Experience the diversity of Cuba on an 8-day guided Cuba tour. This People-to-People tour explores the diverse urban cities of Cienfuegos, Trinidad, and Havana and provides visitors incredible opportunities to delve into the rich traditions and heritage of Cuban culture. Hike pristine landscapes, snorkel, and spot wildlife on foot as you hike in five different national parks and reserves. Learn about the fascinating history of the country, as well as understand more about present-day Cuba and her challenges. Encounter local artists, farmers, and experts in a variety of fields as you interact with the people. Stay in local Cuban family homes to further enrich your cultural Cuban experience. This unique Cuba trip will uncover the heart and soul of this enchanting country and its people.
Explore Cuba's national parks, nature reserves & World Heritage sites on foot
Snorkel or relax on shore in Zapata National Park, a Biosphere Reserve
Learn about the influence & prosperity of the tobacco & sugarcane industries
Hike in El Cubano National Park, Sierra Escambray Mtns, and Viñales Valley
Experience rich and meaningful interactions with Cuba's people & culture
Overnight in private Cuban homes and enjoy unique hospitality
Activities that provide a reasonable level of physical challenge and elevate the heart rate. Focused on more active pursuits including multisport tours. Travelers may be active 5-7 hours total each day. Recommended for travelers with active lifestyles.
Once you've gathered your luggage and changed out your currency, head west by bus to Las Terrazas and the Sierra del Rosario Mountains. Las Terrazas, now a biosphere under UNESCO safeguard, was created as part of Castro's 1968 initiative to reforest regions over-logged since the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors and defaced by miles of coffee plantations. The 5,000-hectare nature reserve and eco-village is now home to over 117 different bird species, 12 of which are endemic including the tocororo and zorzal. Begin your exploration of Las Terrazas with a trek along the Sendero La Serafina — a 5km trail running through the reforested land and passing by the dilapidated Saint Serafina plantation.
After your afternoon excursions throughout Las Terrazas, head to Hotel Moka, your accommodations for the evening. Hotel Moka brings the outdoors indoors with an immense 100-year-old rain tree growing up through the lobby and sprouting out the rooftop. It's a charming white and tangerine hotel screened by the green of teak trees.
Day 2: Valle de Viñales
1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Enjoy an early morning breakfast and drive west to one of Cuba's most scenic national parks. Thrust into the rolling rows of the Sierra de los Órganos lies the Valle de Viñales, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the source of several stunningly unique habitats. Spend the day walking throughout the varied living landscapes the Valle de Viñales nurtures, giving you insight into Cuba's signal crop, tobacco, as well as the geological forces that shaped this region.
The valley's notable bulbous magotes give an otherworldly quality. They appear like explosions of limestone rapidly rearing from the earth, where in fact they are the remains of limestone hills eroded away by slow rainfall around 160 million years ago. One of the more iconic sites is the Magote dos Hermanas, or two magote "twin sisters," that lie side by side standing sentinel over stretches of flat fields.
Beneath the magotes are vast fields of tobacco — Cuba's export that has reached near-mythical status. These are a stunning sight with their rows upon rows of rich umber earth lined with tall stalks of tobacco waving their wide, spring green leaves. Enjoy lunch at a farm-to-table organic restaurant, and in the afternoon, have the opportunity to visit one of the valley's tobacco plantations. After exploring the tobacco plantation, visit a despalillo, a tobacco factory where you can learn more about the curing and fermenting processes that follow the harvest.
By late afternoon, satiated with fresh air and well-used legs, head back to your hotel.
Drive east to the outskirts of Havana to visit Finca Vigia, the house where Ernest Hemingway lived for 20 years and wrote many of his books. Lunch at a nearby paladar (private restaurant) and then continue your drive to the southeast. Your destination is Playa Larga, a tranquil village set on the beach at the head of the Bahia de Cochinos, or Bay of Pigs. It was here that the infamous 1961 CIA-sponsored invasion took place.
After you check into your welcoming Casa, attend an engaging presentation from Frank Medina, Director of Zapata National Park, who discusses the joint pressures of tourism and conservation facing the park as well as the park's many successes. The Ciénaga de Zapata is both a designated national park and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. With expansive tracts of dense forests and mangrove-lined swampland, the peninsula is wild and largely untouched. Wildlife such as crocodiles, iguana, flamingos, and boars inhabit the wetlands, and it's one of Cuba's main attractions for birders who can find endemic species such as the Cuban pygmy owl, bee hummingbird and Zapata rail. Frank is a lively speaker, and after the informative discussion, enjoy a festive dinner of delicious, authentic Cuban fare.
Spend the morning exploring Zapata National Park. Drive along the coast to a favorite snorkeling spot where colorful fish and healthy reefs make for a fascinating hour as you learn about Cuba's marine conservation program. Cuba boasts the healthiest reef systems in all the Caribbean.
Then it's on to a hidden trail that weaves through the forest among cenotes (sinkholes) common in this limestone geology. It's also an excellent birding area and we may see the Key West quail dove, Cuban bullfinch and Cuban peewee.
Next up is the small town of Playa Giron to visit the Museum of the Bay of Pigs Invasion. The town's name comes from the French pirate Gilbert Girón. Girón’s decapitation at the hands of angry locals has been remembered by history through his Playa namesake. After lunch in a local restaurant, drive east to Trinidad. One of the best-preserved colonial towns in Cuba, Trinidad has eschewed many modern enterprises in favor of old-world charm. We enjoy a walking tour of the preserved Spanish colonial settlement — now a UNESCO World Heritage Site — where the grand tastes of the past are very much sentient in the Italian frescoes, finely wrought chandeliers, and bone china still gracing the plantation-era mansions.
Depart early to drive up into the crenellated, Caribbean pine-coated Sierra Escambray mountains (sometimes known as the Guamuhaya Mountains). Within the long stretch of mountains lies the Gran Parque Natural Topes de Collantes. Though Topes is not considered a national park in the strictest of senses, it is highly protected by the Cuban government as are the four smaller parks that make up the umbrella park, Topes. Weather, your group's ability, and current conditions determine which hiking trail you will enjoy along with a local park guide. One option is the Salto del Caburní trail, a 5km round-trip hike that leads to a 62m waterfall that crashes down overhanging cliffs into swimming holes below. The rushing water tumbles into a clefted chasm where only the most intrepid adrenaline junkies dare to jump. If the water levels are low, you may choose to go on the Vegas Grandes hike that leads through the fern and pine forests before finishing at a waterfall and pool as well.
Another option is to hike the Sendaro La Batata, or Sweet Potato, Trail. This 6km hike takes you through the forest to a prehistoric cave and its underwater river. This trail explores forests rich with lichens and mosses and lucid pools disrupted only by crashing waterfalls.
Return to Trinidad by mid to late afternoon. There you will have a People-to-People meeting with Julio Munoz, an acclaimed photographer whose published work of Trinidad has brought a town evocative of the past into the public eye, or perhaps another local artist to learn about the importance of the arts in Cuban culture.
Day 6: Cienfuegos
1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Today depart Trinidad for Cienfuegos, a UNESCO world heritage site and the "Pearl of the South." Begin the day with a scenic drive along the coast, with views of the Caribbean sea and the verdant Sierra Escambray mountains. Upon arrival in the Bay of Cienfuegos, you may choose to join a kayak paddle to visit the Fortress of Our Lady of the Angels of Jagua, which was once used as a defense against pirates who sailed these waters. After returning to the bay, enjoy lunch at a seaside restaurant serving excellent fresh seafood.
After lunch, wander through the Cienfuegos Botanical Gardens with a local specialist, who will guide you through the delightful and extensive collection of over 1400 species of trees and plants collected from around the world.
Afterward, continue to explore Cienfuegos with an informative walking tour along the legendary seaside promenade of the Malecon, and the beautiful mansion-lined Prado. Visit the Teatro Tomas Terry and other majestic buildings that showcase the distinctive late-19th century architectural style, built with strong French and Spanish influence. To end your day of exploring, you may also enjoy a special performance by the internationally renowned Cienfuegos Choir.
Day 7: Havana
1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Depart Cienfuegos for the 3-hour drive to Havana. Once there, set off on a walking tour of Havana Vieja, sometimes known as Colonial or Old Habana. Stop for lunch in one of the city's fine paladars. Rejuvenated, stroll down Obispo Street and visit historic sites of revolution and colonialism such as the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, the Museo de la Cuidad, the Plaza de Armas, the Plaza de la Catedral, and the Catedral de San Cristóbal de La Habana. As you walk, learn more of Havana's turbulent past of plundering privates and affluent colonials as well as the Cubans of today, many who have come to the busy city with hopes for the future.
After an afternoon on your feet, enjoy a classic car ride to see more of the city, including the neighborhoods of Vedado and Miramar. Finally, relax with a fine dinner at one of Havana's best paladars. If you want to explore the city's music scene, there are plenty of options after dinner. One is the very hip Fabrica des Artes, where the best of Cuba's avant-garde art can be experienced. There's also a couple of jazz clubs and many other options.
Day 8: Depart Havana
Enjoy a final early Cuban breakfast before departing for the airport and your journey home.
Our guide and driver were very good with their knowledge and were very helpful with our questions. It was a very pleasant visit that would have been impossible to do on our own. Hotels and restaurants were fantastic. The special places we got to go to, like the kitchens, were great. Enjoyed the entire trip!
TrustScore 4.5 | 102 reviews
TrustScore 4.5 of 5
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