Cuba: A Bridge Between Cultures

Travel Style: Array Mixed
Physical Level: Walking or physical activity half to most of day - no carrying equipment. Easy
Lodging Level: Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value (3*)
12 days
From: $ 4,195 $ 350 / day
Checking price

Overview

Highlights (Bullets)

  • Explore the cultural and historical sites of Cuba
  • Discover local Cuban culture and family life
  • Explore Havana and Cienfuegos
  • Discover Cuban customs

Short Description

Uncover the mystique of Cuba with Grand Circle Foundation on a journey that reveals Cuba’s complex history, natural beauty, and cultural riches in the most authentic way possible—through its people. Interact and engage with a variety of artists and writers, fishermen and farmers, and Cubans from all walks of life as you stroll the colonial streets of Old Havana, experience Afro-Cuban rumba rhythms of Cienfuegos, and discover the colonial gem of Trinidad. Toss aside any preconceived notions you may have of Cuba—and prepare to be enthralled by the welcoming spirit of the Cuban people and the unforgettable experiences that await you.

Style Small group tour
Off the beaten track trips will stretch your comfort zone. They don't always feature tourist highlights, but dive deeper into local life and culture.
Itinerary Focus Off the Beaten Path
Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Lodging Level Value (3*)
Flight & Transport Inclusions Roundtrip air to/from trip start & all internal transport
Start City Havana
End City Trinidad

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Miami

Accommodations: Sheraton Miami Airport Hotel

After arriving in Miami today and transferring to your hotel, meet with members of your group for a Welcome Briefing and what to expect for your charter flight to Havana tomorrow (Please note: No meals are included while you are in Miami).

Day 2: Havana

Meals: Lunch and Dinner

Accommodations: Hotel Nacional de Cuba

This morning we fly to Cuba. After we exit Cuban Immigration and Customs at the airport, we’ll be met by our Cuban Trip Leader, who will accompany us to lunch at Il Divino, one of the best of Cuba’s new wave of privately owned restaurants called paladares. Before our meal, we’ll stop at the nearby sustainable family farm and botanical garden which supplies fresh produce to Il Divino. After lunch, we’ll make a brief stop at Havana’s historic Plaza de la Revolución, before continuing on to Havana's historic La Cabaña, an 18th-century fortress complex near the entrance to the Bay of Havana. Then we'll continue to our hotel, where we'll meet our Grand Circle Foundation Representative. Our hotel is located along one of most picturesque boulevards in Habana Vieja (Old Havana), and an orientation walk around the immediate vicinity will reveal the historic restorations that have revived much of the district’s former splendor—and we begin to gain an understanding of why Havana’s historic heart has earned recognition by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. We'll have dinner together this evening at a paladar called La Moraleja in Havana's Vedado district, where we'll have the opportunity to learn about the difficulties and successes these young entrepreneurs have faced with their private restaurant.

Day 3: Havana

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodations: Hotel Nacional de Cuba

Our first full day in Havana begins with a discussion on urban development in Havana, led by Pedro Vazquez, an architect, urban planner, and an associate and advisor to CIERIC, a Cuban NGO focused on habitat, art-related, community-based and socio-cultural issues. Then, we visit a residential neighborhood and stop at a non-governmental agency like Iglesia San Agustin or Iglesia Merced, where we visit one of the senior centers sponsored by Cuban churches. Sharing photos and stories with senior Habanero residents will give us an intimate glimpse of Cuban family life in this fast-changing island nation. Then we visit a handcrafts market and talk with local artisans before returning to Habana Vieja for lunch. Afterwards, we embark on a neighborhood walking tour, where we'll stop and chat with the Cuban people as we walk through the streets and squares of Old Havana. Later this evening, we'll head to a Havana barrio to visit Muraleando, a community arts project of colorful murals and various forms of street art, where we'll meet with some local artists and view their works. Several of the talented artists will then join us for dinner, which they host in their community.

Day 4: Havana

Meals: Breakfast and Dinner

Accommodations: Hotel Nacional de Cuba

Our morning starts off with an enlightening discussion on U.S./Cuban relations led by a pair of Havana residents, who will give us the “Cuban perspective” on this sensitive topic—and perhaps share their views on the possibilities of the 60-year stand-off between the two countries coming to an end. Then we see what life is like for everyday Habaneros when we hop aboard local transportation—bici-taxis—and head to a local market to meet with vendors and mingle with some shoppers. Next, we have an opportunity to interact with children at a day-care facility sponsored by a local church. Then, creative expression becomes our focus as we visit the Museo de Bella Artes (Fine Arts Museum), and see how Cuban artists have interpreted society throughout the nation's history.

This afternoon, we enjoy some free time in Habana Vieja. Later, we drive to the outskirts of Havana to visit a public art project in Jaimanitas, a village where Cuban artist and sculptor Jose Fuster has decorated more than 80 neighborhood houses with ornate, Gaudi-inspired murals and domes. After touring what has become known as “Fusterlandia in Jaimanitas,” we have an opportunity to ask the artist questions about his living canvas and discuss contemporary Cuban art during dinner with Jose Fuster (or with his son Alex).

Day 5: Havana • Cienfuegos

Meals: Breakfast and Dinner

Accommodations: Hotel La Union

Today we drive west from Havana to the southern coastal city of Cienfuegos. Home to one of the most captivating natural bays in the Caribbean Sea, Cienfuegos was founded in 1819 by settlers from the former French colonies of Haiti and Louisiana—and has maintained many of its French cultural and architectural influences. Upon arrival, we enjoy an introductory stroll through the lively port town, whose historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This evening, we enjoy a performance of classic Cuban songs by the Cantores de Cienfuegos. Afterwards, we'll get to chat with the talented young singers of this renowned choral group and perhaps share a song of our own with them. Then, we'll have dinner at Villa Lagarto, one of Cuba's privately owned restaurants called paladares. Villa Lagarto is situated at the tip of Punta Gorda with views of the sea.

Day 6: Cienfuegos

Meals: Breakfast and Dinner

Accommodations: Hotel La Union

This morning we meet with a few of the writers, artists, and musicians of the Union of Writers and Artists in Cuba (UNEAC) to discuss the role of the arts in Cuban society and how they can help to preserve Cuban culture. Then we visit some artists' studios in Cienfuegos to view their works and hear about the challenges they face in earning a living through their craft. This afternoon, we participate in a social program with some of the younger residents of Cienfuegos. Dinner tonight is at another paladar in Ciefuegos, La Finca del Mar. Then, after dinner, we return to UNEAC to hear a local son band such as Los Naranjos (who have been playing Cuban classics since 1926) perform for us. Son is the lively Afro-Cuban musical style played over a rumba beat that has enjoyed worldwide popularity—and we may find it difficult not to break out in dancing with some of the local artists and writers who will attend the performance with us.

Day 7: Cienfuegos • Trinidad

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodations: Hotel La Ronda

This morning we leave Cienfuegos for Trinidad. Along the way, we stop for a visit to Cuba’s largest Botanical Park. Dating back to 1899, the gardens feature collections of palms, orchids, bamboo, and myriad other lovely Caribbean flora spread over almost 250 acres. After leaving the Botanical Gardens, we’ll visit the small town across from them, Soledad, and learn about life in a small rural community. Upon our arrival in Trinidad, we meet with some basket makers at a government sponsored workshop. This will be an excellent opportunity to see the contrast with the free enterprise sites and private entrepreneurs we'll visit during our program. Next, we visit a ceramics studio that has been run by the Santander family for a century. We can take a spin at the pottery wheel as we learn about the secrets of working with clay that have been passed down through several generations of the same family. This evening we discover Cuba's relaxed restrictions on private enterprise during dinner at Sol y Son, another of the many small family-run restaurants known as paladares that feature authentic home cooking in an intimate setting.

Day 8: Trinidad

Meals: Breakfast and Dinner

Accommodations: Hotel La Ronda

Today is spent in colonial Trinidad. Frozen in time since the sugar boom collapsed in the middle of the 19th century, the cobblestone streets, elegant plazas, and pastel-colored former manor homes of the wealthy sugar barons have changed little since Trinidad's golden age. We start with a walking tour of Trinidad's historic core—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—where we’ll visit a bodega, a local artist, a family, the church, and an arts and crafts market.  This gives us a revealing glimpse into everyday life in contemporary Trinidad as we meet some of the people who live in this historic Cuban city, and have discussions with them about their lives, hopes, and dreams. This is followed by a visit with someone who practices the Santeria religion. During our discussion, we’ll have an opportunity to learn about Santeria, and discover how this religion is widely practiced in Cuba. We end our day in colonial Trinidad with a visit to Museo Romántico, a restored colonial mansion featuring evocative reminders of the lives of the Trinidad sugar barons. Dinner this evening is at Sol Ananda, a beautifully furnished paladar in a former colonial mansion. After our meal, we can speak with the owners about the difficulties in starting a private business in Cuba.

Day 9: Trinidad

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodations: Hotel La Ronda

After breakfast, we drive out to the surrounding Sierra del Escambray mountain range, an unspoiled wooded landscape of deep valleys punctuated with streams, caves, and exotic flora and fauna. Coffee is also cultivated in the shade of pine and eucalyptus trees of the mountain slopes here, and we visit a small plantation to meet with a coffee farmer and his family to learn what it's like to live and work in this region of great natural beauty. After lunch, we return to Trinidad.

Day 10: Trinidad • Havana

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Accommodations: Hotel Nacional de Cuba

On our way back to Havana this morning, we stop at Cojímar, the fishing village where Hemingway visited in the 1950s to play dominoes, drink rum, and listen to the stories of the Cuban fishermen who soon became his friends. During our lunch with some of the local fishermen at Bodega Las Brisas, a local paladar, perhaps you can ask them about Gregorio Fuentes, the Cojímar fisherman who was the inspiration for The Old Man and the Sea. Fuentes, who was a close friend of Hemingway’s, died in 2002 at the age of 104. After our revealing lunch, we visit Hemingway’s home for 20 years in the Havana suburb of San Francisco de Paula. Respected by Cubans for living in a modest area among the people he fished with, Finca La Vigia (meaning “lookout house”) is where the famous author wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. Later this afternoon, we check into the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, an historic hotel overlooking the harbor with views of the sea wall and El Morro Fortress.

Day 11: Havana

Meals: Breakfast and Dinner

Accommodations: Hotel Nacional de Cuba

After breakfast, a Director of the Ludwig Foundation—a non-profit organization created to promote Cuban culture—will speak with us about the role of dance in contemporary Cuba. Next, we gain further insights into Cuban customs at the ornately historic Colón Cemetery, a sprawling 19th-century burial ground with elaborate memorials to figures from Cuba's past. Then, Malpaso, one of Cuba's first private dance companies, will welcome us into their studio to watch a private rehearsal, followed by a chance to chat with the dance members. After our visit with the Malpaso dance company, we have time at leisure to pursue individual cultural interests during our final afternoon along the colonial streets of Havana. Our last evening in Cuba features dinner at Starbien, a renovated colonial mansion tucked into the residential neighborhood of Vedado. Starbien is another of Cuba's privately-owned restaurants called paladares, and we'll have a chance to talk to the entrepreneurs about the recent changes in Cuba.

Day 12: Return to U.S.

Meals: Breakfast

Today, we bid Cuba a fond adios as we board our flight to Miami.

Availability

Checking price
Price From $ 4,195
Price Per Day: $ 350 per day
  • Deposit Price: $ 350
  • Single Supplement: $ 450

467 Overseas Adventure Travel (O.A.T. Tours) Travel Reviews & Ratings

99%
4.9 out of 5 (100+ reviews)
Excellent 441
Great 13
Average 8
Disappointing 0
Terrible 5
Value
4.9
Guide
4.9
Activities
4.9
Lodging
4.9
Transportation
4.9
Meals
4.9

Cuba: A Bridge Between Cultures

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My favorite OAT adventure

5.0
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Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
I went to this adventure with my sister-in-law and we had the absolute best time! Our guide were all amazing and our trip leader Martin was exceptional! My sister-i-law had a fall the day we were to meet our group and Martin helped us navigate the urgent care, got her stitched up and stayed by our side until she was tucked into our room. What a waRead more about review stating My favorite OAT adventurey to meet your trip leader but also we knew we were set up with a caring and kind man from the start! This was a truly unique adventure with large cities and also the most serene scenery on earth!
I write this in the mist of the recent pandemic and hope that as soon as this all settles down we can take another trip with OAT. It will be hard to match this trip but we will try!
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We visited Panama on this trip with OAT

5.0
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Lodging5.0
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Meals5.0
We visited Panama on this trip with OAT including walking through El Chorrillo neighborhood and listening to the stories of the survivors of the US invasion. We would recommend the movie "The Panama Deception," a documentary of the US invasion. It tells a different story that the US government and media reported at the time. Certainly more informaRead more about review stating Additional movie recommendation for Panama visitorstive that "The Tinker of Panama."
You can find the movie online at https://www.c-span.org/video/?467566-1/the-panama-deception
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India was on my bucket list.

5.0
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Meals5.0
India was on my bucket list. I have travelled with OAT many times and knew if any company could show it to me properly it was them. The trip surpassed any expectation I could have imagined. We stayed in palaces and drove by shanty towns. India is so full of contrasts, all kinds of contrasts. Riots of scents, color, sounds, come at you all at once.Read more about review stating 2018 Heart of India The best food you will ever have, cheap custom made silk clothing, and monuments that float at sunrise. All this and more is waiting for you. DO NOT miss this trip, it will change how you see yourself, others and humanity.
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This trip has been one of the best with OAT so far

5.0
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Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
This trip has been one of the best with OAT so far. The sightseeing, food, and most of the accommodations were very good. Our tour guide, Anuja Skaria, was absolutely outstanding. She went out of her way to take u to many places not included in the itinerary. She was most attentive to detail.
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Interesting travel

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Guide5.0
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Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
We thoroughly enjoyed our trip led by a fantastic leader - Pum from Thailand. He was an excellent mentor for all of the local guides and allowed them to lead in their respective countries and stepped in only if something was not right.
I have several suggestions for those who might be taking this tour. The very best place to shop is the night Read more about review stating Interesting travelmarket in Luang Prabang. That is also the city that we enjoyed the most. We could have even stayed there another day. There were excellent restaurants there - an Italian one and a French one to name a few and the small hotel was delightful.
The Angkor Paradise Hotel in Phnom Penh had the best massages that we had anywhere. They offered a Swedish Massage for 1 hour and we should have had the 90 minute one as the time went so fast. That also was a lovely hotel.
In Vietnam, when you have the Mekong Delta discovery, try to have your trip leader give you time to shop at the place where you get on the boat and also return to that same place. We were able to have 15 minutes to shop there, which was not enough. Much nicer things can be found here than in the large market in Saigon. It is the only place where I was able to buy the embroidered T shirts than are so plentiful in North Vietnam, but found nowhere else in the South. You might have to ask to see them. I had purchased some of them 17 years ago in Hanoi and they are so good that after being washed multiple times, they look as good as new. The coconut
candy factory also has some good bargains.
Although we had previously toured 2 of these countries with OAT, this was a very good overall tour of the 4 countries.
Our return trip through was canceled because the Hong Kong airport was closed due to Covid. OAT allowed us to stay an extra day in Saigon and found us another way home. They went way above what we expected in helping us, keeping us informed, and paying for our extra day at the excellent Orchids Hotel in Saigon. This is why we continue to travel with OAT.
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Safari Serengeti:Tanzania Lodge & Tented Safari

5.0
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Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
I am sure I completed a survey and gave this trip, particularly our Trip Leader Samson Mweta, highest marks.

Details

Flight & Transport Inclusions

Roundtrip air to/from trip start & all internal transport

Group Size

Small Group - 24 max

Maximum Number of People in Group: 20

Never more than 12-20 participants

Accommodations

Hotel Nacional de Cuba

Vedado, Cuba

Situated in Havana’s Vedado district, the Hotel Nacional de Cuba overlooks the harbor, with views of the sea wall and El Morro Fortress. Built in 1930, this twin-towered art deco landmark features three restaurants, three bars, a pool, a garden area, and live cabaret show. Our group will stay on the Executive Level, in air-conditioned rooms that each include a minibar, cable TV, safe (3 CUC daily fee), and private bath with hair dryer.

Hotel La Union

Cienfuegos, Cuba

Originally a 19th-century colonial mansion, the Hotel La Union is located in the heart of Cienfuegos, just steps away from Parque José Martí. Hotel facilities include a restaurant, fitness center, central courtyard bar, swimming pool, and rooftop terrace with views of the city and bay. There are 49 air-conditioned rooms at Hotel La Union, each with satellite TV, safe (for nominal charge), minibar, and private bath with hair dryer.

Hotel La Ronda

Trinidad, Cuba

Situated in Parque Cespedes in the heart of Trinidad, the colonial-style Hotel La Ronda is steps away from the historical attractions of Old Town. Hotel amenities include a restaurant, lobby bar, and terrace bar. There are 17 air-conditioned rooms, each with satellite TV, safe, minibar, telephone, and private bath.

Please note: While our accommodations in Cuba feature clean, comfortable rooms with private baths and standard amenities, please bear in mind that Cuban hotel standards may not reflect their American or European counterparts. On balance, we think the potential leaky faucet or worn carpet is a small tradeoff for the authentic atmosphere and rich experience you’ll receive in return.

Cancellation policy

Cancellation Charges Generally: Unless otherwise stated next to the program’s rate chart, you will receive a refund equal to your Trip Price less the following per-person charges. Charges shown include the $300 administrative fee.

Cancellation Charges for Land Tours:

  • If Prior to departure is 90 days or more, then charge is $300
  • If Prior to departure is 89-60 days, then charge is 10% of selling price or $300—whichever is greater
  • If Prior to departure is 59-30 days, then charge is 65% of selling price
  • If Prior to departure is 29 days–departure, then charge is 100% of selling price

Trip ID#:

CubBetOve

What's excluded

  • International Flights
  • Passport and Visa Charges
  • Personal Expenses

Meals Included

10 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches and 9 Dinners

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