The first people-to-people walking tour in Cuba exploring the unexplored: National Parks!
Cuba is an enigma, able to confound and intoxicate with its embodiment of colonial grandeur, revolutionary rigor, and Caribbean panache. Classic cars glide by on Havana streets. Salsa beats percolate through the night. Rum finds its way into many a glass. It’s the quintessential Cuban tableau, but for those who step off the Malecón - on this walking tour - Cuba reveals itself to be so much more.
Cuba was a popular destination for Americans until the 1959 Revolution changed it all. Since then a fascinating history has unfolded and today, the door has been opened again for Americans to visit. This open door leads to incredible opportunities for learning and immersion into a complex culture replete with rich and meaningful interactions with the people of Cuba. On this Cuban walking tour that we are licensed to offer, we pair daily explorations of Cuba’s land and seascapes with unforgettable interactions with Cuba’s people-scapes.
Led by a team of local guides along with our own tour leader, we are joined during the journey by other local experts. We visit with naturalist guides, farmers, historians, national park officials, artists, small business entrepreneurs and more on this artfully crafted Cuba walking tour. For those who are curious and want to explore on their feet rather than looking out a bus window this journey is the perfect choice. We walk between three and eight miles each day with easy to moderate elevation gain.
Join us to uncover Cuba’s sublime eccentricities on this exciting eight day tour through the best of Cuba’s national parks, nature reserves, and world heritage sites. Cuba’s staggering natural beauty extends beyond its beaches, and its sweeping swamplands and crenellated mountains are known for their rare wildlife as well as their insurrectionist folklore. You also walk city streets where opulent mansions peer out between suburban city planning. Explore the countryside where dilapidated plantations look out on still-thriving tobacco farms. Cuba is an arresting country of contradictory curiosities, and you can experience all of its nuances on this multifaceted walking tour.
To deepen the educational and cultural exchange aspects of this trip, we use a mix of hotels and Casa Particulares. Casas are essentially Bed & Breakfast type accommodations, set within the context of a private house. We have carefully researched available Casas in each location and promise you a mix of warm, welcoming hosts and a unique Cuban family experience or in some cases, simply the flavor of a small boutique hotel. For many of our guests, evening or morning visits with their Casa hosts are a true highlight of their entire journey to Cuba.
This tour begins and ends in Havana which is currently served by numerous US airlines. If you are unable to book a flight that will get you to the Havana Airport by 11:00 AM on Day 1, we recommend that you consider a "Day 0" for your tour to overnight in Havana or Miami. We suggest staying in a casa particular (a private home with rooms for rent) of your choosing and taking a cab to the Havana Airport to meet your Tour Leader, guides, and fellow travelers the next morning, or overnighting in Miami and catching a morning flight down to Havana to meet your group in the morning.
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.
Welcome to Cuba! Arrive in Havana, La Terrazas
Bienvenido Cuba! Please arrive no later than 11:00 AM to the Havana Airport. Once we’ve gathered luggage and changed money, we head west by bus to La Terrazas and the Sierra del Rosario mountains.
La Terrazas, now a biosphere under UNESCO safeguard, was created as part of Castro’s 1968 initiative to reforest regions over-logged since the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors and defaced by miles of coffee plantations. The 5,000-hectare nature reserve and eco-village is now
home to over 117 different bird species, 12 of which are endemic including the tocororo and zorzal. We begin our exploration of La Terrazas with a trek along the Sendero La Serafina—a 5k trail running through the reforested land and passing by the dilapidated Saint Serafina plantation.
After our afternoon excursions throughout La Terrazas, we head to Hotel Moka, our accommodations for the evening. Hotel Moka brings the outdoors indoors with an immense 100-year-old rain tree growing up through the lobby and sprouting out the rooftop. It’s a charming white and tangerine hotel screened by the green of teak trees.
Valle de Viñales
We breakfast early and drive west to one of Cuba’s most scenic national parks. Thrust into the rolling rows of the Sierra de los Órganos lies the Valle de Viñales, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the source of several stunningly unique habitats. We spend our day walking throughout the varied living landscapes the Valle de Viñales nurtures, giving you insight into Cuba’s signal crop, tobacco, as well as the geological forces that shaped this region.
The valley’s notable bulbous mogotes give an otherworldly quality. They appear like explosions of limestone rapidly rearing from the earth, where in fact they are the remains of limestone hills eroded away by slow rainfall around 160 million years ago. One of the more iconic sites are the Mogote dos Hermanas, or two mogote “twin sisters,” that lie side by side standing sentinel over stretches of flat fields.
Beneath the mogotes are vast fields of tobacco--Cuba’s export that has reached near-mythical status. These are a stunning sight with their rows upon rows of rich umber earth lined with tall stalks of tobacco waving their wide, spring green leaves. We lunch at a farm-to-table organic restaurant, and in the afternoon, have the opportunity to visit one of the valley’s tobacco plantations. After our exploration of the tobacco plantation, we visit a despalillo, a tobacco factory where we learn more of the curing and fermenting processes that follow the harvest.
By late afternoon, satiated with fresh air and well-used legs, we head back to our hotel.
West to Hemingway’s House & the Bay of Pigs
We drive east to the outskirts of Havana to visit Finca Vigia, the house where Ernest Hemingway lived for 20 years and wrote many of his books. We have lunch at a nearby paladar (private restaurant) and then continue our drive to the southeast. Our destination is Playa Larga, a tranquil village set on the beach at the head of the Bahia de Cochinos, or Bay of Pigs. It was here that the infamous 1961 CIA-sponsored invasion took place.
After we check into our welcoming Casa, we have an engaging presentation from Frank Medina, Director of Zapata National Park, who discusses the joint pressures of tourism and conservation facing the park as well as the Park’s many successes. The Ciénaga de Zapata is both a designated national park and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. With expansive tracts of dense forests and mangrove-lined swampland, the peninsula is wild and largely untouched. Wildlife such as crocodiles, iguana, flamingos, and boars inhabit the wetlands, and it’s one Cuba’s main attractions for birders who can find endemic species such as the Cuban pygmy owl, bee hummingbird and Zapata rail. Frank is a lively speaker and after the informative discussion, we enjoy a festive dinner of delicious, authentic Cuban fare.
Snorkeling – Hiking – Playa Giron and to Trinidad
Our morning is spent exploring Zapata National Park. We drive along the coast to our favorite snorkeling spot where colorful fish and healthy reefs make for a fascinating hour as we learn about Cuba’s marine conservation program. Cuba boasts the healthiest reef systems in all the Caribbean.
Then it’s on to a hidden trail that weaves through the forest among cenotes (sinkholes) common in this limestone geology. It’s also an excellent birding area and we may see the Key West quail dove, Cuban bullfinch and Cuban peewee.
Next up is the small town of Playa Giron to visit the Museum of the Bay of Pigs Invasion. The town’s name comes from the French pirate Gilbert Girón. Girón’s decapitation at the hands of angry locals has been remembered by history through his Playa namesake. After lunch in a local restaurant we drive east to Trinidad. One of the best-preserved colonial towns in Cuba, Trinidad has eschewed many modern enterprises in favor of old-world charm. We enjoy a walking tour of the preserved Spanish colonial settlement—now a UNESCO World Heritage Site—where the grand tastes of the past are very much sentient in the Italian frescoes, finely wrought chandeliers, and bone china still gracing the plantation-era mansions.
Topes de Collantes Nature Reserve
We depart early to drive up into the crenellated, Caribbean pine-coated Sierra Escambray mountains (sometimes known as the Guamuhaya mountains). Within the long stretch of mountains lies the Gran Parque Natural Topes de Collantes. Though Topes is not considered a national park in the strictest of senses, it is highly protected by the Cuban government as are the four smaller parks that make up the umbrella park, Topes. Weather, the group’s ability and current conditions determine which hiking trail we enjoy along with our local park guide. One option is the Salto del Caburní trail, a 5km round-trip hike that leads to a 62m waterfall that crashes down overhanging cliffs into swimming holes below. The rushing water tumbles into a clefted chasm where only the most intrepid adrenaline junkies dare to jump. If the water levels are low we may choose to go on the Vegas Grandes hike, that leads through the fern and pine forests before finishing at a waterfall and pool as well.
Another option is to hike the Sendero La Batata, or Sweet Potato, Trail. This 6km hike takes us through the forest to a prehistoric cave and its underwater river. This trail explores forests rich with lichens and mosses and lucid pools disrupted only by crashing waterfalls.
We return to Trinidad by mid to late afternoon. There we have a People-to-People meeting with Julio Munoz, an acclaimed photographer whose published work of Trinidad has brought a town evocative of the past into the public eye or perhaps another local artist to learn about the importance of the arts in Cuban culture.
Farm tour, Cienfuegos Botanical Gardens, and Cienfuegos City
Leaving Trinidad we drive along the Caribbean coast and stop where a small river enters the sea. We take a one mile walk to learn about mangrove ecology, as well as visiting a local farm where we have a chance to learn about the agrarian reform instituted by the revolution in the early 1960’s. Next we visit the Jardin Botanico Cienfuegos to explore this renowned botanical garden with a knowledgeable local guide during a pleasant and easy walking tour. We see some of the over 2000 species of plants in the gardens that were the passion of American sugar baron Edward F. Atkins. He founded the place in 1901 with the idea of introducing new sugarcane varieties, but instead, transplanted tropical trees from around the world. Now, the Jardin Botanico Cienfuegos is one of Cuba’s largest gardens where we have the opportunity to learn about another twist in Cuban history.
With its French flair and Caribbean verve, Cienfuegos is one of Cuba’s most seductive cities. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the French-colonial town sits on the coast, and visitors are drawn to the glittering waters as well as the eclectic colonial architecture. After lunch we begin our walking tour of Cienfuegos’ urban historic center at Parqué Jose Martí, the site of many of Cienfuegos’ most impressive buildings such as the 19th-century neoclassical Santa Iglesia Catedral de la Purísima Concepción, the French and Italian influenced Tomás Terry theater, and the Palacio del Ayuntamiento. A special People-to-People visit today will be a musical performance with one of the musical groups in town, such as the Cantores de Cienfuegos or the local chamber orchestra.
Then we make our way to the Paseo del Prado lined with colonial buildings and pastel-painted columns. One of the Prado’s most iconic sites is the statue of musician Benny More celebrated as the ‘barbarian of rhythm’.
The Prado becomes the vast waterfront walkway, the Malecón. The walkway not only offers incredible views of the natural harbor; it’s the local gathering spot at night for the town’s youth and lively conversation and music abound. Our walk continues along the narrow isthmus to Punta Gorda, where the quaint charm of 1950s suburbia was built amongst the expansive grandeur of plantation-era manors and culminates at land’s end, where the mansion-turned-restaurant Palacio de Valle graces the point with its resplendent gothic, neo-Moorish, and Venetian style architecture.
We don’t simply see and stroll throughout the day! As we walk we engage with cuentapropistas (self-employed workers) and learn more of Cienfuego’s thriving private economy and the cuentapropistas’ experiences in the prosperous city.
In the late afternoon we offer an optional sea kayak tour of the bay. This is about a one hour paddle with a local Cuban kayak instructor who discusses maritime trade and industry in Cuba among other topics.
We depart Cienfuegos for the 3 hour drive to Havana. Once there, we set off on a walking tour of Havana Vieja, sometimes known as Colonial or Old Habana. We stop for lunch in one of the city’s fine paladars. Rejuvenated we stroll down Obispo Street and visit historic sites of revolution and colonialism such as the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, the Museo de la Cuidad, the Plaza de Armas, the Plaza de la Catedral, and the Catedral de San Cristóbal de La Habana. As we walk, we learn more of Havana’s turbulent past of plundering privates and affluent colonials as well as the Cubans of today, many who have come to the busy city with hopes for the future.
After an afternoon on our feet, we enjoy a classic car ride to see more of the city including the neighborhoods of Vedado and Miramar. Finally, we relax with a fine dinner at one of Havana’s best paladars. If you want to explore the city’s music scene there are plenty of options after dinner. One is the very hip Fabrica des Artes, where the best of Cuba’s avant-garde art can be experienced. There’s also a couple of jazz clubs and many other options.
This morning we offer one airport transfer at a time that matches the departure time of the majority of the group. For flights that don’t match up well, we recommend you take a taxi to the airport at your convenience (not included.)
Or, for those wishing to spend more time in Havana, we offer both a two-day Havana Extension.
Dates & Rates
|Dates||Adult (USD)||Child (USD)|
|Oct 28, 2018 to Nov 04, 2018||$3,190£0€0$0$0||$3,190£0€0$0$0||BOOK NOW|
|Nov 04, 2018 to Nov 11, 2018||$3,190£0€0$0$0||$3,190£0€0$0$0||BOOK NOW|
|Nov 18, 2018 to Nov 25, 2018||$3,190£0€0$0$0||$3,190£0€0$0$0||BOOK NOW|
|Dec 09, 2018 to Dec 16, 2018||$3,190£0€0$0$0||$3,190£0€0$0$0||BOOK NOW|
|Dec 23, 2018 to Dec 30, 2018||$3,490£0€0$0$0||$3,490£0€0$0$0||BOOK NOW|
|Dec 30, 2018 to Jan 06, 2019||$3,190£0€0$0$0||$3,190£0€0$0$0||BOOK NOW|
|Jan 06, 2019 to Jan 13, 2019||$3,190£0€0$0$0||$3,190£0€0$0$0||BOOK NOW|
|Jan 20, 2019 to Jan 27, 2019||$3,190£0€0$0$0||$3,190£0€0$0$0||BOOK NOW|
|Feb 03, 2019 to Feb 10, 2019||$3,190£0€0$0$0||$3,190£0€0$0$0||BOOK NOW|
|Feb 17, 2019 to Feb 24, 2019||$3,190£0€0$0$0||$3,190£0€0$0$0||BOOK NOW|
|Mar 03, 2019 to Mar 10, 2019||$3,190£0€0$0$0||$3,190£0€0$0$0||BOOK NOW|
|Mar 17, 2019 to Mar 24, 2019||$3,190£0€0$0$0||$3,190£0€0$0$0||BOOK NOW|
|Mar 31, 2019 to Apr 07, 2019||$3,190£0€0$0$0||$3,190£0€0$0$0||BOOK NOW|
|Apr 14, 2019 to Apr 21, 2019||$3,190£0€0$0$0||$3,190£0€0$0$0||BOOK NOW|
|Apr 28, 2019 to May 05, 2019||$3,190£0€0$0$0||$3,190£0€0$0$0||BOOK NOW|
|May 12, 2019 to May 19, 2019||$3,190£0€0$0$0||$3,190£0€0$0$0||BOOK NOW|
Rates: $3,190.00 per person*
Note: Christmas departures have a supplemental cost ($300 per person) due to our increased prices for accommodations.
Up to 16 spaces available on each tour (depending on the number of solo travelers and available accommodations)
Minimum age: 12
Single Supplement: $500
If you are traveling solo and prefer private accommodations (pending availability) you may elect to pay the single supplement fee. If you are traveling solo and wish to be paired up with another solo traveler of the same gender in order to avoid the single supplement fee, please let your Adventure Consultant know at the time of booking. We will do our best to find another traveler to pair you with, however if there is not another solo traveler of the same gender willing to share on your trip, you will be charged the single supplement fee.
• Experienced English-speaking guide(s)
• 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
• 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
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FAQ & More
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 tour, you can expect to stay in a mix of traditional hotels and casas particulares, making for a full and authentic visit to Cuba.
We walk between three and eight miles each day. Our pace is casual and most hikes have little to no elevation gain. An exception is on day 1 and day 6 when our hikes do have 300-600’ elevation gain/loss.
Trails are generally well maintained, but loose rock and dirt are common. The day 6 walk in Topes de Collantes is on paths that are uneven and steep in places. All paths may be slippery when wet. Walking boots are essential; walking poles are recommended. In the cities where we walk, careful attention to holes in the sidewalks or streets is critical.
Cuba has some beautiful beaches that are perfect for snorkeling. The flourishing ocean life is an ecological treasure. We have one specific times dedicated to snorkeling. We do recommend you try snorkeling ahead of time for your trip to get the most out of your experience, if you have never done so.
While snorkel gear is sometimes available for rent in Cuba, we advise that you bring your own snorkel and mask (fins and wetsuits not required). Your own equipment also ensures a better fit and better hygiene, as well as prescriptions if needed.