AGE LIMIT: 12 Years
TRIP TYPE: Walking, Cultural, Wildlife, Photography
La Terrazas, now a biosphere under UNESCO safeguard, was created as part of Castro’s 1968 initiative to reforest regions over-logged since the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors and defaced by miles of coffee plantations. The 5,000-hectare nature reserve and eco-village is now home to over 117 different bird species, 12 of which are endemic including the tocororo and zorzal. We begin our exploration of La Terrazas with a trek along the Sendero La Serafina—a 5k trail running through the reforested land and passing by the dilapidated Saint Serafina plantation.
After our afternoon excursions throughout La Terrazas, we head to our accommodations for the evening.
- ACCOMODATIONS: Casa Particulares
MEALS INCLUDED: Lunch, Dinner
We breakfast early and drive west to one of Cuba’s most scenic national parks. Thrust into the rolling rows of the Sierra de los Órganos lies the Valle de Viñales, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the source of several stunningly unique habitats. We spend our day walking throughout the varied living landscapes the Valle de Viñales nurtures, giving you insight into Cuba’s signal crop, tobacco, as well as the geological forces that shaped this region.
The valley’s notable bulbous mogotes give an otherworldly quality. They appear like explosions of limestone rapidly rearing from the earth, where in fact they are the remains of limestone hills eroded away by slow rainfall around 160 million years ago. One of the more iconic sites are the Mogote dos Hermanas, or two mogote “twin sisters,” that lie side by side standing sentinel over stretches of flat fields.
Beneath the mogotes are vast fields of tobacco--Cuba’s export that has reached near-mythical status. These are a stunning sight with their rows upon rows of rich umber earth lined with tall stalks of tobacco waving their wide, spring green leaves. We lunch at a farm-to-table organic restaurant, and in the afternoon, have the opportunity to visit one of the valley’s tobacco plantations. After our exploration of the tobacco plantation, we visit a despalillo, a tobacco factory where we learn more of the curing and fermenting processes that follow the harvest.
By late afternoon, satiated with fresh air and well-used legs, we head back to our Casa.
- ACCOMODATIONS: Casa Particulares
MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
We drive east to the outskirts of Havana to visit Finca Vigia, the house where Ernest Hemingway lived for 20 years and wrote many of his books. We have lunch at a nearby paladar (private restaurant) and then continue our drive to the southeast. Our destination is Playa Larga, a tranquil village set on the beach at the head of the Bahia de Cochinos, or Bay of Pigs. It was here that the infamous 1961 CIA-sponsored invasion took place.
After we check into our welcoming Casa, we have an engaging presentation from Frank Medina, Director of Zapata National Park, who discusses the joint pressures of tourism and conservation facing the park as well as the Park’s many successes. The Ciénaga de Zapata is both a designated national park and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. With expansive tracts of dense forests and mangrove-lined swampland, the peninsula is wild and largely untouched. Wildlife such as crocodiles, iguana, flamingos, and boars inhabit the wetlands, and it’s one Cuba’s main attractions for birders who can find endemic species such as the Cuban pygmy owl, bee hummingbird and Zapata rail. Frank is a lively speaker and after the informative discussion, we enjoy a festive dinner of delicious, authentic Cuban fare.
- ACCOMODATIONS: Casa Particulares
MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Our morning is spent exploring Zapata National Park. We drive along the coast to our favorite snorkeling spot where colorful fish and healthy reefs make for a fascinating hour as we learn about Cuba’s marine conservation program. Cuba boasts the healthiest reef systems in all the Caribbean.
Then it’s on to a hidden trail that weaves through the forest among cenotes (sinkholes) common in this limestone geology. It’s also an excellent birding area and we may see the Key West quail dove, Cuban bullfinch and Cuban peewee.
Next up is the small town of Playa Giron to visit the Museum of the Bay of Pigs Invasion. The town’s name comes from the French pirate Gilbert Girón. Girón’s decapitation at the hands of angry locals has been remembered by history through his Playa namesake. After lunch in a local restaurant we drive east to Trinidad. One of the best-preserved colonial towns in Cuba, Trinidad has eschewed many modern enterprises in favor of old-world charm. We enjoy a walking tour of the preserved Spanish colonial settlement—now a UNESCO World Heritage Site—where the grand tastes of the past are very much sentient in the Italian frescoes, finely wrought chandeliers, and bone china still gracing the plantation-era mansions.
- ACCOMODATIONS: Casa Particulares
MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
We depart early to drive up into the crenellated, Caribbean pine-coated Sierra Escambray mountains (sometimes known as the Guamuhaya mountains). Within the long stretch of mountains lies the Gran Parque Natural Topes de Collantes. Though Topes is not considered a national park in the strictest of senses, it is highly protected by the Cuban government as are the four smaller parks that make up the umbrella park, Topes. Weather, the group’s ability and current conditions determine which hiking trail we enjoy along with our local park guide. One option is the Salto del Caburní trail, a 5km round-trip hike that leads to a 62m waterfall that crashes down overhanging cliffs into swimming holes below. The rushing water tumbles into a clefted chasm where only the most intrepid adrenaline junkies dare to jump. If the water levels are low we may choose to go on the Vegas Grandes hike, that leads through the fern and pine forests before finishing at a waterfall and pool as well.
Another option is to hike the Sendero La Batata, or Sweet Potato, Trail. This 6km hike takes us through the forest to a prehistoric cave and its underwater river. This trail explores forests rich with lichens and mosses and lucid pools disrupted only by crashing waterfalls.
We return to Trinidad by mid to late afternoon and before dinner we visit the home and studio of local renowned artist Yudith Vidal.
- ACCOMODATIONS: Casa Particulares
MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Leaving Trinidad we drive along the Caribbean coast and stop where a small river enters the sea. We take a one mile walk to learn about mangrove ecology, as well as visiting a local farm where we have a chance to learn about the agrarian reform instituted by the revolution in the early 1960’s. Next we visit the Jardin Botanico Cienfuegos to explore this renowned botanical garden with a knowledgeable local guide during a pleasant and easy walking tour. We see some of the over 2000 species of plants in the gardens that were the passion of American sugar baron Edward F. Atkins. He founded the place in 1901 with the idea of introducing new sugarcane varieties, but instead, transplanted tropical trees from around the world. Now, the Jardin Botanico Cienfuegos is one of Cuba’s largest gardens where we have the opportunity to learn about another twist in Cuban history.
With its French flair and Caribbean verve, Cienfuegos is one of Cuba’s most seductive cities. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the French-colonial town sits on the coast, and visitors are drawn to the glittering waters as well as the eclectic colonial architecture. After lunch we begin our walking tour of Cienfuegos’ urban historic center at Parqué Jose Martí, the site of many of Cienfuegos’ most impressive buildings such as the 19th-century neoclassical Santa Iglesia Catedral de la Purísima Concepción, the French and Italian influenced Tomás Terry theater, and the Palacio del Ayuntamiento. A special People-to-People visit today will be a musical performance with one of the musical groups in town, such as the Cantores de Cienfuegos or the local chamber orchestra.
Then we make our way to the Paseo del Prado lined with colonial buildings and pastel-painted columns. One of the Prado’s most iconic sites is the statue of musician Benny More celebrated as the ‘barbarian of rhythm’.
The Prado becomes the vast waterfront walkway, the Malecón. The walkway not only offers incredible views of the natural harbor; it’s the local gathering spot at night for the town’s youth and lively conversation and music abound. Our walk continues along the narrow isthmus to Punta Gorda, where the quaint charm of 1950s suburbia was built amongst the expansive grandeur of plantation-era manors and culminates at land’s end, where the mansion-turned-restaurant Palacio de Valle graces the point with its resplendent gothic, neo-Moorish, and Venetian style architecture.
We don’t simply see and stroll throughout the day! As we walk we engage with cuentapropistas (self-employed workers) and learn more of Cienfuego’s thriving private economy and the cuentapropistas’ experiences in the prosperous city.
In the late afternoon we offer an optional sea kayak tour of the bay. This is about a one hour paddle with a local Cuban kayak instructor who discusses maritime trade and industry in Cuba among other topics.
- ACCOMODATIONS: Casa Particulares
- MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
We depart Cienfuegos for the 3 hour drive to Havana. Once there, we set off on a walking tour of Havana Vieja, sometimes known as Colonial or Old Habana. We stop for lunch in one of the city’s fine paladars. Rejuvenated we stroll down Obispo Street and visit historic sites of revolution and colonialism such as the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, the Museo de la Cuidad, the Plaza de Armas, the Plaza de la Catedral, and the Catedral de San Cristóbal de La Habana. As we walk, we learn more of Havana’s turbulent past of plundering privates and affluent colonials as well as the Cubans of today, many who have come to the busy city with hopes for the future.
After an afternoon on our feet, we enjoy a classic car ride to see more of the city including the neighborhoods of Vedado and Miramar. Finally, we relax with a fine dinner at one of Havana’s best paladars. If you want to explore the city’s music scene there are plenty of options after dinner. One is the very hip Fabrica des Artes, where the best of Cuba’s avant-garde art can be experienced. There’s also a couple of jazz clubs and many other options.
- ACCOMODATIONS: Casa Particulares
- MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
We breakfast early and make our way to the airport in time to meet your departing flights. For flights that don’t match up well, we recommend you take a taxi to the airport at your convenience (not included.)
Or, for those wishing to spend more time in Havana, we offer a two-day Havana Extension.
- MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast
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 Support for the Cuban People activities. Cuba has it’s own beat and things don’t always run on time. The activities and visits listed are not guaranteed but we endeavor to do our best to provide the content intent of this Support for the Cuban People program. Visiting developing countries can be eye-opening and life-changing, and hopefully visiting Cuba is both. Accommodations may not be up to the standards you are used to. Power outages are frequent and while some accommodations have back up power generators, some do not. When there is no power, or for other reasons, sometimes the hot water or air conditioning doesn’t work. We ask all our guests to appreciate the authenticity of your cultural encounters as well as the people, food, culture, and adventures that are exceptional in their difference. Your guides will do their best to make this a fascinating and educational experience however we believe that you also share responsibility to have a flexible, understanding attitude.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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 is August 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.
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 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.
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.
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 CUCs, 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.
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!
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 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. There will also be snorkel equipment available for rent. For most people wetsuits are not 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. 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.
- Hiking/hydration 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.
- 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)
- One pair sturdy hiking/trail shoes (*Make sure to wear them several times prior to your trip – broken in well-fitting shoes are critical)
- Three –four pairs light synthetic or merino-wool socks (consider best fit with your choice of hiking shoe)
- One pair long, lightweight, nylon hiking pants with zipper pockets (Zip off legs give you more options)
- One - two pair hiking shorts
- One quick-dry sport dress (optional for easy over the swimsuit/hiking)
- Sarong (optional but very handy for changing clothes, laying on the ground, etc.)
- Three – four 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)
- Hat – wide-brimmed hats are great in Cuba for sun protection (nylon variety is ideal, as it packs well.)
- One lightweight raincoat (a windbreaker that has some waterproof qualities will work as well)
- One bandana or Buff for sun protection & cooling off (optional)
- One pair sandals with ankle straps to wear while walking on the beaches, around town, etc. (Chaco, Keens or Tevas are preferred but there are many other brands that are suitable)
- 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
- Hiking poles (collapsible is best)
- Daypack per above
- Snorkeling gear: 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 is ideal)
- Water filter or Steripen for treating tap water for your water bottle. Please bring this to minimize the need to purchase single-use plastic water bottles.
- Quick-drying camping towel (ideally packs down well and fits in your daypack- you can get them at most outdoor stores)
- Sarong – thin material and light, as a beach towel and handy for changing clothes
- 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)
- 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
- Headlamp or small LED flashlight
- Three to four reusable nylon bags - for wet clothes, dirty laundry, soiled shoes, etc.
- 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)
- Electrolyte tablets/mix, Hammer Gels, Clif bars/blocks, etc. for fuel replenishment while hiking (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, floss, soap, etc.
- Sunscreen – at least 30 SPF recommended
- Lip balm with SPF 15-30
- Hand sanitizer
- 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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.