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.
Cienfuegos Botanical Gardens, and Cienfuegos City
We depart Trinidad and drive west along the coast with the towering Sierra Escambray mountains to our north and the turquoise Caribbean to our south. Soon we arrive at the mouth of the Bay of Cienfuegos for a fun (and optional) kayak paddle to visit the Fortress of Our Lady of the Angels of Jagua. The fortress or "castle" was built by order of King Philip V of Spain in 1742 as a defense against pirates who plied the Caribbean coast. After our paddle and fortress visit we feast at a seaside restaurant known for its excellent seafood.
After lunch it's a short drive to the Cienfuegos Botanical Gardens where we enjoy an excellent people-to-people tour with a local specialist. Founded in 1899 by Edward Atkns from New England, he eventually handed it over to Harvard University on a 99 year lease. It's a stunning collection of over 1400 species of trees and plants from around the world that makes for a delightful walk. We continue on to the seaside port town of Cienfuegos.
Cienfuegos is knows as the “Pearl of the South” and is legendary within Cuba for its long seaside promenade (the malecon) and the mansion-lined Prado. Settled in the 1820’s, the Spanish Crown invited French people from Bordeaux and Louisiana. It's a city filled with fabulous architecture and is another of Cuba’s designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We take an informative walking tour of the town visiting many of the majestic buildings including the late 19th century Teatro Tomas Terry and others. We also enjoy a very special performance by the Cienfuegos Choir, an internationally renown choir that travels to competitions throughout the world.
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.
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: 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 Educational Exchange and People-to-People encounters and further your Cuban experience.
Dates & Rates
|Dates||Adult (USD)||Child (USD)|
|Jan 13, 2019 to Jan 20, 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 |
Only 4 spots left!
|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|
We can also run private departures for groups of 2-16 on-demand! Please reach out to us to discuss planning your own private departure.
Rates for 2018/19 Season:
- $3,190 per person* (8+ guests)
- $3,490 per person* (2-7 guests)
Prices above reflect our lowest tiered price.
Tiered Pricing Explained
Our trips are budgeted for full or near full sign-ups which enables us to offer trips at the lowest possible price. Because of numerous fixed costs, it is more expensive to operate a trip for a small group. Therefore, on some of our trips, in order to avoid having to cancel a trip, we have a “tier-pricing” system to avoid canceling a trip with a low number of sign ups. We have found that most people also prefer this alternative to having a trip cancelled. Thus, you will note on our trip prices there may be different price for 4-7 people versus 8-16, etc. We may initially invoice you at the higher tier price, and refund the difference depending on the final group size.
*Christmas departures have a supplemental cost ($300 per person) due to our increased prices for 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.
Up to 16 spaces available on each tour (depending on the number of solo travelers and available accommodations)
Minimum age: 12
• 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
Images & Videos
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.