The trip Americans pick to witness authentic Cuba
eight days and seven nights in the Pearl of the Caribbean
Single room supplement $350
Full itinerary and tour activities descriptions
Join us on the most affordable and encompassing way to witness authentic Cuba for first-time visitors. You’ll relish eight days of action packed learning, fun and friendship in Cuba.
Our Introduction to Cuba Tour has made it possible for thousands of US travelers to get an up-close and highly personalized slice of Cuba life and culture. Past tour participants describe Cuba as the most fun, safe and welcoming nation in the New World.
While savoring the amazing people-to-people activities on this program, you’ll visit the provinces La Habana, Artemisa and Pinar de Río. You’ll learn about island history, and its social and ecological achievements directly from Cubans. You’ll come to think of them as lost friends – forbidden to us since 1959.
You’ll establish enduring personal and professional relationships with your North American tourmates who, like you, are explorers, adventurers and sojourners seeking new encounters and insights.
Want to delve deeper into Cuba’s acclaimed healthcare and education system, architecture, arts, music and culture? We help with post-tour extended stay arrangements.
We invite you to call us with any questions at 1-855-687-2822 toll free or email us.
Day 1 – Saturday :: Say hello to Cuba!
In the Havana airport arrivals lobby you receive a warm welcome from your Cuban guide and bus driver. This is a good time to exchange some money into Cuban Convertible Pesos.
Hop aboard our modern air-conditioned tour coach, and on the way to your hotel relish views of one of the oldest and most stunning cities in the New World. During our many excursions around the capital, and beyond, your guide provides historical commentary on all points of interest.
Upon arrival at your hotel located in the heart of Havana’s cultural district, you receive fast check-in with assistance from your guide. Hotel staff greets you with a welcome drink while your luggage is being delivered to your room.
After having settled in and had a chance to rest and freshen up, enjoy a first taste of island cuisine at a group arrival dinner prepared by your hotel’s restaurant chef. Afterwards your tour leader may have some fun evening activities to suggest, time permitting.
Day 2 – Sunday :: Getting to know Old Havana and its people
Greet the day with tasty breakfast served at your hotel.
Lay of the land. Morning visit to the Maqueta de La Habana Vieja [Scale Model of Old Havana] to learn about this nearly 500 year old community and its plans for the future. It’s a 1:500 scale model of Old Havana complete with an authentic soundtrack replicating a day in the life of the city. It’s incredibly detailed and provides an excellent way of acquainting yourself with the city’s original core.
Ernest Hemingway described Havana as the "Paris of the Americas." He was alluding to its incredible architecture, arts, and of course the city’s engaging outgoing people. We’ll have a chance to share this impression on a walking tour of four historic plazas that make Havana unique in the western hemisphere. These plazas contain the largest collection of Spanish colonial-era architecture in the world, and as such, have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You’ll witness Cathedral Square, the most beautiful 18th century colonial plaza on the island. Named after the masterpiece of Cuban baroque architecture the Catedral de San Cristóbal de la Habana it was built by the Jesuit order.
Next we’ll visit Plaza de Armas [Square of Arms], an ancient military parade ground for Spanish soldiers, surrounded by such impressive buildings as Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, former seat of colonial government. Today the building houses the Museum of the City. Palacio del Segundo Cabo [Palace of the Second Lieutenant] dates from 1770. Today it is home to the Centro para la Interpretación de las Relaciones Culturales Cuba - Europa [Center for the Interpretation of Cultural Relations Cuba-Europe].
We will continue onto San Francisco Square, one of the oldest plazas in the historical quarter. The square is christened after the magnificent Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco de Asís dating from the 16th century. The basilica is a striking example of Cuba baroque architecture.
And, finally we’ll visit Plaza Vieja, the only civic square of colonial times. In contrast to the churches and government buildings of the previous squares, opulent aristocratic 17th century mansions surround Plaza Vieja.
Group welcome lunch at Restaurante Habana 61.
Followed by a visit to the Casa del Niño y la Niña [House for the Boy and Girl], a Central Havana neighborhood-sponsored learning facility for young Cubans seeking to expand their academic options following the regular school day. We’ll meet with headmistress, María del Carmen Espinosa, for a presentation on her outreach work for kids in the community of Cayo Hueso. We’ll also meet with teachers and students.
Return to your hotel and freshen up.
Fabulous group welcome dinner at Café del Oriente. This elegant upscale eatery is considered tops in the city and gets consistent high marks on TripAdvisor. The menu is one of the more extravagant in Havana, offering exotic entrees available nowhere else.
ESPECIAL! Behold a most dramatic ceremony – El Cañonazo – the Firing of the 9PM Cannon at the Fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña where Ché Guevara established his headquarters after the Revolution came to power in 1959 – four hundred years after the fortress was built. El Cañonazo is an enchanting colonial reenactment dating back to 1519 when the city of Havana was enclosed by a tall thick rock wall to ward off attacks from pirates and the English. The cannon firing signaled the closing of the city gates for the night. If you were outside at the time, you were in "vedado" or the forbidden zone. Today Vedado is an important cultural hub and elegant modern Havana neighborhood.
Day 3 – Monday :: Urban agriculture and Hemingway house
Greet the morning with a hardy breakfast at your hotel.
In preparation for this morning’s activity, check out this riveting British Broadcasting Corporation feature from Around the World in 80 Gardens on urban organic farms in Havana including a walk-through of Vivero Organopónico Alamar by fab host Monty Don.
We’ll visit the UBPC Vivero Organopónico Alamar, 15 km (9.3 miles) east of Havana. It’s one of the most successful urban organic farms in Cuba raising ornamental plants, medicinal herbs, and sprouting millions of seedlings for neighboring private and collective farms. Established in the early 1990s by a dozen people, the Alamar cooperative now has over 400 members who together supply a vast range of healthy, organic vegetables to nearby communities.
Produce is raised employing the ancient practice of permaculture. No chemical fertilizers or pesticides are allowed. Instead, only natural biological methods are employed to nourish the soil, frustrate pests and conserve water. The result is increased rate of yield and reduced costs.
We have a special lunch arrange for you at Ajiaco paladar [private restaurant]. It’s considered one of the best private eateries in Havana and ranks tops on TripAdvisor’s restaurant list. Hands down it’s a Cuban dining highlight. It’s located off the beaten path in the sleepy romantic coastal fishing village of Cojímar (the setting for Ernest Hemingway’s "The Old Man and the Sea"). Ajiaco is noted for fantastic service, atmosphere and scrumptilicious authentic Cuba cuisine. Organic produce and other ingredients are supplied by Vivero Organopónico Alamar and other nearby private gardens to give every dish an delightfully fresh aromatic flavor you’ll always remember.
Now we’re off to visit Finca Vigía [Lookout Farm] where North America’s literary bard Ernest Hemingway spent twenty-one of his most important and productive years adding to the building blocks of English literature. Claimed by both the United States and Cuba as their native son, it was Hemingway himself who declared the island his true home. His house has been preserved just as it was when Hemingway lived in it. You’ll see his weird eclectic personal objects, thousands of books, manuscripts and photographs, as well as some animal trophies he bagged on his safaris to even more exotic places than Cuba.
Return to your hotel and freshen up. The balance of the afternoon is free for you to explore the city and meet new Cuban friends.
Dinner tonight is not included in tour cost. Your guide can suggest special private eateries for you to explore or you can refer to our Best Restaurants guide we provide as part of your tour orientation package. Remember the next super special activity is included in costs and should not be missed.
Cubans are waiting because you’re a special guest at a welcome fiesta they’ve laid out. A stellar cast of Cuban dance and music royalty eager to provide one-on-one dance and music lessons will embrace you. Tonight you’ll become Cuban in every way. It’s the 9:00 PM Noche de fiesta cubana – a welcome party organized by dance and music artists eager make friends with you at Club Salseando Chévere in mystical Parque Metropolitano in the Playa neighborhood. This renowned venue gets top marks for joviality and salsa in the city. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people, dance, imbibe and shake your booty. Shy? Don’t worry this activity is so fun you’ll be smiling and having a blast even from the sidelines.
Day 4 – Tuesday :: Community center, and African heritage
Welcome the morning with a fresh breakfast in your hotel.
The we’re off to visit Convento de Nuestra Señora de Belén [Convent of Our Lady of Belén], a humanitarian healthcare and community service project in Old Havana. Construction of the massive Convent was begun in 1712. It was expanded and remodeled several times over the centuries. Finally abandoned in 1925, it fell into grave disrepair. In 1991 restoration began and continues today with amazing results. The Office of the Historian (our Cuban sponsor), public health authorities and the Order of the Sisters of Charity jointly manage Belén Convent. It is home to fifty elderly people, and provides physiotherapy and ophthalmological services to many more seniors in the community. It hosts a day care and primary school. Other activities include exercise classes, board games, cognitive rehabilitation, films, crafts workshops, and "love among the elderly" workshops. We’ll meet with project Director Nelson Águila, a Catholic priest, and tour the facility. For most, one of the most heart warming stints of the tour.
Afterwards we'll meet with the professors and students of La Escuela Taller Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos [Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos Workshop School]. This unique institution was established in 1992 in an effort to train local youth in the arts, crafts and theoretical knowledge necessary to rehabilitate and preserve their rich architectural heritage. The school teaches archeological and restoration skills to rebuild and sustain Old Havana's physical heritage and cultural patrimony. The Cuban Capital harbors the largest collection of colonial-era Spanish architecture in the world.
With the double invocation of one of the most emblematic drinks of Cuba, this space wants to stay in the gastronomic memory of its clients. Specializing in paellas and seafood dishes, Mojito-Mojito invites you to spend a pleasant time marked by the wide and varied cocktails, but above all, by the distinctive taste of its essence.
Then we will take the ferry to Regla town. A tiny ferry dock takes its name from Calle Luz, a nearby street. Somewhat battered passenger ferries shuttle across the bay to and from Regla and Casablanca, every 10-15 minutes or so. Once you cross the Bay of Havana, you will visit the Municipal Museum of Regla, which holds the history of one of the Cuban communities that has more deeply endeavor to preserve its traditions. The room dedicated to the native's religious syncretism shows the worship of Yemaya, patroness of the bay of Havana and the ocean goddess. Her feast is celebrated every September 7th with a procession through all the streets of the town.
Return to your hotel and freshen up.
Located in the heart of Havana city, we dine at one of the Havana's newest private restaurants Cuba 54.
Optional evening entertainment. There are two venues in Havana called Casa de la Música, one in Centro Habana and the other in Miramar. They’re both considered the best and most popular nightclubs and live-music venues. All the big names perform from Bamboleo to Los Van Van. Both venues are open every night and different bands perform each evening. Cover fees vary depending on what band is playing – usually between 5 and 15 CUC. There is no dress code, but you’ll fit right in if dressed sharp.
Dance the night away at a Casa de la Música. The Centro Habana version is older and better known. It is also a little edgier than its Miramar counterpart. We suggest the Centro Habana version for the more experienced traveler who speaks some Spanish.
Casa de la Música de Miramar is located in a beautiful old performance hall next to a park in one of the best residential areas in Havana. The Miramar club presents a live matinee from 6:00 to 9:00pm and nighttime show from 10:00pm to 1:00am. Drinks and sandwiches are for sale and security is excellent. This club almost never disappoints.
Day 5 – Wednesday :: History, Arts, and Cuban Society Today
Breakfast is served in hotel this morning.
We’ll participate in an open group discussion led by a longtime member of the the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba [Unión Nacional de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba, UNEAC]. The theme is “Cuban Society Today.” The workshop is a freewheeling opportunity to exchange ideas about Cuban culture and US-Cuban relations. Our American guests consider this close encounter a tour highlight.
Arts and dining tour highlight. We’ll feast on a delicious lunch hosted by José Fúster, one of Cuba’s most important ceramists and painters, at his whimsical studio in Jaimanitas, just outside of Havana. Fúster is known as the Picasso of the Caribbean and his art is acclaimed internationally. His artistic mission has been the rehabilitation and decoration of the village of Jaimanitas where he lives. Fúster has decorated over 80 houses with ornate murals and domes to suit the personality of his neighbors. Nowadays, Fúster’s art is a cherished part of Cuban culture and joins the rank of other public artworks such as that of Gaudi in Barcelona or that of Brancusi in the Romanian city of Targu Jiu. He supports his community project through the sale of his paintings and ceramics.
Followed by a private guided tour of the Palacio de Bellas Artes [Palace of Fine Arts] dedicated exclusively to housing Cuban art spanning three centuries. Sections are devoted to landscape, religious subjects and narrative scenes of Cuban life. A gallery devoted to the 1970s displays the latest generation of Cuban artists whose works reflect the strong symbolic imagery prevalent in recent decades. Together the exhibits account for the richness of the island’s Spanish, French, Chinese, African and Aboriginal cultural roots. Notable works include those of René Portocarrero and Wilfredo Lam.
Return to your hotel to freshen up.
Dinner is held at Antiguo Almacén de la Madera y el Tabaco. It’s a huge open-air affair with several barbecue grills, and a brewery on site! Everyone loves the food and especially the beer made on premises. There are three flavors: light amber lager, medium ale, and dark stout ale with a slightly smoking taste. The beer is served in giant 6-liter carafes. You dispense at much as you like right at your table. The facility is a former abandoned warehouse and factory that sits on pilings in the middle of Havana harbor. The renovation work is world class and this joint would be super popular if located in any major city. We’ll take a tour of the brewery led by the brewmaster. The place holds 500 people, all thirsty. The brewery is necessarily very large.
Optional evening entertainment. Attend a special dinner and dance show. Eat at the outdoor barbecue Restaurante La Barraca on the paradise-like grounds of the Hotel Nacional de Cuba atop a bluff overlooking the city and the Caribbean. Afterwards enjoy a musical review at the Cabaret Parisién and relish this colorful dance extravaganza. Dinner is 12 CUC, floorshow is 35 CUC. Not included in tour cost.
Day 6 – Thursday :: Amazing Las Terrazas, the natural splendor of rural Cuba
Following breakfast at the hotel, we depart for Las Terrazas eco-community in the Sierra del Rosario mountain range spanning the provinces of Artemisa and Pinar del Río. Once mired in poverty and completely deforested as a result of centuries of charcoal production for coffee processing and cooking, Las Terrazas today is a vibrant self-sustaining eco-community.
We’ll tour the rural village called Rancho Curujey and enjoy a welcome cocktail while learning about this self-sustaining community’s successes in reforestation, historical preservation, environmental balance, and a good life. And later we’ll walk the incredible ruins of a French Coffee Plantation built in 1801 worked by African slaves.
We have lunch at an open-air restaurant specializing in traditional country cuisine – La Casa del Campesino – ever popular with tour participants. You’ll have free time to swim in the fresh waters of the Río San Juan and explore the surroundings of this lush tropical paradise. Don’t forget your swimming suit.
Return to your Havana hotel to rest and freshen up.
Dinner tonight is not included in tour cost
Optional evening entertainment. Shake your booty to the best Afrojazz, Cubajazz and Sonjazz at Club La Zorra y El Cuervo [The Fox and the Raven] featuring astonishing performances by island bands. It’s a popular haunt for Cubans and foreign guests. Not included in tour cost.
Day 7 – Friday :: Cuban music and arts day
Breakfast is served in your hotel.
We’ll visit the Colibri recording company [Hummingbird productions] and Abdala music studio where the great musicians of Cuba (and many from Latin America) record their songs. Colibri is the production arm of the Cuban Institute of Music, which hosts the Havana Jazz Festival. Colibri produces new music including son, bolero, country music, Latin jazz, danzon, la trova, ritual songs, rumba, choirs, vocals, instrumental and other rhythms. Colibri is charged with rescuing and preserving recordings of past Cuban performers and composers. Abdala was built in 1998 and has grown into a world-class studio. The project has hands-on support from renowned troubadour Silvio Rodríguez. We’ll meet and talk with the staff, engineers and recording artists. We’ll learn the intricacies of sound recording, tour the facilities, and as a special gift receive a digital CD and a welcome cocktail.
Lunch at one of Havana’s most popular restaurants: El Aljibe. Always filled with clued-in locals and foreign diners having the time of their lives. Barbecued chicken served in bitter orange and lemon sauce is the house dish. Your pollo is served with black beans, rice, tostones and ensalada – a resplendent all you can eat delight.
Now we visit the astonishing Museo de la Revolucion y Memorial Granma (Museum of the Revolution and Granma Memorial). It is the former presidential palace and was once home to US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. The marble staircase and the magnificent upstairs ceiling mural tell one story while galleries, with displays of items from colonial times to the present, tell another; the contrast is effective. Photographs of tortured revolutionaries, maps tracing the progress of the war, the bloodstained uniforms of rebels who fell in the 1953 Santiago de Cuba Moncada Barracks attack, and photos of Fidel and Ché complete a comprehensive tour of the Revolution's history. In the garden is the Granma Memorial – the Yacht Granma in which Fidel Castro and 81 other rebel combatants returned to Cuba from exile in Mexico in 1956 to launch the Revolution. Bought from an American, the 38-ft craft designed to carry 25 passengers nearly foundered during the weeklong crossing. It eventually ran aground at Oriente Province in eastern Cuba two days behind schedule. Castro's forces were ambushed and only 16 survived. Also in the garden are various vehicles used in the liberation movement, including a Russian tank used in the Bay of Pigs Invasion and a turbine from a U-2 spy plane downed during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Return to your hotel to freshen up.
Group farewell dinner at private restaurant Los Naranjos. An elegant home that is certainly worth the visit. 18th century furnishings coupled with colonial architecture grants to this estate a unique and fresh atmosphere. The food and service at Los Naranjos is mind blowing too.
Optional evening entertainment. Enjoy the pulsating tunes, good eats, drinks and music at the Jazz Café. This popular modern jazz supper club with chrome trimmed tables and fairly bright lighting is located on the Malecón seawall in the Galerías de Paseo shopping center. At night the venue swings into action with live jazz, timba and, occasionally, straight-up salsa. It attracts plenty of big-name acts. Not included in tour cost.
Day 8 – Saturday :: Say goodbye to Cuba – for now
Breakfast at your hotel. Then it’s time pack up and check out, and transfer to Havana’s José Martí International airport for your flight home.
Want to stay longer in Cuba following your tour? Contact us and we will help make it happen at a price you can afford.
Keep in touch with your new Cuban friends – exchange email addresses! Bring some business cards to pass out. Take pictures and keep a journal. Upon your return, we’ll post them on this website for all to see and enjoy.
We’ll miss you and hope you will return soon! In Cuba we say: A true friend remembers the song in your heart when you have forgotten the lyrics.
Costs, dates, book now
Tour cost based on double room occupancy (sharing a double room during tour). Cost of a single room for duration of tour is $350.
Included in tour cost
- Small group size, rarely more than twelve guests
- Certificate of Legal Cuba Travel in compliance with US Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control regulations (OFAC)
- Havana airport and hotel transfers on tour start and end days
- Quality Cuban hotels
- An expert English speaking guide and tour leader throughout the program
- Modern air-conditioned bus and professional chauffeur
- Bottled water on bus
- All activities, entrance fees, services, speakers and meetings in tour itinerary
- Flexible monthly tour payment options
- Emergency telephone and internet access to America from Cuba
- Cash advances for participants facing money problems while in Cuba
- Participants become Club Cubano alumni and receive future tour discounts
- Ongoing support from our US and Cuban staff before, during and after travel
Not included in cost
- Domestic or international flights. Please see our suggestions for commercial flights to Cuba
- Mandatory Cuban medical insurance (generally included in the cost of US flights to Cuba)
- Mandatory Cuban Visitor Visa. Purchase your Cuban Visitor Visa here
- Gratuities for tour guide, bus driver, chambermaids, restaurant staff, porters. See Cuba tipping guidelines
- We strongly recommend trip interruption and cancellation insurance. We partner with Allianz Global Assistance for Cuba travel peace of mind