For five decades, legal travel to Cuba has been almost impossible for Americans, making this island of salsa, Colonial architecture and Caribbean beauty a forbidden fruit for the adventurous. But this enigmatic island and its inviting people are beginning to open — slowly — to a select few.

International Expeditions has once again been granted a special government license to offer legal people-to-people travel to Cuba. As one of the lucky few to experience Cuba, you delve into the daily lives of naturalists, entrepreneurs and artists while seeing this nation through the eyes of its people.

 

Brush aside the Cuba that you “know” from history books and current events, and there is an unfiltered view of this vibrant island found only through the eyes of its people. While traversing the countryside and sipping coffee in small cafés, IE guests encounter working-class locals eager to share, learn and ensure lives and options are transformed.
 

Don’t miss your opportunity to connect with Cuba!

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NEW for 2014: Enjoy two distinct Cuba travel programs!

Complete Cuba: An itinerary exploring countryside, coasts & vibrant Havana

Classic Art & Culture of Havana: A new itinerary celebrating Havana & Trinidad

Day 1

Arrive Miami

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)


Day 2

Miami / Camaguey or Cienfugos / Sancti Spiritus

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. If time permits in Cienfugos, enjoy a performance by the Cienfugos choir. Those traveling to Camaguey will head to the Camaguey Ballet Company, meeting the dancers and talking to them about upcoming productions. Later, a walking tour introduces you to colonial architecture of these cities while you enjoy spirited interactions with vendors who line the atmospheric squares. Continue to Cienfuegos or Sancti Spiritus and spend tonight at the Hotel La Union or similar. (D)


Day 3

Sancti Spiritus / Valle De Los Ingenios / Trinidad

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 the architectural jewel of 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. 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)
 

Day 4

Topes de Collantes / Trinidad

Enjoy a spectacular morning drive into the Sierra de Escambray, boarding Russian trucks for this off-road journey to Topes de Collantes National Park. Join a local naturalist for a short nature walk, finding endemic birdlife, including the Cuban trogon and Cuban tody, as we share stories about our favorite sightings. Enjoy a picnic lunch of traditional roast pig before stopping in at a local coffee house. Relax over a cup of coffee, where you are free to chat with your guide and other Cubans. Visit a modern art museum, seeing pieces by important artists. This evening, dinner is in a paladar, a privately owned, family run restaurant. Learn about the challenges and opportunities facing this new generation of Cuban entrepreneurs. Sit down with local Jorge Ortega and his family to discuss daily life and enjoy a few laughs as well. (B,L,D)

 

Day 5

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 observe the world’s smallest bird, the bee hummingbird. On the Bay of Pigs, discuss the importance of the wetlands with a local environmentalist. Spend time getting to know the locals who gather in the evening. Spend tonight at Hotel Playa Larga or similar. (B,L,D)

 

Day 6

Bay of Pigs / Soroa & Vinales

Set out toward the western part of Cuba, traveling to Pinar del Rio Province. An exclusive stop for IE travelers, begin our day at the Korimakao Project, if the staff is not traveling we will have the opportunity to sit in on their practices. 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. Depart for Havana with a stop at locally owned paladar, IL Divino with a chance to visit the gardens where your lunch is grown. After lunch we stop to pay homage to Ernest Hemingway by 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. Continue onto our hotel for check-in and dinner. Spend two nights at Villa Soroa or similar. (B,L,D)


Day 7

Soroa & Vinales

Wind our way through the Sierra de los Organos Mountains to Vinales. 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. En route to Havana we stop at a tobacco farm to learn about the processes and history of Cuban cigars, you will have the chance to experience one of these and enjoy a cup of true Cuban coffe. (B,L,D)

Day 8

Soroa & Vinales / Havana

Survey an orchid garden with staff from the University of Pinar del Rio. Meet local naturalists, business owners and farmers in the planned “green” community of Las Terrazas. 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. Tonight, we have organized an excursion to the famed Buena Vista Social Club. Spend two nights at the Melia Cohiba or similar. (B,L,D)


Day 9

Havana

Havana is the center of all things Cuban, and as we stroll these streets it is like being on a movie set. Classic American cars from the 1940s and 1950s cruise wide boulevards while paint peels from glorious Spanish colonial buildings. Old men in straw hats puff on huge Cuban cigars and while music fills the air. Begin our day in Old Havana with a city tour. Visit and enjoy lunch at community social project Arte Corte.  Interact with the locals as we explore an art market along the harbor’s edge. Our last dinner in Cuba is at a local restaurant. (B,L,D)

Day 10

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)

 

 

Day 1

Miami

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)


Day 2

Miami / Havana

Board our charter flight to Havana. Stop at a sustainable farm which supplies on of Cuba’s best private restaurants – Il Divino – where we enjoy lunch. Explore the neighborhood where artist Jose Fuster launched a community beautification project. The neighborhood has become a living canvas and our conversations with residents focus on the transformative power of art. Discuss Havana’s past and future with our local guide while stopping at iconic sites such as Revolution Square. Enjoy dinner in Old Havana and stroll to the famed Floridita bar, a favorite haunt of Hemingway.  Spend four nights at the Hotel Melia Habana. (L,D)

Day 3

Havana

Begin our day in Old Havana with a visit to Casa de las Tejas Verdes. Here, a local preservation architect and historian discusses the Old Havana Restoration Project, a 30-year project dedicated to restoring the area’s neoclassical and art deco buildings. Spend the remainder of our morning walking through the squares of Old Havana, calling on local artists at work in their studios. Visit Hotel Ambos Mundos, the hotel that served as Hemingway’s refuge while writing such works as For Whom the Bell Tolls. Spend our afternoon at the Museum of the Revolution. The museum is a living history lesson. Housed in the former presidential palace, the building was site of a failed assassination attempt on Batista in 1957 and the entire museum is dedicated to chronicling Cuban history from the colonial period through the Revolution. Enjoy dinner at Paladar Dona Eutimia, chatting with the entrepreneurs operating this small, private restaurant. Paladar owners are truly Cuba’s new breed of entrepreneurs, and during visits to several of these private restaurants over the next week, you meet the families to discuss the impact of private business on Cuba’s economy. An optional cabaret show at the Tropicana can be arranged. (B,L,D)
 

Day 4

Havana: Vinales Valley Day Trip

Spend today in the province of Pinar Del Rio and the world famous Vinales Valley. Vinales boasts Cuba’s most strikingly beautiful landscapes and is where the island’s best tobacco is grown. Sample the homegrown vegetables grown at an organic farm while meeting the family who is responsible for the land. Enjoy a boating excursion into one of the huge limestone caves running through a mogote — limestone karst outcroppings. Cap-off our day by meeting locals in the small community of Vinales returning to Havana. (B,L,D)

 

Day 5

Havana

Join architectural specialists to discuss the vast array of monuments at Cementerio de Colon. Designed by Spanish architect Calixto de Loira in the mid-1800s, it is laid out in grids around a central chapel. Lunch is in the garden of the historic Hotel Nacional overlooking the sea. In the afternoon we learn about the daily lives of ordinary Cubans as we set off through Plaza Cristo, chatting with those who are out and about. Continuing on foot we explore the wide Paseo del Prado, a wide avenue separating Old Havana from the central city. Paved in marble, this promenade is a popular place for locals to relax while children play. This afternoon, museum curators lead a special tour of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. While here we concentrate on the modern art collection, which includes works by such Cuban artists as Wifredo Lam, Rene Portocarrero and Victor Manuel Garcia. This evening, say farewell to Havana with dinner at the elegant Café Del Oriente. Tonight, an optional excursion to hear the famed Buena Vista Social Club can be arranged (at your own expense) (B,L,D)

Day 6

Havana / Matanzas / Varadero

Pay homage to Hemingway at his former home Finca Vigia, preserved as it was on the day of his death, and discuss his life with Cuban experts and researchers. After lunch in Cojimar, head to Matanzas. Discuss Afro-Cuban culture while touring the Museum of the Route of the Slave located in the restored fortress of Castillito de San Severino, originally built to guard the bay. Spend two nights at Hotel Melia Varadero. (B,L,D)

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Day 7

Matanzas

While the Varadero Peninsula is known for its beautiful beaches, our time here will focus on the area’s people! Matanzas was Cuba’s major colonial-era port, exporting coffee, tobacco and sugar, and it also served as a slave trading port. The bay is the deepest in Cuba and during one battle in 1628 more than twenty Spanish galleons were sunk here by a Dutch admiral. Discuss the history of traditional dance with the young musicians and dancers at Las Munequitos de Matanzas. Learn about social welfare projects spearheaded by the Cuban Art Instructors School and Matanzas Seminary. Stop at Ediciones Vigia, a publishing house specializing in the creation of handmade books, where the staff eagerly discusses their process for fashioning limited-edition books. (B,L,D)
 

Day 8

Varadero / Trinidad

Explore the vibrant streets of Trinidad, meeting artists, musicians and traditional potters. At Casa Santander meet local artists and learn abotu traditional pottery techniques. This pottery studio has been run by the same family for decades, and the Santanders share their family history while inviting us to take a tun at the wheel. Spend tonight at the boutique La Ronda. (B,L,D)


Day 9

Trinidad / Cienfuegos / Miami

Today we take a scenic drive a short distance along the coast to the city of Cienfuegos, a beautiful city situated on a bay and the only city in Cuba that was founded by French. We check in at the airport and fly non-stop this afternoon back to Miami. B)

 

 

International Expeditions is licensed (CT-2013-299822-1) by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control to conduct authorized people-to-people travel to Cuba that connects you directly with the Cuban people — and is 100% legal. Through meaningful daily interactions, we learn from ordinary Cubans as they learn about our lives. IE’s journey offers free-ranging discussions and local interactions touching on all aspects of Cuban life and culture, so that you return home with a genuine understanding of this fascinating destination.

  • Be immersed in the daily lives of Cuban people including musicians, artists, naturalists & local birders while discovering Cuba’s top three natural history locales.
  • Explore cultural “must sees” including the Bay of Pigs & atmospheric plazas of Trinidad & Havana.
  • Discuss Hemingway’s life & work with a local expert while strolling the grounds of his home, Finca Vigia.
  • Meet Cuba’s new entrepreneurs at a family-run paladar, café & organic farm.
  • Interact directly with Cuban people, learning about each other as you dance, play music, sample local fare, browse markets & stop by a local library.