An island expedition focused on people-to-people education, nature and cultural exchanges. The program is geared to nature lovers and people addicted to the arts, history and architecture. The tour has a very diverse itinerary and features comfortable accommodations and tasty Cuban cuisine.
The program includes visits to several UNESCO world heritage sites, tobacco farms, museums, and Ernest Hemingway’s home. You’re surrounded by music and art, and have ample occasions to engage in the realities of island life with everyday Cubans. We hope you’ll join us on this spectacular Cuba visit.
Saturday: Bienvenido a La Habana!
The Best of Authentic Cuba Nature Tour commences with the arrival of our group flight from Tampa, Florida. As tour participants disembark the plane at Havana’s José Martí International our airport concierge greets you and takes you through a rapid immigration line. You’re assisted in locating your luggage, and then pass through an expedited customs lane. In the airport arrivals lobby you receive a warm welcome from your Cuban guide, North American tour leader and bus driver.
Upon arrival at your hotel located in the heart of Havana’s cultural district, you receive fast check-in with assistance from your guide. 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 the hotel’s restaurant chef.
Sunday: Getting to know Old Havana and its Residents
Today you will be fully indoctrinated into some of the most fascinating cultural and historical sights of Old Havana. Some of the numerous highlights include: the opportunity to examine Cuba’s greatest visual masterpieces spanning three centuries at Havana’s museum of modern art – Palacio de Bellas Artes where you may have the chance to meet and chat with museum staff and possibly local artists; a visit to Plaza San Francisco de Asís, one of the oldest plazas in the historical quarter; a roundtable discussion led by University of Havana professor emeritus, sociologist and feminist author of note Dr. Marta Núñez Sarmiento on Cuban Society today; and the day’s finale with a 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.
Monday: The Natural Splendor of Rural Cuba
After breakfast we begin our excursion to the amazing Las Terrazas region which is just one hour to the west of Havana. 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.
Located in the Sierra del Rosario mountain range Las Terrazas spans the provinces of Artemisa and Pinar del Río. 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 quality of life.
After lunch you will return to Havana in time for a barbecue feast at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba’s outdoor La Barraca Grill. Afterwards we’ll attend a musical review at the Cabaret Parisién and relish this colorful dance extravaganza – the highlight being a chance to meet the cast of performers.
Tuesday: Organic Agriculture and Dining; Visit to Hemingway’s House
We’ll visit the UBPC Vivero Organopónico Alamar which is 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.
You will have lunch at Ajiaco paladar, considered one of the best private eateries in the region and located in the romantic coastal fishing village of Cojímar which was the setting for Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”. Next you can savor the opportunity for a visit to Finca Vigía [Lookout Farm] where North America’s literary giant Ernest Hemingway spent twenty-one of his most important and productive years penning the building blocks of English literature.
Wednesday: Nature & Wildlife, Bay of Pigs and Colonial Cities
Early morning departure to the Playa Ancón following breakfast at our Havana hotel. En route we’ll enjoy a traditional Cuban lunch at Pio Cuac restaurant in the province of Mantanzas. All during the day we’ll have opportunities for birding and plant identification.
Later you will visit the Zapata swamp which is a shelter for the rare Cuban crocodile. The entire area is an UNESCO biological Eco reserve of enormous environmental importance to the Caribbean and the planet.
We’ll drive by the notorious Bay of Pigs [Bahía de Cochinos]. Also located in the Península de Zapata, it’s a place filled with history – the location of the first military defeat of the modern United States on April 17, 1961. The CIA-sponsored invasion was squashed within 72 hours.
En route to Trinidad, you will stop in beautiful Cienfuegos founded by French immigrants at the beginning of the 19th century. It is renowned for its wealth of stunning historical buildings.
Thursday: Historic Trinidad de Cuba, Ancient Ceramics, and Marine Biology
After a delicious breakfast buffet at your hotel we’ll explore on foot the historic central plaza of Trinidad de Cuba. Its 16th century edifices are the most pristine and unblemished on the island. The village was established in 1514 on orders of the conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar who traveled to Cuba with Columbus in 1493. It was from Trinidad de Cuba that conquistador Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro (1485–1547) launched his attack on the Aztec Empire, toppling its capital Tenochtitlan, the world’s largest, most opulent and hygienic metropolis of the day.
You will visit Plaza Mayor, Museum of Architecture, Museum of the Romantic Era, the main town parish and other amazing sites, some dating back centuries. We will wander the streets of Trinidad’s historical center and examine the oldest architecture in the Americas with local Cubans. You’ll immediately see why UNESCO declared the city a World Heritage Site in 1988.
Friday: Exploring the Escambray Mountains; Visiting an old Spanish Coffee Plantation
This morning we board Soviet Army trucks to climb the peaks of Topes de Collantes in the Escambray Mountains. The Escambrays comprise the island’s second highest range, reaching to 3,700 feet atop Pico San Juan. The Escambrays are home to small villages and a true delight for birders and naturalists alike.
Upon arrival at Hacienda Codina, an old Spanish coffee plantation, we’ll enjoy a traditional Cuban lunch, Next we’ll take a walking tour of the area to admire the beauty of the surrounding landscape and the animals and plants it hosts. After some exploration by foot, descend the mountain and return to Havana.
Saturday: Say goodbye to Cuba – for now
Breakfast at our hotel is followed by packing and checking-out of your hotel for transfer to Havana’s José Martí International airport. 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.