AGE LIMIT: 12 Years
TRIP TYPE: Biking, Cultural
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.
Day 1: Saturday
Bienvenido a Santa Clara, Cuba!
Those arriving on the earlier JetBlue flight will have time to visit the Che Memorial, then check into the hotel. Those arriving on the later American Airlines flight will go from the airport directly to the accommodations. We enjoy dinner together and have an evening orientation meeting.
- Accommodations: Casa Particular
- Meals Included: D
Day 2: Sunday
Santa Clara to Trinidad via Topes de Collantes National Park
Our days start early in order to beat the heat. First thing in the morning we fit our bicycles and then start our ride. We head southeast towards Topes de Collantes National Park on one of the most scenic riding sections of our tour. The Escambray mountains separate the interior of Cuba from the coast and rise up as a verdant curtain of biodiversity. The ride has plenty of ups and downs and is somewhat challenging. As always, our bus is nearby, so if anyone tires out it’s possible to hop on the bus for part of the ride.
We arrive at the Park and have lunch surrounded by the thick forest. After lunch we visit a coffee plantation and learn about current and historic coffee production in Cuba in a people-to-people exchange. If there’s time and group energy we take a short hike in the National Park before continuing south to the charming colonial city of Trinidad. One of the five original Spanish pueblos, Trinidad was founded in 1514 and retains many original colonial buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s a town of artists, history and culture not to be missed.
In the late afternoon we check into our Casa Particular, home for the next two nights. Casas are essentially Bed & Breakfasts set up in people’s homes, giving you an excellent opportunity to see how average Cubans live and to get acquainted with them. By staying in the homes of Cubans, we are providing support for the Cuban people, one of the objectives of the U.S. government related to reasons to travel to Cuba. It also provides a forum for authentic, informal people-to-people interchange.
We take a short walking tour of the town to get oriented, then meet for dinner at a local paladar. Paladars are private restaurants often located in historic mansions or colonial buildings.
- Accommodations: Casa Particular
- Meals Included: B, L, D
Elevation: +800/-2500 ft.
Distance: 20 Miles
Time: 2-3 hours with stops
Day 3: Monday
Trinidad to Playa Ancon and River Kayaking
We offer an optional morning loop ride that cruises to the coast and Playa Ancon, one of Cuba’s most beautiful beaches. We continue our ride along the coast and then meet up with our fleet of kayaks for a lovely and leisurely 1 ½ hour paddle on a tranquil river that offers fine birdwatching and fantastic views of Trinidad perched on the hill above.
We return to town for lunch, and then walk some more within the city’s vehicle-free center. We visit a local artist for a people-to-people exchange to learn about the role of art in Cuban society. In the early evening we meet with local photographer and entrepreneur Julio Munoz to learn more about his style of photography, his horse education project and the challenges of private business.
Our dinner is another paladar, again providing support for the Cuban people by bringing business to a Cuban entrepreneur. After dinner some may wish to explore the town’s lively music scene, including the outdoors Casa de la Musica located on the town steps in the colonial center.
- Accommodations: Casa Particular
- Meals Included: B,L,D
Elevation: +200 / -200 ft
Distance: 22 Miles (optional)
Time: 2-3 hours with stops
Map and GPS profile come soon
Day 4: Tuesday
Trinidad to Cienfuegos
After breakfast at our respective Casa Particulars, we take the bus a few miles out of town, unload the bikes and start our ride west along the coast towards Cienfuegos. It’s fairly level and very scenic, with towering green mountains to the north and the azure Caribbean to the south. We stop on our ride at a beach for a rest and optional swim. Then it’s on to lunch followed by a transfer into the city 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 1850’s, the Spanish Crown invited French people from Bordeaux and Louisiana to populate the city. Cienfuegos is 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 which seats 900. If timing works out we also hear a performance by the Cienfuegos Choir, an internationally renown choir that travels to competitions throughout the world.
We dine at a local paladar located near the “Prado” or central boulevard, which has a lovely raised central walkway with trees and benches and is one of the city’s central social points. Those with energy may enjoy an evening walk along the malecon which comes alive after 9 pm with the city’s youth.
- Accommodations: Casa Particular
- Meals Included: B,L,D
Elevation: + 851 / - 987 ft.
Distance: 24.4 Miles (optional +15.5 miles +565/ -411 ft.)
Time: 3.5 hours with stops
Map & GPS Online Profile
Day 5: Wednesday
Cienfuegos to the Bay of Pigs, Playa Giron and Playa Larga
A short distance outside of Cienfuegos we start riding in Yaguaramas on a tranquil two-lane country road passing through agricultural lands. It’s one of our favorite stretches where it’s not uncommon to see oxen pulling plows, rice drying on roads and people working in the fields. By noon we arrive in the town of Playa Giron on the shores of the Bay of Pigs. Named for a French pirate, this is also the site of the famous U.S. orchestrated invasion of the Bay of Pigs in 1961.
After a picnic lunch we visit the Museum of the Bay of Pigs for an informative people-to-people interchange with a museum guide. Then it’s a short drive or optional ride to our favorite snorkeling place here in the Zapata National Park. Cuba is home to the healthiest reef system in the Caribbean and our snorkel is an opportunity to learn more about the important research being done in the region as well as joint projects being carried out between Cuban and U.S. scientific foundations.
We transfer to the beachside town of Playa Larga and check into our Casa Particular for the evening. Before dinner we meet with a staff member of the National Park Service for an enlightening people-to-people exchange to learn about the challenges facing the Park, various conservation projects and more.
Dinner is traditional Cuban food, served with care by our local hosts.
- Accommodations: Casas Particular
- Meals Included: B,L,D
Elevation: + 414 / - 506 ft.
Distance 35.2 Miles
Time: 4-5 hours with stops
Map & GPS Online Profile
Day 6: Thursday
Playa Larga to Matanzas
We transfer a short distance north to Guira de Macories. Cycling north, our easygoing route take us through sugar cane plantations and fields. We pass through a number of small towns and are likely to see school children on the way to and from school. We stop for a picnic lunch in one of the small-town plazas we encounter. We’ll also stop to try “gaurapo” or sugar cane juice sold along the road.
By mid-afternoon we arrive in the historic center of Matanzas set on a bay where the Yumuri and San Juan rivers empty into the sea . We stop to visit the Castelito de San Severino, built in 1745 replete with dungeons where slaves were kept until sold to sugar plantations. It’s home to the excellent Museo de la Ruta del Esclavo (Museum of the Slave Route). A short bit further takes us to our charming and historic hotel. After checking in, if time, we walk across the town plaza to visit the fascinating Museo Farmeceutico, a former pharmacy that opened in 1882 and closed in 1964 and has been preserved just as it was.
We enjoy dinner at an outstanding local paladar and return to the casa for a well-earned rest.
- Accommodations: Casa Particular
- Meals Included: B,L,D
Elevation: + 811/ - 896 ft
Distance: 32.3 miles
Time: 4-5 hours with stops
Map & GPS Online Profile
Day 7: Friday
Yumuri River Valley and on to Havana
We ride from the Casa out of town and into the peaceful Yumuri River valley. Palm trees, tobacco fields and other agricultural fields line our route. After a few hours of riding we load into our bus and transfer into Havana.
Havana is a bustling capital city and home to “old Havana” which is a living museum, home to what is likely the finest collection of Spanish colonial buildings in all the Americas. This is one of the greatest historical cities of the new world. We spend a couple hours on a walking tour of the historic town center, visiting the four major plazas and gazing upon architecture that blends Baroque churches, Spanish-built castles, art noveau and art deco. The 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.
After wandering through the plazas we head to our Casa to freshen up before dinner at one of the city’s fine paladars. The culinary scene in Havana has exploded in the past few years and many enterprising business people have opened restaurants offering creative and delicious fare.
After dinner some may want to explore Havana’s music scene. There’s the hip an artistic Fabrique des Artes Cubana (FAC); the Union of Cuban Writers with weekly bolero performances, the Buena Vista Social Club and much, much more.
- Accommodations: Casa Particular
- Meals Included: B,L,D
Elevation: + 636.1/ - 374.4 ft.
Distance: 8.5 Miles
Time: 1.5 hours with stops
Map & GPS Online profile coming soon
Day 8: Saturday
After breakfast transfer to the airport on your own (we will help you arrange a taxi) or join our two-day Havana Extension! Remember to switch your Cuban CUC back to American currency before you leave!
*Taxis to the airport are approximately $25-30 for up to 3 people with luggage.
- Meals Included: B
DISCLAIMER: 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 people-to-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 people–to-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.
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 any of a number of reasonably priced hotels near the airport (or elsewhere if you're spending extra time in Miami) and take a flight to Havana on the morning of Day 1. American Airlines currently has excellent options from Miami to Havana, including two daily flights that arrive in Havana prior to 11:00 AM. You may find that booking two separate round-trip tickets is best: 1) from home to Miami and back; and 2) from Miami to Havana and back. Or you may find a single ticket (typically with a red-eye flight or overnight layover in Miami) with scheduled arrival before 11:00 AM on the morning of Day 1.
- Accommodations: If you are arriving early to Cuba or staying after your Cuba Unbound tour, it is important to secure your accommodations ahead of time. We recommend using casa particulars (houses that rent rooms) which are available via AirBNB. Casas are typically an easier and less expensive option (most in the $20-50 range). Travel Agencies such as Cuba Travel Services can also assist with booking homestays. Booking through a travel agency or AirBNB allows for advance credit card payment, minimizing the cash you’ll need to carry with you.
- Ground Transportation: Taxi transport to your casa on night 0, as well as to return to the airport on Day 1, is very simple. We recommend using state run taxis. Make sure to have the address of your destination in hand and agree on the fare before getting in the cab.
CUBA'S TOURIST SEASONS
- High Season: Cuba’s peak tourist season runs from mid-December to mid-March as well as July and August. Crowds are at their thickest here, and prices and bookings tend to be up as well. It’s always good to plan ahead when visiting during Cuba’s high season.
- Shoulder Season: Cuba’s shoulder runs through the months of April and October. Visitors can find some special deals during the shoulder season, though there’s a slight peak around Easter.
- Low Season: Cuba’s low season hits May through June and September. Expect some closures or fewer facilities during the low season when tourists are less likely but hurricanes are more likely.
CUBA CLIMATE GUIDE
- Hot and Wet Season (May through August): During the summer, Cuba is hot and humid.
- Hurricane Season (End of August to First of November): Like all Caribbean Islands, Cuba gets hit by hurricans. The fiercest hurricane months are September and October, though the "hurricane season" runs from June through November. That being said, Cuba has a tendency to hold out pretty well against hurricanes!
- Dry and Cooler Season (November through April): If you love the consistently sunny and temperate weather, Cuba's dry season is for you. It's generally 77-82 degrees (25-27 C) with less rain and cooler evenings. The island warms up beautifully from March through mid-April, and visitors can expect warm Caribbean currents, cooling northeasterly winds and occasional rainfall.
Weather in Havana, Cuba - Weather Underground
Personal Mobile Phone Service in Cuba: It’s possible that your mobile phone will work in Cuba as some U.S. service providers have already or are beginning to make contracts with the ETECSA (Cuba’s national telecommunications company) to provide roaming services. Verizon and Sprint currently offer roaming services in Cuba. Check to see if your provider offers a roaming plan and if your mobile phone is capable of roaming when in Cuba. Further, inquire about additional charges for data, outgoing messages, and voice calls. You can also rent a SIM card from Cubacel to use your U.S. mobile phone in Cuba. This, however, only works if your phone is unlocked and GSM-capable. Cubacel’s SIM cards come with pre-paid minutes, and a daily rental fee is included.
Renting U.S. Mobile Phones for Cuban Travel: A select number of specialized mobile phone companies provide travel phones compatible with Cuban roaming. Before traveling to Cuba, you can rent compatible phones from Mobal, Cello Mobile, or National Geographic’s Cellular Abroad. Expect rental fees and additional texting and per-minute call charges with data optional depending on the type of phone rented.
Renting a Phone in Cuba: You can rent a phone from Cubacel upon your arrival in Cuba. Cubacel offices are located in Havana’s José Martí International Airport. Expect a nonrefundable deposit as well a daily fee, and additional texting and per-minute call charges still apply. Data’s not available on these rented phones.
Internet Cafés: ETECSA operates a number of internet cafés locally known as telepuntos in larger cities such as Havana and Santiago. You may purchase an access ticket in telepuntos that allow you to use the internet by the hour or by the minute.
Hotel Business Centers: Many of the larger, modern hotels have a business center where guests can purchase internet access.
WiFi: ETECSA offers 65 public WiFi locations as of January, 2016. WiFi access in public locations costs an hourly rate, and much like at telepuntos guests must purchase an access pass from ETECSA in order to log on. Approximately 50 major resorts and hotels throughout Cuba offer WiFi, and they generally charge an hourly rate.
Vaccines: U.S. citizens require no vaccines to visit Cuba.That being said, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that travelers should be up-to-date on routine vaccinations.Other advisable inoculations include: hepatitis A and B, typhoid, rabies.
Food and Water: It’s always good to take precautions about what you eat and drink when traveling to Cuba. To avoid parasites, avoid drinking tap water and instead drink bottled water or check if the offered water has been boiled. As for food, food purchased on the street presents the highest risk as no authorized regulatory organization ensures proper hygiene.
Water Bottle Choice - if you have one, we ask that you bring a reusable, wide-mouthed water bottle. Again, we provide bottled water throughout the trip, but we are often refilling on the bus, and/or from large 5-gallon containers. A wide-mouthed water bottle will make it easier on everyone.
Snacks- if you are someone who likes to snack between meals, or if you need a regular blood sugar bump during an active trip such as this, pack some small, non-perishable, packaged food items from home: think granola bars, nuts, etc. There are small markets in the cities and villages of Cuba, but they do not sell what we consider snack food.
Food Restrictions- Vegetarian/vegan guests (or those with other food allergies as noted on your trip application) can expect our guides and operating partners to do their very best to accommodate your needs. If you are a "pescatarian" and enjoy seafood, you will have plenty. However, strict vegetarian and vegan options are less common in Cuba. Plan on rice and beans, basic veggies (the avocados in Cuba are impressive), and local fruits when and where available. You might want to bring your own supply of nuts or other protein substitutes.
Sun Exposure: With Cuba’s strong summer sun and high humidity, sun and heat exposure along with dehydration can present health risks. Use sunscreen, drink lots of water, and limit sun exposure when you can.
Insurance: Cuba mandates that all foreign travelers have medical insurance which includes evacuation if serious medical attention is needed.
Zika Virus: The CDC has reported Zika outbreaks in Cuba and advises travelers to practice enhanced precautions. Check out the CDC's websitefor updated travel alerts, and please review our prepared Zika Virus Travel Tips on the Health & Safety dropdown menu to help you travel healthy.
Exchanging Money in Cuba: $1 USD is roughly equivalent to 1 CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso- the currency you will exclusively use in Cuba). While you can exchange USD for CUC, there is an immediate 10% penalty which is why we suggest you bring Euros or Canadian dollars (CAD) instead. We recommend exchanging currency upon arrival at the Havana airport. Airport officials can point you to the currency exchange desk. Other options are government exchange offices within the city, banks (consider likely open hours for both), and your hotel, however the airport is likely your best bet for convenience and the most favorable rates. If arriving on the morning of Day 1 and meeting your group before leaving the airport, your guides will assist you with currency exchange.
How Much To Bring on Your Tour: Below are some guidelines on how much cash you may want to bring for items not included in your tour. Although it is slowly changing, virtually all U.S. bank credit/debit cards still do not work in Cuba, so bring more cash than you think you'll need - if you run out, there is likely no easy way to get more.
Gifts/Souvenirs: we recommend $200-$400 per person ( $800 USD per person is still the maximum allowed through customs when you return to the U.S.). If you plan to shop minimally or not at all, adjust appropriately.
Incidental Personal Expenses: $100 per person. Plan on unexpected needs along the way, such as laundry, tips for service outside the scope of the tour, etc.
Beverages/Entertainment: $75 - $100 per person. ROW provides clean drinking water at all times, as well as water with meals and coffee, tea and juice at breakfast. In addition, most restaurants on your tour will include one beverage of your choice with lunch and dinner. However, an included drink is not always the case, and additional beverages will need to be paid separately. In many places, you may take an evening stroll and enjoy some live music in a local bar. At the Casas we stay in along the way, you can buy beer and perhaps other drinks. Drinks range from $2-$4 at most locations.
Airport Transfer: We recommend budgeting $25-$30 for an airport taxi at the conclusion of your tour.
Guide Gratuities: we recommend approximately $200 USD per guest for your guide team (equivalent to $25 per day for the team). Keep in mind that tipping is a very personal decision, and we encourage you to adjust this up or down as you see fit based on your experience. It's best to plan on tipping in the local CUC currency, Euros, or Canadian dollars.
During your trip, Cuba Unbound covers tips for servers, porters, and others that help us along the way. Your tour leader, as well as local Cuban guides and drivers are not included in the gratuities that we pay. Please give this gratuity in either CUCs, Euros, or CAD to your ROW tour leader at the end of the trip. He or she will in turn divide it according to our company guidelines, keeping some for him/herself and distributing the rest appropriately among our local Cuban guides and drivers.
Total: We recommend a total of $600-$850 per person. If this seems high, remember that it's best to bring more than you think you may need, as you cannot get more cash in Cuba. You can always take home what you don't spend (just don't take it home in CUC, as you will NOT be able to exchange CUC in the U.S.)
Unplug- we encourage you to embrace your week in Cuba as a chance to disconnect! Although you might take your smart phone for the camera, alarm function, etc., most U.S. carriers still don't have reliable service in Cuba (feel free to check with your provider of course). On top of that, you will likely need to purchase an internet card, and WiFi in Cuba (even in most hotels) is spotty at best. So any time spent trying to connect is likely to be inefficient, and more importantly, will be time taken away from your authentic Cuban experience. Having said that, there are other options if you absolutely must stay connected. Please see our Cuba Unbound FAQs for additional details.
Don't Forget Your Camera- although we typically task one of our guides with taking photos of our trips, the guiding demands specific to Cuba make this more difficult. In addition, because of the lack of connectivity in Cuba, uploading photos after each trip is essentially impossible for our guides to do. If we have Cuba Unbound staff or a professional photographer on your trip, we will do our best to share our photos with you after you return home. However, your best bet to capture all those Cuban memories: pack your camera and take lots of pictures! Of course, when able, our guides (and hopefully your fellow guests) will be more than happy to help you get the perfect shot without the need for that cumbersome selfie stick!
Gifts for Cuban friends you meet along the way- many visitors to Cuba like to bring small items to give away to locals they meet on their trip. Please know that there is absolutely no obligation to do so, and our tour doesn't afford opportunities to visit organizations specifically for this purpose. However, we visit many of our friends along the way, and you will undoubtedly meet new friends of your own. Strangers (especially kids) also love anything you might want to gift them – particularly items that aren’t readily available in Cuba, such as basic hygiene products (travel toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, etc.), small toys for kids (crayons are great), travel umbrellas you might take for your trip and leave behind, pencils/pens, etc. If you do plan to bring gifts of any kind, we recommend low-value items, as there is a $250 USD limit in total value on gifts you can bring in without being subject to taxes. We also recommend that items fit easily into your day pack and that you only gift to one or two people at a time…kids have a tendency to converge upon (and sometimes innocently reach into) a day pack that they know has something for them. Lastly, consider where you pack liquid/gels or any other gifts that are subject to standard airline luggage restrictions.
Embrace the experience: This is a great time to remind you that Cuba is likely unlike any other place you've been. After 50 years of a trade embargo and an economy that has been fraught with struggles, infrastructure is generally not well maintained. Buildings are in need of repair, sometimes including portions of the hotels we use. Elevators may stop operating during thunderstorms or for other reasons. Air conditioning often breaks down. Hot water and water pressure can be minimal. Things happen more slowly than in many parts of the world. Internet access is sporadic and hard to find. All that said, you will find warm, friendly people, fantastic scenery and natural landscapes, and a culture rich in music and history. Please leave your usual expectations at home, beware of things such as loose cobblestone, and bring an attitude of flexibility and understanding. If you do that, we are more than confident you will have an incredible Cuban experience!
The packing guide outlined below is meant to help you plan, prepare and outfit yourself for your upcoming travels. We have provided our best recommendations and suggestions, but we want to be clear: it is only a guide. Our recommendations are based on the outlined itinerary, our knowledge of Cuba, and our personal experiences. However, each traveler will have his or her own preferences and favorite travel items. We hope you find this resource helpful – minimize as much as you feel comfortable within these guidelines, and feel free to amend it with your favorite travel items too!
The bike you will be riding on this tour is a Trek FX S4 (subject to change), a hybrid style bike designed for both road and trail riding. In addition to bicycles, Cuba Unbound will provide bike helmets and all necessary repair tools. We will have qualified cycling guides who can make repairs/adjustments as needed. While we will provide clean drinking water throughout the tour, we do ask that you bring your own water bottle (to fit a standard bottle cage) and/or a hydration pack that you can wear comfortably while riding. Depending on the type of pack and your personal preferences, your hydration pack may double as your day pack (see below). Also, it is highly recommended that all of your bicycling clothes are synthetic or wool, not cotton. Synthetics are also ideal for walking/hiking and touring in warmer climates (you can typically expect daytime highs of 75-80 deg F in Cuba, with varying humidity) as they wick away moisture and dry quickly. There may be an opportunity to snorkel during this tour, we ask that you bring your own snorkel and mask (and fins if needed, although consider packing space and weight). Snorkeling equipment will also be available for rent. You may find that travel-sized fins are a good solution). Wetsuits most likely will not be necessary, as the water in the Caribbean is quite warm year-round.
Cuba Unbound adventures are best enjoyed if you travel light. We think it is wise to avoid checking any luggage. We highly recommend NOT checking bags to Havana. The airport is often very busy, with multiple flights coming in at once and limited baggage carousels in some terminals. One thing that might make carrying on all luggage difficult: the standard TSA limitations on liquids and gels. As many of these items are not so readily available in Cuba, if you need larger volumes of any such items, one idea is to purchase them at the your departure airport after you pass through security. If you check bags, be sure to carry everything that is either essential or would be hard to replace in your day pack/carry-on bag (medications, travel documents, important personal items/essentials). We will not be able to wait for checked luggage that is lost or delayed.
Whether you are carrying on your luggage or checking a bag, we recommend bringing TWO or THREE bags with you on this tour:
- One roll-on suitcase or duffle/backpack: This will serve as your main piece of luggage during your tour. If you are planning to carry this bag on your flight(s), the total dimensions should meet standard carry-on size of 45 inches or less (22 x 14 x 9 in.). During your tour in Cuba, we will transport this bag for you between hotels each day, and you will have access to it each evening when we check into our accommodations. *Also, depending on your shopping plans, you may consider packing an extra soft-sided compressible duffle inside your main luggage – to use for anticipated souvenir purchases in Cuba or extra space on your return flight.
- Cycling/hydration backpack: we highly recommend a pack with a removable hydration bladder for carrying your personal items and water on the bike. Most guests prefer a cycling-specific pack that is as light and compact as possible while still having the capacity to hold items you’ll want access to during each day’s ride (e.g. passport, cash, small camera, clothing layers, sunscreen, energy gels/snacks, etc.). If you are comfortable with a larger pack while riding, it can also serve as your daypack off the bike, and your personal item during your flights. Whatever pack you choose, we recommend riding with it several times before your tour, to ensure that it fits you well and is comfortable during long rides. Common brands of hydration packs include Camelbak, Osprey, and Salomon, although several others are available.
- A small (non-cycling) daypack (optional – depending on the size of pack you choose for #2 above): this pack can remain on the tour bus during cycling excursions, where it will be secure but available to you before and after your daily ride. This is a great place to keep your heavier or larger items that you’ll want access to during the day but aren’t necessarily practical to carry with you while riding (change of shoes, larger camera, notebook, hat, etc.). Ideally this pack would compress down and fit within your other luggage while en route to Cuba.
Please note: your bike will likely only be equipped with a small saddle bag, which will hold necessary bike tools, spare tubes, etc. It may have some extra space which you can use for your smaller items (energy gels, small sunscreen, etc.). However, we ask that you plan to carry your personal items in your daypack(s) as described above. To our knowledge, GPS tracking devices are illegal to bring into Cuba. However, phones that have GPS or map apps are permitted. Your bike will also be equipped with a bike computer.
- Passport – valid for at least the duration of your trip
- Cuba Travel Documents: 1) Cuba Tourist card; 2) Flight tickets/confirmation; 3) Certification of Travel to Cuba (The Certification of Travel to Cuba will be provided to ALL Cuba Unbound guests)
- A photocopy of your passport, inside a ziplock bag and stowed elsewhere in your luggage (as an additional precautionary measure, consider leaving a photocopy with family or friends at home as well)
- Copy of your air tickets with ticket numbers, placed elsewhere in your luggage.
- Adequate cash for the length of your trip (*plan to exclusively use cash for all purchases and gratuities – we will provide additional details and recommendations on the appropriate amount to bring in your pre-trip materials)
- Watch or small travel clock with alarm (if you are taking a phone for use as a camera, this can serve as your alarm clock as well)
- Money belt or concealed passport carrier to carry your passport, travel documents and money, hidden under your clothing
- TSA-accessible lock for luggage security when not on your person (optional- can buy these at any travel or outdoor store)
- One pair of shoes for cycling (closed-toed & comfortable for both cycling & walking – trail running shoes or general athletic shoes work well).
- You may bring your own pedals and corresponding cycling shoes/cleats and our guides will change your pedals for you
- If you choose to ride with traditional cycling shoes with a stiffer sole (with cleats or not), consider how comfortable they are to walk in as well, as we will stop along the way for lunch and/or other activities that involve a small amount of walking. You may also consider packing a pair of flip-flops/beach sandals in your cycling/hydration pack for this purpose.
- Three – four pairs light synthetic or light merino-wool cycling socks
- One – three pairs of cycling shorts/capris/tights (padded are best, as are a combination of lengths for varying weather conditions)
- Two – three short sleeve t-shirts or cycling jerseys (synthetic is best)
- One long sleeve shirt or cycling jersey for cooler weather as well as sun protection (You can buy tight-weave nylon shirts with SPF protection made by companies such as Columbia, Patagonia, Exofficio or REI etc. Sun protection is essential)
- One pair of cycling gloves (optional)
- One lightweight raincoat (a windbreaker that has some waterproof qualities will work as well)
- Arm and/or leg warmers (optional)
- One bandana/buff/headband/cycling cap (optional)
- Sunglasses, polarized are highly recommended for sun protection and enhanced clarity
- Two –three other comfortable pairs of pants/shorts/dresses (lightweight dresses pack small and make great travel options for women)
- One - two short or long sleeve and/or button up shirt(s) for town
- One - two t-shirt(s) or tank top(s)
- Underwear (synthetic is best. Consider total # of days on the trip and pack accordingly)
- Sarong (optional but very handy for changing clothes, laying on the ground, etc.)
- One light-weight packable fleece, vest, or sweater, or light jacket for warmth in the evenings and mornings (optional for spring tours)
- One pair light weight pajamas
- Casual hat for sun protection
- Three pairs of light nylon or cotton socks (one thicker pair for longer walking tours & light hiking)
- One pair sandals with ankle straps to wear while walking around towns, beaches etc.
- One pair walking/running shoes, to use for city tours and for other times when you want to wear something other than sandals (optional depending on shoe choice for cycling)
GEAR AND OTHER ESSENTIALS
- Compact, low-profile cycling/hydration backpack with hydration bladder
- Small day pack or fanny pack for walking tours and for carrying items to be quickly accessed after cycling each day
- One water bottle (A bottle that fits in a standard bicycle water bottle cage and/or clips to the outside of your daypack is ideal)
- Quick-drying camping towel (ideally packs down well and fits in your daypack- you can get them at most outdoor stores)
- Umbrella- ideally a travel variety that collapses to less than 12” in length (optional, but often preferable to a raincoat in warm Cuba)
- Binoculars (Optional but nice for bird and wildlife watching)
- Retaining strap for glasses and sunglasses (Chums, Croakies or similar item)
- Extra pair of sunglasses and glasses/contacts
- Three to four kitchen garbage can liners – for wet clothes, dirty laundry, soiled shoes, etc.
- A few quart-size or 1-gallon ziplock bags for packing sunscreens, lotions or anything that might make a mess
- Small waterproof camera box like the Pelican brand (optional – consider time spent on/near water on your particular tour)
- Book(s) or E-reader, pen and note pad, pocket Spanish-English dictionary, deck of playing cards or other games, etc.
- iPod/small portable music player with headphones
- Inflatable travel pillow/nightshade/earplugs (optional, and should pack down very small)
- Headlamp or small LED flashlight
- Electrolyte tablets/mix, Hammer Gels, Clif bars/blocks, etc. for fuel replenishment on the bike (hard to impossible to find in Cuba)
- Additional before & after-activity snacks (Optional – granola bars, candy bars, etc. Fruits, seeds, and veggies are not permissible)
- Standard toiletry kit including general hygiene products, toothbrush/toothpaste, etc.
- Sunscreen – at least 30 SPF recommended
- Lip balm with SPF 15-30
- Pre-moistened towelette packets or disposable shower wipes to refresh
- Personal medicines/prescriptions (Dramamine-motion sickness, Benadryl -allergic reactions, Advil or Aspirin, etc.). Make sure that any prescription drugs include your doctor’s/pharmacist’s identification label on the outside of the container.
- Insect repellent- we recommend repellent with DEET or Picaridin Insect Repellent (Picaridin is less toxic and less harsh on gear/clothing than DEET. Here is one example of a Picaridin-based repellent: sawyer.com/products/picaridin-insect-repellent/)
- Anti-itch medication and/or topical cream (e.g. Benadryl)
- Heavy duty skin lotion for dry, sun-baked and salted skin
- Small squeeze bottle of hand-sanitizer gel
- Shampoo and body wash (one small travel flask of each - these items can also be scarce in Cuba and casas particulares will not always provide them)
- One roll (or partial roll) of toilet paper
- Feminine hygiene products
ADDITIONAL NOTES REGARDING LUGGAGE LIMITATIONS FOR TRAVEL TO/FROM CUBA
- Gifts for individuals or organizations are allowed with some limitations. We will explain this is detail in one of your pre-trip emails.
- Electronic items for personal use are often screened carefully upon arrival in Cuba – as long as you bring only what is reasonable for your trip (one camera, one cell phone, one e-reader, etc.), you should not have any issues.
- U.S. citizens are permitted to bring home up to $800 total in goods, and adults 21 and older may include 1 liter of alcohol, 200 cigarettes, and 100 cigars. “Informational materials” are excluded from this limit- including books, periodicals, any type of art or musical recording, etc.
*Please check your airline’s luggage restrictions and fees prior to your trip
ADVENTURE UNBOUND CUBA SUGGESTED READING LIST
- Cuban Revelations: Behind the Scenes in Havana by Marc Frank (2013). If you’re going to read only one book, read this one.
- An American History of Cuba by Ada Ferrer (2021). An epic, sweeping history of Cuba and its complex ties to the United States—from before the arrival of Columbus to the present day—written by one of the world's leading historians of Cuba.
- On Becoming Cuban by Louis A Perez Jr (1999) This is quite a tome and was recommended to us by Marc Frank, author of Cuban Revelations. If you really want to dig into the history of Cuban-American relations and the Cuban psyche, this is the book.
- Back Channel to Cuba- The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Cuba by William LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh (2015) - Also a rather long read that illuminates the complex history including the negotiations led by President Obama’s staff that led to the rapprochement of 2014 that opened up a new phase in US-Cuban relations.
- Cuba – A Traveler’s Literary Companion, Edited by Ann Louise Bardach (2002) - A short anthology of collected excerpts of various Cuban authors offering superb insight into the country and its people.
- The Remarkable Reefs Of Cuba: Hopeful Stories From the Ocean Doctor by David Guggenheim (2022) - While the past 60 years have seen the worst decline in ocean health in human history, Cuba’s oceans and coral reefs remain remarkably healthy, a living laboratory never-before-seen by this generation of scientists. Why are Cuba’s ocean waters so healthy? The answer is deeply intertwined with the country’s extraordinary and singularly unique history, from its dramatic political past to its world-class environmental protections influenced by an unlikely partner, Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
- Sugar King of Havana by John Paul Rathbone (2010) -The rise and fall of Julio Lobo, Cuba’s last tycoon.
- National Geographic Traveler: Cuba by Christopher Baker
- Cuba, What Everyone Needs to Know by Julia Sweig (2012)
- A Contemporary Cuba Reader edited by Philip Brenner et al. (2015)
- Cuba and United States: A Chronological History by Jane Franklin from Ocean Press (1997)
- Waiting for Snow in Havana by Carlos Eire (2003)
- Hemingway’s Boat by Paul Hendrickson (2011)
- The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf (2015) – In the east of Cuba is Alexander Von Humboldt National Park, named after Von Humboldt who visited the island twice in the late 1700’s. This is a fascinating must-read about this world-famous scientist that inspired Darwin and countless other scientists and poets.
- Personal Narrative of a Journey to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent by Alexander Von Humboldt, Penguin Classic, 1995.
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