pre-tour orientation meeting
•    Cuba Unbound hand-crafted itineraries
•    Accommodations as noted in the itinerary
•    All meals as noted in itinerary
•    Certification of travel to Cuba under the U.S. Department of Treasury general license
•    Small group size (Custom tours for 2, group tours are 16-18)
•    All entrance fees to include events and activities
•    All in-country ground transportation
•    Clean drinking water available at all times
•    Gratuities for presenters, luggage handling, and restaurant staff

Not Included: 
•    Round-trip air to/from Cuba 
•    Cuba Tourist Visa Fee  (ranges from $50-$100 depending on where you buy it)
•    Guide and driver gratuities 
•    Personal expenses such as souvenirs, gifts, additional drinks/entertainment, and incidentals

Images & Videos

FAQ & More

What are Casas Particulares?

This is something you'll hear in Cuba a lot. A casa particular is a private accommodation or private homestay in Cuba, very similar to a bed and breakfast, although it can also take the form of vacation rental. On ROW's Cuba Unbound tours, you can expect to stay in a mix of traditional hotels and casas particulares, making for a full and authentic visit to Cuba.

Do I have to travel with a group or can I go solo?

This tour is designed for a small group of 2-6 people. While we can accommodate a solo traveler, we unfortunately must charge the double occupancy rate.

Can I bring Cuban cigars home?

Yes! US visitors can legally bring back $100 worth of Cuban cigars (or rum). Note that it is still illegal to smoke the cigars in the US, but US citizens may smoke them in other countries.

So how much do Cuban cigars cost?

For Cuban cigar pricing info, check out Cigar Aficionado

Can I bring Cuban rum home?

Yes! However, the total worth of rum cannot exceed $100, which is the total amount allowed for rum and cigars combined.

Is there free time?

There will be some free time between tours and meals.

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