Intrepid | Hola Cuba - People to People for US citizens

For the first time in decades, Cuba’s doors are open to American travellers. Be one of the first to experience this faded Caribbean gem – a cobblestoned communist isle where the rum is plentiful, the smiles infectious and the dancing encouraged. On our new 9-day Hola Cuba adventure, wind your way from sultry Havana’s crumbling churches, through the valleys and farms of Pinar del Rio and on to the Afro-inspired beats of Trinidad. Along the way we’ve assembled a cast of Cuban characters to give you a proper welcome: tobacco farmers, expert chefs, local artists, historians and salsa dancers that understand where Cuba came from, where the country sits now and, more importantly, where it’s going.

  • Highlights

    • Life in Cuba's countryside evokes a bygone time. Stroll along rural dirt roads and watch as tractors, vintage cars and horse-drawn carriages roll by
    • Old-world charm, rich history, exciting nightlife - evocative Havana is like nowhere else on Earth. See the difference between city and coastal life on a guided walking tour of the old capital
    • There's a lot more to the life of Che Guevara than what you'll learn from watching 'The Motorcycle Diaries'. Pay your respects to the famous revolutionary during an included visit to his mausoleum
    • Try your hand at traditional dance moves with an informal salsa lesson
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  • Itinerary

    Day - 1

    Location: Havana - Bienvenidos! Welcome to Cuba! An arrival transfer from the airport to your guesthouse is included in your tour. Complimentary transfers are only applicable if on day 1. Please advise flight arrival details at least 14 days prior to departure if you wish to have this transfer provided. Today we arrive in Havana and settle into our guesthouse accommodations. Take some time to soak in the decaying beauty of Havana and the surreal feeling that you have entered a bygone era. You are visiting Cuba at a historic time, as the gates finally creak open to a country so long forbidden. At 6pm we meet the local tour leader and head out for your first group meal. Your leader is sure to become an old friend by the end of our adventure. Dinner tonight will be at a local paladar, a privately owned restaurant and a great example of Cuba’s incremental shift to a more free-market economy. We might have the opportunity to meet the owners of the Paladar: Ivan Justo or Enrique Nunez del Valle. Paladar means “palate” and is named after a chain of restaurants in a Brazilian soap opera popular in Cuba. We will attend the famous cannon ceremony a 9 p.m cannon blast that dates back to the 17th century.

     

    Day - 2

    Location: Havana - The best place to start any Havana experience is in the Old City. Havana's Old City is one of the best preserved and was designated a World Heritage Site in 1982. The streets are lined with colonial architecture, 16th century fortresses and countless churches. Join our local guide for a walking tour of Old Havana. We will visit La Catedral San Cristobal de la Habana, the Palacio de los Marqueses de Aguas Claras and the Plaza de Armas. We will also visit the Museo de la Revolucion, to learn about the history of the Cuban Revolution and see the infamous Hall of Cretins. After lunch you'll see the passion project of Jose Fuster, an artist who has turned an entire neighborhood into a lively and colorful series of mosaics. Known as 'Fusterlandia', the inspiring and whimsical scenery is a perfect spot for pictures, and you may have the chance to say 'hola' to the artist as he works! Free time for dinner to explore one of many delicious paladars, private businesses owned by Cuban families.

     

    Day - 3

    Location: Vinales (via Las Terrazas) - Today head east to a local community in Las Terrazas. The village was built as part of a government reforestation project and has since received a UNESCO biosphere listing. Meet up with local community leaders who will share with us some insight into Las Terrazas and how society works. We will also visit the ecological research centre and take a local guided walk around the Las Terrazas complex. Afterwards we continue on to Viñales - situated in one of the most picturesque parts of Cuba, among the limestone pincushion hills (“mogotes”) of the Pinar del Rio province. It is a small and culturally rich village, with friendly and welcoming residents. We will reach Vinales in time to tour an organic farm and learn about sustainable farming in Cuba. Here we meet local farmer Wilfredo Garcia Correa and his family who will show us around the farm and explain to us the methods used to cultivate crops without the use of pesticides. With the beautiful sunset as our backdrop, we will enjoy a deliciously fresh and diverse meal prepared by the family, a truly authentic farm-to-fork experience!

     

    Day - 4

    Location: Vinales - Today we spend the morning learning more about Cuban agriculture with a visit a local tobacco farm where we learn about the tradition of Cuban cigars from Hiroshi Robaina, a farmer and expert cigar maker. Get an insight as to how the communist system works, how much tobacco they keep, how much produce they give back to the government, how do they make ends meat!! You will learn about the process of tobacco planting to rolling the final cigar. We will share in the secret recipe from one family passed down through 3 generations of how they cure their leaves for cigars, drink some freshly roasted coffee from the farm while we watch an expert roll us some cigars. Viñales is one of the more agriculturally productive areas of Cuba, so an abundance of local seasonal fruit and vegetables are always on offer such as enormous avocados and mangoes, pineapples, papaya, guava, and several varieties of sweet potatoes. In the afternoon we learn to cook Cuban-style with a cooking demonstration from a local chef. Afterwards we can sit back, relax and enjoy the well prepared meal while overlooking the rolling mountains of Vinales.

     

    Day - 5

    Location: Cienfuegos (via Playa Giron/Playa Larga) - Today we head to Cienfuegos. On the way we visit the Korimakao Cultural Project in Ciénega de Zapata, an area famous for its wetlands. Korimakao is a project founded in 1992 to bring theatre, music, and dancing to remote areas of Cuba. Here we will meet a director of the project, who will talk to us about the importance of this project and the number of students that benefit from such a project in this area. After lunch, we drive along the picturesque Bay of Pigs past the site where the landing of U.S. sponsored counter-revolutionary exile militia occurred in 1961. Today there is a museum here that recounts the events of this conflict which resulted in the first defeat of a U.S backed take-over in Latin America. There are some beautiful places to stop for a swim along the way including a sink hole which resembles a huge natural tropical fish tank, so make sure to pack your swim wear and snorkeling gear if you have any (or you can rent it!). We carry on to Cienfuegos the “Pearl of the South”, a city founded by the French, which lends it a distinctly European flavor, with a wide Parisian-style boulevard and elegant colonnades. Like Havana, Cienfuegos has a beautiful Malecón, where you can pass a peaceful evening watching fisherman cast nets and locals socialize. On arrival to Cienfuegos we settle into our guesthouses before taking a walk around the city to learn its history. In the evening we join together for another delicious home cooked meal with a local family.

     

    Day - 6

    Location: Trinidad - The beautiful colonial city of Trinidad is home to numerous churches and many beautiful colonial buildings. We are near the lovely Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of Sugar mills) and Playa Ancón, with long stretches of unspoiled, white sand beaches. We begin with a guided cultural tour of the UNESCO World Heritage town of Trinidad. We will visit the Afro Cuban temple of Yemaya, where we will be invited to sit and learn about the religion and it’s deities from the official caretaker - a priest called Israel Ernesto Bravo Vega. Later we may have a opportunity to visit various museums such as: Museo Lucha contra Bandidos, Architecture Museum, Museo Romantico. After lunch we will learn about the dancing scene in Cuba. We’ll start by meeting the Afro Cuban Folkloric dance group that perform Afro Cuban shows at the club Palenque. We’ll learn about the cultural and social importance that dancing has to Cuba. Enjoy a Cuban salsa dance class with a local teacher. Nightlife in Trinidad is probably the most accessible and intense in all of Cuba, with numerous live music venues and many dance performances every day of the week, all amongst the enchanting setting of old colonial buildings and the cobblestone streets.

     

    Day - 7

    Location: Trinidad - Today we will learn about the history of the area, the local industry and biodiversity. Visit the national park called "El Cubano" in the mountains of Escambay. This area is known for the struggle Cuban Militia against revolutionary forces in the early 1960s. We will hike to a small waterfall with our local expert guide. Depending on the group the hike can take up to 45 minutes each way. We will have a chance to experience the region's biodiversity utilising the guide's knowledge of the local birds and plants. If time permits on the way we will stop in a very simple campesino’s home to experience life in the rural areas of Cuba. Afterwards we return to Trinidad and we visit the pottery workshop of the Santander family. This prestigious family in the Cuban cultural landscape has been making pottery for generations as well as assisting in the restoration of sculptures that once existed in this UNESCO world heritage site. You will have a chance to purchase your own pottery to remind you of your time in Cuba. Tonight, weather permitting we may have a beach dinner picnic at Playa Ancon.

     

    Day - 8

    Location: Havana - On the way back to Havana we first pass by Manaca Iznaga 16km East of Trinidad in the Valle de los Ingenios. A 44m tower was built to look over the slaves as they worked. It has a sugar cane press that the slaves used to operate. The village around the mansion is inhabited by direct descendants of the slaves. Continuing onward, we stop in the town of Santa Clara, a key city in the Cuban Revolution. Upon entering Santa Clara, we will see the iconic statue of Ernesto Ché Guevara, built to commemorate his death and that of the revolutionaries. You will have time to explore the museum which honours Ché's life. We will have our lunch at a small family farm near Santa Clara and head back to Havana where we will have some time to freshen up before our farewell dinner, and of course, one final fun-filled night of music and dancing!

     

    Day - 9

    Location: Havana - Say good-bye to our guide as we head back to the U.S. There are no activities planned for day 9 and you are able to depart the guesthouse at any time. Check out time is at 10am. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the house.

     

    Hola Cuba - People to People for US citizens
*Terms and Conditions
Offer subject to availability at time of booking. Prices are per person share twin based on best available tour price, inclusive of all discounts unless otherwise stated. Prices are subject to currency fluctuations and are based on cash or cheque. Tour deposit, amendment and cancellation conditions may apply. Travel agent service fees may apply. Special conditions apply - please ask for full details at time of enquiry.
HLO Ref# 5297