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Cuba Unbound - Kayaking Inspired Itinerary of Cuba

Featured in The New York Times: "Want to See the Wild Side of Cuba? Try a Kayak" 

A mix of history, food, culture, water, kayaking and the outdoors awaits you. This island has a little bit of everything you will love. The atmosphere and feel of Cuba will leave you wanting to explore more of the cities, rivers, mountains, and valleys. This eight-day adventure will take you through forests and cities, beaches and wetlands. The great city of Havana will be your starting location where you will learn of the culture and diversity of such an amazing city. A local Cuban will guide you as you ask questions and admire all there is to offer.

National parks will be a big part of this journey because they offer a gateway to the true outdoors as you snorkel, hike, and become one with this breathtaking island. This trip is specifically outlined to focus on kayaking and hiking so you can explore the waters and rivers of Cuba. The history is also a key point that is available to you on the many walking tours of different cities full of life and excitement. Cuba is authentic and real because of the genuine people who keep the spirit alive and carry on the traditions of those who came before them. If you are thinking about taking a Caribbean trip, then Cuba is for you!

Images & Videos

A couple in a tandem kayak with the person in the back holding up their sea kayak paddle smiling
Two people in crystal clear water swimming out with their snorkels on looking into the water
A flock of flamingoes flying over a sea kayaker in Cuba
Close up of a crocodile on green grass in Cuba
Two women standing up in the Caribbean with their snorkels on their head smiling
Person in a single kayak with an orange dry bag with mangrove trees behind him in Cuba
Close up of a man holding a crab on the beach in Cuba
Panoramic view of Trinidad, Cuba
Picture of the Caribbean from above on a nearby hillside at sunset as people paddle in the water
A couple in a tandem kayak with the person in the back holding up their sea kayak paddle smiling
Two people in crystal clear water swimming out with their snorkels on looking into the water
A flock of flamingoes flying over a sea kayaker in Cuba
Close up of a crocodile on green grass in Cuba
Two women standing up in the Caribbean with their snorkels on their head smiling
Person in a single kayak with an orange dry bag with mangrove trees behind him in Cuba
Close up of a man holding a crab on the beach in Cuba
Panoramic view of Trinidad, Cuba
Picture of the Caribbean from above on a nearby hillside at sunset as people paddle in the water

Itinerary

Collapse all days

Day 0

Commercial flights from the United States to Havana are the standard mode of travel between the two countries, and we 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.  We recommend you arrive a day early to allow for flight delays or cancellations and we are happy to book an extra night's accommodation for you as a tour extension.

If you prefer to arrive on Day 1, be sure your flight arrives no later than 9:00 Am so that you can transfer from the airport to the meeting point to arrive by 11:00 AM.

You might also consider flying to Miami on Day 0 and spending the night there, and then flying to Havana the next morning if you can find an early enough flight.

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: Travel in Cuba requires a flexible attitude. Our days are full, and as required by U.S. law, we have a full-time agenda of meaningful interactions with the Cuban people.  Cuba has its own beat and things don’t always run on time. The activities and visits listed are not guaranteed but we endeavor to do our best to provide the content intent of this Support for the Cuban People program.  Visiting developing countries can be eye-opening and life-changing, and hopefully visiting Cuba is both. That said, accommodations may not be up to the standards you are used to; sometimes the hot water or air conditioning doesn’t work.  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. Your local guide, along with your Cuba Unbound Tour Leader promise to do their best to make this a fascinating and educational experience.

Day 1

Welcome to Cuba! Havana & Habana Vieja

Havana is a large and exciting city full of people, fascinating architecture, public art, museums, the ocean-front malecon, wide boulevards and narrow alleys. We explore the city on foot, including the many historical plazas of Havana Vieja.  Throughout our adventure we eat primarily in private restaurants called Paladars.  We enjoy lunch and dinner today at two of Havana’s finest.  After our walking tour we have an orientation meeting to prepare you for the week ahead. After dinner some may want to experience some of Havana’s nightlife, a town where music is plentiful. 

ACCOMMODATION : Casa Particular (Bed & Breakfast) or local hotel
MEALS INCLUDED : Lunch, Dinner

Day 2

Art & Music School, the Bay of Pigs, and Arrive at Zapata National Park

We depart Havana in the morning and travel southeast to Boca de Guama which was named because of the Taino chief Guama who put a noteworthy defense against Spanish colonists. We continue on to a small town where one of Cuba's national art and music schools operates. We have a fascinating visit led by a faculty member with opportunities to engage with students and staff.  Depending on what is happening that day, we might observe a band class, talk with a sculptor or join in for a dance lesson! We will stop for lunch and then continue to our Casa Particular (Bed & Breakfast) accommodation in the small village of Playa Larga. After some time to relax or take a stroll on the beach, we start our first kayak excursion! With paddle in hand, you kayak on the Bay of Pigs as your guide tells exciting stories about the area. The two-hour session will breeze by and soon it’s time to return to the beach and dinner.

ACCOMMODATION : Casa Particular (Bed & Breakfast)
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3

Kayak Zapata National Park

After breakfast we head off on a dirt road to go on an adventure through the Zapata National Park. We paddle across the waters of the Zapata Peninsula with a local park guide and our own kayak guide staff. Wildlife in plenty will be seen such as flamingos, birds, and more. Our local guide shares his knowledge of this unique tropical ecosystem of mangroves and the biggest swamp area in Cuba.   We paddle in shallow waters and take time to snorkel when we stop for lunch on a small island and stretch our legs.  We return by late afternoon to Playa Larga.  In the early evening we have an engaging presentation and discussion with Frank Medina, the Director of Zapata National Park who speaks with us about the mission and various programs in the Park. Dinner will follow which will be full of fresh and local foods..

ACCOMMODATION : Casa Particular (Bed & Breakfast)
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4

Museum Playa Girón, Coastal Snorkeling, Botanical Gardens in Cienfuegos, and Trinidad

The beautiful beaches of Playa Giron await and our first stop is a prime snorkeling location full of colorful fish and healthy reefs.  We learn about the Caribbean Sea and how Cuba has the healthiest reefs in all the region.  After snorkeling we visit the Bay of Pigs museum to learn about the failed 1961 invasion attempt.  Then after lunch in a local Paladar, we travel to the Jardin Botanico Cienfuegos. This is one of Cuba’s largest botanical gardens full of 2000 species of plants. A local guide joins us for another great experience supporting the Cuban people as we explore the gardens.  An hour away the town of Trinidad will be our night destination where we will check in and then head to a local restaurant for dinner before getting a good night’s rest.

ACCOMMODATION : Casa Particular (Bed & Breakfast) or local hotel
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5

Morning Kayak, Walking Tour of Colonial Trinidad, Meeting a Trinidad Artist

Feel rejuvenated as you wake up in Trinidad, Cuba’s third-oldest city! Colonial style and culture is found in this UNESCO Heritage site.  We take a short drive to paddle on a nearby river, where Hernan Cortez landed 500 years ago.  Gliding along the tree-lined river, we see birds and are rewarded with a grand view of the city of Trinidad perched above us.   We return to town and our guide takes us on a walking tour of the city. Explore the streets and admire the fine art and architectural detail of the buildings.  There’s some time to discover on your own in the afternoon, and later we meet with a local artist.  Possibilities include a well-known photographer, Julio Munoz, who hosts us in his home to discuss the history and culture of Trinidad, life in Cuba today, and Julio’s own fascinating story of entrepeneurship in Cuba.  Or we may visit a local sculptor and his wife who runs a non-profit art project. After these enlightening visits we have another festive dinner at a local Paladar followed with time to enjoy the Casa de la Musica, an outdoor venue on the steps of the city. 

ACCOMMODATION : Casa Particular (Bed & Breakfast)
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6

Paddling in the Guanaroca Nature Reserve and on to Cienfuegos

The area of “Laguna de Guanaroca-Yaguanabo-El Nicho” cover about 10,000 acres and is rich in birdlife including a flock of resident flamingos.    We paddle in the lagoon, and then out into the larger Bay of Cienfuegos is where you paddle past an abandoned navy base, a sunken sub and on to a bountiful seafood lunch. We shuttle a short distance to city of Cienfuegos, known as the Pearl of the South. Settled by French and French Creoles invited here by the Spanish government in the 1800’s, there remains a French flair. We take a late-afternoon walking tour to visit Teatro Tomás Terry, a beautiful theater located on the north side of Parque José Martí and an excellent example of Creole architecture.   We visit a number of other sites and take a stroll on the Prado, a wild boulevard that fills with people late in the evening.  After dinner local casas provide your accommodations for the night.

ACCOMMODATION : Casa Particular (Bed & Breakfast) or local hotel
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7

Ernest Hemingway Museum, Cojimar, and Driving Old Convertible Cars in Havana

This is our last full day of activities.  We drive back to Havana where we go to the Ernest Hemingway Museum (Finca Vigia) where he lived a good 20 years and wrote many of his books.   After the museum we visit the historic fishing hamlet Cojimar, where Hemingway parked his boat.  We continue into Havana and visit the Mercado San Jose, a massive warehouse filled with art and crafts and the perfect place to find a souvenir or two,   We travel in style to dinner tonight, in classic cars from the 1940’s and 50’s.  On our way we tour the Plaza de la Revolucion and a few other sites of Vedado and Miramar.   Our farewell dinner is at another of the city’s finest paladars, and afterwards, it’s time out on the town, or back to your casa to pack.

ACCOMMODATION : Casa Particular (Bed & Breakfast) or local hotel
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8

Adios Cuba! 

After breakfast transfer to the airport on your own (we will help you arrange a taxi) or join our two-day Havana Extension!

*Taxis to the airport are approximately $25-30 for up to 3 people with luggage.

Note: Travel in Cuba requires a flexible attitude. Our days are full and things don’t always run on time. The listed activities and itinerary above 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 meaningful encounters with the Cuban people to further your Cuban experience.

MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast

Dates & Rates

Supplementary Information

Dates: Guaranteed departures for 4 or more people on any Sunday! Please inquire today to begin the booking process.

*Note: On trips with 6 or less people, some of our special meetings, like meeting with National Park Staff, may not be included due to cost.

Rates for the 2024 Season:

  • $3390 per person*

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

Single Supplement: $500

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

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.

**Note: We can guarantee trips for 2 with a supplement of $300 per person on trips between May 1 and December 15.

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
  • Cuba Visa (a $80-120 value)
Not Included: 
  • Round-trip air to/from Cuba 
  • Guide and driver gratuities
  • Personal expenses such as souvenirs, gifts, alcoholic beverages, additional entertainment outside the standard itinerary, and incidentals
  • Transport to or from airports at the beginning or end of the tour

Reviews

5
Average: 5 (21 votes)

Reviews

5

You want to go!

A spectacular trip in every respect. Cuban people are great. Everyone very proud of their country. and long complex history. Our guides often waved to friends in towns we visited. We were well taken care of. and felt so secure. Professional, highly educated triple language guides. Kayak/snorkel specialist too. The casa particulates owners made us feel like special guests. every night. Wasn''t expecting the super meals at special private restaurants:. rooftop, seaside, streetside.. Bands and music everywhere. Added a night at Tropicana nightclub's dazzling outdoor floorshow...running since 1939. Managed to add a third day to Havana extension to go western Cuba to coffee plantation, orchid garden. and river park swim. VIsits to local potter and art galleries were very special. Bay of Pigs invasion site and museum was serious. Read Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea before visit to his longtime home. Yes a ride to dinner in 1958 red Edsel (Ford) convertible! A full trip of lifelong memories. Go for yourself. Go to learn about Cuban people. Dave

5

Outstanding Trip

Kayaking every day - along with some snorkeling and city tours, was a great balance, and enjoyable trip to see a unique country with great people and food. Very well run operation, great dual language guides, and super safe drivers, with door to door service from arrival to departure. Highly recommend this trip!

5

It was an adventure!

The guides were spectacular. Funny, intensely personal and open to good conversation. They worked hard and I appreciated their efforts.  Cuba Unbound and staff, Molly and Morag were patient with the myriad of questions and changes, helpful and assembled an amazing opportunity for the intrepid traveler. Outstanding! Maria also arranged the Havanna extension with attention to detail and the added experience of travel in a 1955 Ford!  It was an adventurous trip. Reflecting on my experiences, there is the growing sense of duality. The landscape of Cuba was both rich and barren and beautiful and unpleasant.  The experience of the Casa Particular was warm and original and having the electricity go out added flavor. The food was good, simple and plentiful. The Cuban people were friendly and scrappy. I became acutely aware of the ease of my own life. I deeply enjoyed the political conversation, opinions and face-to-face with how others experience history.  All in all, I would do it again and I'm happy for the experience. It wasn't a vacation in the traditional sense. It was an adventure!

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FAQ & More

Can US citizens travel to Cuba?

Yes, you can travel to Cuba as a US citizen! Although, the United States is the only country that restricts its citizens from traveling to Cuba for touristic reasons, however, the U.S. does allow travel to Cuba under one of 12 permitted travel categories. Of these categories, most of our travelers are traveling under either "Support for the Cuban People" or "Educational People-to-People" travel.  

For more information on Cuba travel entry requirements, please see here

Do I need experience to join the kayaking adventure?

Whether you are an avid sea kayaker or stepping into a sea kayak for your first time, you’ll enjoy these incredible trips. For those new to the sport, kayaking is easy to learn in the sheltered waters that we visit, and we provide all of the kayaking equipment and guidance needed. In addition, we keep our groups small so that you not only travel intimately among nature, but receive the necessary attention from our guides as well. Your guides will give you an introduction to paddling and you’ll have plenty of chances to practice. We take plenty of paddle breaks to observe the biodiversity and learn about the area from our knowledgeable guides. We do recommend that you get some paddling in before your trip as kayaking uses muscles you may not know you have. Getting a little experience and building some strength will help your enjoyment of the trip.

What type of kayaks does Cuba Unbound provide?

For our Cuba tours we use polymer Necky Kayaks and you'll find specific information on these models if you follow the link. These kayaks provide a quality paddling experience and are durable enough to hold up with our active itinerary.

Will single Kayaks be available?

We have both double and single kayaks in Cuba. At this time we are not offering the choice for a single kayak rental. Rather, we plan to bring between one and three singles on each tour to be shared among participants, depending on expressed interest.

How much paddling will we do on the kayaking trip?

Sea kayaking distance is best measured in hours rather than miles. We usually paddle from 2 to 4 hours each day but this can be influenced by several factors: weather, tide and currents. We start off each kayak tour with a planned route, but there is always some flexibility available.

What kind of equipment or gear should I bring?

All of the kayaking equipment is provided as well as personal flotation devices and a dry bags, so just bring your clothing and personal gear. Do bring snorkeling gear and paddling gloves. A complete packing list will be sent to you upon reservation. We highly suggest traveling “light” for this adventure.

Are there restrooms available on the kayak tours?

We recommend you use the restrooms available in your Casa Particular/Hotel before leaving on a kayaking adventure. Restrooms will be limited or non-existent in some kayaking excursions. Be prepared to use the outdoors. Pack toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

Who are the kayak guides and what skills do they have?

We know your guide will make the biggest difference on your trip! This is why we pride ourself on employing only the best local guides for all of the incredible locations that we visit. Part of this is to support our eco-tourism efforts, but we also believe that there is no better way to experience a new destination than through the eyes of a local! We find talented and skilled local guides, train and certify them, and provide a positive and consistent source of income to them and their families. Most of our guides are with us for the long-term, despite the seasonal nature of the industry. Cuba Unbound guides know their outdoor skills as second nature. Each trip will have 2-3 guides to assist, inform, and lead the way so you get the most out of your adventure. They love to share conservation, knowledge, games and laughter. 

How much snorkeling will we be doing?

Cuba has some beautiful beaches that are perfect for snorkeling. The flourishing ocean life is an ecological treasure. We have two specific times dedicated to snorkeling but you will have multiple opportunities to snorkel during our kayaking adventure. 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.

Do I need to bring my own snorkel and fins?

We do have a great selection of snorkels, masks, & fins available for your use on this tour. However, if you have your own snorkeling gear, need a very specific size, and/or do not want to share equipment with others, please bring your own snorkeling gear with you.  Wetsuits most likely will not be necessary for snorkeling, as the water in the Caribbean is quite warm year-round. 

How can I prepare for the hiking & kayaking portions of my tour?

The trip is not extremely strenuous, but it is quite active and physical by nature. The more prepared you are for the trip, the more you'll enjoy it, and the more you’ll be comfortable. Walking a few miles per day, climbing stairs, working out with light weights, and other cardio and strength training exercises are all highly recommended activities. At the very least, we recommend that participants take long walks and condition muscle groups of the upper body and core by exercising for a full month prior to the trip to avoid overuse injuries of the wrists and arms.

Can I drink the Water in Cuba?

Generally it's best to drink filtered tap water or bottled water.  In an effort to reduce the use of single-use plastic, we encourage you to pack a wide-mouth water bottle with a filter built in.  There are many brands available.

Is ice safe to have in my drinks?

If you are getting a drink at a hotel bar, or other bar establishment, the ice is most likely made with filtered or bottled water, so should not cause any issues.

Can I eat salads in Cuba?

Cubans pride themselves on proper hygiene and food handling.  The restaurants we use on our tours are very good and eating any salads or raw vegetables that are served is fine.

Custom or Private

You love this itinerary but want to change it a bit to make it perfect for you?  Or, are you wanting to simply make it private?  Either way, we can do it!

Fill out this quick form to begin a custom or private adventure of a lifetime:

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