Havana Jazz Festival and More

Jan. 9-18, 2020  This is the updated itinerary since flights to Camaguey were banned on 10/25/19.

Check out this 2019 Festival newsclip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIb7awU3DVQ

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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
  • The best of Havana’s Annual Jazz Festival!
  • Purified water always available
  • Curious About Cuba educational program
    (two 4 hour sessions of instruction provided before the trip, or notes if you are unable to attend)

Cost: $2695 (market value $5195)
*Early Bird registrations 4 months prior to departure receive $200 discount

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).

Detailed itinerary:

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.

Jan. 9: Welcome to Cuba!  

Roger, our guide will pick you up at the airport and take you to get settled at the casa particular in Havana.  Then we’ll head out for a welcome dinner at our favorite paladar (privately-owned restaurant) overlooking the nighttime malecón.  For those that are ambitious, afterwards you might go to a nearby hotel to enjoy cigars on the patio with live music.  Meals: Dinner

Jan. 10:   Intro to Havana, drive to Varadero (2 hours driving)

After breakfast, we will take off for part I of the walking tour of Old Havana City, with its gorgeous architecture and plazas.  See Cathedral Plaza, built in the 18th-century Cuban baroque-style with its curves and flourishes above the doors and windows. If you look closely your see it was made of locally quarried limestone and is embedded with coral fossils and seashells.

After lunch in the city, we’ll climb in the bus and drive to Varadero, known for it’s pristine beaches and was first established by Al Capone, the DuPont family and more in in the 1940’s. There will be free time before dinner for sunset, and a night out dancing if you choose.  Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Jan. 11:  Varadero to Trinidad (4 hours driving)

We’ll finish the tour of Varadero in the morning, hearing it’s stories and legacy, and then head through the citrus orchards south to Trinidad.

Trinidad is a cozy, bustling town of Cubans and tourists, with French and Spanish inspired architecture, stories of slave trade and wealth in the south of Cuba.  Roger will give us a walking tour to get our bearings, learn the stories, and enjoy lunch together.  Trinidad’s cobblestone can be brutal on your feet, be sure to have thick-soled walking shoes.  You are always welcome to hire a pedi-cab to drive you through the streets of Trinidad when your feet grow weary.

After some free time,  we will head out for salsa dance lessons, smiles and laughter with vibrant young Cuban instructors.  Dinner is on your own, and there are many excellent choices nearby.  Live music is easily found on every corner, and this is the best city to take in a Afro-Cuban Yorùbá Orisha dance and drumming performance.  Meals: Breakfast

Jan. 12: Trinidad 

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

 

Jan. 13: 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

 

Jan. 14: Cienfuegos to Havana (4 hours with stops)

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.

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.

Havana Jazz Festival OPENING GALA happens tonight! Get ready to soak it all in!  Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Jan. 15: 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 exploring the neighborhood. 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 seafood and other offerings.

Havana Jazz Festival utilizes various venues throughout the city, including Mella Theatre, Sevilla Hotel, Karl Marx Theatre, and the National Theatre of Cuba.  We’ll go from dinner to one of the performances.  Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Jan. 16: Havana
Get up close and personal with the challenges of daily life in Cuba, even in the big city.  You will go to a food ration store and a grocery store followed by a group Cuban cooking lesson.  Don’t be dismayed by the lack of options in the stores, Cubans are resourceful.  Learn how to make some of Cuba’s favorite dishes, including flan and mojitos.

After lunch you’ll go to a private music workshop with Pablo Menendez, an American-born musician who has lived in Cuba since he was a child in the 1960’s.  He will give you a private class on Cuban music through the ages, as well as a mini-concert. You can get a taste of his style with this music video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxpC7d7n3lk

After a simple dinner, you’ll head to the El Morro fortress for the canon blast, then Havana Jazz Fest!   Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Jan. 17: Havana

We will start the day with part II 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”.

Stay out late tonight for live music at the Havana Jazz Fest.  Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Jan. 18: 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 your driver. We hope you will return soon! Meals: Breakfast

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