Our Relaxed Pace tour takes you to all of the magnificent sights, sounds and experiences of the EPIC tour, with less hiking, more rides in pedicabs, more rooms on the ground floor level, and dinners scheduled closer to 7 pm (rather than 8 or 9 pm).
Cost: $2695 (market value $5195)
*Early Bird registrations 4 months prior to departure receive $200 discount
What is included:
BILINGUAL CUBAN GUIDE
Travel licenses, mandatory Cuban health insurance and visas
9 nights in Cuban Bed and Breakfasts (casas particulares)
17 meals and private, air-conditioned ground transportation
Purified water always available
Curious About Cuba educational program (two 4 hour sessions of instruction provided before the trip)
Deposit: $500 to reserve your spot
Payment 1: $1097.50 payment
Payment 2: $1097.50 payment due (+$500 for a single supplement)
Flight costs are on your own. Flights FL/Cuba will be reserved for you so the group arrives together (these will be purchased 8-12 weeks before departure).
The best of Cuban music, dancing, bird-watching, UNESCO World Heritage sites, waterfalls, ocean views, Cuban food, architecture and Cuban friends await you on this phenomenal tour! You’ll cover half the width of the island on this EPIC tour.
The purpose of this itinerary is to give you an idea of the types of activities you will engage in during the tour, however, it may change based on factors such as availability, weather, and to take advantage of spontaneous activities and events.
Day 1: Welcome to Cuba!
Arrive in Camaguey.
We will be greeted at the airport by Roger, our guide. He’ll take us on a brief driving tour of Camaguey, Cuba’s third largest city en route to our B&B accommodations (casa particulares). We will get a layout of the city, first impressions of the architecture and lifestyle of the city dwellers. Camaguey is built in a circuitous fashion, with plazas that seem an afterthought and pop up in corners, a very unusual design for a Latin American city.
As time allows, today or tomorrow Roger (our guide) may take you to his family home from the 1800’s, which he has spent years renovating. Hear about how over the decades the family sold off parts, bought back parts, and the challenges of contrustction work in Cuba, where supplies are often impossible to secure of the island. We look forward to the day when Viva Cuba travelers can stay at his casa particular. Meals: Dinner
Day 2: Meet the Artists
After breakfast, we’ll go to the University of Dance to watch talented ballerinas in their rehearsals. Cuba is known for having some of the world’s finest ballerinas, so be prepared to see amazing talent in this “behind the scenes” experience.
Following the university, we will have private meetings with artists in their galleries and workshops. A signature of Camaguey are the tinajones, or earthenware jars that are often displayed on their side and signature symbols of the city. We will meet the Casanova family, whose father is a pottery maker, one son a painter specialized in landscapism and the other son a ceramist.
Next we’ll visit the galleries of Oscar Lasseria, José Gutiérrez (Pepe), Joel Jover and Ileana Sánchez. We’ll take a lunch break during the day. The artist tour ends at the gallery of Martha Jiménez, a world renown sculptress, potter, painter and engraver. Be sure you visit the bronze statues in the nearby plaza. A special dinner event will happen this evening. Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
After breakfast get comfortable on the bus and head to Trinidad. Along the way we will stop at Paylet’s Handicraft workshop, a great opportunity to see jewelry and sculptures made from cutlery (and shop if you’d like!). This is a favorite spot to buy high quality gifts.
Trinidad is a cozy, bustling town of Cubans and tourists, with French and Spanish inspired architecture, stories of slave trade, sugar plantations and wealth in the south of Cuba. Our guide will give us a slow walking tour to get our bearings, learn the stories, meet artists and enjoy live music at every turn. Trinidad’s cobblestone can be brutal on your feet, be sure to have thick-soled walking shoes. You are always welcome to hire a pedicab to drive you through the streets of Trinidad when your feet grow weary. Meals: Breakfast
We will start the day with a short drive to a nearby nature preserve, “El Cubano” where we are likely to see many unique Cuban birds, particularly the national bird of Cuba the Tocororo (Cuban Trogan).
Back in town enjoy meeting artists and seeing their work, particularly the reclaimed wooden shutters with carvings. A favorite lunch place you might consider is San Jose, which is known for it’s huge hamburgers, tasty sweet plantains, and remnants from the history of slave trade in Trinidad.
In the afternoon you’ll have time to explore more of the town, or join the group at the beach, where there are umbrellas, lounge chairs, and lovely soft sand. In the evening, dinner is on your own followed by live music at the outdoor amphitheater, the hub of the action in Trinidad. Stay up late tonight! Nightlife in Trinidad is probably the most accessible and intense in all of Cuba, with numerous live music venues and free dance performances in the town square. You will have the chance to see Afro-Cuban folkloric dances performed in one of the many plazas. Meals: Breakfast
Day 5: Trinidad to Cienfuegos (2 hours)
After breakfast and final morning photography or shopping for paintings, we will head to Cienfuegos, “The Pearl of the South”. The is a popular stop for cruise ships due to it’s deep harbor. Although it’s only 100 miles from Trinidad, this town was primarily settled 300 years later. The main plaza is very picturesque, one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites we visit on the tour. Be sure to explore the Spanish-Moorish inspired Palacio del Valle, where a cocktail is included in your admission. Have some rest time before heading out for dinner. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Day 6: Cienfuegos to Varadero (3 hours)
If you are an early riser, join the others in a visit to the Guanaroca Lagoon Nature Reserve. A short walk from the entrance will take you to the lagoon where locals will paddle you in a boat across to lagoon. Plan to see the flamingos that migrate to the area from Florida and many other species of birds.
After the nature reserve we will start the journey to the north coast. En route, we drive along the picturesque Bay of Pigs where today there is a museum that recounts the events of this conflict. The simple museum provides a fascinating overview of Cuba before Castro’s revolution and the subsequent Bay of Pigs attack.
On our journey north we will have lunch and visit an ornithologist’s home where you will observe the Bee Hummingbirds, endemic to Cuba and the smallest bird in the world. Also a visit to the lively Korimikao, school of the arts, will shed light to the value of dance, music and visual arts in Cuban culture.
The afternoon drive to the Varadero will take you from the Zapata Swamps through the citrus orchards of Cuba, to the peninsula of Varadero on the north coast. Prepare for a breathtaking sunset, some of the softest, cleanest sand and turquoise ocean waters in the world. After dinner there are great outdoor venues to enjoy live music. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Before leaving Varadero we will visit various points of interest in town, including the DuPont Mansion, built in 1927 with stunning mahogany.
The drive to Havana hugs to coastline where you’ll observe fishermen, oil drilling sites, and a variety of industry. Your time in the countryside is drawing to an end as you enter the bustling city, crumbling concrete, and fascinating architect that encompasses Havana. We will drive along the malecón and see the El Morro fortress en route to the final casas of the trip. After some rest time, we will head out for dinner at a favorite spot on the malecón. Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Day 8: Havana
Wear your walking shoes for this day! We start with a visit to Fusterlandia in the fishing village of Jaimanitas and the home of the famous artist Jose Fuster. Fuster has made his entire home, and much of the surrounding neighborhood, into an outdoor art gallery using tiles in mosaic forms. A Havana driving tour in classic cars will take you to the forest of Havana, the famous Revolutionary Square and through the gorgeous historic embassy neighborhoods.
The activities will be followed by lunch and part one of the walking tour of Old Havana City, gorgeous architecture and plazas. In the late afternoon we will return to our casa particulares for free time and before returning to the old city at night for dinner at Doña Eutimia, a cozy paladar with tasty lamb and other offerings. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 9: Havana
We will start the day with part two of the walking tour of Old Havana City. We will see the Cathedral Plaza (notice the seashells on the side of the cathedral). From here we will walk to the nearby mural and other plazas and hear the stories of how they were built and the difference purposes they served. There are lots of shops to peek into here, and great places to rest over a cup of coffee.
After lunch we will tour the Museum of the Revolution, which was once the “White House” of Cuba’s presidents before Castro. Notice the bullet holes that have been preserved in the marble, as well as see the Granma boat and other artifacts from Castro’s revolution. We will drive by the towering Hotel Nacional and hear stories of gambling and mafia in Havana int he 1950’s. Enjoy some rest time before we head out for the final goodbye dinner at a stunning paladar that was featured in the Cuban film, “Strawberries and Chocolate”. Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Day 10: Goodbye
Grasp your final glimpses of the city as you head to the airport (2 hours prior to departure). Say good-bye to Roger and our driver. We hope you will return soon! Meals: Breakfast