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Cuba is a fascinating country and a person could spend months exploring its cities, natural areas, beaches and mountain landscapes. Cuba Unbound offers a number of scheduled tours, many of which focus on active travel. Options include sea kayaking, bicycling, hiking and walking and some tours that combine two or more of these activities. We also have less active, more culturally focused tours. These small group tours for 10-18 guests are scheduled many months in advance and offer a superb value. We are also able to offer certain activities that are not available for smaller custom tours. Some or these tours may be available for charter on a private-trip basis for smaller groups, depending on our availability.
PRE-DESIGNED CUSTOM TOURS or PRIVATE JOURNEYS:
These are tours where we have designed a set itinerary that is available for small groups of 1-6, on a custom schedule basis. Our Classic Cars, Rum & Cigars Tour is one example. We have some other Cuba private tours, seen below, that we can organize for your small private group.
Some people prefer something completely custom and to travel in their own private group. The itineraries of some of our scheduled tours may be adapted for smaller, private groups, depending on the season and our availability. Or you may want to design a custom itinerary, taking advantage of our knowledge of Cuba. We usually can’t include the same variety of active elements (biking, kayaking in particular) as our scheduled tours because of the limited resources in Cuba, but let us know what you want in a Cuba private tour and we would love to discuss it with you!
Note about advanced planning:
If you have specific accommodations in mind, it’s best to plan a minimum of 4-6 months in advance. Trip planning in Cuba requires more time than in some countries. If you’re not so choosy about where you stay, a shorter planning cycle is possible. We ask that you give us at least 3 months before you want to depart on your Cuba custom tour so we can help plan your trip properly. If you don’t have that sort of time window available we’ll do our best, but your accommodation choices may be more limited. This is particularly true during the high season of November through April.
CUBA CUSTOM AND PRIVATE TOUR IDEAS
Custom Cuba Itinerary Ideas that include Havana
(Specific Activities can be tailored to your wishes.)
LONG WEEKEND IN HAVANA
- Thursday – Fly to Havana. Direct and flights are available. Try and arrive by 11:00 AM if possible. Afternoon guided walking tour of Old Havana. Evening out at a Paladar, overnight in a casa particular for duration of tour.
- Friday – We head to Cojimar for a private garden tour, cooking class and lunch! Then we visit Ernest Hemingway’s house. We return to Havana city and visit two of Hemingway’s favorite places, La Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio, along with walks on the city streets. After dinner we’re off to the popular Fabrique des Artes where art, music and a lively Cuban night scene all merge.
- Saturday – We start out with a dance lesson, learning the basic moves and steps of Salsa. It’s a fun way to get the blood going and hips shaking. Then we walk along the seaside malecon, to lunch along the water. After lunch we head to the Museum of Fine Arts in central Havana (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana). Dinner out at a fabulous Paladar, then we head to a low-key evening music performance at one of Cuba’s music institutions set in an outside garden.
- Sunday – After breakfast, we visit a cigar factory to learn the fascinating process needed to turn leaves to cigars. Then we head to the Callejon de Hammel – a colorful street that has become the center for Afro-Cuban music on Sundays. Lively peformances and loud street art make for a fascinating visit. We walk to a nearby Paladar for lunch. In the afternoon, depending on your interests, we could visit a garage where classic American cars from the 1950’s are restored; arrange another dance lesson; find more music; for families, head to Coney Island amusement park; visit the University and meet with an educator to learn about the Cuban education system, etc.
- Monday – head to the airport and fly home.
HAVANA & SOUTH CENTRAL CUBA
- Day 1 - Arrive Havana, afternoon walking tour of old Havana. Evening scheduled as desired.
- Day 2 - Full day to explore Havana.
- Day 3 - Drive east to Hemingway Museum, then continue towards Playa Larga. Optional visit to the Zapata National Park Cuban crocodile breeding center. Lunch in Palpite or Playa Larga. Optional visit to a community art school. Arrive Playa Larga on the Bay of Pigs with time to relax, visit the beach and see small-town Cuba.
- Day 4 - Drive southeast to one of our favorite snorkeling or diving spots on the Bay of Pigs. Enjoy a couple hours in the Caribbean to snorkel and learn about the region’s reef ecosystem. Continue to the town of Playa Giron and visit the Museum of the 1961 invasion. Lunch in town. Continue another couple hours to Cienfuegos.
HAVANA & NORTH CENTRAL CUBA
- Day 1 - Arrive Havana, afternoon walking tour of old Havana. Evening scheduled as desired.
- Day 2 - Full day to explore Havana.
- Day 3 - Drive east to Hemingway Museum, then continue along the north coast to the colonial city of Matanzas. There’s a historic electric railroad line that can be woven into today for a 2-4 hour ride through rural Cuba and the town of chocolate fame, Hershey, Cuba. End the day in the beautiful town square of Matanzas and stay at the lovely Hotel Velasco.
- Day 4 - Depending on yesterday’s timing and your interests, spend the morning visiting some of the city’s museums which include a fascinating museum of a pharmacy among others. It’s also possible to visit nearby Varadero, the original beach-resort economic engine of Cuba co-developed with Canadians in the early 1990’s (although to be honest, we don’t recommend this). Continue east for about a 3.5 hour drive to the small colonial town of Remedios which has several colonial-style boutique hotels, a tranquil town plaza and easy-going pace.
- Day 5 - Explore Remedios this morning and if desired, a nearby sugar museum and train ride. Continue on to Sancti Spiritus, another vibrant town with beautiful colonial architecture, Cuba’s oldest bridge and many museums.
- Day 6 - Continue south to the coast and visit Trinidad (allow another one or two days) or return to Santa Clara and fly out on a late afternoon flight.
SPECIAL INTEREST IN HAVANA - Do you have a specific interest you would like your Cuba custom tour based around? If so, we can put it together for you!
- Havana’s Architecture: An eclectic collection of colonial, art nouveau, art deco and 1950’s modern, the architecture of Havana is fascinating. With a specialized guide, explore many of the most remarkable buildings including the Bacardi building, the Capitolo, National Theatre, Rivera Hotel, Hotel Nacional, palaces of old Havana, and much more. This can be a one or two-day focus, depending on the level of your interest.
- Havana by Night: Havana comes alive around 10pm with a wide variety of musical venues from salsa to son, jazz to rock, bolero and rumba and more! Explore nocturnal Havana, then have a schedule that starts late morning and if desired, add dance lessons in the afternoons! People-to-People activities with musicians and performers will be arranged.
- Havana’s Jewish History and Culture Today: Cuba’s Jewish heritage is a fascinating story. A visit to the Jewish Heritage Center to meet with the Director and staff gives insight into the Jewish community of the city and country. The excellent exhibit on the holocaust is a must-see. Finally, visit one or two of the city’s synagogues, meet with members of the local Jewish community and learn.
- Cuba’s Christian Heritage: Churches and cathedrals are found throughout Cuba, most from the colonial era of Spanish rule. They went largely dormant from the time of the Victory of the Revolution (1959) until about a decade ago. There have been several Papal visits in the last 15 years and a fair number of Cubans are practicing Catholics, or other sorts of Christians. Visit some of the beautiful churches, meet with clergy and learn about Christianity in Cuba today.
- Education, Conservation & Science: Cuba has a vibrant education system, an active government land and marine conservation program and of course many scientific institutions. Visit the Jimenez Nunez Foundation to learn about Cuba’s conservation programs. Visit with professors at the University of Havana and other specialists in these fields.
- Spanish & Salsa: For those who want an immersion into Cuba’s culture, learning Spanish in the morning and dance in the afternoon can be the perfect combination!
VIÑALES & THE WEST
Custom Cuba Itinerary Ideas that include Viñales
The Pinar del Rio Province is to tobacco what Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Napa Valley are to wine. If you’re a cigar aficionado, this should be on your list. Beyond tobacco, the region is also home to some of Cuba’s most stunning scenery with limestone mogotes piercing the sky. While the town of Viñales itself crawls with tourists, it’s not hard to get off the beaten path to the small towns along the northern coast, the city of Pinar del Rio and the mountain resorts of Soroa and Las Terrazas.
VIÑALES EXPLORER CUSTOM TOUR:
- Day 1 - Depart Havana, drive to Las Terrazas. Visit this mountainous region that was reforested and resettled after the revolution. Hikes from one to three miles are available in the area along with a history of the coffee trade and slavery. From here continue to Viñales for dinner and overnight.
- Day 2 - Spend the day hiking and exploring the Viñales valley with tobacco farms, trails and natural wonders. In the late afternoon go to the town of Pinar del Rio for a walking tour and overnight.
- Day 3 - A morning visit to the legendary Robaina tobacco farm is in order for cigar aficianados with the option of enjoying lunch and one of the estate cigars. Afterwards, return to Havana by late afternoon. Note: For more ideas on options in this area, check out our “Western Cuba Bike Tour".
- Day 5 - A full day exploring Cienfuegos and the vicinity. Optional kayak tour available. Visit the Cienfuegos Botanical Gardens, Laguna Guanaroca, or more.
- Day 6 - Drive to Trinidad, one of Cuba’s finest colonial towns, to explore the cobbled streets, vibrant music scene and history.
- Day 7 - Another day exploring Trinidad and hiking in the nearby Topes de Collantes National Park if desired.
- Day 8 - Transfer to Santa Clara airport (about 3 hours) for a late afternoon flight. Time to visit the Che Memorial in Santa Clara if desired.
Custom Cuba Itinerary Ideas in the East
Compared to Havana and the western parts of Cuba, very few travelers venture to the east. This is more rugged, less populated, far from the political influence of Havana yet closer to the heart of the Revolution that started in the Sierra Maestre mountains that span the region.
NORTHEAST CUBA – Mountains, Bays, and Chan Chan:
- Day 1 - Arrive Holguin airport (most flights arrive midday). On arrival transfer to small fishing village of Gibara about an hour north to stay at one of the nicest boutique hotels in all of Cuba. Afternoon walking tour with our local guide.
- Day 2 - Morning visit to the local cigar factory. Then a visit to the Natural History Museum, followed by lunch at one of our favorite paladars. In the afternoon, visit a local cave for a one-hour walk with a local speleologist. Overight Gibara.
- Day 3 - Travel two hours east to the small fishing town of Puerto Padre for a feast of treats. We visit a rum factory in the morning, followed by lunch on an organic farm. In the afternoon we have a walking tour of the town and a special music performance by a jazz group that carries on the tradition of Emelio Salvador, legendary Cuban pianist. Optional overnight in Puerto Padre at a Casa Particular, or drive about 1.5 hours back east to Holguin and overnight at a Casa Particular or hotel.
- Day 4 - Leave Holguin and travel to Cuba’s highest waterfall! It’s a beautiful place with a couple of different hiking options. One is a 600 meter walk over moderate terrain to the top of the highest falls then returning to the top of the lower falls for a swim. The other is a much more difficult hike that descends to the bottom of the falls and requires about 2 -2.5 hours for the roundtrip. Local guides provide interesting stories about the local flora. From here continue to a mountainous resort, Pinares de Mayeri for a relaxing night in mountain air.
- Day 5 - Descend from the mountains and spend an hour or so exploring the small town of Mayeri. Visit Cayo Saetia, a small seaside resort that was built by the Communist Party in the 1970’s as a hunting retreat, animals from Africa were imported for the sport. Today antelope, water buffalo, zebra, ostrich and wild boar roam the island. Spend the afternoon at the resort.
- Day 6a - Spend another day near Cayo Saetia, or simply return to Holguin for flights home. Or…..
- Day 6b - Continuing to Baracoa. It’s a five to six hour drive to the oldest town in Cuba, Baracoa. On the way, stop at Bahia de Taco for a nature walk and introduction to Alexander Humboldt National Park. Arrive in Baracoa late in the day and check into your Casa Particular or hotel.
- Day 7 - Do a morning walking tour of Baracoa with a local historian guide. There’s fascinating history here from early humans, to the indigenous peoples, the arrival of the Spanish and colonialism. In the afternoon drive a little further east to the Yumuri River canyon for a short, scenic boat ride up a dramatic gorge. Return to Baracoa for dinner and overnight.
- Day 8 - Could be another day in the area on one of the many hiking trails of the National Park with a local guide. Or, continue south and west via Guantanamo, to Cuba’s second-largest city, and heart of the musical tradition of Son, to Santiago de Cuba. It’s a full day of driving with some stops along the way based on your interests. Overnight in Santiago.
- Day 9 - Santiago deserves at least a full day to explore. This is where Castro’s Revolution started in 1953 with the raid on the Moncada Barracks. Visit the cemetary where Cuba’s National Hero, Jose Marti is buried, and Fidel Castro was interned in late 2016. Another historically significant spot is San Juan Hill where Teddy Roosevelt led the Rough Riders to battle during the last part of the Spanish-American War in 1898. Musical performances abound in Santiago, as well as pleasant walking on a pedestrian-only boulevard and more.
- Day 10 - Spend another day in Santiago or fly back to the USA from Santiago, or transfer to Holguin (three hours) where there are more frequent flights to the USA, or fly to Havana.
HOLGUIN AND SOUTHEAST CUBA:
For those seeking a blend of spectacular mountain scenery, the coast and an immersion into the history of the Revolution, this is an excellent route for a private custom tour in Cuba.
- Day 1 - Arrive Holguin. City tour in the afternoon and overnight at a hotel or Casa Particular.
- Day 2 - Drive south via Biran, family home of the Castro’s. Stop for a one-hour visit and then continue to Santiago de Cuba. Visit the Moncada Barracks to learn about the start of the Revolution in 1953.
- Day 3 - Full day touring in Santiago.
- Day 4 - Head west along the dramatic coastal road, and stop in our favorite village for some great interaction with the locals and your choice of a night in a Casa or hotel.
- Day 5 - Continue along the coastal route all the way to Manzanillo. Explore the town and overnight.
- Day 6 - Visit the mountain refuge of Santo Domingo La Plata. This is the starting point for anyone wanting to climb Pico Turquino. Explore the area’s farms and meet with local farmers for insight into this rural mountain life. Drive out of the mountains to Bayamo to spend the night.
- Day 7 - A morning walking tour of Bayamo, then transfer to Holguin for flights home.
TRINIDAD & CIENFUEGOS
Custom Cuba Itinerary Ideas that include Cienfuegos and Trinidad
Santa Clara, Cienfuegos and Trinidad:
With new direct flights going directly to the airport at Santa Clara, US travelers now have the option of skipping out on Havana and getting directly to some of the smaller cities of Cuba.
- Day 1 - Fly your home to Santa Clara. On arrival visit the Che Guevara Mausoleum (Mausoleo Che Guevara) which is a memorial to his life and activities. Then drive to the seaside city, Pearl of the South, Cienfuegos. Your arrival time will determine the day’s activities. Options include walking the malecon, a walking tour of the city’s historic sites, etc. In the evening enjoy a musical performance at the Teatro Terry. Overnight in your choice of a hotel or Casa Particular.
- Day 2 - Continue exploring and learning about Cienfuegos. After lunch we drive to the Botanical Gardens of Cienfuegos for a one hour guided tour of this esteemed collection of plants. Then it’s on to the Lagoon Guanaroca for a relaxing boat ride in small wooden oar boats, with a goal on seeing the resident flocks of pink flamingos. We then continue to Cuba’s second oldest city, Trinidad. Dinner and overnight.
- Day 3 - A full day to explore Trinidad. Options include staying in the town and focusing on museusm, architecture, gardens and perhaps a dance lesson. Or we can head out of town to the country and hike along small creeks and waterfalls and learn about the history of sugar cane plantations in the area. Be evening it‘s time for dinner and a visit to the outdoor concerts at the Casa de la Musica.
- Day 4 - We drive back to the west, along the coast, passing by Cienfuegos again, and on to the Bay of Pigs. We visit Playa Giron museum which tells the fascinating story of the 1961 invasion. Then after lunch we find a spectacular snorkeling spot where we learn about the Caribbean reef ecosystem. We continue to the small town of Playa Larga for dinner and overnight.
- Day 5 - A visit to a nearby community art, music and dance school starts our day. Or perhaps you’d prefer to go birdwatching in Zapata National Park. Let us know your interests! A full day of exploration that ends in Santa Clara again, staging you for a flight home.
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