Visions of Cuba | Cuba Photography Tour | Cuba Unbound

Photography Workshop Tour to the Nature, Wildlife and Colorful Highlights of Cuba!

We welcome the incredible Chad Case, a featured photographer in National Geographic, Outside Magazine, New York Times and more, who will lead our Cuba photography workshop tours!

Adventure through the evolution of Cuba on our Visions of Cuba tour where you’re not only going on an adventure by camera, but experiencing Cuba through the camera. Join us on a cultural experience that takes you through the urban thrum of Havana to the encircling countryside. Photograph the sun rising above historic cities, casting shadows and glowing rays on the the calm cadence of morning routines. Look for the perfect angle from waterfront walkways teeming with teens, or try to capture the bright Bee Hummingbird flitting in and out of tangled mangrove vines. Snap shots of the Cuban people you engage with on visits to national parks, private restaurants, performance art studios and more.

Our Cuban tour offers authentic, cultural experiences in a colorful, compelling world bound to change with its newly opened borders. Each day offers insight into the Caribbean paradise with a turbulent, storied past. Each shot is a story waiting to be told. All you have to do is let your lens guide you.

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 listed activities below are subject to change due to considerations such as transportation schedules, availability of guest speakers, and weather. Replacing missed activities with comparable pursuits in line with the essence of the tour as well as our People-to-People emphasis is our top priority in such a case.

Welcome to Havana!

We take an early, non-stop flight from Miami to Havana, Cuba, to kick-start our tour. We should arrive in Havana late in the morning or around mid-afternoon depending on flight schedules—both giving us plenty of time to explore the sprawling, Caribbean-charged city.

Upon arrival, we are met with our Cuban and professional tour guides who give a brief orientation and introduction to Cuba. Our travels take us to lunch at a palatial mansion renovated into a private restaurant, known in Cuba as a Paladar—a rare business venture for Cuban citizens.

After lunch, we explore Habana Vieja, commonly known as Old or Colonial Havana. Colonial Havana is coated in color and composed of interesting silhouettes. First founded by Spanish colonists in 1519, Habana Vieja has seen the construction of stunning Spanish architecture in the neoclassic and baroque styles as well as the refurbishment necessitated by its history of plundering and piracy. Our guided tour through Habana Vieja provides many opportunities to capture these visions of Cuba’s turbulent history on camera.

Once we’ve explored all of Old Havana’s plazas, we head to our hotel. Check in and settle in before we head out for dinner at another Paladar, La Guarida. La Guarida looks down upon the Cuban streets located from its location on the top floor of a residence once used for the film Strawberries and Chocolate. The restaurant blends the artistically dilapidated building with Cuban luxury, and we dine in style before returning to the hotel for the evening. Or, if you’re feeling the electric heat of Havana, take your time exploring the Havana nightlife or cooling down with mojitos and live music.

ACCOMMODATION : Ambos Mundos (or similar)
MEALS INCLUDED : Lunch, Dinner

Explore Criadero de Cocodrillos, Swim the Bay of Pigs, and Arrive at Zapata National Park

Today takes us out of the urban sprawl as we begin our journey east and south towards Boca de Guamá. Upon arrival we visit the crocodile breeding center Criadero de Cocodrillos. The facility, established in 1962, has made incredible efforts raising the near-extinct Cuban and American crocodiles and educating the public. See these unique creatures up-close and in different stages of development. If our timing is right, we can witness feeding time and capture the fleeting image of the crocodiles’ strong jaws chomping down on their snacks on camera. Hopefully watching nature at work doesn’t kill your appetite; our next stop is lunch at Restaurante Boca de Guamá, where maybe some crocodile meat can tempt your taste buds.

Once we’ve had our culinary adventure, we travel a short distance to neighboring Playa Larga. First, we find our way to our accommodations for the evening in a Casa Particular (B&B). We have time to settle in and rest before we head toward wide beaches of the Bay of Pigs. Our guide gives historical insight into the momentous international events that took place here in April 1961, and standing on the beach brings history into a new light. Explore the beach or have a refreshing swim in the bay as the afternoon sets in. It’s also a great photographic opportunity with the sun falling over the ocean, often obscured by sweeping clouds.

Our educational day continues into the evening as we meet with Frank Medina, Director of Zapata National Park, before dinner. We discuss the park’s conservation and tourism challenges before sitting down to a traditional, home-cooked Cuban dinner at our Casa.

ACCOMMODATION : Playa Larga Casa Particular
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Explore the wetlands of Zapata National Park and Visit to Korimacao Community Project

We enjoy another home-cooked meal at our Casa before we travel to Las Salinas and the wetlands of Zapata National Park. We explore the swathes of tangled mangrove roots that serve as a dark background for the vivid streaks of the Cuban Trogon and the Bee Hummingbird who flit throughout the wetlands. Flocks of pink flamingos stand bright against the blue waters. It’s an excellent morning for perspectives and pigments, and our local park guide leads our excursion and shares his knowledge and passion for the environmentally vulnerable area.

After our morning’s explorations, we return to Playa Larga where we have the opportunity to attend a special presentation of the Korimacao Community Project. This program brings in residents of the surrounding community and gives them the opportunity to learn performing arts such as dancing, singing, and playing musical instruments. Learn, look, and listen during our time with these incredible artists. In addition to some great opportunities for portraits and capturing movement, you might also enjoy getting on the dance floor yourself.

We return to our Casa to dine on fresh seafood and other Cuban fare. Our musical day continues after dinner as a local band performs for us, so be prepared to feel the rhythm of the night.

ACCOMMODATION : Playa Larga Casa Particular
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Explore Playa Girón, Snorkeling and Trinidad

We begin our day early and travel once again to Playa Girón, or the Bay of Pigs. We tour the Bay of Pigs Museum where we can learn of the bay’s tempestuous history. Playa Girón has a bloody past its own name testifies to, as it was named for a 17th century French buccaneer who met his untimely demise by the hands of indignant natives. Of course, the museum documents the CIA’s ill-planned raid on the Bay of Pigs and displays a captivating black and white photography collection portraying Cuba’s poverty-stricken people, the rise of the revolution, and other historical moments.

As the day continues, we head a bit further down the coastal road and stop for an amazing snorkeling opportunity. We reach an isolated beach where we snorkel and swim within a submarine world of color rich with coral reefs and tropical fish. As we lounge on the white-sand beaches, our guides tell us more about the ecosystem so integral to the nation. Cuba has some of the most well-protected, best-preserved stretches of coral reefs in the world, and it’s obvious that the Cubans treasure the bountiful natural world around them.

Around mid-afternoon, we continue our day’s journey with a trip to colonial Trinidad, another of Cuba’s World Heritage Sites. In Trinidad, visitors are likely to hear the clopping sounds of horse hooves on cobbled streets or the strumming of the guitar echoing among the town’s well-preserved colonial architecture. Trinidad’s retained much of the style and structure of its 16th century Spanish settlement, and it’s a living look into the past.

We check into our accommodations for the evening and then meet with Julio Munoz, a photographer whose book of Trinidad photography has gained some fame. Munoz welcomes us into his 19th century home and shares his knowledge of Trinidad’s history and his foundation of Project Diana—a program educating Cubans on proper horse-care—with us. It’s an incredible opportunity to speak with a man who chronicles Trinidad’s history and shapes its future.

After our time with Munoz, we wander through Trinidad’s streets to get a better look at the stunning architecture redolent with Cuba’s colonial past and the sprawling plantation fields lying just out of town. Iglesia Parroquial de la Santisima, Cuba’s largest 19th century church known for its expressive wood altars and acoustics, is a particularly impressive sight.

We rejoin at a local restaurant in town to enjoy an authentic Cuban dinner. We meet with the restaurant’s owner to discuss the challenges of owning a Paladar in Cuba before we eat, giving us further insight into the daily lives of Cubans. We enjoy good food and conversation before heading our separate ways. For those who wish to turn in, our casa particulares within Trinidad are waiting; for those hoping for more time in Trinidad’s unique atmosphere, Trinidad’s Casa La Musica offers great music and dancing under the open sky.

ACCOMMODATION : Trinidad Casas Particular
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Explore Trinidad's Plantations & Parks

Today we rise and have a day of exploration. While the morning light is soft we spread out in Trinidad and capture scenes of the town’s awakening. The baker’s work; farmers heading to the field; school children walking to school with giggles and anticipation; office workers heading to the desk; etc. Then we visit a pottery workshop where we can photograph people at work as well as learn about art in Cuba and how much it is valued in this society.

We reconvene late morning and head to the country. Nearby Trinidad is a land where sugar cane was king. There are old plantations, but nature also abounds. We visit some parks with rivers and waterfalls. We pack a picnic lunch so we have the ultimate freedom to explore.

By late afternoon we return to Trinidad to capture more of the town’s faces in the late afternoon light. Then it’s off to dinner and another evening of fun and learning.

ACCOMMODATION : Trinidad Casas Particular
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Photography Tours of Trinidad, Jardin Botanico, and Cienfuegos

Those who wish may rise early for one last chance to capture the best of the morning light falling on the town of Trinidad. Take to the streets on your own or go with our professional guide and photography instructor. Trinidad holds serene parks, striking buildings, antiquated appliances and more to find with your lens.

Then it’s off to the west again, with a drive to the Jardin Botanico Cienfuegos. This botanical tour de force houses over 2,000 different plant species and is one of Cuba’s largest gardens. American sugar baron Edward F. Atkins initially created the garden at the turn of the 20th century in the hopes of growing different strains of sugarcane. Atkins instead introduced foreign, neotropic trees and planted the seeds of the garden we see today. We meet with the garden’s staff in a People-to-People encounter, and they guide our walk through the garden and enlighten us further with the garden’s history and its international seedling heritage.

Later, we take a short drive to the waterfront city of Cienfuegos. Cienfuegos and its bay are commonly known as Perla del Sur (Pearl of the South) due to its impressive marine life and attractive atmosphere; these factors also led to its being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city’s founding French colonists established a strong French heritage that continues to this day.

We explore the town on a photo tour, beginning with the City’s main square, Parque José Martí. The grand Palacio del Ayuntamiento, the resplendent Tomás Terry theater with French and Italian influences, and a neo-classical cathedral all stand nearby. We continue our walk to view the bustling Paseo del Prado whose stacks of colonial buildings and solitary statue of famous musician Benny More, “the barbarian of rhythm,” are sure to keep your lens busy.

Our leisurely walk along the Prado takes us to the Malecón, one of Cuba’s longest waterfront walkways. The lively Malecón is always teeming with Cuban youths and people enjoying a stroll, and it provides panoramic view of the bay. Our own afternoon stroll continues as we head toward Punta Gorda, a picturesque quarter of the city where French, plantation-era mansions and quaint 1950s suburbia blend together into an intriguing cacophony of styles. Our walk concludes when we reach land’s end, where Palacio de Valle lies. This palace—now a refurbished restaurant—stands as a composite of neo-Moorish, Venetian, and gothic architectural influences. Eating there is the true definition of dining in style.

During our walk throughout Cienfuegos, we meet with cuentapropistas (self-employed workers) who discuss the town’s growing private economy and their views of the developments with us. We also stop along the way to either meet with and enjoy a performance by the accomplished a cappella group Coro del Cienfuegos or visit the distinguished Benny Moré Art School to view the student’s artwork, watch them perform, and listen to their stories.

After your day of engaging with Cienfuegos’ vibrant culture, we enjoy a relaxing dinner at a local Palador before heading to our evening’s lodgings or perhaps a performance at the Tomas Terry theatre.

ACCOMMODATION : Cienfuegos Casa Particular or Hotel (depending on availability)
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Ernest Hemmingway Museum Tour and Havana

We breakfast early and begin our journey back to energetic urban center of Havana. We stop in Havana’s suburbs at the recently created and still-obscure Museo de Ernesto Hemingway. Hemingway’s own Moorish house, shared with his third wife, Martha Gellhorn, has been reconstructed into the museum—a fitting venue to venerate the author as Hemingway wrote nine of his novels, including For Whom the Bell Tolls, and won his Nobel Prize while living there.

Wander through Hemingway’s former estate where even the smallest feature becomes an artifact. While the bathroom is lined with Hemingway’s daily weigh-in marks, his Royal typewriter sits forlorn upon his bookshelf. Walk out back and spy the fishing boat that inspired so many of his adventures and stories or look out upon the pool and envision Hollywood starlet Ava Gardner swimming there as she once did. The museum offers a look into one of literature’s most fascinating minds.

From here it’s a short drive to the seaside village of Cojimar, where Hemingway kept his boat, Pilar. Water, light and historic buildings all make for endless subjects. Our lunch is at a Paladar with its own organic garden and the chance to learn how to make the perfect mojito.

From here we head into Havana. Those wishing may visit the Mercado San Jose where dozens of painters display their art in an old marine warehouse. Others may wish to revist the streets of Havana Vieja where the glories of a once-booming Havana are still evident in the architecture.

We then head to our hotel, where we have some time to refresh ourselves before our night out on the town. We are picked up by several of Cuba’s iconic classic cars and enjoy a scenic drive through Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución. This city square represents the thriving spirit of Cuba’s government, and political rallies continue to be held there. Capture the backlit images of Cuban revolutionaries Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos—depictions of implacable passion depicted in chiaroscuro worthy of a nighttime photography session.

We dine out in one of the city’s many classy paladars with a flare before returning to our hotel.

ACCOMMODATION : Ambus Mundos (or similar)
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Adios Havana!

We breakfast at our hotel before traveling to the Havana airport for our return flight to Miami. If you have any leftover Cuban currency, pick up a souvenir or hit the exchange center before making your way back home. Adios Cuba!

MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast

Map

Dates & Rates

Supplementary Information

Rates: $3,985.00 per person

Up to 16 spaces available on each tour (depending on the number of solo travelers and available accommodations)

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.

Included:
•    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

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

Who is the photographer leading the photograhy tour?

Chad Case - Award Winning Photographer.

Will there also be a Cuba Unbound guide?

Yes - a professional tour leader from Cuba Unbound and a local Cuban guide will also be with the group!

Is my camera safe?

Cuba is a secure country to travel through. The people are friendly and there is a remarkably low crime rate in comparison to other relatively poor countries. That being said, you may want to take some precautions in some of the bigger cities in crowded areas or after dark. Some casa particulares and hotels will have safes where you can store your camera when not using it. Just take your usual precautions when it comes to protecting your valuables. We do recommend that you bring the case for protection.

How active is this tour?

While this tour involves little physical activity, you will still have the opportunity to swim, snorkel and dance. Keep in mind that all of the city tours are walking tours plus a tour in the Botanical Gardens of Cienfuegos.

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