Picture of Parks and People of Cuba
Picture of Parks and People of Cuba
Picture of Parks and People of Cuba
Picture of Parks and People of Cuba
Picture of Parks and People of Cuba
Picture of Parks and People of Cuba
Picture of Parks and People of Cuba
Picture of Parks and People of Cuba
Picture of Parks and People of Cuba
Picture of Parks and People of Cuba
Picture of Parks and People of Cuba
Picture of Parks and People of Cuba
Picture of Parks and People of Cuba
Picture of Parks and People of Cuba

Parks and People of Cuba

Destination: Santa Clara - Havana, Cuba

Cuba has long been a subject of fascination for Americans, barred from visiting for political reasons and hearing conflicting information from people who fled the Castro dictatorship. What is not in dispute is that Cuba's forests, mountains, and oceans are beautiful; Cuban culture is vibrant; and the Cuban people are warm and welcoming. On this trip we go beyond Havana into the countryside, where we combine visits to national parks and nature reserves, with visits with naturalist guides, farmers, historians, national park officials, artists, and small business entrepreneurs. This trip is designed for curious travelers who prefer to explore on their feet rather than looking out a bus window, and who want to immerse themselves in living history and culture. Maximum group size: 14

Highlights

  • Going off the beaten path in search of the authentic Cuba
  • Being immersed in a complex culture and meeting with its diverse citizenry
  • Touring through the best of Cuba's national parks, nature reserves, and world heritage sites
  • Savoring Cuban cuisine and learning about its signature exports
  • Listening (and perhaps dancing) to Cuba's salsa-infused beats

Inclusions

  • A local Cuban guide and an AGC guide
  • Transportation in Cuba by private bus
  • Seven nights double occupancy lodging in hotels and casa particulares
  • All meals from dinner the first day through dinner the last full day
  • Certification of travel to Cuba under the U.S. Department of Treasury general license
  • All activities and needed equipment for activities on the itinerary
  • One group airport transfer on arriving and departing days
  • gratuities for driver, lodges, meals and day guides
  • Clean drinking water available at all times

Not included: Airfare to Santa Clara or from Havana, Cuba Tourist Visa Fee (ranges from $75-$100 depending on where you buy it), alcoholic beverages, guide gratuities, personal expenses, activities not on the itinerary

Departures

Accommodations

NOTE: There is limited availability on single supplements and we cannot confirm availability at time of booking.

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This trip is a combination of touring and hiking. The hiking is in Cuba’s National Parks; some of the trails are rocky with both downhill and uphill sections which can be very challenging if there has been recent rain. We have rated the trip a 2 and is suitable for any woman who regularly walks at a brisk pace 3 to 4 days a week for 35 - 45 minutes. There are typically 3 to 5 hours of daily activity. Patience, flexibility, and an ability to accept conditions as they are, is critical on this trip. Rating: 1[2] 3 4 5

We combine moderate activity every day (hiking, walking, snorkeling, and sightseeing) with opportunities to interact and learn from a wide variety of Cuban people. Our itinerary has been designed to minimize driving time but some driving is unavoidable; the longest drive time (one day) is four hours.

On this trip we stay in both hotels and Casa Particulares. Similar to a B&B, Casas Particulares are comfortable bedrooms in private houses. Sometimes they have the feel of a small boutique hotel, and sometimes they feel like you’re visiting family and enjoying the spare bedroom. All are operated by warm and welcoming hosts, offering the unique experience of staying with a Cuban family. This can be a highlight of your trip, with the understanding that the accommodation may lack standard amenities or the air conditioning may not be working or the hot water quickly used up. Also, please note these accommodations are basically ‘small businesses’ and details such as decor, breakfast served in the morning, etc. will be different from one casa to another. A truly unique experience! Just so you know - there will always be at lease 2 members of the group in the casa, you will not be in a casa particular by yourself.

Below is the proposed itinerary for the trip. As is true on any adventure travel trip, plans for any specific day may be modified due to weather considerations, unforeseen circumstances, new opportunities, and group interests.

DAY 1
Our arrival airport in Cuba is Santa Clara (SNU). We'll be transported to Cienfuegos and our Cienfuegos hotel where we'll have our first official welcome and orientation to the trip. Note: There are several flights into Santa Clara, the one most commonly used is the America Airlines flight that arrives from Miami into Santa Clara around 5pm. The group arrival shuttle is planned for this arrival time. We recommend arriving into Miami the day prior to your flight to Santa Clara to avoid possible travel problems. Overnight Hotel Union or Jagua.
DAY 2
We'll start our exploration today with a walking tour of Cienfuegos, a city whose history and architecture is a melding of French, Caribbean, and uniquely Cuban influences. We'll also have the first of our People-to-People visits with the Cantores de Cienfuegos, a world-renown choir. After our concert, we head to Parque El Cubano where we’ll enjoy lunch and then a delightful hike to a waterfall and great ‘swimming hole’. After our hike, we’ll continue along the coast to the historic town of Trinidad. Less than 60 miles away, it's a preserved Spanish colonial settlement and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We'll check into our Casa Particulares for the next two nights. After dinner at a local restaurant in Trinidad, we have a chance to settle into our accommodations and anticipate more of Cuba the next day. Overnight, Trinidad, Casas Particulares. Walking: 3-4 miles, +/-200 ft. elevation, Driving: 1 hour
DAY 3
We'll spend the morning exploring the Gran Parque Natural Topes de Collantes, a highly protected nature reserve park of deep green forest, crashing waterfalls, and jungle-covered limestone mountains (known as mogotes). We begin with a visit to a small open air museum with displays (and explanation from our park guide) depicting coffee productions past and present and the traditions and role of coffee in Cuba. To cap off this experience, there is a café’ with plenty of coffee choices you can enjoy. After being immersed in both the history and the 'drinking' of Cuban coffee, we'll stretch our legs with a hike. Our hike begins at the museum and follows a trail that will take us up and down hills and through deep forest to a hidden pool, where a quick swim is always an option! After lunch in the mountains, we return to Trinidad in time to continue exploring the town sights. Our day culminates with a People-to-People opportunity of visiting and learning about several local shops including a pottery shop and a women's co-op that specializes in embroidery. Can't get enough of Cuban music? If time and energy allow, spending a bit of time exploring the local music scene after dinner is always an option! Overnight Casas Particulares. Walking: 3-7 miles, +/-200 to 600 ft. elevation.
DAY 4
We head west today, along the coast to one of Cuba's most famous locations - the Bay of Pigs, site of the infamous and unsuccessful CIA-sponsored invasion took place in 1961. We visit an excellent museum in the town of Playa Giron to learn about the story behind the headlines. Fortunately, Playa Giron is now known for warm Caribbean waters and coral reefs. After our museum visit, our next stop is a local resort for lunch, snorkeling and relaxing on the beach! Mid-afternoon, we’ll leave the resort and meet a local guide for a beautiful and mellow hike in Zapata National Park along the Enigma Las Rocas. Our hike will take us through the dense forest, walking on beautiful limestone, watching for endemic species such as the Cuban pygmy owl, bee hummingbird and Zapata rail, peering into the mangrove swamps at the ‘gators’ and into cenotes (sinkholes in the limestone.) After hiking, it’s back to our bus and on to the town of Playa Larga to check into our Casas Particulares. After dinner we'll meet with Frank Medina, Director of Zapata National Park, to learn about the joint pressures of tourism and conservation facing the park. B, L, D. Overnight Casas Particulares Playa Larga or Playa Giron. Walking: 3-4 miles, +/-200 ft. elev. Driving: 2.5-3 hrs.
DAY 5
Ernest Hemingway lived just outside of Havana for 20 years and this morning we get an early start for our drive to Finca Vigia, his former estate and now a museum. We'll take a short walking tour to immerse ourselves in this beautiful estate and learn about Hemingway’s interesting history and relationship with Cuba. After our tour it’s a late lunch at a local restaurant prior to making our way to our next accommodation. Time permitting, we'll visit a local orchid garden that boasts fabulous orchids and a spectacular view over the valley from the top of the garden. If time runs out for visiting the garden today, we'll fit it in tomorrow! Overnight Villa Soroa or similar or Casa Particulars. Walking: 1 mile, +-100ft elevation. Driving: 4 hrs
DAY 6
Today, our entire day is spent in one of Cuba's finest national parks, Valle de Vinales, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for both its dramatic steep-sided limestone outcrops (mogotes), and the original architecture of its traditional farms and villages. Considered the finest karst valley in Cuba, it is riddled by bizarre shapes that are the eroded remnants of the limestone that forms it. We'll be walking throughout these varied landscapes, learning about the dramatic geological forces that shaped the valley. This region is also internationally famous for fine tobacco, one of Cuba's signature exports. We'll meet with a cigar maker, visit a tobacco processing plant, and learn how green tobacco leaf is processed into the final product. We'll also visit one of the valley's tobacco plantations, with its rows upon rows of tobacco plants, and perhaps hear the vaguero, or field workers, whose songs reflect the valley's unique melding of indigenous, Spanish, and African cultures. After a full day we'll return to Villa Soroa for dinner and rest. Overnight Villa Soroa. Walking: 2-4 miles, +-200ft elev. Drive: 2 hrs.
DAY 7
Leaving the countryside, we head to Havana, the political and cultural capital of Cuba. We start with a walking tour of Old Havana, visiting sites that mark both revolutionary and colonial times. As we walk, we learn more about Havana's turbulent past and hopeful future. We'll walk thru town concentrating on 3 particular squares, each with its own unique history. There will be time in each square to drop into something that interests you. Prior to retuning to our hotel we'll visit a large market in Mercado San Jose that specializes in Cuba souvenirs - an excellent place to get any last minute items you just have to have! After a short stop in our hotel rooms to drop off our backpacks, we'll gather once again in the evening - this time for a fabulous farewell dinner at one of Havana's best paladars, celebrating all we learned and shared this week. For some of us, it may be time to call it a day. For others, Havana's energy may be irresistible and enjoying some of the night life in Havana may be a great choice! Your Cuban guide will have plenty of recommendations! Overnight Havana Hotel such as Hotel Presidente, Riviera, Havana Libre OR SIMILAR. Walking: 3-4 miles +/-50ft elev. Drive: 1 hr.
DAY 8
This morning we offer one group airport shuttle that matches the departure time of the majority of the group. We suggest planning a late morning or early afternoon flight if possible. If that doesn't work for your connections, getting transportation to the Havana airport is quite easy and your guides can instruct you on how to take a taxi at your convenience (not included.)

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  1. Where do we eat?
    Your breakfasts will be buffets at the hotels where you're staying. Dinner is in restaurants with typically a choice of vegetarian or non-vegetarian entree. Lunches may either be picnics or in restaurants.
  2. What dietary preferences or restrictions can you accommodate on this trip?
    Vegetarian options for this trip are available but may be more limited than you are used to. If you are concerned about having enough protein during your trip, plan to bring some plant-based protein sources such as nut butter, instant dried hummus, or high-protein energy bars. If you cannot eat gluten or if you have other dietary restrictions i.e. vegan, you will need to bring some supplemental food with you.
  3. I will be coming by myself. Do I need to pay a single supplement?
    You only need to pay a single supplement if you want to guarantee you have your own room. Otherwise we’ll pair you up with someone and then switch roommates every time we switch lodging.
  4. What is the weather like in November?
    November is a great month to visit Cuba! It is cooler and drier than much of the rest of the year, although rain and warm temperatures are always possible. Expect highs in the low to mid 80s and lows in the mid 60s. Havana is cooler than Cienfuegos.
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