AGE LIMIT: 12 Years
TRIP TYPE: Walking, Cultural
Once we have everyone together on Day 1, the tour will officially start with a walking tour of the city of Holguin.
Since all flights to Holguin originate in Miami, for many people it may work best to fly to Miami on Day 0, spend the night and continue to Holguin the next day. We are happy to offer guidance with scheduling your travel to and from Cuba, and our office staff is ready to answer any questions you may have.
We begin exploration of Eastern Cuba with a walking tour of San Isidoro de Holguin. Though it’s no Havana, the city of San Isidoro de Holguín, Holguín for short, has its own unornamented appeal. With its 18th century churches and colonial plazas, Holguín offers that winsome window into Cuba’s past, and locals congregate in one of the city’s parks—fitting as Holguín touts itself as the ‘city of parks.’
After you wander the streets, get a look at the impressively oversized baseball stadium, and view Loma de la Cruz in the distance, we take the meandering drive toward Gibara. Squally yet slowly seductive, wily yet understated—Gibara’s as untamed as Baracoa and ideal for travelers disenchanted with throngs of tourists.
Check into your casa for the evening before we meet up for dinner featuring some of Cuba’s favorite dishes.
- ACCOMMODATION: Hotel Arsenita or similar
- MEALS INCLUDED: Lunch, Dinner
- ACCOMMODATION: Hotel Arsenita or similar
- MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
- ACCOMMODATION: Mayari Casa
- MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
DAY 4: HIKE PARQUE NACIONAL ALEJANDRO DE HUMBOLDT AND ARRIVE PLAYA MAGUANA
Today is a day of wilderness and wildlife! We depart from Mayeri after breakfast and drive east through Moa before reaching Parque Nacional Alejandro de Humboldt—one of Cuba’s most biodiverse regions that encompasses the largest, best-conserved remnant of the Caribbean’s forested mountain ecosystems. Humboldt National Park plays a critical role in the joint research efforts of Cubans and Americans working with the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH)—the findings of which are display at the AMNH.
Explore the Caribbean pine-clad mountains often cloaked with fog on one of the many hiking trails that run throughout the park. It’s a birder’s paradise, and hook-billed kites, Cuban Amazon parrots, and ivory billed woodpeckers call to one another in the dense trees.
After our hike, our travels take us to Playa Maguana, an isolated paradise whose lack of polished infrastructure only adds to its allure. We check into our lodgings and enjoy a refreshing drink and dinner near the secluded beach.
- ACCOMMODATION: Playa Maguana Casa Particular
- MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
After our afternoon hike, head to Baracoa: Cuba’s eastern coast’s urban heart as well as Cuba’s oldest Spanish settlement. As you enter the city, colorful buildings capped with tin roofs foreground the iconic flat-topped hill, El Yunque, sitting next to the city. Check into your Casa Particular and then step out into the vibrant, somewhat surreal town whose unique culture holds Taíno, Haitian, and French influences.
Walk along Baracoa’s Malecón that edges the village and learn more of the town’s fascinating heritage before dinner. The cuisine is different here as the locals enjoy putting their own twist on the common Cuban fare of rice and beans with the help of their mixed cultural heritage. Baracoa is the center of Cuban cacao productions, so try some chorrote, a thick hot chocolate, or the Baracoan tetí river fish dishes. After we dine, we might have the opportunity to listen to changüí music or catch sight of the Creole dance inspired by the French minuet, the Tumba Francesca.
- ACCOMMODATION: Baracoa Casa Particular (Bed & Breakfast)
- MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
We eat lunch in a local paladar, or a picnic lunch to enjoy in the canyon, and in the afternoon we explore the rich agricultural culture near Baracoa in several supportive encounters. You visit local cocoa and coffee plantations and learn more about how the people of Cuba’s “far east” cultivate these crops amidst imposing mountains. It’s a day for all your senses as you smell the aromas, do some tasting, and hear testimonies of Cuba’s agro-industrial techniques.
On our visits, you see how Cubans transform cocoa fruit to cacao, a process that involves picking cocoa pods, sun-drying seeds, and roasting beans. We also learn about Eastern Cuba’s history of French-Haitian coffee plantations that dominated the region in the late 18th-early 19th centuries. The cocoa and coffee plantations embody a rich heritage resulted from the island’s mix of many cultures—a heritage definitely worth tasting!
- ACCOMMODATION: Baracoa Casa Particular
- MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
DAY 7: EXPLORE GUANTANAMO's FRENCH-HAITIAN HERITAGE AND ARRIVE SANTIAGO DE CUBA
Today takes us further south and away from the coast as we drive on the dramatic Viaducto La Farola, a sinewy mountain road that connects Baracoa to the rest of Cuba’s southern shores. We also move from lush rainforest to stark desert in the rainshadow of the mountains. We arrive on the outskirts of Guantanamo at a lookout point where we have a distant view of the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay.
A short distance more we arrive in the city of Guantanamo, well-known for its Cuban culture influenced by the heavy influx of the French in the 19th century after the Haitian Revolution. We stop for lunch and to visit some of the city’s more remarkable sites: the Parroquia Santa Catalina de Ricci as well as the Palacio de Salcines.
The Parroquia Santa Catalina de Ricci is also known as the Cathedral Guantánamo, said to be the world’s smallest cathedral whose muted yellow tones fit the Caribbean ambience of the town. The simple yet charming cathedral is not as grand as the Palacio de Salcines., which served as the personal residence of local architect Leticio Salcines. Salcines’ iconic works still litter the city.
Built in 1916, the Palacio de Salcines features eclectic and grand architecture, and more artwork lies inside. The interior has been converted to an Art Gallery, a Museum of Decorative Arts, and a Heritage Center. Over the years, the palacio has gained some praise as being the city’s most emblematic building with its adorning statue La Fama, a mytholical figure who signals news of good and evil with her trumpet. Guantánamo has come to tout the statue as its symbol over the years.
We also enjoy a performance of the Tumba Francesa, an Afro-Cuban genre of dance, drumming and song that dates to the day French slaves brought from Haiti during the slave rebellion of the 1790’s.
After our brief tour of Guantánamo, we continue on our way to Santiago de Cuba. Santiago is Cuba’s second biggest city following Havana, and it shares the same pulsating energy even if it grooves to its own beat. With its rich Afro-Cuban heritage, it’s easy to see why many consider Santiago the cradle of Cuban music.
Once we’ve arrived and checked into our hotel or casa we have the opportunity to unwind with some dinner and appreciate Santiago’s musical heritage as we head to Santiago’s Casa de la Trova where Paul McCartney once performed. This is a state sponsored music salon where every night a cadre of singers and musicians play. Its freeform musicality showcases a nostalgia for the days of troubadors, and it’s welcoming atmosphere is intoxicating. Sounds of the street mingle with the melodies, becoming part of the ambience. The son originated here, so you might be able to hear the masters perform their art.
- ACCOMMODATION: Hotel or Santiago de Cuba Casa Particular
- MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Our walking tour takes us to Parque Céspedes, a classic Cuban square where colonial architecture is foregrounded by troubadors smoking cigars and writers seek literary inspiration in terrace bars. A statue of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, the man who incited the 1868 rebellion, overlooks the 21st-century bustle.
In the park we find the Diego Velázquez Museum, home of Cuba’s first governor. Built in 1516, it’s reputed to be Cuba’s oldest house. We also find the Museo de Ambiente Histórico Cubano and the Museo del Ron, which explores the history and production of Cuba’s most popular liquor. Our local expert guide brings these places all to life while providing an interesting historical backdrop.
After lunch our tour continues as we head to the east for a visit to the Moncada barracks where Castro’s revolution began 1953—a day still celebrated annually on Revolution Day. We then continue to Loma de San Juan, the hill where Teddy Roosevelt rode his army of Rough Riders to victory during the Spanish-American War of 1898.
We travel out of town a bit to the Cementario Santa Ifigenia. It’s best known for housing the mausoleum of Jose Martí, but it’s also the resting place of Compay Segundo, the legendary singer and guitarist who wrote the Can Chan that we were introduced to earlier in our journey as well as Fidel Castro.
As evening sets, we dine and enjoy a night in the energetic town. Those with energy to spare may want to walk the El Tivoli neighborhood after dinner. El Tivoli was settled by French plantation owners who had fled Haiti during the Haitian slave revolution, and its narrow streets lead up steep hills toward the bay.
- ACCOMMODATION: Hotel or Santiago de Cuba Casa Particular
- MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
- MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast
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.
This tour begins at Frank Pais International Airport in Holguin at approximately 1:00PM on Day 1 of the tour. American Airlines and JetBlue offer daily non-stop flights from Miami and Fort Lauderdale respectively. Unless you live on the East Coast of the US it may be difficult or impossible to arrive in Holguin by 1:00PM on the day your tour starts. If this is the case we recommend either arriving in Holguin a day early, or flying a day early to Miami and catching a flight the next day to Holguin.
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.)
- High Season: Cuba’s peak tourist season runs from mid-December to mid-March as well as July and August. Crowds are at their thickest here, and prices and bookings tend to be up as well. It’s always good to plan ahead when visiting during Cuba’s high season.
- Shoulder Season: Cuba’s shoulder runs through the months of April and October. Visitors can find some special deals during the shoulder season, though there’s a slight peak around Easter.
- Low Season: Cuba’s low season hits May through June and September. Expect some closures or fewer facilities during the low season when tourists are less likely but hurricanes are more likely.
- Hot and Wet Season (May through August): During the summer, Cuba is hot and humid.
- Hurricane Season (End of August to First of November): Like all Caribbean Islands, Cuba gets hit by hurricans. The fiercest hurricane months are September and October, though the "hurricane season" runs from June through November. That being said, Cuba has a tendency to hold out pretty well against hurricanes!
- Dry and Cooler Season (November through April): If you love the consistently sunny and temperate weather, Cuba's dry season is for you. It's generally 77-82 degrees (25-27 C) with less rain and cooler evenings. The island warms up beautifully from March through mid-April, and visitors can expect warm Caribbean currents, cooling northeasterly winds and occasional rainfall.
- Personal Mobile Phone Service in Cuba: It’s possible that your mobile phone will work in Cuba as some U.S. service providers have already or are beginning to make contracts with the ETECSA (Cuba’s national telecommunications company) to provide roaming services. Verizon and Sprint currently offer roaming services in Cuba. Check to see if your provider offers a roaming plan and if your mobile phone is capable of roaming when in Cuba. Further, inquire about additional charges for data, outgoing messages, and voice calls. You can also rent a SIM card from Cubacel to use your U.S. mobile phone in Cuba. This, however, only works if your phone is unlocked and GSM-capable. Cubacel’s SIM cards come with pre-paid minutes, and a daily rental fee is included.
- Renting U.S. Mobile Phones for Cuban Travel: A select number of specialized mobile phone companies provide travel phones compatible with Cuban roaming. Before traveling to Cuba, you can rent compatible phones from Mobal, Cello Mobile, or National Geographic’s Cellular Abroad. Expect rental fees and additional texting and per-minute call charges with data optional depending on the type of phone rented.
- Renting a Phone in Cuba: You can rent a phone from Cubacel upon your arrival in Cuba. Cubacel offices are located in Havana’s José Martí International Airport. Expect a nonrefundable deposit as well a daily fee, and additional texting and per-minute call charges still apply. Data’s not available on these rented phones.
- Internet Cafés: ETECSA operates a number of internet cafés locally known as telepuntos in larger cities such as Havana and Santiago. You may purchase an access ticket in telepuntos that allow you to use the internet by the hour or by the minute.
- Hotel Business Centers: Many of the larger, modern hotels have a business center where guests can purchase internet access.
- WiFi: ETECSA offers 65 public WiFi locations as of January, 2016. WiFi access in public locations costs an hourly rate, and much like at telepuntos guests must purchase an access pass from ETECSA in order to log on. Approximately 50 major resorts and hotels throughout Cuba offer WiFi, and they generally charge an hourly rate.
- Vaccines: U.S. citizens require no vaccines to visit Cuba.That being said, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that travelers should be up-to-date on routine vaccinations.Other advisable inoculations include: hepatitis A and B, typhoid, rabies.
- Food and Water: It’s always good to take precautions about what you eat and drink when traveling to Cuba. To avoid parasites, avoid drinking tap water and instead drink bottled water or check if the offered water has been boiled. As for food, food purchased on the street presents the highest risk as no authorized regulatory organization ensures proper hygiene.
- Water Bottle Choice - if you have one, we ask that you bring a reusable, wide-mouthed water bottle. Again, we provide bottled water throughout the trip, but we are often refilling on the bus, and/or from large 5-gallon containers. A wide-mouthed water bottle will make it easier on everyone.
- Snacks- if you are someone who likes to snack between meals, or if you need a regular blood sugar bump during an active trip such as this, pack some small, non-perishable, packaged food items from home: think granola bars, nuts, etc. There are small markets in the cities and villages of Cuba, but they do not sell what we consider snack food.
- Food Restrictions- Vegetarian/vegan guests (or those with other food allergies as noted on your trip application) can expect our guides and operating partners to do their very best to accommodate your needs. If you are a "pescatarian" and enjoy seafood, you will have plenty. However, strict vegetarian and vegan options are less common in Cuba. Plan on rice and beans, basic veggies (the avocados in Cuba are impressive), and local fruits when and where available. You might want to bring your own supply of nuts or other protein substitutes.
- Sun Exposure: With Cuba’s strong summer sun and high humidity, sun and heat exposure along with dehydration can present health risks. Use sunscreen, drink lots of water, and limit sun exposure when you can.
- Insurance: Cuba mandates that all foreign travelers have medical insurance which includes evacuation if serious medical attention is needed.
Zika Virus: The CDC has reported Zika outbreaks in Cuba and advises travelers to practice enhanced precautions. Check out the CDC's websitefor updated travel alerts, and please review our prepared Zika Virus Travel Tips on the Health & Safety dropdown menu to help you travel healthy.
- Exchanging Money in Cuba: $1 USD is roughly equivalent to 1 CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso- the currency you will exclusively use in Cuba). While you can exchange USD for CUC, there is an immediate 10% penalty which is why we suggest you bring Euros or Canadian dollars (CAD) instead. We recommend exchanging currency upon arrival at the Havana airport. Airport officials can point you to the currency exchange desk. Other options are government exchange offices within the city, banks (consider likely open hours for both), and your hotel, however the airport is likely your best bet for convenience and the most favorable rates. If arriving on the morning of Day 1 and meeting your group before leaving the airport, your guides will assist you with currency exchange.
- How Much To Bring on Your Tour: Below are some guidelines on how much cash you may want to bring for items not included in your tour. Although it is slowly changing, virtually all U.S. bank credit/debit cards still do not work in Cuba, so bring more cash than you think you'll need - if you run out, there is likely no easy way to get more.
- Gifts/Souvenirs: we recommend $200-$400 per person ($800 total in goods, and adults 21 and older may include 1 liter of alcohol, 200 cigarettes, and 100 cigars). If you plan to shop minimally or not at all, adjust appropriately.
- Incidental Personal Expenses: $150 per person. Plan on unexpected needs along the way, such as laundry, tips for service outside the scope of the tour, etc.
- Beverages/Entertainment: $150 per person. ROW provides clean drinking water at all times, as well as water with meals and coffee, tea and juice at breakfast. In addition, most restaurants on your tour will include one beverage of your choice with lunch and dinner. However, an included drink is not always the case, and additional beverages will need to be paid separately. In many places, you may take an evening stroll and enjoy some live music in a local bar. At the Casas we stay in along the way, you can buy beer and perhaps other drinks. Drinks range from $2-$4 at most locations.
Guide Gratuities: we recommend approximately $275 USD per guest for your guide team (equivalent to $25 per day for the team). Keep in mind that tipping is a very personal decision, and we encourage you to adjust this up or down as you see fit based on your experience. It's best to plan on tipping in the local CUC currency, Euros, or Canadian dollars.
During your trip, Cuba Unbound covers tips for servers, porters, and others that help us along the way. Your tour leader, as well as local Cuban guides and drivers are not included in the gratuities that we pay. Please give this gratuity in either USD, Euros, or CAD to your ROW tour leader at the end of the trip. He or she will in turn divide it according to our company guidelines, keeping some for him/herself and distributing the rest appropriately among our local Cuban guides and drivers.
Total: We recommend a total of $775-$975 per person. If this seems high, remember that it's best to bring more than you think you may need, as you cannot get more cash in Cuba. You can always take home what you don't spend (just don't take it home in CUC, as you will NOT be able to exchange CUC in the U.S.)
Unplug- we encourage you to embrace your week in Cuba as a chance to disconnect! Although you might take your smart phone for the camera, alarm function, etc., most U.S. carriers still don't have reliable service in Cuba (feel free to check with your provider of course). On top of that, you will likely need to purchase an internet card, and WiFi in Cuba (even in most hotels) is spotty at best. So any time spent trying to connect is likely to be inefficient, and more importantly, will be time taken away from your authentic Cuban experience. Having said that, there are other options if you absolutely must stay connected. Please see our Cuba Unbound FAQs for additional details.
- Don't Forget Your Camera- although we typically task one of our guides with taking photos of our trips, the guiding demands specific to Cuba make this more difficult. In addition, because of the lack of connectivity in Cuba, uploading photos after each trip is essentially impossible for our guides to do. If we have Cuba Unbound staff or a professional photographer on your trip, we will do our best to share our photos with you after you return home. However, your best bet to capture all those Cuban memories: pack your camera and take lots of pictures! Of course, when able, our guides (and hopefully your fellow guests) will be more than happy to help you get the perfect shot without the need for that cumbersome selfie stick!
Gifts for Cuban friends you meet along the way- many visitors to Cuba like to bring small items to give away to locals they meet on their trip. Please know that there is absolutely no obligation to do so, and our tour doesn't afford opportunities to visit organizations specifically for this purpose. However, we visit many of our friends along the way, and you will undoubtedly meet new friends of your own. Strangers (especially kids) also love anything you might want to gift them – particularly items that aren’t readily available in Cuba, such as basic hygiene products (travel toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, etc.), small toys for kids (crayons are great), travel umbrellas you might take for your trip and leave behind, pencils/pens, etc. If you do plan to bring gifts of any kind, we recommend low-value items, as there is a $250 USD limit in total value on gifts you can bring in without being subject to taxes. We also recommend that items fit easily into your day pack and that you only gift to one or two people at a time…kids have a tendency to converge upon (and sometimes innocently reach into) a day pack that they know has something for them. Lastly, consider where you pack liquid/gels or any other gifts that are subject to standard airline luggage restrictions.
Embrace the experience: This is a great time to remind you that Cuba is likely unlike any other place you've been. After 50 years of a trade embargo and an economy that has been fraught with struggles, infrastructure is generally not well maintained. Buildings are in need of repair, sometimes including portions of the hotels we use. Elevators may stop operating during thunderstorms or for other reasons. Air conditioning often breaks down. Hot water and water pressure can be minimal. Things happen more slowly than in many parts of the world. Internet access is sporadic and hard to find. All that said, you will find warm, friendly people, fantastic scenery and natural landscapes, and a culture rich in music and history. Please leave your usual expectations at home, beware of things such as loose cobblestone, and bring an attitude of flexibility and understanding. If you do that, we are more than confident you will have an incredible Cuban experience!
The packing guide outlined below is meant to help you plan, prepare and outfit yourself for your upcoming travels. We have provided our best recommendations and suggestions, but we want to be clear: it is only a guide. Our recommendations are based on the outlined itinerary, our knowledge of Cuba, and our personal experiences. However, each traveler will have his or her own preferences and favorite travel items. We hope you find this resource helpful – minimize as much as you feel comfortable within these guidelines, and feel free to amend it with your favorite travel items too!
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 (and fins if needed, although consider packing space and weight. There will also be snorkel equipment available for rent. You may find that travel-sized fins are a good solution). Wetsuits most likely will not be necessary, as the water in the Caribbean is quite warm year-round.
Cuba Unbound adventures are best enjoyed if you travel light. We think it is wise to avoid checking any luggage. We highly recommend NOT checking bags to Havana. The airport is often very busy, with multiple flights coming in at once and limited baggage carousels in some terminals. One thing that might make carrying on all luggage difficult: the standard TSA limitations on liquids and gels. As many of these items are not so readily available in Cuba, if you need larger volumes of any such items, one idea is to purchase them at the your departure airport after you pass through security. If you check bags, be sure to carry everything that is either essential or would be hard to replace in your day pack/carry-on bag (medications, travel documents, important personal items/essentials). We will not be able to wait for checked luggage that is lost or delayed.
Whether you are carrying on your luggage or checking a bag, we recommend bringing TWO 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 soft-sided compressible duffle inside your main luggage – to use for anticipated souvenir purchases in Cuba or extra space on your return flight.
- Hiking/hydration daypack: this dual-purposed pack can serve as your personal item during your flights, as well as your daypack each day during your tour. While we will provide plenty of drinking water throughout the tour, a hydration pack with a removable hydration bladder (1.5 – 2 liters should be adequate) will allow you to carry a larger amount of water vs. a water bottle, and will minimize your need to refill. Common brands of hydration packs include Camelbak, Osprey, and Salomon, although several others are available. 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 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 the duration of your trip
- Cuba Travel Documents: 1) Cuba Tourist card; 2) Flight tickets/confirmation; 3) Certification of Travel to Cuba (The Certification of Travel to Cuba will be provided to ALL Cuba Unbound guests)
- A photocopy of your passport, inside a ziplock bag and stowed elsewhere in your luggage (as an additional precautionary measure, consider leaving a photocopy with family or friends at home as well)
- Copy of your air tickets with ticket numbers, placed elsewhere in your luggage.
- Adequate cash for the length of your trip (*plan to exclusively use cash for all purchases and gratuities – we will provide additional details and recommendations on the appropriate amount to bring in your pre-trip materials)
- Watch or small travel clock with alarm (if you are taking a phone for use as a camera, this can serve as your alarm clock as well)
- Money belt or concealed passport carrier to carry your passport, travel documents and money, hidden under your clothing
- TSA-accessible lock for luggage security when not on your person (optional- can buy these at any travel or outdoor store)
- One pair 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 (optional – most airlines will require these in checked luggage)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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
- 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 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, etc.
- Sunscreen – at least 30 SPF recommended
- Lip balm with SPF 15-30
- Pre-moistened towelette packets or disposable shower wipes to refresh
- Personal medicines/prescriptions (Dramamine-motion sickness, Benadryl -allergic reactions, Advil or Aspirin, etc.). Make sure that any prescription drugs include your doctor’s/pharmacist’s identification label on the outside of the container.
- Insect repellent- we recommend repellent with DEET or Picaridin Insect Repellent (Picaridin is less toxic and less harsh on gear/clothing than DEET. Here is one example of a Picaridin-based repellent: sawyer.com/products/picaridin-insect-repellent/)
- Anti-itch medication and/or topical cream (e.g. Benadryl)
- Heavy duty skin lotion for dry, sun-baked and salted skin
- Small squeeze bottle of hand-sanitizer gel
- Shampoo and body wash (one small travel flask of each - these items can also be scarce in Cuba and casas particulares will not always provide them)
- One roll (or partial roll) of toilet paper
- Feminine hygiene products
ADDITIONAL NOTES REGARDING LUGGAGE LIMITATIONS FOR TRAVEL TO/FROM CUBA
- Gifts for individuals or organizations are allowed with some limitations. We will explain this is detail in one of your pre-trip emails.
- Electronic items for personal use are often screened carefully upon arrival in Cuba – as long as you bring only what is reasonable for your trip (one camera, one cell phone, one e-reader, etc.), you should not have any issues.
- U.S. citizens are permitted to bring home up to $800 total in goods, and adults 21 and older may include 1 liter of alcohol, 200 cigarettes, and 100 cigars. “Informational materials” are excluded from this limit- including books, periodicals, any type of art or musical recording, etc.
*Please check your airline’s luggage restrictions and fees prior to your trip
ADVENTURE UNBOUND CUBA SUGGESTED READING LIST
- Cuban Revelations: Behind the Scenes in Havana by Marc Frank (2013). If you’re going to read only one book, read this one.
- An American History of Cuba by Ada Ferrer (2021). An epic, sweeping history of Cuba and its complex ties to the United States—from before the arrival of Columbus to the present day—written by one of the world's leading historians of Cuba.
- On Becoming Cuban by Louis A Perez Jr (1999) This is quite a tome and was recommended to us by Marc Frank, author of Cuban Revelations. If you really want to dig into the history of Cuban-American relations and the Cuban psyche, this is the book.
- Back Channel to Cuba- The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Cuba by William LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh (2015) - Also a rather long read that illuminates the complex history including the negotiations led by President Obama’s staff that led to the rapprochement of 2014 that opened up a new phase in US-Cuban relations.
- Cuba – A Traveler’s Literary Companion, Edited by Ann Louise Bardach (2002) - A short anthology of collected excerpts of various Cuban authors offering superb insight into the country and its people.
- The Remarkable Reefs Of Cuba: Hopeful Stories From the Ocean Doctor by David Guggenheim (2022) - While the past 60 years have seen the worst decline in ocean health in human history, Cuba’s oceans and coral reefs remain remarkably healthy, a living laboratory never-before-seen by this generation of scientists. Why are Cuba’s ocean waters so healthy? The answer is deeply intertwined with the country’s extraordinary and singularly unique history, from its dramatic political past to its world-class environmental protections influenced by an unlikely partner, Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
- Sugar King of Havana by John Paul Rathbone (2010) -The rise and fall of Julio Lobo, Cuba’s last tycoon.
- National Geographic Traveler: Cuba by Christopher Baker
- Cuba, What Everyone Needs to Know by Julia Sweig (2012)
- A Contemporary Cuba Reader edited by Philip Brenner et al. (2015)
- Cuba and United States: A Chronological History by Jane Franklin from Ocean Press (1997)
- Waiting for Snow in Havana by Carlos Eire (2003)
- Hemingway’s Boat by Paul Hendrickson (2011)
- The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf (2015) – In the east of Cuba is Alexander Von Humboldt National Park, named after Von Humboldt who visited the island twice in the late 1700’s. This is a fascinating must-read about this world-famous scientist that inspired Darwin and countless other scientists and poets.
- Personal Narrative of a Journey to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent by Alexander Von Humboldt, Penguin Classic, 1995.
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.