AGE LIMIT: 12 Years
TRIP TYPE: Yachting, Sea Kayaking, Cultural, Walking
This tour will begin in Havana at approximately 11:00 AM on Day 1. Our meeting point on Day 1 will be Havana's Jose Marti International Airport where your Tour Leader and local guides will meet you to begin your tour. If you are unable to fly all the way to Havana on Day 1 with an arrival before 11:00 AM, we recommend that you consider a "Day 0" for your tour and choose either of the following:
Travel to Havana on Day 0. With this option, we recommend that you overnight in a casa particular (a private home with rooms for rent) of your choosing and make your way back to the Havana Airport to meet your Tour Leader, guides, and fellow travelers the next morning.
Travel to Miami on Day 0. With this option, we recommend that you overnight in Miami and take a flight to Havana on the morning of Day 1.
- ACCOMMODATION : Havana Casa
- MEALS INCLUDED : Dinner
- ACCOMMODATION: Havana Casa
- MEALS INCLUDED: Lunch, Dinner
- ACCOMMODATION : Private Catamaran
- MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
- ACCOMMODATION : Private Catamaran
- MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
- ACCOMMODATION: Private Catamaran
- MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
- ACCOMMODATION: Private Catamaran
- MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
- 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 people-to-people activities. Cuba has it’s own beat and things don’t always run on time. The activities and visits listed are not guaranteed but we endeavor to do our best to provide the content intent of this people–to-people program. Visiting developing countries can be eye-opening and life-changing, and hopefully visiting Cuba is both. Accommodations may not be up to the standards you are used to. Sometimes the hot water or air conditioning doesn’t work. We ask all our guests to appreciate the authenticity of your cultural encounters as well as the people, food, culture, and adventures that are exceptional in their difference. Our local guide, along with your Cuba Unbound Tour Leader promise to do their best to make this a fascinating and educational experience.
- Travel to HAVANA on Day 0. With this option, we recommend that you overnight in a casa particular (a private home with rooms for rent) of your choosing and make your way back to the Havana Airport to meet your Tour Leader, guides, and fellow travelers the next morning.
- Travel to MIAMI on Day 0. With this option, we recommend that you overnight in any of a number of reasonably priced hotels near the airport (or elsewhere if you're spending extra time in Miami) and take a flight to Havana on the morning of Day 1. American Airlines currently has excellent options from Miami to Havana, including two daily flights that arrive in Havana prior to 11:00 AM. You may find that booking two separate round-trip tickets is best: 1) from home to Miami and back; and 2) from Miami to Havana and back. Or you may find a single ticket (typically with a red-eye flight or overnight layover in Miami) with scheduled arrival before 11:00 AM on the morning of Day 1.
- Accommodations: If you are arriving early to Cuba or staying after your Cuba Unbound tour, it is important to secure your accommodations ahead of time. We recommend using casa particulars (houses that rent rooms) which are available via AirBNB. Casas are typically an easier and less expensive option (most in the $20-50 range), as compared to hotels which are extremely limited and difficult to book in Cuba. Travel Agencies such as Cuba Travel Services can also assist with booking homestays or hotels. Booking through a travel agency or AirBNB allows for advance credit card payment, minimizing the cash you’ll need to carry with you. Make sure you have accommodations prior to booking a plane ticket.
- Ground Transportation: Taxi transport to your casa on night 0, as well as to return to the airport on Day 1, is very simple. We recommend using state run taxis. Make sure to have the address of your destination in hand and agree on the fare before getting in the cab.
CUBA'S TOURIST SEASONS
- High Season: Cuba’s peak tourist season runs from mid-December to mid-March as well as July and August. Crowds are at their thickest here, and prices and bookings tend to be up as well. It’s always good to plan ahead when visiting during Cuba’s high season.
- Shoulder Season: Cuba’s shoulder runs through the months of April and October. Visitors can find some special deals during the shoulder season, though there’s a slight peak around Easter.
- Low Season: Cuba’s low season hits May through June and September. Expect some closures or fewer facilities during the low season when tourists are less likely but hurricanes are more likely.
CUBA CLIMATE GUIDE
- Hot and Wet Season (May through August): During the summer, Cuba is hot and humid.
- Hurricane Season (End of August to First of November): Like all Caribbean Islands, Cuba gets hit by hurricans. The fiercest hurricane months are September and October, though the "hurricane season" runs from June through November. That being said, Cuba has a tendency to hold out pretty well against hurricanes!
- Dry and Cooler Season (November through April): If you love the consistently sunny and temperate weather, Cuba's dry season is for you. It's generally 77-82 degrees (25-27 C) with less rain and cooler evenings. The island warms up beautifully from March through mid-April, and visitors can expect warm Caribbean currents, cooling northeasterly winds and occasional rainfall.
Weather in Havana, Cuba - Weather Underground
- Personal Mobile Phone Service in Cuba: It’s possible that your mobile phone will work in Cuba as some U.S. service providers have already or are beginning to make contracts with the ETECSA (Cuba’s national telecommunications company) to provide roaming services. Verizon and Sprint currently offer roaming services in Cuba. Check to see if your provider offers a roaming plan and if your mobile phone is capable of roaming when in Cuba. Further, inquire about additional charges for data, outgoing messages, and voice calls. You can also rent a SIM card from Cubacel to use your U.S. mobile phone in Cuba. This, however, only works if your phone is unlocked and GSM-capable. Cubacel’s SIM cards come with pre-paid minutes, and a daily rental fee is included.
- Renting U.S. Mobile Phones for Cuban Travel: A select number of specialized mobile phone companies provide travel phones compatible with Cuban roaming. Before traveling to Cuba, you can rent compatible phones from Mobal, Cello Mobile, or National Geographic’s Cellular Abroad. Expect rental fees and additional texting and per-minute call charges with data optional depending on the type of phone rented.
- Renting a Phone in Cuba: You can rent a phone from Cubacel upon your arrival in Cuba. Cubacel offices are located in Havana’s José Martí International Airport. Expect a nonrefundable deposit as well a daily fee, and additional texting and per-minute call charges still apply. Data’s not available on these rented phones.
- Internet Cafés: ETECSA operates a number of internet cafés locally known as telepuntos in larger cities such as Havana and Santiago. You may purchase an access ticket in telepuntos that allow you to use the internet by the hour or by the minute.
- Hotel Business Centers: Many of the larger, modern hotels have a business center where guests can purchase internet access.
- WiFi: ETECSA offers 65 public WiFi locations as of January, 2016. WiFi access in public locations costs an hourly rate, and much like at telepuntos guests must purchase an access pass from ETECSA in order to log on. Approximately 50 major resorts and hotels throughout Cuba offer WiFi, and they generally charge an hourly rate.
- Vaccines: U.S. citizens require no vaccines to visit Cuba.That being said, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that travelers should be up-to-date on routine vaccinations.Other advisable inoculations include: hepatitis A and B, typhoid, rabies.
- Food and Water: It’s always good to take precautions about what you eat and drink when traveling to Cuba. To avoid parasites, avoid drinking tap water and instead drink bottled water or check if the offered water has been boiled. As for food, food purchased on the street presents the highest risk as no authorized regulatory organization ensures proper hygiene.
- Water Bottle Choice - if you have one, we ask that you bring a reusable, wide-mouthed water bottle. Again, we provide bottled water throughout the trip, but we are often refilling on the bus, and/or from large 5-gallon containers. A wide-mouthed water bottle will make it easier on everyone.
- Snacks- if you are someone who likes to snack between meals, or if you need a regular blood sugar bump during an active trip such as this, pack some small, non-perishable, packaged food items from home: think granola bars, nuts, etc. There are small markets in the cities and villages of Cuba, but they do not sell what we consider snack food.
- Food Restrictions- Vegetarian/vegan guests (or those with other food allergies as noted on your trip application) can expect our guides and operating partners to do their very best to accommodate your needs. If you are a "pescatarian" and enjoy seafood, you will have plenty. However, strict vegetarian and vegan options are less common in Cuba. Plan on rice and beans, basic veggies (the avocados in Cuba are impressive), and local fruits when and where available. You might want to bring your own supply of nuts or other protein substitutes.
- Sun Exposure: With Cuba’s strong summer sun and high humidity, sun and heat exposure along with dehydration can present health risks. Use sunscreen, drink lots of water, and limit sun exposure when you can.
- Insurance: Cuba mandates that all foreign travelers have medical insurance which includes evacuation if serious medical attention is needed.
- Zika Virus: The CDC has reported Zika outbreaks in Cuba and advises travelers to practice enhanced precautions. Check out the CDC's websitefor updated travel alerts, and please review our prepared Zika Virus Travel Tips on the Health & Safety dropdown menu to help you travel healthy.
- Exchanging Money in Cuba: $1 USD is roughly equivalent to 1 CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso- the currency you will exclusively use in Cuba). While you can exchange USD for CUC, there is an immediate 10% penalty which is why we suggest you bring Euros or Canadian dollars (CAD) instead. We recommend exchanging currency upon arrival at the Havana airport. Airport officials can point you to the currency exchange desk. Other options are government exchange offices within the city, banks (consider likely open hours for both), and your hotel, however the airport is likely your best bet for convenience and the most favorable rates. If arriving on the morning of Day 1 and meeting your group before leaving the airport, your guides will assist you with currency exchange.
- How Much To Bring on Your Tour: Below are some guidelines on how much cash you may want to bring for items not included in your tour. Although it is slowly changing, virtually all U.S. bank credit/debit cards still do not work in Cuba, so bring more cash than you think you'll need - if you run out, there is likely no easy way to get more.
- Gifts/Souvenirs: we recommend $200-$400 per person ($800 USD per person is the maximum allowed through customs when you return to the U.S.). If you plan to shop minimally or not at all, adjust appropriately.
- Incidental Personal Expenses: $100 per person. Plan on unexpected needs along the way, such as laundry, tips for service outside the scope of the tour, etc.
- Beverages/Entertainment: $75 - $100 per person. ROW provides clean drinking water at all times, as well as water with meals and coffee, tea and juice at breakfast. In addition, most restaurants on your tour will include one beverage of your choice with lunch and dinner. However, an included drink is not always the case, and additional beverages will need to be paid separately. In many places, you may take an evening stroll and enjoy some live music in a local bar. At the Casas we stay in along the way, you can buy beer and perhaps other drinks. Drinks range from $2-$4 at most locations.
- Guide Gratuities: we recommend approximately $250 USD per guest for your guide team (equivalent to $25 per day for the team). Keep in mind that tipping is a very personal decision, and we encourage you to adjust this up or down as you see fit based on your experience. It's best to plan on tipping in the local CUC currency, Euros, or Canadian dollars.
- During your trip, Cuba Unbound covers tips for servers, porters, and others that help us along the way. Your tour leader, as well as local Cuban guides and drivers are not included in the gratuities that we pay. Please give this gratuity in either CUCs, Euros, or CAD to your ROW tour leader at the end of the trip. He or she will in turn divide it according to our company guidelines, keeping some for him/herself and distributing the rest appropriately among our local Cuban guides and drivers.
- Total: We recommend a total of $625-$850 per person. If this seems high, remember that it's best to bring more than you think you may need, as you cannot get more cash in Cuba. You can always take home what you don't spend (just don't take it home in CUC, as you will NOT be able to exchange CUC in the U.S.)
- Unplug- we encourage you to embrace your week in Cuba as a chance to disconnect! Although you might take your smart phone for the camera, alarm function, etc., most U.S. carriers still don't have reliable service in Cuba (feel free to check with your provider of course). On top of that, you will likely need to purchase an internet card, and WiFi in Cuba (even in most hotels) is spotty at best. So any time spent trying to connect is likely to be inefficient, and more importantly, will be time taken away from your authentic Cuban experience. Having said that, there are other options if you absolutely must stay connected. Please see our Cuba Unbound FAQs for additional details.
- Don't Forget Your Camera- although we typically task one of our guides with taking photos of our trips, the guiding demands specific to Cuba make this more difficult. In addition, because of the lack of connectivity in Cuba, uploading photos after each trip is essentially impossible for our guides to do. If we have Cuba Unbound staff or a professional photographer on your trip, we will do our best to share our photos with you after you return home. However, your best bet to capture all those Cuban memories: pack your camera and take lots of pictures! Of course, when able, our guides (and hopefully your fellow guests) will be more than happy to help you get the perfect shot without the need for that cumbersome selfie stick!
- Gifts for Cuban friends you meet along the way- many visitors to Cuba like to bring small items to give away to locals they meet on their trip. Please know that there is absolutely no obligation to do so, and our tour doesn't afford opportunities to visit organizations specifically for this purpose. However, we visit many of our friends along the way, and you will undoubtedly meet new friends of your own. Strangers (especially kids) also love anything you might want to gift them – particularly items that aren’t readily available in Cuba, such as basic hygiene products (travel toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, etc.), small toys for kids (crayons are great), travel umbrellas you might take for your trip and leave behind, pencils/pens, etc. If you do plan to bring gifts of any kind, we recommend low-value items, as there is a $250 USD limit in total value on gifts you can bring in without being subject to taxes. We also recommend that items fit easily into your day pack and that you only gift to one or two people at a time…kids have a tendency to converge upon (and sometimes innocently reach into) a day pack that they know has something for them. Lastly, consider where you pack liquid/gels or any other gifts that are subject to standard airline luggage restrictions.
- Embrace the experience: This is a great time to remind you that Cuba is likely unlike any other place you've been. After 50 years of a trade embargo and an economy that has been fraught with struggles, infrastructure is generally not well maintained. Buildings are in need of repair, sometimes including portions of the hotels we use. Elevators may stop operating during thunderstorms or for other reasons. Air conditioning often breaks down. Hot water and water pressure can be minimal. Things happen more slowly than in many parts of the world. Internet access is sporadic and hard to find. All that said, you will find warm, friendly people, fantastic scenery and natural landscapes, and a culture rich in music and history. Please leave your usual expectations at home, beware of things such as loose cobblestone, and bring an attitude of flexibility and understanding. If you do that, we are more than confident you will have an incredible Cuban experience!
The packing guide outlined below is meant to help you plan, prepare and outfit yourself for your upcoming travels. We have provided our best recommendations and suggestions, but we want to be clear: it is only a guide. Our recommendations are based on the outlined itinerary, our knowledge of Cuba, and our personal experiences. However, each traveler will have his or her own preferences and favorite travel items. We hope you find this resource helpful – minimize as much as you feel comfortable within these guidelines, and feel free to amend it with your favorite travel items too!
We will provide all necessary paddling equipment, including kayaks and paddles, PFDs (personal flotation devices), and safety equipment for the kayaks. It is highly recommended that all of your kayaking clothes are synthetic or wool, not cotton. Synthetics are also ideal for walking/hiking and touring in warmer climates (you can typically expect daytime highs of 75-80 deg F in Cuba, with varying humidity) as they wick away moisture and dry quickly. We do have a selection of snorkels, masks, & fins available for your use on this tour. However, if you have your own snorkeling gear, need a very specific size, and/or do not want to share equipment with others, please bring your own snorkeling gear with you. Wetsuits most likely will not be necessary for snorkeling, 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 with you on this tour:
- One roll-on suitcase or duffle/backpack: This will serve as your main piece of luggage during your tour. If you are planning to carry this bag on your flight(s), the total dimensions should meet standard carry-on size of 45 inches or less (22 x 14 x 9 in.). During your tour in Cuba, we will transport this bag for you between hotels each day, and you will have access to it each evening when we check into our accommodations. *Also, depending on your shopping plans, you may consider packing an extra soft-sided compressible duffle inside your main luggage – to use for anticipated souvenir purchases in Cuba or extra space on your return flight.
One small daypack: this dual-purposed pack can serve as your personal item during your flights, as well as your day pack each day when not on the water (you will be provided with a third bag for use while kayaking – see below). This pack can remain on the tour bus during kayaking excursions, where it will be secure but available to you before and after each paddle. We find that the smaller the daypack the better, however the capacity to hold those items you’ll want access to during the day is important (camera, clothing layers, sunscreen, water bottle, hat, etc.). Ultimately, the choice of day pack and size is your own, but consider what you’re likely to need and want to carry with you each day, and how easily accessible and organized your pack allows those items to be.
Dry Bag for Kayaking excursions: (provided by Cuba Unbound and issued upon arrival in Cuba) - this bag is for use during the day while kayaking. This dry bag will accompany you in the kayak, providing easy access to your personal items (rain gear, sunscreen, extra clothing layers, binoculars, camera, etc.) throughout each paddling excursion, and keeping them dry and safe. You will return this bag to us at the end of your tour.
- Passport – valid for at least the duration of your trip
- Cuba Travel Documents: 1) Cuba Tourist card; 2) Flight tickets/confirmation; 3) Certification of Travel to Cuba (The Certification of Travel to Cuba will be provided to ALL Cuba Unbound guests)
- A photocopy of your passport, inside a ziplock bag and stowed elsewhere in your luggage (as an additional precautionary measure, consider leaving a photocopy with family or friends at home as well)
- Copy of your air tickets with ticket numbers, placed elsewhere in your luggage.
- Adequate cash for the length of your trip (*plan to exclusively use cash for all purchases and gratuities – we will provide additional details and recommendations on the appropriate amount to bring in your pre-trip materials)
- Watch or small travel clock with alarm (if you are taking a phone for use as a camera, this can serve as your alarm clock as well)
- Money belt or concealed passport carrier to carry your passport, travel documents and money, hidden under your clothing
- TSA-accessible lock for luggage security when not on your person (optional- can buy these at any travel or outdoor store)
- One pair of paddling gloves (optional)
- One pair long, lightweight, nylon pants with zipper pockets (Zip off legs give you more options)
- One pair nylon shorts (this can double as a swimsuit for the guys)
- One quick-dry sport dress (optional for easy over the swimsuit/hiking/kayaking)
- Sarong (optional but very handy for changing clothes, laying on the ground, etc.)
- One - two short sleeve button-up shirt(s) or t-shirt(s) (synthetic is best)
- One long sleeve shirt for sun protection (You can buy tight-weave nylon shirts with SPF protection made by companies such as Columbia, Patagonia, Exofficio or REI etc. Sun protection is essential)
- One wide-brim, tie-on hat (nylon variety is ideal, as it packs well)
- One lightweight raincoat (a windbreaker that has some waterproof qualities will work as well)
- Three pair light synthetic or light merino-wool socks
- One pair sandals with ankle straps to wear while kayaking, on the beaches, walking around towns, etc. (Chaco, Keens or Tevas are preferred but there are many other brands that are suitable)
- One pair walking/running shoes, to use for city tours and for other times when you want to wear something other than sandals.
- 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 (synthetic is best. Consider total # of days on the trip and adjust accordingly)
- Casual hat for sun protection
- One buff or bandana for sun protection and cooling off
- Three pair light nylon or cotton socks (one thicker pair for longer walking tours & light hiking)
GEAR AND OTHER ESSENTIALS
- Small day pack per above
- Personal snorkeling gear if you prefer your own equipment – snorkel, mask, & fins (fins optional – consider packing space & weight)
- One water bottle, 1 liter or larger (A bottle that fits in a daypack pocket or clips to the outside of your daypack and to a kayak deck is ideal)
- 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
- Small waterproof camera box like the Pelican brand
- Book(s) or E-reader, pen and note pad, pocket Spanish-English dictionary, deck of playing cards or other games, etc.
- iPod/small portable music player with headphones
- Inflatable travel pillow/nightshade/earplugs (optional, and should pack down very small)
- Headlamp or small LED flashlight
- Electrolyte tablets/mix, Hammer Gels, Clif bars/blocks, etc. for fuel replenishment while kayaking (hard to impossible to find in Cuba)
- Additional before & after-activity snacks (Optional – granola bars, candy bars, etc. Fruits, seeds, and veggies are not permissible)
- 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
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