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Eastern Cuba Revelations - Cuba Walking Tour

Though fewer visitors make their way to eastern Cuba today.  Before white settlement, Taino people inhabited the coast, long before the empires of the east began to start looking west.  Within Cuba, the east was where colonists first settled and explorers first landed. And for hundreds of years after Christopher Columbus’ landing in 1492 near Gibara, and the Spaniard’s first settlement in Baracoa, Cuban history has continued to be made in eastern Cuba.

Teddy Roosevelt led his Rough Riders into battle on San Juan Hill outside of Santiago de Cuba, and Fidel Castro chose Santiago de Cuba as the starting site and battle cry of his revolution. French-Haitians migrated to cities along the eastern shore and fomented their intoxicating Afro-Cuban culture and Son Cubana came into being. Indigenous

Today, Eastern Cuba continues to see a confluence of cultures. Join us on this fabulous tour through Eastern Cuba and trace Cuba’s history from its earliest colonial settlement to its latest collaborative efforts with America. Our tour sets off from Holguín, near Columbus’ landing point, and culminates in Santiago de Cuba, where the reign of the Castros began. Follow the steps of Buena Vista Social Club’s famous song “Chan Chan” and make your way to Mayarí. Soak in wild Baracoa’s mountain wilds and dramatic river canyons.  Feel the way Santiago de Cuba moves to its own tempo: more frenetic, more keyed up, more exposed than other Cuban cities.

Eastern Cuba retains an unfiltered essence of Cuba auténtica. It’s untamed and indomitable—the perfect setting for scientific collaboration, revolution, and the expectation for Cuba’s tomorrow. Eastern Cuba has always been a frontier; it’s only the nature of the frontier that has changed over the years. It’s an exciting time to visit Cuba’s eastern frontier—you just might witness history in the making.

Images & Videos

Woman standing next to a river in Eastern Cuba
Guests being guided on a hike in Eastern Cuba
Transportation through a river in Eastern Cuba
Waterfall in Eastern Cuba
Woman standing next to a river in Eastern Cuba
Guests being guided on a hike in Eastern Cuba
Transportation through a river in Eastern Cuba
Waterfall in Eastern Cuba

Itinerary

Collapse all days

Day 1

Explore Holguín and Arrive in Gibara

Upon landing, our Cuba Unbound leader greets you and gathers guests for a brief orientation. Then, set off on our journey through Cuba.

We begin exploration of Eastern Cuba with a walking tour of San Isidoro de Holguin. Though it’s no Havana, the city of San Isidoro de Holguín, Holguín for short, has its own unornamented appeal. With its 18th century churches and colonial plazas, Holguín offers that winsome window into Cuba’s past, and locals congregate in one of the city’s parks—fitting as Holguín touts itself as the ‘city of parks.’

After you wander the streets, get a look at the impressively oversized baseball stadium, and view Loma de la Cruz in the distance, we take the meandering drive toward Gibara. Squally yet slowly seductive, wily yet understated—Gibara’s as untamed as Baracoa and ideal for travelers disenchanted with throngs of tourists.

Check into your casa for the evening before we meet up for dinner featuring some of Cuba’s favorite dishes.

*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 Support for the Cuban People activities.  Cuba has it’s 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. 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.  Our local guide, along with your Cuba Unbound Tour Leader promise to do their best to make this a fascinating and educational experience.

ACCOMMODATION : Hotel Arsenita or similar
MEALS INCLUDED : Lunch, Dinner

Day 2

Explore Gibara’s Columbus Landing and Cultural Tour

We wake early and spend our day exploring more of Gibara and engaging with the local community. There’s some dispute over where Christopher Columbus first landed. Gibara, specifically the Silla de Gibara rising, is believed to have been first seen by Christopher Columbus in 1492; meanwhile, Holguín claims he first landed at Cayo Bariay, and both lay claim to Columbus’ proclamation of it being “the most beautiful land human eyes have ever seen.” Decide for yourself as you explore Gibara today!

As we spend the morning in Gibara, we meet Señor Jose Toledo, a host of local radio and TV show as well as a master of several languages including English, French, Portuguese, and Russian. He gives us a tour of the town, bringing to life its once-vibrant history as a cultural and trade center as well as its still-vital annual hosting of the international film festival, Festival Internacional de Cine Pobre. Tour the town and visit a Natural History Museum that further document’s the city’s history throughout the afternoon.

After lunch, we visit the Caverna de los Panaderos, caves tucked under limestone hills located just outside of town. The caverns hold a labyrinth of 19 mineral galleries where glittering stalactites catch the minimal light. Wander the dark caves in search of “the mammoth”—an elephantine knob—as well as a lake lying in silent, calm anticipation with Tolkien-esque mysticism.

Then, relax before dinner at an excellent paladar where you can taste some more Cuban food prepared with a local flair.

ACCOMMODATION : Hotel Arsenita or similar
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3

Follow Ruta de Chan Chan and Explore Pinares de Mayarí

We gather for a fresh breakfast before heading out of Gibara in favor of our final destination for the day: Mayarí. First, we make our way back to Holguín where we follow the distinguished “Ruta de Chan Chan.” Compay Segundo’s canonical song “Chan Chan” is now immortalized by a 360km train route that follows along the iconic places mentioned in the song such as Macarné, Cueto, and Mayarí as well as several other towns bounded by Sierra del Cristal.

Our stopover lies in Mayarí, where we de-board and check into our accommodations for the evening before setting off to explore the verdant surroundings. Mayarí lies within the Parque Nacional la Mensura and the Caribbean pine spread known as the Pinares de Mayarí. It’s a lofty region settled neatly over the cloud line and the entire region is perfumed with crisp pine.

Our destination for the afternoon is the Gran Salto del Guayabo, Cuba's highest waterfall at over 100m in height. Hike through the tropical forest where parrots nest and orchids grow until we reach the waterfall.

After our lunch, hike and swim before we descend back to the town of Mayarí. This is an agriculturally rich part of Cuba and we may pass ox or horse carts hauling their goods. We arrive at our Casa Particulares (Bed & Breakfasts) and have time before dinner for a stroll through town.

ACCOMMODATION : Mayari Casa Particular
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4

Hike Parque Nacional Alejandro de Humboldt and Arrive Playa Maguana

Today is a day of wilderness and wildlife! We depart from Mayeri after breakfast and drive east through Moa before reaching Parque Nacional Alejandro de Humboldt—one of Cuba’s most biodiverse regions that encompasses the largest, best-conserved remnant of the Caribbean’s forested mountain ecosystems. Humboldt National Park plays a critical role in the joint research efforts of Cubans and Americans working with the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH)—the findings of which are display at the AMNH.

Explore the Caribbean pine-clad mountains often cloaked with fog on one of the many hiking trails that run throughout the park. It’s a birder’s paradise, and hook-billed kites, Cuban Amazon parrots, and ivory billed woodpeckers call to one another in the dense trees.

After our hike, our travels take us to Playa Maguana, an isolated paradise whose lack of polished infrastructure only adds to its allure. We check into our lodgings and enjoy a refreshing drink and dinner near the secluded beach.

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

Day 5

Explore Parque Nacional Alejandro de Humboldt and Arrive Baracoa

Today takes you further into Humboldt National Park. We begin with a hike along the Sendero Balcón de Iberia, a 5km walk that takes you through a profusion of coconut and fruit trees before beginning the climb to Monte Iberia. Ferns and orchids dangle from the trees along the trail which ends at a waterfall that crashes from the Santa Maria River into natural pools below.

After our afternoon hike, head to Baracoa: Cuba’s eastern coast’s urban heart as well as Cuba’s oldest Spanish settlement. As you enter the city, colorful buildings capped with tin roofs foreground the iconic flat-topped hill, El Yunque, sitting next to the city. Check into your Casa Particular and then step out into the vibrant, somewhat surreal town whose unique culture holds Taíno, Haitian, and French influences.

Walk along Baracoa’s Malecón that edges the village and learn more of the town’s fascinating heritage before dinner. The cuisine is different here as the locals enjoy putting their own twist on the common Cuban fare of rice and beans with the help of their mixed cultural heritage. Baracoa is the center of Cuban cacao productions, so try some chorrote, a thick hot chocolate, or the Baracoan tetí river fish dishes. After we dine, we might have the opportunity to listen to changüí music or catch sight of the Creole dance inspired by the French minuet, the Tumba Francesca.

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

Day 6

Yumuri River Canyon and Visit Cocoa and Coffee Plantations in Baracoa

The morning starts with a coastal drive to the Yumuri River canyon for a short boat ride and hike along the Yumuri River with a local guide that shares their knowledge of the flora and fauna of the area.  This includes the beautiful painted snails that are among some of the 1400 species of land snails found in Cuba.  These  Polymita, or “many stripes” snails boast vibrant colors in a striped formation on their shells.

We eat lunch in a local paladar, or a picnic lunch to enjoy in the canyon, and in the afternoon we explore the rich agricultural culture near Baracoa in several supportive encounters.  You visit local cocoa and coffee plantations and learn more about how the people of Cuba’s “far east” cultivate these crops amidst imposing mountains. It’s a day for all your senses as you smell the aromas, do some tasting, and hear testimonies of Cuba’s agro-industrial techniques.

On our visits, you see how Cubans transform cocoa fruit to cacao, a process that involves picking cocoa pods, sun-drying seeds, and roasting beans. We also learn about Eastern Cuba’s history of French-Haitian coffee plantations that dominated the region in the late 18th-early 19th centuries. The cocoa and coffee plantations embody a rich heritage resulted from the island’s mix of many cultures—a heritage definitely worth tasting!

ACCOMMODATION : Baracoa Casa Particular
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7

Explore Guantánamo’s French-Haitian Heritage and Arrive Santiago de Cuba

Today takes us further south and away from the coast as we drive on the dramatic Viaducto La Farola, a sinewy mountain road that connects Baracoa to the rest of Cuba’s southern shores. We also move from lush rainforest to stark desert in the rainshadow of the mountains.  We arrive on the outskirts of Guantanamo at a lookout point where we have a distant view of the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay.

A short distance more we arrive in the city of Guantanamo, well-known for its Cuban culture influenced by the heavy influx of the French in the 19th century after the Haitian Revolution. We stop for lunch and to visit some of the city’s more remarkable sites: the Parroquia Santa Catalina de Ricci as well as the Palacio de Salcines.

The Parroquia Santa Catalina de Ricci is also known as the Cathedral Guantánamo, said to be the world’s smallest cathedral whose muted yellow tones fit the Caribbean ambience of the town. The simple yet charming cathedral is not as grand as the Palacio de Salcines., which served as the personal residence of local architect Leticio Salcines. Salcines’ iconic works still litter the city.

Built in 1916, the Palacio de Salcines features eclectic and grand architecture, and more artwork lies inside. The interior has been converted to an Art Gallery, a Museum of Decorative Arts, and a Heritage Center. Over the years, the palacio has gained some praise as being the city’s most emblematic building with its adorning statue La Fama, a mytholical figure who signals news of good and evil with her trumpet. Guantánamo has come to tout the statue as its symbol over the years.

We also enjoy a performance of the Tumba Francesa, an Afro-Cuban genre of dance, drumming and song that dates to the day French slaves brought from Haiti during the slave rebellion of the 1790’s.

After our brief tour of Guantánamo, we continue on our way to Santiago de Cuba. Santiago is Cuba’s second biggest city following Havana, and it shares the same pulsating energy even if it grooves to its own beat. With its rich Afro-Cuban heritage, it’s easy to see why many consider Santiago the cradle of Cuban music.

Once we’ve arrived and checked into our hotel or casa we have the opportunity to unwind with some dinner and appreciate Santiago’s musical heritage as we head to Santiago’s Casa de la Trova where Paul McCartney once performed. This is a state sponsored music salon where every night a cadre of singers and musicians play. Its freeform musicality showcases a nostalgia for the days of troubadors, and it’s welcoming atmosphere is intoxicating. Sounds of the street mingle with the melodies, becoming part of the ambience. The son originated here, so you might be able to hear the masters perform their art.

ACCOMMODATION : Hotel or Santiago de Cuba Casa Particular
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8

Explore Santiago de Cuba’s Revolutionary Heritage

We take the opportunity to further explore Santiago today as we head out on a walking tour of the city. Santiago’s proximity to tropical islands like Jamaica has infused the city with an urbane glamour and vibrant Afro-Caribbean culture evident throughout the streets. It’s also a cultural capital that has played pivotal roles in Castro’s revolution and the Bacardí rum business.

Our walking tour takes us to Parque Céspedes, a classic Cuban square where colonial architecture is foregrounded by troubadors smoking cigars and writers seek literary inspiration in terrace bars. A statue of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, the man who incited the 1868 rebellion, overlooks the 21st-century bustle.

In the park we find the Diego Velázquez Museum, home of Cuba’s first governor. Built in 1516, it’s reputed to be Cuba’s oldest house. We also find the Museo de Ambiente Histórico Cubano and the Museo del Ron, which explores the history and production of Cuba’s most popular liquor. Our local expert guide brings these places all to life while providing an interesting historical backdrop.

After lunch our tour continues as we head to the east for a visit to the Moncada barracks where Castro’s revolution began 1953—a day still celebrated annually on Revolution Day. We then continue to Loma de San Juan, the hill where Teddy Roosevelt rode his army of Rough Riders to victory during the Spanish-American War of 1898.

We travel out of town a bit to the Cementario Santa Ifigenia. It’s best known for housing the mausoleum of Jose Martí, but it’s also the resting place of Compay Segundo, the legendary singer and guitarist who wrote the Can Chan that we were introduced to earlier in our journey as well as Fidel Castro.

As evening sets, we dine and enjoy a night in the energetic town. Those with energy to spare may want to walk the El Tivoli neighborhood after dinner. El Tivoli was settled by French plantation owners who had fled Haiti during the Haitian slave revolution, and its narrow streets lead up steep hills toward the bay.

ACCOMMODATION : Hotel or Santiago de Cuba Casa Particular
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9

Adios Cuba!

Flight depart from the Santiago Airport. If necessary it’s also possible to transfer 3 hours back to the Holguin Airport in time to catch afternoon return flights home.

MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast

Dates & Rates

DatesAdult (USD)Child (USD)
Jan 01, 2024 to Dec 31, 2024
Guaranteed departures for 4 or more people
$3,490£0€0$0$0$3,490£0€0$0$0
Jan 01, 2025 to Dec 31, 2025
Guaranteed departures for 4 or more people
$3,490£0€0$0$0$3,490£0€0$0$0

Supplementary Information

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

2024 Rates: $3490.00 per person*

Single Supplement: $500

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

2025 Rates: $3490.00 per person*

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 
  • Transfers to the airport at the end of the tour
  • Guide and driver gratuities 
  • Personal expenses such as souvenirs, gifts, alcoholic beverages, additional entertainment outside the standard itinerary, and incidentals

Reviews

5
Average: 5 (2 votes)

Reviews

5

Eastern Cuba Revelations 2024

It's been a week since I took flight from Cuba Unbound - Eastern Cuba Revelations to land back home in the USA. When my life long friend, David, and I were thinking about our next ROW adventure (back in the summer, 2023), little did we know that Cuba would come on our radar screen. With that said, David traveled with ROW back in about 2015 to Cuba (Unbound - Signature Tour). That David was willing to entertain a return visit was a testament to the ROW staff who put together an adventure to the eastern part of the country for the two of us. The combination of the Eastern Cuba Revelations itinerary coupled with Peter and Maria's responsiveness to our interests in hiking along with a taste of eastern Cuba culture and art (ie. the cave museum in Baracoa, and the Bacardi museum in Santiago de Cuba) and music made it all possible. We could not have done this adventure without the behind the scenes work of ROW and Cuba Unbound navigating the travel process along with identifying our "guiding light", Wency who was also a great sidekick. He kept us safe and turned us onto a number of his colleagues/friends who stepped in and stepped up as our local guides. We experienced the cities, towns and the beautiful countryside with their amazing fund of information and honest/sincere historical/present perspective of the state of the union of Cuba. Finally, along the way, we met lots of children and adults who welcomed us. Given the predictable unpredictability of the daily conditions the Cuban people face, our accommodations, culinary delights and music (both live along with Wency playing DJ on his phone and jbl portable speaker) were excellent. Thank you once again ROW staff for hitting it out of the ballpark for us!

5

Stunning, Invigorating and Intimate Eastern Cuba

This trip delivered a powerful, passionate, and exotic mix of rewarding experiences - cultural, historical and exquisitely beautiful nature! The Cuban people we met were warm, directly honest and genuinely curious to encounter us as guests. We enjoyed the main guide, Wency as a person sharing himself on an adventure with us. He was knowledge and communicated expertly the charm, appeal and difficulty that the Cuban people face. The use of local guides to supplement was much appreciated as we learned from their different styles and perspectives. The physicality of the rainforests, beaches, rooftop terraces and city squares was appealing as the people we met seemed intimately connected with their natural surroundings. I felt the timeless pull of history and glimpsed the tensions between the past and the future unfold in many of our visits.The rich experience of this trip elicited much reflection and a profound appreciation for my own life's journey.

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FAQ & More

Can US citizens legally 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

What is a Casa particular?

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.  

How difficult is the walking?

We walk between two and five miles.  Our pace is casual and most walks have little to no elevation gain.  Most of the walking will be done during the day in the cities that we will visit. There will be plenty of breaks to take pictures and to learn about the history of the area from our specialized guides. The hikes in the parks will also be guided by experts and the pace will be set depending on the group's abilities. 

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What are the trail conditions?

Trails are generally well maintained, but loose rock and dirt are common. All paths may be slippery when wet. Good walking shoes or boots are essential; walking poles are not necessary. In the cities where we walk, careful attention to holes in the sidewalks or streets is critical.

 

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!

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