Cuba Discovery Tour
Cuba Discovery Tour tour map
Day 1 • Arrive Cuba / Welcome dinner / Cannon firing
Depart to Havana via your own arranged flights.
You should plan to arrive in Havana by mid-afternoon. It will take you some time to clear Cuban Immigration, get your bag and go through Customs. You will be met in the arrival hall, after clearing Customs, by our Cuban representative holding a ‘Cuba Explorer’ sign to take you to your hotel. They will have your name and will be monitoring your flight arrival in case there is a delay. Your first tour activity will be the welcome dinner and your guide will finalize details with you on arrival at your hotel.
- On arrival at Havana’s José Martí International Airport proceed through Immigration. There is a combined Immigration, Customs and Healthcare form which needs to be filled out on-line and your airline will send you a link to it. Your carry-on will once again be scanned.
- Collect your bags and go through Customs.
You will met be at the airport, after Customs, by your guide with a "Cuba Explorer" sign, or if you are being transported by a pre-booked taxi your driver will be there with your name on a sign.
Tour participants’ arrival times may vary throughout the day. Individualized Airport transfers will be arranged.
Quote from Lonely Planet: “No one could have invented Havana. It’s too audacious, too contradictory and – despite 60 years of withering neglect – too damned beautiful. How it does it is anyone’s guess. Maybe it’s the swashbuckling history still almost perceptible in atmospheric colonial streets; the survivalist spirit of a populace scarred by two independence wars, a revolution, and a US trade embargo; or the indefatigable salsa energy that ricochets off walls and emanates most emphatically from the people. Don’t come here with a long list of questions. Just arrive with an open mind and prepare for a long, slow seduction.”
Transfer to your hotel with free time to settle in and get oriented to your hotel.
Hotel Palacio De Los Corredores is located on Plaza de San Francisco one of the historic plazas of Old Havana, a prime location to wander and discover.
Cuban cuisine is largely based on Spanish cuisine. Some Cuban recipes share spices and techniques with African and Taino cooking. Dishes may have a Caribbean influence in spice and flavor. The result is a blend of different cultural influences for a unique and tasty dining experience.
- Dinner at Ivan Chefs Justo, a private restaurant with wonderful décor and ambiance. Chef Ivan studied in Montreal and was once Fidel Castro’s chef. The restaurant is a series of levels and feels like an eclectic collection of trinkets, photos, Knick knacks and your grandmother’s house. Highly recommended on TripAdvisor, it has hosted the likes of Mick Jagger and Chef Guy Fieri. (Included)
- Attend El Canonazo with Cubans, a Havana tradition which first started hundreds of years ago. At 9 o’clock, a cannon was fired from the colonial Fortress of San Carlos de Cabana to indicate the gates of the Old City were about to close. A large chain was then raised from the water and put across the entrance to the Harbor to keep pirates from sailing in. You will go to the fort for the ceremony where the tradition continues, other than the chain which is no longer used. (Included)
- Your hotel is right on San Fransisco Plaza in La Habana Vieja (Old Havana). In a short and easy walk is Plaza Vieja (Old Square). It will be active with live music and refreshments from several fun places. Enjoy.
Day 2 • Vintage American car tour / Old Havana walking tour / Craft market / Galeria Raul Corrales / Floridita / Evening free to explorer
- Breakfast at your hotel. (Included)
- Road trip in a 1950’s Vintage American car, a fascinating experience of nostalgia. You will cruise the Malecon (a broad esplanade, roadway, and seawall), El Bosque (the forest), Revolution Square, and stop for photos. (Included)
- Lunch at Mojito Mojito, a private restaurant with great Cuban food that is just off Plaza Vieja in Old Havana. You will enjoy a wonderful meal, live music, and friendly staff. (Included)
Walking tour of Old Havana.
Hola, La Habana Vieja [Hello, Old Havana], “In terms of beauty, only Venice and Paris surpassed Havana,” penned Ernest Hemingway. He was alluding to Havana’s incredible architecture, art, and, of course, the joie de vivre by the city’s engaging people. Old Havana’s four colonial plazas are full of color and personality, with a mix of palatial buildings, monuments, museums, galleries, churches, lively entertainment, restaurants, and bars. Together, the four plazas of Old Havana contain the most extensive collection of Spanish colonial-era architecture in Latin America. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, restoration and care of Old Havana’s wonders lies with the Office of the Historian of Havana.
Plaza de San Francisco [San Francisco Square] is one of the oldest plazas in the historical quarter. It was christened after the magnificent Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco de Asís with its construction beginning in 1608. The basilica is a striking example of Cuban baroque architecture.
Cathedral Square is the most beautiful 18th-century colonial plaza in Latin America. Its centerpiece is the baroque masterpiece Catedral de San Cristóbal de La Habana erected in 1748 by the Jesuit order and showcases towers of unequal height. Christopher Columbus’ remains laid in the cathedral between 1796 and 1898 before they were taken to Seville Cathedral, Spain. The Cathedral of Havana celebrates mass on Sundays at 10:30 am and Thursdays at 6:00 pm.
Plaza de Armas [Square of Arms] was a military parade ground for Spanish soldiers and is surrounded by such impressive buildings as Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, the former seat of the colonial government. Dating from 1776 it now houses the Museum of the City.
Plaza Vieja [Old Square] was the only civic square of colonial times. In contrast to the churches and government buildings of the other plazas, only opulent aristocratic 17th-century mansions surround the ‘Old Square.’ Today, with its small cafes, it is a buzz for nightlife.
As you stroll the historic cobblestone streets of Old Havana you will experience the sensations Ernest Hemingway felt amongst centuries old architecture.
- Time to shop for souvenirs at Cultural Center Old San Jose Warehouses (Centro Cultural Antiguos Almacenes de Depósito San José), a large craft market offering some of the most recognizable objects of Havana: garish-colored paintings by local artists, guayaberas (short-sleeve, open-neck Cuban shirts), sculptures, leather, jewelry, and various trinkets & gadgets bearing the image of Che Guevara. The souvenirs are high quality, which is why you will see as many locals as tourists among the shoppers. The metal-framed structure itself, an old, fully renovated maritime warehouse, very retro and Art Deco, is worth the visit alone. (Included)
- Visit the Galería Raúl Corrales. This boutique gallery displays the photography works of Raul Corrales, Fidel Castro's official photographer from 1959 to 1961. He was one of the best of a small group that became known as Cuba's "epic revolutionary photographers". His photos of Castro, Ché Guevara, the guerrillas, and peasants before, during and after the Cuban revolution established him. Among his early subjects was Ernest Hemingway, who lived in Cuba for almost twenty years. Your visit will be hosted by Raul Corrales’ granddaughter, Claudia Corrales. She is an accomplished photographer in her own right and serves as a resource person for National Geographic Photographic Expeditions in Cuba. Gallery Limited Edition prints of Raul Corrales’ works are available to purchase and come with the Gallery Stamp of Authenticity and a Certificate of Authenticity. Also, on exhibit are works by contemporary Cuban photographers. (Included)
Around the corner from Galería Raúl Corrales is the Floridita, the most famous bar in Cuba. It's the cradle of the Daquiri and homage to Nobel Prize winner, Ernest Hemingway. In 1932 the American novelist fished swordfish off the north coast of Cuba. The same year, he settled at the Ambos Mundos hotel in Old Havana. There he began the final version of his work, "For Whom the Bells Toll", just a few hundred yards from the Floridita. One morning, Hemingway was walking on Obispo Street, where both the Floridita and the Ambos Mundos are located. Hemingway came into the bar to go to the toilet. When he came out, the drinks that everyone was having attracted him. He tasted one and said: "That's good but I prefer mine without sugar and double rum". Since then, Hemingway came each morning to the Floridita at about ten o'clock to settle at the bar on his corner stool, have his daquiri and his driver brought the morning newspapers.
The Floridita was an experience Hemingway shared with his friends the Duke of Windsor, Gene Tunney, French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, Gary Cooper, Spanish bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguin, Ava Gardner, Tennessee Williams, Katharine Hepburn, Errol Flynn, and Spencer Tracy. Even when Ernest Hemingway lived in the Finca Vigía and no longer in the Hotel Ambos Mundos, he drove from his house to the bar just to drink his beloved daiquiri. According to legend, after 2, 3, 4 daiquiris he came up with the idea for his book "For Whom the Bell Tolls". Enjoy live music, have a daiquiri, and take your picture with the life-sized bronze statue of Ernest Hemingway sitting at the writer's original ‘regular place’. (Optional)
- Return to hotel. Independent Time.
- Refreshments on the rooftop of Ambos Mundos Hotel during independent time, a brief walk from your hotel and close to Plaza de Armas in Old Havana. There is live music and a great view. Ernest Hemingway stayed in room 511 of the hotel in the 1930s, before moving to Finca Vigia. It was in Ambos Mundos that he finished his book “Death in the Afternoon” (1932) and started his novels “New Green Hills of Africa” (1935) and “To Have and Have Not” (1937). The room where the Nobel Prize winner stayed is now a small museum treasuring several of his belongings. (Optional)
- Dinner. This is a perfect evening to explore Cuba’s famed paladars or visit one of the many cafes within easy walking distance of your hotel.
- Optional: Evening of Jazz at La Zorra y El Cuervo (the Fox & Raven). One of the best jazz clubs in Havana, it is one & a half blocks from Hotel Nacional. The Club is small and intimate. The entrance to get to the underground nightclub is through a British telephone booth. They open at 10pm, the show is at 11pm, and it closes at 2am.
- Evening free to explore Old Havana.
Day 3 • Vintage car workshop / Valley of magnificent mogotes & The National Park / Meal at Balcony of the Valley / Goat farm & cheese making
- Breakfast at your hotel. (Included)
- Hotel check-out.
- Morning departure to the western agricultural province of Pinar del Río.
- In route to Vinales you are going to have an ‘under the hood’ experience at the workshop of a family-owned and operated business dedicated to the restoration of American classic cars from the 1950’s. During the visit you will see the shop, meet the mechanics, and pose behind the wheel with the likes of Lola (a pink 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air), Nadine (a blue 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air), or Benny (a black 1959 Chevrolet Impala convertible). You will meet Julio, the owner, and enjoy his stories that are not just about Chevys from the ‘50s. (Included)
- During your coach you will have a discussion with your Cuban guide about the distribution of food to restaurants, the slaughter of the cattle and the food ration book for Cuban citizens.
- Brief stop at Las Barrigonas, a clean, staff friendly rest stop with fresh squeezed fruit juices, one of the best Pina Coladas around, a snack grill and gift shop.
- Drive through the picturesque Viñales National Park, many consider the most beautiful nature spot on the island, in the heart of Cuba’s prime tobacco growing region. The small town of Vinales, population 29,000, sits in the center of a flat valley surrounded by stunning formations known locally as mogotes.
- Lunch at private restaurant Balcón del Valle (Balcony of the Valley) and you will see why when you get there, one of the most spectacular views of the entire trip. You will have the opportunity to visit the kitchen, chat with the cooks preparing the food over a charcoal fire; it is rustic and wonderful. The Seabass is tasty. (Included)
- Check-in to your casa and enjoy the ambience.
Visit main street Vinales.
Across the street from Hotel Central is a government ‘convenience’ store which takes the MLC card in US dollars, and next door is a private store, which has more offerings, and takes Cuban pesos.
- Visit to the family farm which supplies organic vegetables and produces the goat cheese used by El Olivo paladar. There is a lake stocked with fish, including tilapia. You will see the baby goats and the goats for milking. After viewing the cheese making process you will head to the veranda for wine and hand-crafted cheese to enjoy while watching the sunset on the mogotes. (Included)
Dinner at El Olivo, a celebrated farm-to-table restaurant on main street Vinales. The paladar gets most of its ingredients from their nearby organic farm run by the same family. The goat cheese is hand crafted, and the well-nurtured garden supplies the fresh vegetables. (Included)
Evening to enjoy the small-town nightlife.
Day 4 • Explore the Viñales Valley on horseback or horse drawn cart / Tobacco farming / Fresh grown organic vegetables & herbs / Up close with mogotes
- Breakfast at your Vinales casa. (Included)
- Morning horseback ride in the valley of the National Park surrounded by mogotes formed during the Jurassic period. Just your family with your experienced horse guide go through the pine forest and to the tobacco area where oxen pull the plow. The experience delivers a real memory maker. (Included)
Lunch at Finca Agro-ecológica El Paraíso. overlooking the Valley. You will enjoy a family style bounty and have an opportunity sample everything. The special ‘Anti-Stress’ drink is a blended from fresh grown organic herbs and is a must. Most of the food comes from the Finca. (Included)
Walk the grounds and learn about the land and family that claimed part of a rocky mountain side to grow vegetables and herbs organically. You will have the opportunity to see a cashew tree and enjoy the outstanding view of the Valley.
- Return to your casa to freshen & relax.
- Coach tour the Vinales Valley and see the mogotes, up close. They are irregularly shaped steep-sided hills that can rise as high as 985 feet and have bases as much as a mile in length. The mogotes were once underwater and during the Jurassic Age, about 200 million years ago, they were the first formations to emerge from the Atlantic Ocean during the creation of Cuba. Many consider this the most beautiful nature spot on the island. (Included)
- Dinner at Cubar, on the main street. With a smart dark-wood interior advertising the joys of Cuban rum and a menu that touts Cuban food colored with Italian and Spanish inflections you will have a wonderful meal. The paladar emits a classy aura with fresh flowers on the bar, romantic candles on the tables and extra virgin olive oil with which to dress your avocado salad. (Included)
Day 5 • Viñales craft market / Havana return / Hemingway’s home / Internationally famous Tropicana - optional
- Breakfast at your Vinales casa. (Included)
- Drop by the open-air craft market as you depart Vinales.
A stop at Las Barrigonas to stretch your legs, and shop for souvenirs, organic honey, or Cuban rum.
For Lunch, the rest stop has snacks and a grill for sandwiches. (Not Included)
- Visit Finca Vigía, home and farm of Ernest Hemingway, southeast of Havana in the small town of San Francisco de Paula. He lived longer in his Cuba residence more than any of his other homes, almost twenty years. It was there he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature and wrote portions of A Moveable Feast, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Islands in the Stream and much of The Old Man and the Sea. You will meet the docents and curators who affectionately look after original furniture, artwork, personal memorabilia, & other objects collected by the author. Of special importance is the author’s library containing thousands of irreplaceable letters & telegrams, photographs, scrapbooks, manuscripts, & galley proofs. His boat Pilar made famous from Papa’s Marlin fishing and hunting German submarines off the northern coast of the island is on the grounds. This ghost-white Spanish-colonial home was where Papa penned some of his greatest novels. (Included)
Return to Havana and check into your hotel. The Grand Aston La Habana, a new 5 Star overlooking the Bay of Havana, is in the heart of the Malecon. (Included)Afternoon free to enjoy the infinity swimming pool overlooking the Malecon and the Straits of Florida or visit the Spa or Gym.
- Dinner will be at the unsigned Café Laurent, a sophisticated fine-dining restaurant encased, incongruously, in a glaringly ugly 1950s apartment block. Starched white tablecloths, polished glasses and lacy drapes furnish the bright modernist interior where you will enjoy excellent Cuban-Spanish-Mediterranean fusion, with the specialty being dishes of the sea. Take the creaky elevator up five floors for a penthouse view from the boutique paladar and a culinary surprise. (Included)
OPTIONAL EXCURSION: The Tropicana is a Cuban international icon. The cabaret dates to 1939 and served as the center of Cuba's jet-set nightlife during the 1940s and 1950s. It’s a glimpse of pre-revolution Cuba, where Carmen Miranda, Josephine Baker, Nat King Cole, and others dazzled wealthy guests with Latin dance numbers performed by women with 10-pound headdresses. It is located on a tropical six-acre garden estate in the Miramar neighborhood, the most glamorous section of Havana during the 1950s. The Tropicana helped spread Cuban culture globally and the performers created the showgirl-era. The lavish costumes and vibrant dance styles quickly spread from Cuba to Las Vegas, New York, and Paris.
A full orchestra, loud colors, sultry rhythms, a few contortionists & acrobats provide a stunning production of more than 200 singers and dancers that will entertain you under the stars. There is a dress code of ‘casual elegance’ at the Tropicana. Women should not wear shorts, and men are asked to wear long pants and not jeans, a collared shirt, and closed shoes. Plan for a late evening. (This is an optional excursion and details on booking will be sent to you when you register.)
Day 6 • Hemingway by the sea / Organic gardening / Private cooking lesson / Christ of Havana / Last night in Habana
- Breakfast at your hotel. (Included)
Travel to Cojimar, a small fishing village east of Havana. It was Ernest Hemingway’s favorite fishing port in Cuba and the basis for Old Man and the Sea. This is the harbor where Hemingway’s boat Pilar was moored and where Papa and Gregorio would depart to marlin fish or hunt German Submarines. On water’s edge see Hemingway’s bust made from metal, donated by the local fishermen, and get photos in front of the 17th century Spanish Lookout Fort.
Much of the inspiration for The Old Man and the Sea came from Hemingway's time in Cojimar. La Terraza is a fisherman’s bar on the Bay of Cojimar where Hemingway docked his boat, Pilar. The bar is where he spent many an afternoon drinking with the fishermen, one being Gregorio Fuentes, the Captain of Pilar. Many believe him to be the model for the character Santiago—the old man of the sea. Some say the young boy in the story, Manolo, was based on the young son of the owner of La Terraza, Manolito.
- Visit the small organic garden of brothers Jesus and Julio where they show you how herbs, vegetables and fruits are raised for the private restaurant where you will be cooking later. See up close mangos, bananas, plantains, squash, avocado, coffee and maybe even the Cuban Emerald Hummingbird, one of the smallest birds in the world. Observe how an organic garden in a residential neighborhood produces private income and supplies a local business. If you have items to donate, this would be a good place. (Included)
- TOUR HIGHLIGHT: In this picturesque fishing village, loved by Hemingway, only a few blocks from the bay you will participate in cooking & mojito making lessons at the paladar El Ajiaco followed by lunch, which you helped prepare. This is a unique experience working with the chef preparing multiple dishes of lobster, ropa vieja and el ajiaco soup before going to the bar to make a special Cuban mojito. It is a humble paladar visited by food networks from around the world and several notable celebrities such as Kevin Bacon and Sigourney Weaver. (Included)
- In route back to Havana visit Christ of Havana (Cristo de La Habana), a large sculpture representing Jesus of Nazareth, on a hilltop with a stunning panoramic view overlooking the bay in Havana. The hamlet Casablanca was established in 1762 by shipbuilders and carpenters who serviced Spanish galleons and merchant vessels dispatching the spoils of South American conquest to the royal court of Spain. The statue was promised to President Fulgencia Batista by his wife after the US-backed leader survived an attempt on his life in 1957, and was, ironically, unveiled on Christmas Day 1958, one week before the dictator fled the country due to the Revolution. The sculptor created the statue in Italy and shipped the marble pieces to Havana. It is carved from 67 blocks of White Carrara Marble blessed by Pope Pius XII. (Included)
- Return to your hotel.
Dinner. With all the great food you have experienced, this is your chance to visit a privately owned restaurant you may have heard about. Your guide can be of assistance.
Dinner suggestion by past Global Relations travelers: A one block walk from the Grand Aston is Casa Mia where the owners turned the house they were born in into a restaurant with a gorgeous view of the sea. Seafood is featured (octopus carpaccio!!), with the chef also offering steak, pork, and pasta.
- Enjoy the evening at Fabrica de Arte Cubano, Cuban Art Factory (FAC), a former cooking oil plant, built in 1910, in the Vedado area is one of Havana’s finest nightclubs and art galleries, combined. It is a unique night spot energized into the early morning, attracting young Cubans and foreign nationals. There is live theater, jazz, contemporary dance, concerts, DJ's, exhibitions, and intranet chatting going on all the time. They offer wine and tapas. Note: F.A.C. is open Thursday – Sunday, 7:00 PM – 2:00 AM. (Optional)
- Your last night in Cuba. Disfruta de la noche!
Day 7 • Havana / Departure
- Breakfast at your hotel. (Included)
- Transfer to José Martí International Airport in Havana for flight home. (Included)
- Airlines recommend you be at your departure airport 3 hours before takeoff. Please prepare accordingly. Your guide or driver will meet you in the lobby of your hotel.
- After you clear Cuban Immigration, you will be screened and your carry on will be scanned. In the departure hall there is a duty-free shop, places to buy snacks and drinks, as well as souvenirs.
- When arriving to your U.S. entry airport you will need to clear U.S. Immigration and U.S. Customs. If asked by an Immigration Officer about your trip to Cuba, note that you were on a sanctioned Support of the Cuban People tour. If asked what you did, tell the truth, and explain it was an opportunity to directly engage and support the Cuban people, learn about their life and country. To be clear: You were not on a vacation.
- Memories of a wonderful visit to the Pearl of the Antilles: Cuba! (Included)
Reserve your tour now. Take 48 hours to shop and compare.
Included in Cuba tour package cost
- Your Cuban Visitor Visa is included.
- A Certificate of Legal Cuba Travel, per participant, in accordance with the US Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) section 31 C.F.R. § 515.572(a)(1) will be provided.
- You will receive briefing e mails before departure to assist you in preparing for the trip.
- Airport-accommodation transfers on tour start and end days.
- Airport departure tax from Cuba and the Cuban mandatory Emergency Insurance coverage during your island stay is included in the cost of airfare with U.S. carriers.
- All breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, as per your itinerary.
- All activities and services, as per your itinerary.
- Air-conditioned transportation and a professional Cuban driver.
- Cold bottled water on transport.
- An English-speaking Cuban guide.
- Gratuity for your Cuban tour guide, driver, restaurant staff, and site guides for group activities is included.
- Emergency call access to the United States.
- If the lodging noted in the itinerary is not available equal, or better, will be booked.
Tasty meals included each tour day
- Airfare is not included; you select and book your flights.
- Gratuity for your chamber maids and porters is not included.
- Optional travel interruption and cancellation insurance is not included.