- Full schedule of engaging people-to-people activities
- Fully escorted by IE leader, Cuban expedition leader & local guides
- Excursion to Korimakao Project
- Visit to Hemingway’s Finca Vigia
- Walking visits in Camaguey or Cienfuegos, colonial Trinidad & Havana
- Birding excursions with local farmers & naturalists
- Nature walks in Topes de Collantes National Park & Zapata Wetlands with local naturalists
- 23 meals
- Hotel in Miami prior to charter flight
- Welcome reception in Miami
- Two drinks – choice of local beer or soft drink – at group lunches & dinners
- Bottled water on transfers & excursions
- Cuban-government mandated medical insurance if departing with group from Miami
- Tips to porters, day guides & waiters for included meals
Tantalizingly close to the U.S. but frozen in a bygone era, Cuba’s cobblestone streets, once-elegant façades and deep-rooted culture have developed with little Western influence. But this enigmatic island and its inviting people are beginning to open — slowly. This is a special moment in history to explore a place that has remained isolated for decades. For those who want to experience Cuba before the inevitable changes that increased tourism and foreign involvement are bound to bring, there is simply no better time than now. Join International Expeditions’ meticulously refined programs to explore the true essence of Cuba as you delve into the daily lives of naturalists, entrepreneurs and artists while seeing this nation through the eyes of its people.
Your Complete View of Cuba
IE’s Complete Cuba program offers a fascinating and unforgettable opportunity to interact with the Cuban people on a deep level — making you a true ambassador and not a “tourist.” Complete Cuba surveys all of Cuba’s cultural “must sees” including Trinidad, Bay of Pigs, Vinales and, of course, Havana. Our itinerary offers a full schedule of engaging and immersive experiences focused on cultural exchange and education. But what really sets IE’s Cuba itinerary apart is our emphasis on engaging with Cuban naturalists, birders, biologists and conservation groups as we all learn about the transformative power that real, honest conversation can have in the lives of ordinary people.
Our Small Groups are a Huge Advantage
The biggest perk of people-to-people travel in Cuba is forming friendships with the people you encounter – from lunch with guides Luis or Janet in Topes de Collantes National Park to strolling the Malecon with Lino, a local trumpet player. IE’s small groups make it possible to enjoy truly unscripted encounters and interactions with Cuba’s people. Plus, with our small groups comes the flexibility to take advantage of spontaneous opportunities to call on a medical clinic or take longer than planned to chat with a family.
Hemingway's former home, Finca Vigia
Cuba People-to-People Activity
Camaguay, Cuba ballet company
Complete Cuba Cigar Rolling
Complete Cuba Itinerary
Our Cuba people-to-people travel program begins in Miami with a briefing and welcome reception before an overnight at the Cambria Suites Miami Airport. (Meals Aloft)
Miami / Camaguey, Santa Clara or Cienfuegos
Early this morning, return to the airport and board our charter flight to Cuba. Depending on your departure day, you will travel to either Camaguey, Santa Clara or Cienfugos. Enjoy a performance by the Cienfuegos choir, or head to the Camaguey Ballet Comapny, meeting the dancers and talking to them about new productions. Overnight at Hotel La Union or similar. (D)
Drive through the spectacular Valle De Los Ingenios - Valley of the Sugar Mills - an UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site where we see the ruined hulls of 19th century sugar estates. During the 19th century there were more than 40 sugar mills with elaborate estate houses but now most are in ruins. Chat with villagers in Manaca Iznaga while enjoying a glass of cold mango juice. Travel to Trinidad, an architectural jewel proclaimed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Red tiled roofs atop pastel stucco structures line the cobbled streets. This port city reflects its 16th century past and founding by Conquistadors. Eighteenth century smugglers and pirates made frequent calls here or even used this port as their base of operations in the Caribbean. The wealth and importance of Trinidad continued into the 19th century, when sugar barons reigned. Experience the community like a local, visiting with shop owners and sampling local fare as we walk through the colonial heart of the city. At Casa Del Alfarero Santander, an artisan workshop, meet local artists and learn about traditional pottery techniques. This pottery studio has been run by the same family for decades, and the Santanders share their family history while we take a turn at the wheel. Stroll through town, with the chance to visit a music club to mingle with the locals and enjoy authentic Cuban music. Spend two nights at Hotel Los Helechos or similar. (B,L,D)
Topes de Collantes / Trinidad
Enjoy a spectacular morning in the Sierra de Escambray mountains at Topes de Collantes National Park, one of the best places to enjoy Cuba's natural beauty. Wet winds coming off the Atlantic make the north face of the mountains a refuge for plants and animals, including Cuban trogon, the national bird of Cuba. After learning the history of Cuban coffee, relax over a cup of coffee while chatting with your local guide Luis or Janet about efforts to protect the region. After lunch visit a modern art museum, seeing pieces by important artists. (B,L,D)
Trinidad / Zapata Wetlands / Bay of Pigs
The Zapata Peninsula encompasses a national park protecting Cuba’s most important wetland area. It is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve closely resembling the Florida Everglades. There are 900 species of flora, 171 species of birds (18 endemics), 31 species of reptiles and many mammal species calling the Zapata Wetlands home. Join Orlando Ramirez, a local farmer, to search for the world’s smallest bird, the bee hummingbird. On the Bay of Pigs, discuss the importance of the wetlands with a local environmentalist. Spend tonight at Hotel Playa Larga or similar. (B,L,D)
Bay of Pigs / Soroa
Begin our day at the Korimakao Project. If the staff is not traveling, we sit in on their practices before a discussion on the transformative power of art. The project houses some of Cuba’s finest musicians and artists, who refine their skills before traveling to remote villages to perform and teach. Present art, music and dance supplies to Yander, the director. Set out toward the western part of Cuba, traveling to Pinar del Rio Province. Pay homage to Ernest Hemingway while discussing his work with Cuban Hemingway specialists at his former home, Finca Vigia, preserved as it was on the day of his death. Travelers can only peer through the open windows of this museum, but the inside is arranged almost as if the home was waiting for him to return with guests. Hemingway’s fishing boat, El Pilar, is still on the grounds.Stop at locally owned paladar, IL Divino, for lunch. Chat about the "new" Cuban economy with the entrepreneurs operating this small, private restaurant. After lunch, explore the adjacent farm, which uses sustainable agriculture to supply the restaurant. Spend two nights at Villa Soroa or similar. (B,L,D)
Soroa & Viñales
Wind our way through the Sierra de los Organos Mountains to Viñales. Enjoy a boating excursion into one of the huge limestone caves running through a mogote — limestone karst outcroppings. Sample the homegrown vegetables grown at an organic farm while meeting the family who is responsible for the land. Stop at a tobacco farm to learn about the processes and history of Cuban cigars. You have the chance to sample a famed cigar and sip a cup of Cuban coffee if you wish. (B,L,D)
Soroa / Las Terrazas / Havana
Survey an orchid garden with staff from the University of Pinar del Rio. Meet local naturalists, business owners and farmers in the planned community of Las Terrazas, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with just 1,000 residents that was founded on a green ethic. The self-contained community is surrounded by foliage thick with indigenous species, including hibiscus, teak and ebony trees that were part of a reforestation project. Stop at Cafe de Maria for a cup of locally grown coffee and chat with the family who runs the business. Drive along the oceanfront Malecon Avenue, seeing Revolution Square. Spend two nights at the Parque Central or similar. (B,L,D)
Stroll cobblestone streets through the atmospheric squares of Old Havana, taking in fading colonial architecture, antique American cars and the pervasive music and festive atmosphere. Along the way, call on the historic haunts of Hemingway as well as chat with locals at outdoor markets. Interact with the locals as we explore an art market. Cap off our time in Havana with an excursion to hear the famed Buena Vista Social Club. (B,L,D)
Havana / Miami
Transfer to the Jose Marti Airport for our charter flight to Miami, where you connect with flights home after 8 p.m. (B)
Things to Know
What is included in the price of IE’s people-to-people Cuba travel package?
What does "People-to-People" Cuba travel mean?
People-to-people travel is an initiative allowing U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba on a limited basis to participate in cultural experiences and have direct contact with the Cuban people to learn more about them and their culture, while they learn about the American way of life. This is a highly rewarding educational experience, where you enjoy direct engagement with the Cuban people you will meet. IE’s people-to-people activities focus on education and cultural exchange as you meet Cuban birders, volunteers, scientists and more.
How active is this trip to Cuba?
A trip to Cuba is an active one that calls for good health. You should be able to walk without assistive devices or the help of others a minimum of two hours at a somewhat brisk pace in order to participate in this expedition. The activities involve a great deal of walking on uneven terrain such as cobblestone streets or slippery trails, and standing, all of which will be in hot weather. You will occasionally have to climb/descend stairs and negotiate places where the footing is uncertain, often times without handrails. If you are in any doubt that you will be able to participate then check with us, and we will be happy to discuss it further.
Located in Vedado, a modern district in Havana, just steps from the famed Malecón, the Meliá Cohíba offers stunning views of the city and sea. Fully air conditioned, the hotel provides comfort and an elegant, modern design with Cuban marble and references to the world of cigars and the famous Cohíba brand.
Hotel La Union
The lovely Hotel La Union is a newly-restored historic hotel that is neatly tucked away from the bustle of Cienfuegos’ city center. Originally built in 1869, the inviting Hotel la Union boasts an inviting pool – tucked into an interior courtyard guarded by a duo of sculpted lions – along with a lovely rooftop terrace. All rooms and suites come with a full range of modern amenities, including air conditioning and spacious baths finished in marble.