Cuba Scuba Diving Tour

Trip Highlights

*Please note that the the following information is meant to provide a general overview of your tour. The specifics of your trip will be contained in a pre-trip letter you will receive prior to your confirmed departure.
 
MEETING PLACE: Jose Marti International Airport, Havana
MEETING TIME: 11 AM on Day 1 
TRIP LENGTH:  7 Days
DEPARTING CITY: Havana
AGE LIMIT:  12 Years
TRIP TYPE:  Scuba Diving

Sample Itinerary

DAY 0

We ask that our guests book their own travel between the U.S. and Cuba. This tour begins and ends in Havana, served by multiple 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 overnight in Miami and catch a morning flight to Havana in time for your tour.

Day 1: Havana, Cuban Marine Specialist, City Tour
Arrive in Havana no later than noon in order to have time to explore the city.  After meeting you at the airport, we take you to lunch and give a brief orientation of Cuba and the tour.
Our first stop then is to a local science foundation that is at the heart of Cuba’s conservation programs.  We meet with a marine ecosystem specialist to learn about the Caribbean Sea and the species of corals and fish we will encounter.  This is an excellent learning opportunity and a chance to interact with one or two Cuban marine specialists.
Next up is a walking tour of the old city of Havana.  The narrow streets replete with Spanish colonial buildings provide a fascinating insight into the history of this world-renowned city, once larger than New York.
In the late afternoon you check into your Casa Particular (Bed and Breakfast), settle in and a bit later we head out for dinner.
ACCOMMODATION: Casa Particular or Hotel
MEALS INCLUDED: Lunch, Dinner

 

Day 2: Cultural Exploration of Havana
We start our day with a visit to a colorful neighborhood in Jaimanitas, known as Fusterlandia where the famous artist, Jose Fuster has his studio and has also adorned the neighborhood with Picasso-like mosaics.  From here we return to our scientific institution for another lesson about the marine geography and current conservation efforts of the Caribbean ecosystem of Cuba.  
After lunch in paladar where we learn more from the owner about the challenges of operating a private enterprise in Cuba, we board a ferry for a short ride across the Havana harbor to the suburb town of Regla.  This is a center of the Afro-Cuban religion Santeria and home to the beautiful Church of Regla where the Black Virgin watches over mariners.  It’s also a great place for views of the Havana waterfront.  After visiting the church and local municipal museum, we return to Havana Vieja on the ferry and have time to wander the streets a bit more to admire the stunning architecture.
We return to our accommodations and then join together for dinner.

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

 

Day 3: To Cienfuegos and Faro Luna Dive Center
We leave Havana early and drive about three hours southeast to Cienfuegos and beyond to the Faro Luna Dive Center.  With a number of excellent dive sites, a boat takes us to today’s dive location.  There are grottos and labyrinths of channels.  Numerous corals, marine plants and animals make this dive a highlight.  There are some named features as well as several sunken ships. On the walls are coats of corals including flat and column shaped as well as gorgonians and sponges.  We may see barracudas, snappers, grunts, grouper, angelfish, parrotfish, surgeonfish, and many others of different colors. There are also lobsters, sea anemones, morays and possibly eagle rays. 
After our dive we head to a nearby privately-owned paladar for a feast of seafood on the water.  Then it’s a short drive to the beautiful Cienfuegos Botanical gardens, once part of Harvard University, where we spent about an hour with a local guide enjoying an easy walk to learn about the history of the place and some of the plants. In Cienfuegos we check into our Casa Particulars for the night and enjoy dinner together in town. 
ACCOMMODATION: Casa Particular
MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

 

Day 4: Guajimico to Trinidad
We drive east 40 minutes to Guajimico, an indigenous term meaning ‘Place of the Fishes’ which it certainly is.  There are several wall dives to choose from and we’ll do a morning and early afternoon dive, with lunch in between. Highlights should include similar fauna to what we saw at Faro Luna, plus undoubtedly some surprises. After our second dive we drive another 45 minutes to the UNESCO World Heritage town of Trinidad, one of Cuba’s most beautiful colonial towns.  After we check into our Casas for the evening we have a short walking tour to get oriented.  We also visit the studio and home of the local renowned artist Yudit Vidal Faife. Tonight’s dinner is on your own.  
ACCOMMODATION: Casa Particular
MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast, Lunch

 

Day 5: Trinidad to the Bay of Pigs
We drive west to one of Cuba’s best scuba diving in the Bay of Pigs.  These are shore dives at two different sites.  We likely start with a shallow water dive that leads to a wall dive and sunken ship.  The water visibility is usually excellent.  Then, we head to a nearby cenote to descend into dark waters and a very unique ecosystem including blind fish that spend their lives in this deep sinkhole.
After a morning and afternoon dive, we continue to the nearby hamlet of Playa Larga to spend the night.  Here we meet with one of the rangers from Zapata National Park to learn more about the Park system in Cuba, and specifically the marine environment in the Park and the Bay of Pigs.
ACCOMMODATION: Casa Particular
MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

 

Day 6: One more dive and return to Havana
We enjoy one more dive in the morning within the Bay of Pigs.  After this we start our drive to Havana.  We stop for lunch on route, and as we near the city limits, we stop to visit Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s home and now museum.  It provides a fascinating glimpse into the life and this legendary author.
Another 30 minutes and we arrive in Havana with time to explore a few more streets of the old city, or visit Mercado San Jose to pick up souvenirs made by local artists and craftspeople.
Later in the day we check into our Casas for the night and then enjoy a festive farewell dinner.
ACCOMMODATION: Casa Particular or Hotel
MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

 

Day 7: Transfer to the airport for flights home

ACCOMMODATION: None
MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast

Travel Arrangements

FLIGHT INFORMATION

Several commercial flight options are now available between the USA and Cuba, usually at very reasonable fares. Therefore, for both cost and convenience reasons, we ask that you book your own air travel. Currently American Airlines, JetBlue, United, Southwest and Delta all offer flights to Cuba from various US cities.

If your trip is not yet confirmed, do not book your air or other travel arrangements.

When your tour is confirmed, you will need the following documentation for travel to Cuba:

1) Cuba Tourist card - this is your tourist visa which enables you to legally enter the country. This is easily purchased at the departure gate of the airlines on your flight to Cuba, currently at a price of $100. Please read our instructions for filling out your tourist card. *Please note that you must hold onto this visa card for the duration of your trip as you will need it to exit the country in addition to entering. 

2) Flight tickets/confirmation - You must have proof of your return ticket home. Be sure to bring a printed copy and have a copy saved on your phone.

3) Documentation of Travel to Cuba - Be sure to bring the itinerary and final information pack that we send you, as proof that your tour has a schedule of compliant activities as required by U.S. law under the Support for the Cuban People general license category (§ 515.574). This is the category you will choose from the 12 permitted categories of travel when you purchase your airline ticket. It is your responsibility to track and record your activities as well as your interactions with Cuban people, and to keep this documentation for 5 years. This is because the U.S. Government has the right to request this information for up to 5 years after your trip ends. The itinerary we provide will help you track the required information and has room for additional notes regarding daily activities and people you meet while you are in Cuba. This is an unofficial document and only one per household is needed. Cuba Unbound has no control over travel requirements established by OFAC (the U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control), however, we've done our best to ensure this information is current and as accurate as possible, based on current regulations.

To learn more about the rules regarding Support for the Cuban People, click here and particularly note the "examples" of what does and does not qualify.  Our tours are designed to qualify every traveler as a person who is visiting Cuba in Support for the Cuban People.

4) Proof of Medical Insurance - Cuba requires all travelers to Cuba to have travel medical insurance. Fortunately this required insurance is included in the price of your airline ticket when you fly on any US airline to Cuba. If you fly to Cuba on a non-US airline, then you may be asked upon entry to Cuba for proof of travel medical insurance. This must include coverage for medical evacuation, emergencies, and repatriation. The company providing your travel medical plan must be able to make payments from a non-U.S. banking institution.

Again, U.S. airlines include the mandatory level of travel medical insurance in your ticket. Guests may purchase supplementary coverage at their discretion; we recommend such action as the mandatory amounts are set rather low. Cuba Unbound partners with Travel Insured International for this supplementary coverage, the costs of which depend on coverage amount, length of travel, and age of traveler. 

5) D’Viajeros Form - Cuba has a form that must be completed no sooner than 72 hours prior to your arrival in Cuba. The D’Viajeros Form doubles as a health proclamation and customs form. Once you complete it, a copy is emailed to you. Keep the QR code you get on your phone to present at the airport upon arrival. It’s a wise idea to also print a copy in case your phone isn’t working. Remember you won’t have WiFi upon arrival so any documents needed should be downloaded ahead of time. Having this form with you speeds up entry into Cuba.

ARRIVING IN CUBA

Each itinerary notes the starting location and time of each tour. For many people flying from the US, it may be necessary to overnight in Florida on the way to Cuba.

DEPARTING FROM CUBA

At the end of your tour, because people often have different flight times, it is your responsibility to find a taxi to return to the airport. Our guides can provide advice and assistance with those arrangements as needed. 

ADDITIONAL NOTES

  • 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 that you request bookings for additional nights through our office.

  • Ground Transportation: Taxis from the airport are easy to find once you exit the terminal. We recommend using the official yellow taxis. Make sure to have the address of your destination in hand and agree on the fare before getting in the cab.

CONTACT NUMBERS

To reach our office support staff, call 1-208-770-3359 between 8:30 am - 5:00 pm Pacific time Monday - Friday. In case of emergencies outside our business hours on your way to Cuba, you can call or text Peter at +1-208-755-6824 or Maria Rosa at +1-971-500-5080.

On your final reservation letter you will also be given the contact number for your local guide.

We recommend you download the app WhatsApp before you leave and become familiar with using it. It allows phone calls using an internet connection which is very useful in Cuba. Also, both Verizon and AT&T allow texting to and from Cuba at reasonable rates. (See more on phones below.)

Weather

CUBA'S TOURIST SEASONS

  • High Season: Cuba’s peak tourist season runs from mid-December to mid-March as well as July and August. It’s always good to plan ahead when visiting during Cuba’s high season.
  • Shoulder Season: Cuba’s shoulder seasons are late October to mid-December and mid-March to July. 
  • 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 mid-October): Like all Caribbean Islands, Cuba gets hit by hurricanes. The fiercest hurricane months are September and October.
  • 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

Getting Ready

PHONES IN CUBA  

Your trip to Cuba is an excellent opportunity to get in a digital detox. For those travelers who can't get off the grid, however, it's possible to stay connected in Cuba--you just have to accept that your Cuban roaming comes with Cuban roaming charges. 

  • Personal Mobile Phone Service in Cuba: It’s possible that your mobile phone will work in Cuba and we know that Verizon and AT&T do work, however, it comes with expensive fees for calls and data. However, texting is quite reasonable at 5 cents per incoming text and 50 cents per outgoing text. 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 ACCESS IN CUBA

  • Internet Cafés: ETECSA (the Cuban phone company) 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 public WiFi at many outdoor park locations.  More and more hotels and Casa Particulares have WiFi as well.  In most cases the WiFi only allows you to connect to the internet and then you must have an access pass (internet card) to connect. These are like scratch cards with codes you enter from a sign-in screen. The cards are sold with 30-minute or one hour time allotments and can be purchases from some hotel desks, some Casas and at ETECSA offices.

POWER

In Cuba, many hotels and resorts have an electrical current of 110V60Hz. Some more modern accommodations also have a dual voltage system with some sockets running at 220V. The majority of outlets accept U.S.-style 2-3 prong plugs, though some also accept European rounded 2-3 prong plugs. Most electronics such as cell phones, laptops, etc. work fine with either 110V or 220V.

HEALTH

Cuba poses no particular health or safety risks for travelers though it’s always advised to take reasonable precautions and be aware of your surroundings. We advise you to pack an individualized medical kit including any prescription drugs and painkillers that you might use while traveling in Cuba.

  • 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, and typhoid.

  • 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.  See our packing list for recommendations of filters to use in order to avoid the need to buy bottled water in single-use plastic bottles. Food served in the restaurants we visit is fine.  However, 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.  See the packing list for filter recommendations.

    • 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 good options. 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 website for updated travel alerts, and please review our prepared Zika Virus Travel Tips on the Health & Safety dropdown menu to help you travel healthy. 

SAFETY

Cuba remains a generally safe country for travelers. Petty theft remains the most common safety threat, though preventative measures and vigilance go a long way to keep your items safe. As a poor country, you may be approached by hustlers offering to take you to their favorite bar (where they get a commission on your drinks), or to sell you cigars, etc.  Be friendly and polite, but decline these offers.

MONEY IN CUBA

For more details on currency and cash, refer to the Money in Cuba page on the Cuba Unbound website. 

  • Exchanging Money in Cuba: Refer to our Money in Cuba page. Exchange only a little at a time.  Bring USD or Euros in $1,5,10 and 20 denominations for incidental spending.

  • 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.  US bank credit and debit cards DO NOT WORK in Cuba.  Bring more cash than you think you'll need - if you run out, there is likely no easy way to get more. If you have too much you can bring it home.

    • Gifts/Souvenirs: we recommend $100-$200 per person ($800 USD per person is the maximum allowed through customs when you return to the U.S.).  If you plan to shop minimally, or not at all, adjust appropriately. (Current US law prohibits the importation of Cuban cigars and rum.)

    • 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. Cuba Unbound 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-$5 at most locations.

    • Airport Taxi: Since flights depart to the US throughout the day, we do not include a group airport transfer at the conclusion of the tour. Therefore we ask that you budget for a taxi back to the airport at the end of your tour.  This should cost around $30-$35.

    • Guide Gratuities: we recommend approximately $200 USD/Euros 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 USD, Euros or CAD ($200 US = $270 CAD).

      • 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 USD, Euros, or CAD to your 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-$800 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.

TRAVEL TIPS FROM THE TEAM

  • 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- However, your best bet to capture all those Cuban memories: pack your camera or phone-camera and take lots of pictures! 

  • 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. If you are interested, we may be able to organize a visit to a person or organization that can help facilitate donations, but let us know ahead of your tour.  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.  Currently you can bring up to $1000 to Cuba in food, medications, clothing gifts.  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. See our FAQ on this topic and please don’t bring cheap plastic gifts that become part of the landfill.

  • Embrace the experience: This is a great time to remind you that Cuba is likely unlike any other place you've been.  After 60 years of a trade embargo and an economy that has been fraught with struggles, infrastructure is generally not well maintained.  Power outages are common. 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!

Packing List

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!

For use during hiking excursions, we recommend packing clothes that are made from synthetic materials, not cotton. Synthetics are ideal for walking and touring in warmer climates (you can typically expect daytime highs of 75-80 degrees F in Cuba, with varying humidity) as they wick away moisture and dry quickly. 

LUGGAGE RECCOMENDATIONS

Cuba Unbound adventures are best enjoyed if you travel light. We think it is wise to avoid checking any luggage. However, if you do check luggage be sure you pack all your essentials in your carry-on. This would include medications, travel documents, at least one change of clothes, a toilet kit, etc. Remember the 100 ml TSA limitation on liquids and gels. 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.

Whether you are carrying on your luggage or checking a bag, we recommend bringing TWO bags 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 small duffle inside your main luggage – to use for anticipated souvenir purchases in Cuba for extra space on your return flight. 
  • One small daypack: Some people like to bring a dual-purposed pack that has a water reservoir, such as a Camelback or similar. These can serve as your personal item during your flights, as well as your daypack each day during your tour. Ultimately, the choice of daypack and size is your own; however we find that smaller packs generally make for a more enjoyable trip. However, consider the items you’ll want to have with you during walks/hikes/bike rides and daily tour activities (camera, clothing layers, sunscreen, water bottle, hat, etc.) as well as how easily accessible and organized your pack allows those items to be.

  • Dry Bag for Kayaking excursions: (provided by Cuba Unbound and issued upon arrival in Cuba) - this bag is for use during the day while kayaking.  This dry bag will accompany you in the kayak, providing easy access to your personal items (rain gear, sunscreen, extra clothing layers, binoculars, camera, etc.) throughout each paddling excursion, and keeping them dry and safe. You will return this bag to us at the end of your tour. 

ESSENTIALS

  • Passport – valid for at least 6 months after the date of entry
  • Cuba Travel Documents: 1) Cuba Tourist card; 2) Flight tickets/confirmation; 3) DViajeros Travel document completed no more than 72 hours prior to travel 4) Final itinerary and Travel Information packet provided by Cuba Unbound
  • A photocopy of your passport inside a ziplock bag and in your luggage (as an additional precautionary measure, consider leaving a photocopy with family or friends at home as well) and a photo of your passport on your phone.
  • Copy of your air tickets with ticket numbers, placed elsewhere in your luggage. 
  • Adequate cash for the length of your trip (see above)
  • 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)

CUBA SCUBAD DIVING AND TOURING CLOTHES

*only synthetic or quick-dry materials should be worn while kayaking

  • One pair long, lightweight, nylon pants with zipper pockets (Zip off legs give you more options)
  • One pair nylon shorts (this can double as a swimsuit for the guys)
  • Swimsuit
  • One quick-dry sport dress (optional for easy over the swimsuit/hiking/kayaking)
  • Sarong (optional but very handy for changing clothes, laying on the ground, etc.)
  • One - two short sleeve button-up shirt(s) or t-shirt(s) (synthetic is best)
  • One long sleeve shirt for 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 wide-brim, tie-on hat (nylon variety is ideal, as it packs well)
  • One lightweight raincoat (a windbreaker that has some waterproof qualities will work as well)  
  • Three pair light synthetic or light merino-wool socks
  • One pair sandals with ankle straps to wear while kayaking, on the beaches, walking around towns, etc. (Chaco, Keens or Tevas are preferred but there are many other brands that are suitable)
  • One pair walking/running shoes, to use for city tours and for other times when you want to wear something other than sandals.

CUBA CAUSAL CLOTHING

*In general, clothing in Cuba should be informal

  • 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)
  • 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
  • Underwear (Consider total # of days on the trip and pack accordingly)
  • Three pair light nylon or cotton socks
  • One pair casual shoes for evening outings (optional)

GEAR AND OTHER ESSENTIALS

  • Small day pack per above
  • Personal snorkeling gear if you prefer your own equipment – snorkel, mask, & fins (fins optional – consider packing space & weight)
  • One water bottle, 1 liter or larger (A bottle that fits in a daypack pocket or clips to the outside of your daypack and to a kayak deck is ideal)
  • Water filtration system - Bringing this along will help reduce our use of single use plastic. Cuba has nearly perfect tap water that can be easily filtered so it wont upset your bodys system. We recomend you bring a filter such as a LifeStrawGrayleSteripen, or Sawyer Squeeze
  • Quick-drying camping towel (ideally packs down well and fits in your daypack- you can get them at most outdoor stores)
  • Camera/film/batteries/battery charger
  • Universal electrical plug adapter (most outlets in Cuba will match U.S.  outlets and plug types, but in some locations, other types may be present). Be sure any electric current converters are from 220v to 110v.
  • 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)
  • Sunglasses, polarized are highly recommended for sun protection and enhanced clarity
  • 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
  • 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 while kayaking (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)

TOILET KIT/FIRST AID KIT

*Most, if not all, of the products listed below are nearly impossible to find in Cuba – please plan accordingly. Note that liquids/gels in carry-on luggage must be under 3.38 oz/100ml  (another reason that checking bags may be necessary)

  • Standard toiletry kit including general hygiene products, toothbrush/toothpaste, etc.
  • Biodegrable sunscreen (we highly recommend Stream2Sea as an all natural option) - 30 SPF or higher.
  • 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. Currently (May 2023) you may not bring any alcohol or cigars/tobacco products from Cuba into the U.S. “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

Reading List

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.

Terms & Conditions

OUR COMMITMENT

Our hope is that your first trip withCuba Unbound is just one of many. Thus our goal is to provide thorough and complete communications and be clear with the details of our agreement with you.  Because the fine print sometimes changes, you will receive the most current Terms & Conditions along with your travel documents at the time of booking.

PREPARING FOR YOUR TRIP

We do our best to provide you with all kinds of great resources to prepare for your trip.  These include packing lists, reading lists, detailed itineraries and more.  All of our multi-day river camping trips include tents, sleeping bags, and pads.  In most cases we will even help you book a hotel room prior to and after your trip.  Most international departures include accommodation, meals and land transportation. The reservation packet that we send you will include a detailed gear list of what you should bring.

Most of our trips are suitable for beginners; however, some are more active than others.  A spirit of flexibility and adventure is a good thing to bring along. It’s important that you understand the physical requirements for whatever trip you choose. If you’re not sure about this, or you’re not sure which trip or date will best meet your needs, please call for advice from our talented and knowledgeable Adventure Consultants.  Be sure to read the “Trip Member’s Responsibility” below and if you have any medical concerns we encourage you to speak with your doctor before reserving space on a trip.

If you are planning a special event during the trip such as a birthday or anniversary, please let us know as we always have a few surprises up our sleeves.  On our trip application form you can indicate any food needs you might have and we’re happy to accommodate those where possible.

HOW TO SIGN UP

To make a reservation, please contact us by one of the following methods:

Call us at 208-770-3359 – Monday-Friday from 8:30 to 5:00 pm Pacific Time.
Send us an email or use the “Book Now” tab found on most trip pages on our website.

DEPOSITS

When we confirm the availability of your desired date and adventure, we will send you a confirmation packet including a suggested packing list. A deposit is required within 7-10 days of making your reservation for all trips for all trips booked 60 days or more in advance.  Confirmation is not final until we also receive a copy of your completed trip application and signed waiver.  We accept all major credit cards for the initial deposit. Credit cards are accepted for deposits only.  The balance must be paid by check or if you choose to use a credit card there is a convenience fee. Please note that some of our international tours require a second deposit due 120 days prior to departure.  Complete details on deposit amounts and payment due dates for your specific adventure will be sent to you on your initial invoice.

Early reservations are recommended as space is limited. While it is often possible to join one of our trips on short notice, space is limited and we recommend you sign up well in advance.

BALANCE DUE
Full payment is due 90 days prior to departure.
Reservations made after the balance due date must be paid in full at the time of booking. We reserve the right to cancel your reservation if full payment is not received by the due date.

TRAVEL PROTECTION PLAN

We strongly recommend that you purchase a travel protection plan which can include a full trip refund should you cancel at any time for medical or health reasons.  Coverage also includes medical evacuation, trip delay, and other elements.  Because so many of our guests purchase this plan, we add the cost to your invoice as a convenience and it becomes effective on the day your premium payment is received in our office.  Should you not wish to purchase this travel plan, simply deduct its cost from your invoice. Participants are responsible for researching the terms of their insurance coverage.

CANCELLATIONS AND REFUNDS

If you find it necessary to cancel your trip, you should notify Cuba Unbound in writing, by e-mail or fax immediately.  If written cancellation is received (call to verify) before the final balance is due, you will be given a refund less the amount of the deposit.  Deposits are not refundable.  If cancellations are made on or after the final due date, no money will be refunded.  If you are unable to go on the trip, you are welcome to find a replacement for yourself.  Please understand that once you’ve signed up, we lose the right to sell your reserved space to other individuals or groups.  Therefore, we regret that we cannot make exceptions for personal emergencies.  For this reason we strongly recommend you consider purchasing the Travel Protection Plan we offer.

Cuba Unbound must make substantial payments to its suppliers (hotels, transportation companies, etc.) far in advance of the trip departure date.  If Cuba Unbound cancels any tour, trip or expedition due to acts of insurrection, force majeure, strikes, popular demonstrations, acts of God, earthquake, flooding, or any cause beyond its control, Cuba Unbound will refund the portion of the trip cost not already advanced to suppliers and use its best efforts to recover and refund the balance as promptly as possible.

CANCELLATIONS FOR EXTENSIONS

There is a $150 per person non-refundable cancellation fee for all extensions. Cancellations must be received no later than 60 days prior to departure to avoid additional penalties.  Cancellations made 59-30 days prior to departure incur a cancellation fee of 50% of the total fare.  Cancellations made 29-0 days prior to departure forfeit all fees paid.  For groups of 10 or more, cancellations must be received no later than 120 days prior to departure.  Cancellations made between 119-60 days incur a cancellation fee of 25% of the total fare.

SINGLE TRAVELERS

Tour prices are based on double occupancy. If you are a single traveler, and request individual accommodations, we will apply a single supplement fee to your reservation. If you are willing to share accommodations, we will pair you with a roommate, should there be one available, allowing us to waive the single supplement fee. For some of our tours we have a limited number of single accommodations available. A select few of our tours do not offer single accommodations, regardless of traveler’s interest.  

TIERED PRICING

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, 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 is a different price for 6-8 people versus 9-10, versus 11-12.

Tier pricing is calculated on the number of full revenue passengers.  Staff or guests of Cuba Unbound (travel writers, trip leaders-in-training, office staff, etc.) are not included in the tier pricing structure.  Trip costs quoted are based on foreign exchange rates current at the time of this printing.  We reserve the right to raise the trip fee if there are exceptional cost increases beyond our control.

We will initially invoice you at the higher tier price, and refund the difference depending on the final group size.

GROUP AND CHARTER RATES

On most trips, we offer a Group Rate for groups of 10 or more.  We are also happy to arrange private charter trips. Contact us for details.

WAITING LISTS

If you wish to be wait-listed for a full trip, the normal deposit is required.  If an opening occurs on the trip, you will be informed and automatically transferred to the trip roster. If you accept the slot, you will become subject to the normal cancellation policies. Otherwise, your deposit will be refunded in full.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS / TRAVEL DOCUMENTS

All travelers are required to have a valid passport when traveling to another country.  It is your responsibility to be sure that your passport is valid for the duration of your trip.  A valid tourist card, also known as a visa, is also required to enter Cuba. It is the traveler's responsibility to ensure they have the correct and complete documentation required for their trip.

TIPPING

If you are happy with the service you receive, it will be more than welcome.  Tipping is a very personal matter and the decision to tip and how much to give is entirely yours.  If you believe your guide deserves a tip, a suggested range is from 8-12% of your trip cost.  If you had the time of your life, then the sky’s the limit!  We also appreciate your comments.  We use your feedback to recognize extraordinary guest service and to discover areas where we can make improvements.  Our goal is to exceed your expectations!  More specific tipping guidelines are included in your final tour materials.

GUIDE REQUESTS

Cuba Unbound is proud of the fact that we can sometimes bring guests together with their favorite guides. However, guide requests are often not possible and cannot be guaranteed for a variety of reasons. We will do everything we can to schedule you with the guide you have requested, but in the end, please understand, your request may not be feasible.

TRIP MEMBER'S RESPONSIBILITY

Trip members have the responsibility to select a trip appropriate to their abilities and interests. We are happy to discuss the trip with you if you have any questions or concerns. Trip members are held responsible for being in sufficient good health to undertake the trip. Members are also responsible for studying all pre-departure information; for bringing the appropriate clothing and equipment as detailed therein and, for acting in a manner considerate of fellow group members.

Although most travel, including travel to international destinations, is completed without incident, travel to certain destinations may involve greater risk than others.  Cuba Unbound urges passengers to review travel prohibitions, warnings, announcements and advisories issued by the United States Government prior to booking travel to international destinations. Information on conditions in various countries and the level of risk associated with travel to particular international destinations can be found at www.state.gov, www.tsa.gov, www.dot.gov, www.faa.gov, www.cdc.gov, www.treas.gov/ofac and www.customs.gov. By offering travel to particular international destinations, Cuba Unbound does not represent or warrant that travel to such points is advisable or without risk, and Cuba Unbound is not liable for damages or losses that may result from travel to such destinations.

Cuba Unbound reserves the right to disqualify anyone at any time before or during the trip for medical or psychological reasons, or if they are behaving in a way that compromise the trip’s safety, or enjoyment of other participants.  No refund will be given in this situation. Each trip member is ultimately responsible for his or her own medical expenses. We cannot refund costs of medical examinations or other expenses incurred while preparing for a trip. If you arrive at the start of your trip with a pre-existing condition or injury that was not disclosed in writing to Cuba Unbound and you are subsequently forced to leave the trip because of this condition, you will be charged all extra evacuation expenses and will not receive a refund of any unused trip services. All health information is treated as confidential.

RESPONSIBILITY ~ AN IMPORTANT NOTICE

Payment of your deposit represents your acceptance of the following conditions: Remote Odysseys Worldwide, Inc. (dba Cuba Unbound), its subsidiaries and cooperating agencies act only in the capacity of agents for the participants in all matters relating to transportation and/or all other related travel services, and assume no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any delay, expense, mishap, inconvenience, bodily injury or death, loss or damage to person or property, however caused, in connection with any service, including, but not limited to, that resulting directly or indirectly from acts of God, detention, irregularity, annoyance, delays and expenses arising from strikes, theft, quarantine, pilferage, force majeure, failure of any means of conveyance to arrive or depart as scheduled, government restrictions or regulations, civil disturbances, and discrepancies or changes in transit over which we have no control.

Cuba Unbound reserves the right, either prior to or after departure, in its good-faith discretion and in circumstances that warrant it, to change or re-price any tour, trip, or expedition. This includes the possibility of moving to a different location within Cuba due to extreme weather conditions, forest fires, road closures and/or acts of God.

Cuba Unbound reserves the right to substitute hotels and leaders and to alter the itinerary when deemed necessary or advisable.

Cuba Unbound reserves the right to take photographic or film records of any of our trips and may use any such records for promotional and/or commercial purposes.

LIABILITY RELEASE

Everyone is required to sign a standard liability release form before the trip, acknowledging awareness that there are inherent risks associated with the nature of the activities, a condition of your participation is that you will sign this form and return it to our office before the trip begins. Anyone who refuses to sign the form will not be allowed to participate, and consistent with Cuba Unbound’ cancellation policy, there will be no refund of the trip fees at that time.

FOREIGN TRAVEL

Trips in countries other than the United States of America are operated by independent suppliers arranged through our sister companies Remote Odysseys Worldwide, Inc. or ROW Sea Kayak Adventures, Inc.  We have no right to control their operations and therefore make the described travel arrangements upon the express condition that Cuba Unbound, Adventure Unbound, Remote Odysseys Worldwide, Inc., nor ROW Sea Kayak Adventures, Inc., its subsidiaries, agents and employees, shall not be liable for any delay, mishap, inconvenience, expense, irregularity, bodily injury or death to person, or damage to property occasioned through the conduct or fault of any company or individual engaged in providing these services.

ITINERARY CHANGES

We do our best to follow our itinerary as published, however, the nature of these sorts of adventures is such that each trip will be slightly different. Weather, National Park regulation changes, hotel availability, guest ability, fuel shortages and other factors may require modifications.  We do our best to substitute equivalent destinations and activities.  Cuba Unbound will not be held responsible for any refunds whatsoever for changes to the printed or scheduled itinerary.

DELAYS

Travel requires a flexible attitude.  Due to factors out of our control, including but not limited to weather, unannounced road construction, etc., delays do occur.  For example, flights sometimes don’t operate as scheduled, roads may wash out, or detours may be necessary.  We advise you to consider these potential factors when planning your travel to our tour destinations, as well as ask for your flexibility and understanding when delays due to factors out of our control necessitate changes to your tour itinerary.

CANCELED TRIPS

Cuba Unbound reserves the right to cancel any trip prior to departure for any reason whatsoever, including insufficient sign-ups or logistical problems, which may impede trip operations.  The refund of all land payments received shall release Cuba Unbound from any further liability.  In the event of trip cancellation, Cuba Unbound is not responsible for additional expenses incurred by trip members, such as penalties incurred through the purchase of non-refundable airline tickets, medical expenses and passport and visa fees. A trip cancellation due to insufficient sign-ups would normally occur at least 30 days prior to departure. These additional expenses can be recovered if you purchase a travel protection plan.

MISCELLANEOUS MATTERS

Cuba Unbound shall not be liable for (a) expenses such as additional hotel nights and meals not specified in the individual trip itineraries, but which may be required to get to and from a trip start or end; (b) expenses due to the delay of a trip for any reason (e.g. bad weather, trail conditions, landslides, flooding, sickness, etc.); (c) expenses incurred in recovering luggage lost by airlines, belongings left behind on a trip or in shipping purchases or other goods home from abroad.

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