Tour introduction and overview of activities

Many Americans know Ernest Hemingway called Havana the “Paris of the Americas,” but few know royalty, celebrities and poets describe Cuba’s Varadero as “la playa más linda del mundo” [the world’s most beautiful beach].

Now Americans can relish the warm blue Caribbean Sea and white sand beaches of enchanting Varadero on this legal people-to-people tour.

You’ll get to know authentic life in magical Havana – night and day – and spend the rest of your holiday in the modern five-star Meliá Marina Varadero resort. It ranks tops on TripAdvisor and Google. It’s all-inclusive. That means all meals free in lavish buffets and gourmet restaurants, including snacks and drinks 24 hours a day. Access to pools, recreational facilities, evening entertainment, shops and much more are there for you to enjoy.

In Havana, reminiscent of the great European capitals, you’ll stay in the recently renovated four-star Spanish run Hotel ROC Presidente. Don’t let pre-renovation reviews deter you. It’s great and safe near the Malécon seawall in city’s cultural hub of Vedado.

Cuba receives three million international guests a year. Most stay on the island’s incredible beaches. This tour – for the first time – allows Americans to experience Varadero beach, what so many in other countries consider to be a little piece of Eden.

This sojourn offers the best of both: Havana with its historic charm and sophisticated culture, art and music, plus Varadero with its stunning natural surroundings. If you’re a foodie this tour includes all meals at tasty top ranked private restaurants.

Check out the many activities featured on this upscale yet economical Cuban adventure!

Cuba’s big! Its land mass is 42,426 square miles – about 80 percent the size of Alabama. Cuba is nearly as large as Louisiana, and larger than Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Ohio or Indiana. Altogether it’s bigger than Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont combined.

Day 1 – Saturday :: Arrival and hello Cuba

  • Arrivals at Havana’s José Martí International Airport
  • Collect your luggage and proceed through Cuban customs to the arrivals lobby
  • Our airport concierge or your tour guide will arrange tour bus or private taxi transfers from the airport to your hotel (included)
  • Consider purchasing Cuban Convertible Pesos at the airport exchange bureau (CADECA), or later at your hotel
  • Your hotel check-in is pre-arranged, you simply present your passport
  • Time at hotel to settle in and freshen up
  • Welcome dinner at Restaurant Bar Mediterraneo Havana. This eatery enjoys a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor, International Quality Crown Award London 2015, and the Latin American Quality Award 2016. It’s award winning chef describes his cuisine as, "authentic farm-and-sea-to-table delights, always fresh and natural." We know you’ll like our organic first choice
  • We’ll keep you posted on evening entertainment happenings

Day 2 – Sunday :: Havana, shopping and a cannon blast

  • Breakfast in hotel
  • Get ready for city tour in 1950s American convertibles. We’ll see many of Havana’s most important sites as the Capitol building, the Grand Theatre, Central Park, Prado promenade, Revolution Square, Coppelia Ice Cream Park, Plaza José Martí (in front of US Embassy), Malecón seawall, Monument to the Battleship Maine, Hotel Nacional, University of Havana, Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón, and the Central Havana and Vedado neighborhoods
  • Followed by a private walking tour of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We’ll visit four historic plazas that make Havana unique in the western hemisphere. Together they contain the largest collection of remaining Spanish colonial-era architecture in the world
  • Cathedral Square, the most beautiful and private 18th century colonial plaza on the island. Named after the masterpiece of Cuban baroque architecture, Catedral de San Cristóbal de la Habana was built by the Jesuit order
  • Square of Arms, an ancient military parade ground for Spanish soldiers, surrounded by impressive buildings such as:
    • Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, former seat of colonial government. Today the building houses the Museum of the City
    • Palacio del Segundo Cabo [Palace of the Second Lieutenant] dates from 1770
  • We continue onto San Francisco Square, one of the oldest plazas in the historical quarter. The square is named after magnificent Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco de Asís dating from the 16th century. The basilica is a striking example of Cuba baroque architecture
  • On to Plaza Vieja, the only civic square of colonial times. Absent are churches and government buildings. The plaza is surrounded by opulent aristocratic 17th century residences
  • Lunch today: In the heart of Old Havana, just behind the Museum of the Revolution, there’s a special paladar called ChaChaChá Bar-Restaurante. It’s special because it offers three things many other restaurants cannot: Great food, great service, and great atmosphere. We agree with the hundreds of five-star reviews it receives on TripAdvisor, Yelp and Facebook. You will too
  • Visit Centro Cultural Antiguos Almacenes de Depósito San José. This marvelous restoration of an old dock warehouse has resulted in a gigantic market fair exhibiting the wares of hundreds of Cuban artists and crafts workers. It’s an amazing shopping opportunity for memorable Cuban gifts and souvenirs
  • Return to hotel and freshen up
  • Enjoy a special dinner at the private restaurant Los Naranjos. Located in the heart of Vedado in an expansive 1930s mansion, its Chef Ernesto specializes in fusion style dishes combining Cuban, Italian and Spanish influences. Los Naranjos’ ambiance is fun and light, its food wonderful, authentic and fresh, and staff upbeat and attentive. It’s a favorite among TripAdvisor reviewers
  • Evening highlight: We witness a most dramatic ceremony – El Cañonazo – the Firing of the 9PM Cannon at the Fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña. This enchanting colonial reenactment dates back to 1519 when the city of Havana was enclosed by a tall thick rock wall to ward off attacks from pirates and the English. The cannon firing signaled the closing of the city gates for the night

Day 3 – Monday :: Hemingway haunts and Varadero

  • Breakfast in hotel
  • We’re off to visit Finca la Vigía [Lookout Farm] where North America’s literary titan Ernest Hemingway spent twenty-one of his most important and productive years adding to the building blocks of English literature. Claimed by both the United States and Cuba as a native son, it was Hemingway himself who declared Cuba to be his true home. His house has been preserved just as it was when he lived in it. You’ll see his eclectic personal objects, thousands of books, manuscripts and photographs, as well as some animal trophies he bagged on his safaris to deepest Africa
  • Tour highlight: We have a special lunch arranged for you by our friends at Ajiaco paladar [private restaurant]. It’s considered the best in Cuba. It’s a mandatory dining stop located off the beaten path in the romantic coastal fishing village of Cojímar. Ajiaco is noted for fantastic service, atmosphere and scrumptilicious country Cuban cuisine. All their ingredients are fresh and organic, supplied by nearby private gardens to give every dish a delightfully aromatic flavor you’ll never forget
  • We’ll visit the village of Cojímar, the setting for Ernest Hemingway’s "The Old Man and the Sea.” Here adoring local fishers cast a bronze bust from old anchors, props and tools. They had no money for new materials. Its inscription reads, "In loving memory of the people of Cojímar to the immortal author of Old Man and the Sea." A plaque below the bust reads: Sculpted with the contributions of the Fishermen Cooperative of Cojímar
  • Now we depart to Varadero located ninety minutes east of Havana on the Hicacos peninsula. It’s renowned for the unparalleled beauty of its beach, pristine warm sea, and its outgoing kind people. Varadero began as an 18th century village of fishers and farmers. They lived in "bohíos" (dirt floor huts made of royal palm planks and fronds). In 1926 American millionaire Irénée du Pont came to Varadero and purchased most of the area. He constructed his residential architectural masterpiece called Xanadu in 1930, then rigorously promoted Varadero’s paradisiacal attributes as a global tourist destination. Varadero wins the hearts of all who visit. It’s stunning blue waters inspired Christian Dior’s "Azul Varadero," his defining color line in the 1950s. For more than 100 years, it’s been visited by kings, princesses, presidents, celebrities, poets, artists and writers. Today Varadero, with 51 luxury resort hotels, hosts more than a million foreign visitors annually
  • Check-in to your all-inclusive beach resort with assistance from your guide
  • Dinner at your all-inclusive beach resort. It offers an expensive buffet open to and and many specialty restaurants requiring a reservation
  • Evening offers: Fabulous fun evening entertainment at your all-inclusive beach resort (included)

Day 4 – Tuesday :: Varadero, the beach and dance lessons

  • Breakfast at your hotel resort
  • Morning bus tour of city of Varadero its stunning grandiose resorts
  • Cuban dance lessons! All great dance is globally inspired. Movements from other countries going back millenniums, refined and stylized, turned into something absolutely ethereal for our time. If any nation has contributed most to US dance, we think it is Cuba with its rich sensuous African, European, Asian and indigenous mixes. We’ll spend the afternoon with ABC Academia Baile en Varadero [ABC Dance Academy of Varadero]. Dance masters and choreographers of the funtastic Cuban floor shows will help you move with the grace of angels – very wild angels! You’ll learn all the best steps this afternoon with one-on-one tutors who’ll expertly and patiently turn you into a salsa, mambo, rumba, danzon, and cha cha chá whiz
  • Return to your all-inclusive resort for giant tropical buffet lunch spread. You’ll be dieting for a month when you return home, or you can go down to the beach and swim it off
  • Free time for independent people-to-people exchanges in and around Varadero beach
  • Dinner at your all-inclusive beach resort
  • Fabulous fun evening entertainment at your all-inclusive beach resort

Day 5 – Wednesday :: Varadero, organic farm and Cárdenas

  • Breakfast at your hotel
  • This morning we’ll visit Finca la Coincidencia, a model organic farm in a hamlet called Guasimal del Toro. Initiated in the 1990s by the Correa family of artisans and agriculturalists, Coincidencia has become an important social and cultural project for members of the community. In addition to cultivating many species of tropical fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants, it is home to a ceramic school and gallery, and small cheese workshop. Since 2002 Finca la Coincidencia hosts a global Arte del Fuego ceramics event
  • We’ll feast on a delicious lunch prepared entirely from produce raised on Finca la Coincidencia and neighboring. This idyllic plantation’s meals beautifully blurs the lines between art and agriculture. Their service exudes joy and compassion. Many describe this meal as their favorite meal in Cuba
  • We’ll drive through Cárdenas, a small, quiet town close to Varadero with beautiful colonial-era architecture and a timeless quality. Horse-drawn carriages and bicycles far outnumber cars on its straight and narrow streets. Cárdenas is known as Ciudad Bandera [Flag City], as it was here, on 19 May 1850, that Cuba’s flag was first raised. It was also the first city in Cuba to have electric street lighting in the year 1889. The diminutive Parque Colón features the first statue of Christopher Columbus in the Americas dating from 1826. It was in Cárdenas the rum label Havana Club was born and where present-day Varadero and Bucanero rums are made. Cárdenas is the birthplace and home of Elián González
  • While in Cárdenas we’ll visit the Museo a la Batalla de Ideas [Museum of the Battle of Ideas]. Housed in the beautifully restored 1872 Firefighters Garrison it exhibits through numerous displays the story of the capture, struggle for freedom and eventual liberation of Elián González. Also exhibited are relief busts of Cuba's great historical heroes, the founding fathers of independence and the revolution. And there is a book of photos from the museum's opening, with a personal note from Fidel Castro: "The battle of ideas cannot be lost and will not be lost."
  • Return to hotel, kick back and smell the fresh sea
  • Dinner at your beach resort
  • Fabulous fun evening entertainment at your all-inclusive beach resort, or perhaps explore happenings in the city of Varadero

Day 6 – Thursday :: Varadero and Havana

  • Breakfast at hotel
  • Free time to explore marine life and Varadero’s shorelines with tourmates or Cubans
  • Check-out of your beach resort
  • Buffet lunch at your beach resort
  • Departure to Havana
  • En route we’ll visit the provincial capital city of Matanzas. It is known as the City of Bridges for the 17 spanning three rivers that meander through the city. Matanzas was founded in 1693. Matanzas means massacre and many legends surround its macabre name. Matanzas had vast sugar plantations during the colonial era huge numbers of African slaves were imported to support the industry. Due to the high number of both slaves and free Afrocubans many African traditions are especially strong in the city. In 1898, Matanzas was location of the first action in the Spanish American War: it was bombarded by American Navy vessels on 25 April 1898. It is the birth place of the Cuban national dance "Danzon" and the "Danzonete."
  • We’ll visit Matanzas’ Museo de la Ruta del Esclavo [The Slave’s Route Museum]. It opened in 2009 as part of a UNESCO initiative to examine the genesis, development and impact of slavery, and document and preserve contributions of African slaves to the cultures of the Americas. Cuba had a very high concentration of slavery and was the last nation in the hemisphere to end it. The island served as a hub for Atlantic slave trade. The extent of miscegenation (mixing of different colors) is great in Cuba as is the influence of African culture on Cuban society. The museum is housed in the stunning Castle of San Severino, an 18th-century Renaissance-style Spanish military fort. The fortress was begun in 1693 and completed in 1746. It was built using slave labor. Its purpose was to protect the city from corsair and pirate attacks
  • We’ll stop at the Bacunayagua bridge lookout spanning the deep canyon over the beautiful Yumurí Valley. It’s the highest bridge in Cuba and divides the provinces of Mayabeque and Matanzas. This popular stopover hosts a bar that serves delicious Piña Coladas in fresh coconut shells
  • Return to Havana
  • Hotel check-in and time to freshen up
  • Farewell dinner at Havana’s most famous private restaurant La Guarida, where the 1997 Cuban blockbuster “Strawberry and Chocolate” was filmed
  • Your evening is free to explore the city, and your guide will have suggestions for current entertainment options

Day 7 – Friday :: Departure day

  • Breakfast in hotel
  • Check-out of your Havana hotel
  • Transfer to José Martí International Airport in Havana for flights home
  • Missing you and hope you return soon. In Cuba we say: A true friend remembers the song in your heart when you have forgotten the lyrics
Cuba travel is a challenge. Our staff and Cuban partners work super hard to make your tour unfold seamlessly despite Third World conditions on the island. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Flexible travelers understand this is part of their Cuban adventure.
Tour date Cost Comments Availability
Aug 12 to Aug 18, 2017 $ 2449 $ 1899
A couple spots open
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Aug 26 to Sep 1, 2017 $ 2449 $ 1899
A couple spots open
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Sep 9 to Sep 15, 2017 $ 2449 $ 1899
Closes in a few days
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Sep 23 to Sep 29, 2017 $ 2449 $ 1899
Space for two more
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Oct 7 to Oct 13, 2017 $ 2449 $ 1899
Filling up fast
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Oct 21 to Oct 27, 2017 $ 2449 $ 1899
Filling up fast
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Tour meals at your hotel and at fine restaurants
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Breakfast
Lunch
Dinner
  • All meals during your stay in Cuba
  • All inclusive services at Meliá Marina Varadero resort including 24 hour snacks, food, beverages and cocktails
  • All activities listed in the itinerary above unless noted as excluded
  • Small group size, usually sixteen or fewer guests, never more than twenty-four
  • US Department of the Treasury authorized people-to-people Cuba travel
  • Havana airport and hotel transfers on tour start and end days
  • Quality Cuban hotels
  • An expert English speaking guide and tour leader throughout the program
  • Luxury air-conditioned bus and professional driver (bottled water on the tour bus)
  • All activities, entrance fees, services, speakers and meetings in tour itinerary
  • Flexible monthly tour payment options
  • Emergency telephone and internet access to America from Cuba
  • Cash advances for participants facing money problems while in Cuba
  • Participants become Club Cubano alumni and receive future tour discounts
  • Ongoing support from our US and Cuban staff before, during and after travel