Commercial flights from the United States to Havana begin 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 routes on this tour are subject to road conditions, group abilities, and other variables. Routs can be shortened or lengthened depending on the group and the guide. The listed activities and itinerary below may undergo some changes as they are contingent upon factors such as the availability of guest speakers, weather, and transportation. In such cases, we always attempt to substitute similar activities that maintain our tour’s focus of Educational Exchange and People-to-People encounters and further your Cuban experience. Also, in regards to specific accommodations listed below, due to the easing of travel restrictions for US citizens traveling to Cuba, and continued visitation from the rest of the world, hotel demand exceeds supply. This is most acute in Havana. We provide our rooming lists to our Cuban partners several months in advance of each tour and update them as people add. We are never assured of final confirmation of hotels until 30-60 days prior to trip departure and even then, reservations may change. While we realize this uncertainty is not ideal, it is beyond our control. We do our best to secure quality accommodations that are of moderate quality, but note that we are not using any Cuban-rated 5-star hotels.
Bienvenido Cuba! Havana
Upon landing in Havana, the city’s indefatigable, intoxicating spirit is immediately evident. We’re greeted by our tour leader as well as our local Cuban guide upon arrival. From the airport, we set off into Havana for our first Cuban adventures.
We begin the tour by making our way to a paladar, a privately owned restaurant, for lunch. During the drive, you catch your first glimpses of Cuba. From the flash of chrome as classic cars drive by to the monochromatic visage of Che Guevara solemnly gazing across the city from a billboard, Havana embodies all the energy and glamour, decay and dilapidation that makes Cuba compelling yet complex.
After lunch, we make our way to Habana Vieja, otherwise known as Colonial/Old Havana, with all its historic trappings. Its colonial buildings tell tales of swashbuckling invaders and august colonists seeking to imprint their prosperity onto the island. It’s a hodge-podge of architecture and a mish-mash of locals spilling into the narrow streets. We wander through the plazas before sitting down to a delicious meal prepared with Cuban flair at another paladar. After, guests may choose to return to the hotel or continue their night by heading to the lively Obispo street, where cafes and bars are lit up with revelers and live music.
- Accommodations: Havana Hotel
- Meals Included: L,D
Havana to Matanzas
We breakfast early in Havana before setting off to its suburbs—specifically the estate of Finca Vigía where Museo de Ernesto Hemingway lies. The museum has been refurbished from the home Hemingway lived in for nine years, and it provides visitors an opportunity to wander the halls Hemingway wandered, spy upon his favorite writing spot, and witness the mundane comforts he kept around like a worn chintz chair. We tour the museum and its extensive grounds before taking a drive toward our Cuban biking launch point just short of Yumurí Valley. We stop for lunch en route before continuing on our way.
Then, we embark on our Cuba biking journey into the Yumurí Valley toward Matanzas City. The undulating fields of forests and fluttering palm trees are peppered with plots of tobacco, banana, maize, and more. As we bike along the paved road, look out for the endemic squat cacti topped with red-orange florettes that appear to be a gnome’s hat topping its body—a feature giving it its name of Dwarf Turk’s Cap Cactus. Trogons, the national bird, also flit through the valley. Take in nature’s sprawl as we bike into the urban city.
After checking into our hotel, we venture out into Matanzas. In the past, when Matanzas was Cuban hub of literature and music and all things “cultural,” Matanzas was extolled as the “Athens of Cuba.” Now, Matanzas shows a more wrinkled, time-worn face that doesn’t glitter like Cuba’s Caribbean coasts. That being said, the city retains its former dignity as its once-grand buildings consistently undergo renovations and polish.
If we have time, we walk through Matanza’s two central plazas: the Parque de la Libertad with its Museo Farmacéutico, a modish 19th century pharmacy, and the Plaza de la Vigía with the stately 19th century Teatro Sauto theater still in use today. Despite Matanzas’ struggles against dilapidation, it’s a city of poets and players whose harmonies infuse the air. Dine in the city and then retire to our hotel to rest up for another day exploring central Cuba.
Matanza to Remedios
We wake early and make our way to a special needs school for children with disabilities, where we have an opportunity to view the facilities as well as meet with a staff member who shares with us their experiences working within Cuba’s health care system.
Once we leave the school, we hit the road and begin the day’s ride out of Matanzas toward Guira de Macories. It’s a relaxed ride through small villages with rolling hills as our path trails through fields and sugar cane plantations. We pause for lunch along the way, joining a Cuban family for the afternoon meal. From there, we transfer to Remedios or Santa Clara depending on availability.
We check into our hotel for the evening and usher in the evening with some exploration on foot. Remedios, a secluded colonial town that lacks the tourism bustle of Trinidad but radiates the same colonial tranquility, offers alluring insight into Cuba’s history without the traffic. Many sights can be found around Plaza Major, such as the Iglesia Mayor of San Juan Bautistia, Cuba’s oldest church. The ochre Baroque church features 13 golden alters. Across the square gleam the white walls of Iglesia del Buen Viaje, beautiful in its own right. While some visitors are drawn to Remedios’ picturesque appeal, the city is best known for its Las Parrandes festival, which lights the skies with lanterns, fireworks, and electric light displays in a celebration that peaks on December 24th. It’s opulent, loud, and wild, and it says much about the latent vibrancy of the small town.
Santa Clara Option
If we are unable to overnight in Remedios, we drive to Santa Clara. Santa Clara is fittingly nicknamed La Ciudad de Che for its revolutionary spirit and history with the insurrectionist figure. In honor of its namesake, Santa Clara hosts the Monument of Che on Plaza de la Revolución Ernesto Che Guevara. To this day, the city continues to push the boundaries of Cuban liberalizations and demonstrate the city’s voracious love of all things creative and avant-garde.
We enjoy dinner at a local paladar before returning to our hotel for the evening.
Remedios to Sancti Spíritus
From Remedios, we begin our moderate morning ride to Sancti Spíritus. Our bike tour takes us through rolling hills and the city of Yaguajay as well as several other villages. Though our road is smooth, we can see the rugged lines of a small cordillera as well as the uncultivated verdure of the Caguanes National Park in the distance. We stop for a picnic lunch along the way, giving us some time to rest our legs and enjoy the expansive scenery around us.
Our bike ride concludes in the quaint town of Sancti Spíritus. Sancti Spíritus is another city that invariably gets compared to Trinidad’s colonial charm and ultimately gets overshadowed by its UNESCO protected compatriot. Founded in 1514 by Diego Velázquez and one of the original seven villas, the city oozes historic appeal. Once we check into our lodgings for the night, we have the opportunity to explore the city. Walk across the Puente Yayabo, a quadruple-arched bridge that seems more fitting for the English countryside than this somnolent town, or look upon the Teatro Principal, Cuba’s oldest theater. After, relax with a tasty dinner with authentic Cuban dishes.
Sancti Spíritus to Trinidad
We have another early morning as we depart toward Sancti Spíritus’ local market where you have the opportunity to not only sample fresh produce and goods but engage with the vendors, learn about the local agricultural community, and witness Cuba’s market forces in action.
After we’ve sampled some fresh goods, we begin our day’s biking in Cuba toward the tranquil colonial town of Trinidad. Today will be one of our more challenging rides, as the 16km stretch from Sancti Spíritus to Banao advances at a slight incline. No worries--the tail wind will help push you along and cool you down.
The rippling road provides incredible views as we pedal our way toward the 18th century Manaca Iznaga estate northeast of Trinidad. Though the estate was formerly used as a slave-run plantation by crooked slave-trafficker Pedro Iznaga, it’s been transformed to a restaurant. You can climb up the 44m-high tower sitting next to the hacienda, formerly used to survey workers, and instead appreciate the stunning views. We explore the estate and enjoy lunch at the restaurant before continuing on our way to Trinidad.
We check into our Casas Particulares for the night before we hit the cobbled streets. No noisy cars flood these streets with chaos, and we can appreciate the 16th century town with its wonderfully preserved Spanish architecture as we stroll along. Our walking tour of Trinidad concludes with a People-to-People meeting with Julio Munoz. Munoz’s book featuring photographs of Trinidad truly puts Trinidad into perspective.
After our meeting with Munoz, we break for a delicious dinner. Later, we make our way to Casa de la Musica, one of Cuba’s best musical venues usually served al fresco. Listen to salsa beats wind their way through the warm Trinidad air before heading back to your casa for the evening.
Trinidad to Cienfuegos
Today’s ride is filled with scenic views as you pedal through foothills and fields. After breakfast, we say goodbye to picturesque Trinidad and begin our pedal toward ocean-front Cienfuegos. It’s a stunning ride past several estuaries where you might be able to spy wildlife like flamingos that enjoy the protected, brackish waters.
We take a break in Yaguanabo, where you can watch the turquoise waters of the ocean brush up against the looping beaches. We relax with lunch in a private restaurant and stretch our legs before continuing on our way to Cabagan. There, we visit an organic farm lying outside of the town and meet with a farmer who tells us more about central Cuba’s agricultural history, revolution, and future.
We are met there by a bus which we can choose to then transfers us to Cienfuegos or we can continue to bike for 15.5 mi: elevation gain: 22.2 ft, altitude ascent: 565.6 ft, altitude descent: -411.2 ft., time: 1.75 hours with stops. A winsome ocean-front city well deserving of the moniker “Pearl of the South” awaits you.
We arrive in Cienfuegos and settle into our Casas Particulares and relax from the morning ride before rejoining for a tour of the city. Meander down the colonnaded Paseo del Prado or the Punta Gorda lined with grand 20th century palaces. Pause on the waterfront and watch the setting sun spread its glow across the ocean. Another delectable dinner awaits at a private restaurant within the city, and afterward we enjoy the city’s nightlife before returning to our casas.
Cienfuegos to Playa Larga
After breakfast, we begin the day’s adventures with a drive rather than a ride so that we can begin our day of Cuba biking from the glimmering cove of Caleta Buena. Caleta Buena is best known for the series of pools created by the ocean seeping through underwater caverns blanketed in a polychromatic array of sponge and coral.
Our ride from Caleta Buena follows smooth, level roads sometimes littered with drying rice from the nearby paddy fields. As we make our way toward Playa Girón, we have several detours available to us depending on time, interest, and ability. Stopping at Punta Perdiz or Cueva de los Peces would make for a fun filled day. If we are hoping for a refreshing drink or snack, we can visit Villa Cubanita or a bodega, a Cuban convenience store, and see another side of the Cuban market. We also have the opportunity to take a road less traveled between Bermeja to Caleta Buena if our group is up to some off-roading. Ultimately, our ride concludes in Playa Girón, where we have time to enjoy a refreshing lunch in a paladar. We follow lunch with an exploratory trip to Caleta Buena’s limpid pools if we have time.
After an afternoon playing in the sun, we meet our ride and take the brief drive to Playa Larga. There, we check into our casas and have some time to explore the waterfront town sitting on the Bahía de Cochinos before dinner. Though Playa Larga once saw the militant invasion of the Bay of Pigs, sit back and enjoy the nautical paradise whose coral reefs draw divers rather than invasions.
Playa Larga to Havana
Today we trek through the the Parque Nacional Cienaga de Zapata. The land here pulses with vitality, from the rich coral reefs to the secluded swamps all teeming with wildlife. As we meander through the park, we occasionally veer from road and take some rugged, off-road paths that lead further into the sheltered wilderness.
Our ride takes us to the small town of Pálpite, where we have a People-to-People opportunity upon visiting the Korimacao Community Project. Here, we meet with teachers and young artists to discuss the development of the program and the community’s investment in the performance and musical arts.
From Pálpite we make our way to Finca Fiesta Campesina, a quirky attraction that blends a zoo with a farm. Around the farmyard peacocks, deer, and ducks wander while the more exotic jutía and manjuarí can also be found on the grounds. It’s campy and engaging, and it’s an excellent opportunity for a Cuba-renowned cup of coffee or refreshing cup of cane juice (rum optional) with lunch.
After lunch, we catch a ride toward the bustling streets of la Habana, whose stimulating urban beat gives us a change of pace from the calm of the countryside. Check into your hotel and relax before we meet again for the night’s festivities. We ride through town in style in the retro-chic classic cars that rumble down Havana’s streets. If we have time, we can stop by the Plaza de la Revolución with its graphic billboards and art paying homage to Cuba’s revolutionary leaders. We enjoy a dinner in an upscale private restaurant and possibly some live music before returning to our lodgings for the evening.
We breakfast early before making our way to Havana’s airport. From there, meet your departing flights for your return trip. Adios Habana!