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Cuba Engage, an Educational People-to-People Experience for Americans
Cuba Engage is an educational trip to Cuba designed for US citizens interested in establishing connections and engage with the Cuban people.
Travel to Cuba legally in a more affordable way under the General License for People to People Travel. For as little as $2,229 (all taxes included!)
Referral Discount: $100
Invite 1 Friend and Pay $2,129 only
Invite 2 Friends and Pay $2,029 only
Invite 3 Friends and Pay $1,929 only
Invite 4 Friends and Pay $1,829 only
Invite 10 Friends and Pay $0 And remember every person you invite
will also receive a $100 discount!
Coming Up Cuba Engage Tours
Cuba Engage 10Havana, Bay of Pigs, Trinidad..Oct 08- Oct 15, 2016Book Now
Cuba Engage 11Havana, Bay of Pigs, Trinidad..Nov 19- Nov 26, 2016Book Now
Cuba Engage 12Havana, Bay of Pigs, Trinidad..Dec 29- Jan 5, 2017Book Now
Cuba Engage 1Havana, Bay of Pigs, Trinidad..Jan 21- Jan 28, 2017Book Now
Cuba Engage 2Havana, Bay of Pigs, Trinidad..Feb 18- Feb 25, 2017Book Now
Cuba Engage 3Havana, Bay of Pigs, Trinidad..Mar 18- Mar 25, 2017Book Now
People to People Cuba Engage Tours
Cuba is a dichotomy of two worlds. On one hand, there are the few things that Cuba has always been admired for and that’s its black coffee, Havana rum, Cuban mojitos, Cohiba cigars, 1950’s classic American cars, and for its lively culture. On the other hand, Cuba has been ostracized for its staunch political stance that has left it isolated. In a sense, Cuba is that place where one foot relishes in the nostalgia of the past while the other foot steps forward in the promise of change and growth.
Still, the fascination with Cuba has grown over the past few decades as images of the island’s nostalgic beauty has left much to be admired from afar. Especially from the USA whose decades-long embargo on Cuba has prevented the ordinary American citizens to visit Cuba legally for decades. Ultimately, it’s the opportunity to travel to Cuba and to explore unchartered territory against a backdrop set in the 1950’s that makes the Caribbean island so desirable.
Cuban culture is vibrant and eclectic from its salsa and rumba music to an emerging arts scene. A stroll down cobbled streets lined with Spanish colonial-style architecture showcases a charming Old Havana city center where remnants of the Cuban colonial past are very noticeable. The autentica Cuba is welcoming and exciting and unique. Between the live jazz scene and a bustling nightlife, Cuba’s culinary treasures, and an adventure into the neighborhoods, you’ll find a proud people whose ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit has kept the country going despite the isolation.
A visit to Cuba can easily feel like multiple experiences wrapped into one inclusive of a history lesson, an adventure on a road less traveled, and a cultural exchange with a fascinating people. The inviting spirit of the Cubans makes it so easy to get absorbed into the culture if only for a moment. The authentic Cuba is ready with open arms excited to be discovered.
But…how to travel to Cuba from USA? Is it even legal for Americans to visit Cuba at all? While Cuba tourism for Americans (this is, ordinary tourism as Europeans and Canadians do) is strictly prohibited by the US embargo on Cuba, Cuba travel for US individuals is possible if choosing the right people-to-people educational trip to Cuba.
Can American Citizens Join This Tour to Cuba?
ANY US citizen can travel to Cuba legally from USA under the People-to-people General License.
Cuba Engage is an educational trip to Cuba designed for US citizens who 1) are genuinely interested in establishing connections and engage with the Cuban people; b) want to go to Cuba legally in a more affordable way under the General License for People to People Travel.
A General License for US travel to Cuba is created through a do it yourself process rather than by submitting an application and awaiting approval. Fast, free and convenient, a General License simply requires you to prepare all of your own documentation in a way that meets all OFAC guidelines.
According to new changes implemented on March 16, 2016, US citizens can now go to Cuba from US legally under the General License for People-to-people Educational Travel for individuals.
CATEGORY: General License for People-to-People Travel- 31 C.F.R. § 515.565 (b) of the current Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulations.
Previously, the General License for People-to-people Educational Travel to Cuba required these trips to take place ONLY under the auspices of US organizations, and all travelers to be accompanied by a representative of the sponsoring institution to observe that a full-time schedule of educational activities was maintained which made Cuba travel more expensive and less accessible for the US people.
These requirements have been waived by the Obama Administration as of March 16, 2016 with the intent to make legal Cuba travel more affordable and accessible for the US people.
The trip should consist of a full-time schedule of educational activities intended to engage with the ordinary citizens of Cuba that will result in a meaningful interaction in between the Cuban people and the American traveler. Persons traveling to Cuba under this license must retain records related to transactions and demonstrating that a full time schedule of authorized activities was followed.
Historical Notes: The people-to-people Cuba travel license is a program that was started under the administration of President Clinton (so it is not a new program), then it was revoked under Bush administration and it was reinstated and recently enhanced by the administration of President Barrack Obama.
Our team of USA Cuba travel experts will take care of all Cuba travel arrangements for you. Read what past travelers say about their experience with us. Click here
Take A Sneak Peak of Cuban Destinations You Will Visit
People to People Cuba Tours Quick Facts & Highlights
5 Nights at Hotel Riviera (E) or Hotel National (P).
2 Nights at Hotel Jagua in Cienfuegos.
16 Meals: 7 Breakfasts, 6 Lunches, and 3 Dinners Included.
Private Transfer-in and Transfer-out.
Luxury Air-conditioned Coach Transportation & Professional Driver.
All Activities, Speakers, and Meetings as Described in Itinerary.
24/7 Dedicated Cuban English Speaking Expert Guide.
Ongoing support from Authentic Cuba Travel' Staff.
Official Asistur Cuban Health Insurance Coverage.
Full Tour of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Full Tour of Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Full Tour of Cienfuegos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Tour of Vinales Valley & Village, UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Full Tour of Bay of Pigs, located in UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Tour Tobacco Plantations in Pinar del Rio.
Private Visit to Cuba’s Experimental Printing Workshop.
Exclusive Receptions at the Studios of Leading Cuban Artists.
Visit Cuba’s Trendiest Chic Art Galleries.
Full Tour of the Cuban Museum of Arts.
Full Access to the Cuba’s Higher Art Schools.
One on One with Important Cuban Musicians.
Explore Cuba’s Private Restaurant Scene (Paladares).
Follow the Trail of American Ernest Hemingway in Cuba.
Full Tour of Finca La Vigia, Hemingway Residence for 20 Years.
Shopping in Cuba’s Best Art and Craft Markets.
Notice to USA Cuba Travelers
People to people tours to Cuba for American citizens are educational in nature. It means tourism to Cuba from North America is still very limited by the US Cuba travel regulations. In other words, American visitors to Cuba cannot simply book an all inclusive “sun & beach” vacation and relax in the crystal-clear Caribbean waters of Cuba while sipping in mojitos like Canadians and most citizens of the world can. Educational and cultural exchanges in between the Cubans and the American visitors must be included in the itineraries. People-to-people tours to Cuba from USA where first authorized by President Clinton in 1999. The program was eliminated during the Bush administration era; and authorized again by President Barack Obama in 2011. Generally speaking, the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control License (OFAC) regulates travel to Cuba though Specific and General Licenses.
People-to-people Cuba travel from USA features overnights at the historic Riviera (E) or Nacional de Cuba (P) hotels, located in the Vedado district, the epicenter of Havana’s bustling nightlife and pulsating music scene. Americans traveling to Cuba with Authentic Cuba Travel find themselves at home in these iconic hotels that have hosted a long list of personalities since the 1930's.
Learning about Hemingway’s life in Cuba seems almost like a mandatory task for most US travelers visiting Cuba. Our Cuba tours for Americans follow in the footsteps of the famous American author in Cuba where he lived for over 20 years and where he wrote novels such as The Old Man and The Sea, for which Hemingway received the Nobel Prize in 1954.
The People-to-people meaningful exchanges in between the US travelers and the Cubans are a central element of our Cuba tours and travel. And meeting with the young, talented artists of Cuba’s Experimental Printing Workshop is a great opportunity to see original prints being created and learn firsthand about the life of Cuban printmakers.
At Authentic Cuba Travel, one of the Cuba travel tips we always give our American travelers is to visit local communities off the Cuba's tourism beaten track to discover the authentic Cuba. Those traveling to Cuba will meet ordinary Cubans whose lives have been positively impacted by the artwork of the Caribbean Picasso, Jose Fuster. We will visit their homes at the seaside village of Jaimanitas, the epicenter of Jose Fuster street art gallery project.
Studying at the Cuba’s Higher Institute of Arts (ISA), the leading art school in the Caribbean island is similar to do conservatory work in North America. Built after an idea of young revolutionaries Fidel Castro and Ernesto Che Guevara in 1961, the art complex occupies the former Havana Country Club and comprises five art schools for the studies of music, drama, dance and visual arts. Our education tours to Cuba include a tour of the schools and meeting with students and professors- all active Cuban artists, all escorted by director Sonia Ortega.
US citizens traveling to Cuba with Authentic Cuba Travel engage in an array of people-to-people and cultural exchanges of high caliber. Like meeting with popular Cuban songwriter and musician Frank Delgado at Cafe El Madrigal to talk about the nueva trova movement in the Caribbean island and enjoy a musical performance.
Engaging with ordinary Cubans is the recipe that Cuba Engage Tours follows in the creation of meaningful people-to-people Cuba tours to achieve maximum exposure in between American citizens visiting Cuba and the Cuban people. And we are going to follow the hundreds of Cubans that meet at La Cabana Fortress every night to attend one of the most authentic ceremonies in Cuba, the Fire of the Cannon.
Traveling to the battlegrounds and landing beaches of the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 is a special addition to our Cuba education tours. We will tour key battle sites, monuments and museum to relive the history of the CIA sponsored invasion that was defeated within 72 hours by the revolutionary forces of the new government.
The Jose Marti Square is the place where the exploration of the old Cienfuegos usually starts in our educational tours to Cuba. With your Authentic Cuba Tours guide bringing back to life the times when the US purchased the region of La Louisiana from Napoleon, an event that prompted several families of French refuges from that territory to find a new home overseas in this area, we will relive the act of foundation of the city in 1819.
As a participant of our Cuba People-to-people tours, Americans will embark on a panoramic bus ride towards the Caribbean city of Trinidad, an authentic destination in Cuba. After traversing the Escambray mountain range and riding along the Caribbean Sea, you will arrive at this city which seems frozen in colonial time. Founded by Spanish conquistador Diego Velazquez in 1514, Trinidad and the Sugar Mills Valley were declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.
People to people Cuba tours & travel will introduce USA citizens to local peasants in the Vinales Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, who have been growing the finest tobacco in the world for centuries. In fact, Pinar del Rio’s tobacco accounts for almost 70% of all tobacco produced in the Caribbean island. Ask any Cuban cigar connoisseur and they all agree it is the best quality too.
Cuba tours and travel that aimed at delving into Cuba’s vibrant visual art scene should make ample time for a visit to the Cuban Museum of Fine Arts. During our visit to Cuba we will enjoy a sort of crash course in Cuba’s art history as we tour the largest collection of Cuban artwork in the world.
Day 1. Your People-to-people Educational Experience Starts Today!
Your people-to-people educational experience to Cuba starts after landing at Havana City international Airport, Jose Marti.
You will be picked up at the airport by your Authentic Cuba Travel 24/7 dedicated team: a university graduate bilingual tour guide and bus driver who will facilitate an array of people-to-people educational exchanges with Cubans along the way.
You will be shown to your modern air-conditioning motor coach and enjoy a short ride to your hotel in the Vedado district, the epicenter of Havana’s bustling nightlife and pulsating music scene.
The hotel offers a complimentary breakfast that is available at your leisure from 7am to 10am daily.
Day 2. Old Havana through the Eyes of Cuban Architects and City Planners
Morning: this morning your people-to-people educational tour to Cuba will take you around Old Havana (or Habana Vieja) for visits to historical sites and attractions that add to Cuba’s remarkable story. Through the eyes of Cuban architects and city planners, we’ll also get a better appreciation for Havana’s growth and development and learn more about the eclectic influence on the local architecture which is clearly evident in the detailed design of Havana’s historical district.
Visit to the Scale Model of Old Havana where we will meet with Cuban architect Miguel Coyula of the Group for the Comprehensive Development of Havana City.
Recently featured in CNN's The Wonder List by Bill Weir, Miguel brings a wealth of insight into Havana’s growth over the years and the influence that Spanish colonial, baroque, and art deco periods has had on Cuban architecture. With the impending growth in tourism, Miguel will also provide an insightful overview on the future urbanization and development of Old Havana. Miguel’s presentation at the Scale Model of Old Havana, which is the second largest in the world, will by far give you the most interesting perspective on the city’s growth.
Your Cuba Engage tour will continue with a walking tour of Old Havana, starting at the Square of Arms, the site of foundation of the city by the Spaniards at the beginning of the 16th century.
Flanked by the Fortress of the Royal Fortress, the oldest military castle in Cuba; the Palace of the Captain Generals, and the Palace of the Vice-Governor of the Island, the Square of Arms was the epicenter of Spanish authority, military ruling and governance of the Cuban colony right until the end of the 19th century. Today the magnificent buildings around the square contain important cultural institutions, libraries, and museums such as the Museum of the City and the Museum of Natural Sciences.
Our guided walking tour will continue to Plaza de San Francisco, the center of the city’s commercial life of the city in colonial times- a role to be played until modern times. In 1909, a commodities market was built here, La Lonja del Comercio (Havana Exchange)- this domed building was fully restored at the turn of the 20th century, and it currently serves as the headquarters of foreign firms with joint ventures in Cuba. Tours to Cuba from USA provide a rude awakening for Americans on the fact that Cuba has been able to establish trade relations with many countries despite the US Embargo in place.
Your Cuba tour will end up in the Old Square. Most of the historic buildings surrounding the square have been fully restored. Today they showcase some of Cuba’s main art galleries and cultural institutions such as the National Photography Gallery, The Center for the Development of Visual Arts, and La Casona Art Gallery that we will visit as part of your Cuba tours and travel experience.
Featured Lunch: a new wave of paladares (private family-run restaurants) has recently swept the Cuban dining scene offering excellent food and charming ambient. Today we’ll enjoy a welcome lunch at the stylish La California, one of Havana's top ten private restaurants.
This is a unique opportunity to see how Cuban entrepreneurship is reshaping the dilapidated Cuban culinary industry one dish at a time. As part of your lunch and your people-to-people educational experience to Cuba, we will establish a dialogue with local restaurateurs to learn how they have been able to reconcile the socialist centralized economy with the demands of the free market in the booming private Cuban hospitality industry.
Afternoon: the Cuba travel experience also include a visit to the Cathedral Square surrounded by noble colonial buildings such as the Palacio de Los Marqueses de Aguas Claras, Casa Lombillo, Palacio de los Marqueses de Arcos and the Cathedral of Havana, designed by Italian architect Borromini. Dating from the second half of the 18th century, the Cathedral contains a beautiful marble altar and numerous artworks worth visiting.
Just up the southwest corner of Plaza de La Catedral, we find the Experimental Printing Workshop. People-to-people meaningful exchange in between the US travelers and the Cubans is quite an unforgettable experience of our Cuba tours and travel. Next you will meet a cooperative of young artists who work tirelessly, shirtless in an airy, spacious colonial building where you can see original prints being created.
Evening: this evening we will visit the home of a Cuban, Elsa who has managed to create a unique cultural project in the rooftop of an Old Havana dilapidated building. Elsa, the leader of a popular musical band that will play live tonight, will teach Cuba tour participants to play and to dance to Cuba’s most popular rhythms such as Son and Salsa. This is another great chance for American visitors to learn firsthand about the daily life of ordinary Cubans.
Day 3. Engaging with Tobacco Farmers at Vinales, UNESCO World Heritage Site
Morning: to travel to the authentic Cuba is to take time to visit Cuba's countryside and to explore picturesque, colorful towns and villages. Following breakfast at your hotel, we are off to Pinar del Rio, the most western of Cuba’s provinces, which accounts for almost 70% of all tobacco produced in the Caribbean island.
Worldwide known for its beautiful landscapes and tobacco plantations, its local rum, and its easy-going good nature people, Pinar del Rio contains some of Cuba’s most wonderful natural attractions such as the Vinales Valley and the Vinales Colonial Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that we will explore today.
Recently CNN’s Bill Weir met with Vinales tobacco farmers and talked tobacco, politics and cash on its The Wonder List documentary.
Now it is your time to go upfront and learn firsthand about the challenge and challenges tobacco peasants face in the new reality of Cuba’s changing economy. This is a high caliber people-to-people encounter in which US visitors will gain invaluable insights. People-to-people educational tours for Americans should engage ordinary Cubans in extensive dialogue, not just come here to take pictures of one of the world most beautiful landscapes.
For Cuban cigar connoisseurs, Cuban cigars are simply the best quality. The secret is hidden in these lands and in the knowledge of these peasants who have been using traditional harvesting techniques for years. Would it all change due to the increasing US tourism boom that many anticipate? Is it actually happening?
Our tours and travel to Cuba continues with a meeting with the owners of a local “Room for Rent” business. After Cuba’s open up to private enterprise, renting rooms and houses have become one of the most popular activities among Cubans. Even Vinales town, tucked away in Sierra de Los Organos, is not immune to the entrepreneurial fever overtaking Cuba these days. And private accommodation businesses are booming in the village of Vinales.
Our tours to Cuba for Americans feature a delicious traditional lunch at the Mural de La Prehistoria restaurant, a lively venue that offers authentic Cuba’s country music live and the best views of the Prehistoric Mural, a huge painting that covers the entire hillside of one of the unique limestone hills. Cuba tourists arrive by busloads to take pictures, but it is still the best food in town.
Cuba tourism is also drawn to Cueva del Indio, an underground cave that we will visit next. The cave system of the region is among the largest in Cuba; therefore, some cave exploration is worthwhile. The participants in our Cuba tours will go some 400 meters on foot into this cave, once a burial site for Cuba’s native inhabitants, and then take a boat ride through an underground river that emerges at the other side of the mogote.
The American visitors will also enjoy free time to explore at their own leisurely pace the Village of Vinales, and the numerous authentic Cuban attractions and activities of the area. To mention some, the Vinales botanical garden, the arts and crafts markets; the town’s main square and parish, and other sites. This is also a great time for US citizens to meet Cubans informally and learn more about each other. Cubans are as eager to learn about life in North America as you are about learning the Cuban ways.
In the late afternoon, we will head back to Havana city.
Day 4. Bohemian Cuba: Upfront and Personal with Cuban Artists
Morning: people-to-people Cuba tours usually expose American citizens to the rich cultural life of the country. Our Cuba Real Tours go one step further. American visitors to Cuba will be granted access to Cuba’s Higher Institute of Arts, ISA, to exchange with young Cuban students and faculty. This exchange will certainly shed lights on the challenges and opportunities of artistic education in Cuba. We will also tour the art schools and learn about the history of this architectural landmark.
At Authentic Cuba Travel, one of the Cuba travel tips we always give our American travelers is to visit local communities off the Cuba's tourism beaten track to discover the authentic Cuba. And that’s what we will do next. US visitors will meet ordinary Cubans whose lives have been positively impacted by the artwork of the Caribbean Picasso- a nickname Cuban artist Jose Fuster is commonly given. We will visit their homes at the seaside village of Jaimanitas, the epicenter of Jose Fuster street art gallery project. Here dozens of humble homes are covered in amazing, wildly ceramic murals, and other artworks. Complimentary lunch will be hosted by the artist himself in his personal residence and studio.
Afternoon: our Cuba travel services include private visit to the studios Cuba’s high caliber artists. Those whose artwork is collected and exhibited by the most important European and North American Museums of Contemporary Arts and chic galleries. While most Cuban painters, photographers and sculptors sell their art happily at very low prices in the tourist full packed streets, private galleries and markets of Old Havana, the well-established artists avoid these sort of establishments, and exhibit in the most prestigious art galleries and museums in Cuba and abroad only. Usually their art pieces sell for thousands of dollars and a permit of export is usually required to take their art out of the country.
This afternoon, American travelers to Cuba will visit the studios and personal art galleries of some of them such as Alicia Leal, Juan Moreira, Yamilis Brito and Jacqueline Brito in the middle-upper-class Vedado neighborhood.
Evening: US citizens traveling to Cuba with Authentic Cuba Travel engage in an array of people-to-people and cultural exchanges of high caliber. And tonight is no exception. We will meet with popular Cuban songwriter and musician Frank Delgado at Cafe El Madrigal to talk about the nueva trova movement in the Caribbean island and enjoy a musical performance.
El Madrigal is the brainchild of Cuban filmmaker Rafael Rosales who transformed this 19th century Vedado mansion into a whimsical, bohemian paladar (local term for privately owned restaurant). The life and work of Rosales himself, as a filmmaker for over 20 years, is artistically on display through personal memorabilia, artwork, movie posters, pictures, and photographs. Cocktails and tapas are included in the price of your Cuba travel services tonight. Enjoy!
Day 5. Reliving USA- Cuban History by Traveling to Bay of Pigs
Morning: having access to authentic Cuban sites of grand cultural and historical significance away from the beaten path it is a highlight of our people-to-people tours to Cuba from USA. And over the next two days, your Cuba Engage travels will be traversing picturesque towns, UNESCO World Heritage Sites and historical locations along the Caribbean coasts of central Cuba.
Our Cuba exploration starts today at Peninsula de Zapata and the Bay of Pigs, the site of the botched invasion launched by 1400 Cuban exiles in 1961 under the Kennedy administration. However, the plan was developed during the times of US President Eisenhower when the CIA trained and armed Cuban exiles for an invasion of their homeland with the objectives of overthrown the new government of Fidel Castro and establish a US friendly government.
On April 17, 1961, the Brigade 2506 (the Cuban-exile invasion force) landed at several beaches along the Bay of Pigs. Over the next 24 hours the Cuban government moved to the region over twenty thousand troops and a number of planes that played a desicive role in sinking escort ships and causing great damaged to the air support of the Cuban exiles.
On April 19, President Kennedy authorized that unmarked American fighter jets help covering the Brigade 2506’s B-26 planes that took off from Nicaragua to support the attack. Yet they were shot down by the Cuban air forces and anti-aircraft artillery, and soon the invasion was defeated. Within 72 hours 1197 invaders were captured and over 200 killed.
Today we will relive the history of the invasion as we go through the area. Finally we will visit the Museum Playa Giron (Bay of Pigs Museum) that contains artifacts, photos and documentation related to the invasion including a British Sea Fury plane that was used by the Cuban Air Force.
Lunch in Bay of Pigs.
Afternoon: after lunch we will continue our bus ride eastern bound along the Caribbean coast to the city of Cienfuegos, also known as the Pearl of the South. Considered as one on the most important commercial hubs of Cuba today, the city also contains a beautiful historical center that was declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of its wealth of 19th Century neoclassical buildings.
Escorted by local city planners and architects from the Office of the City Historian, the local organization in charge of the preservation and restoration of Cienfuegos Historical Center, we will embark on a walking tour of Old Cienfuegos. We will start in Parque Marti, a large square that is centered by a statue of Jose Marti, Cuba’s national hero, and surrounded by Cienfuegos’s most imposing neoclassical buildings such as the Tomas Terry Theatre, the impressive neoclassical Catedral de La Purisima Concepcion, Palacio Ferrer, better known today as Casa de La Cultura.
Next we will explore the Maroya Art Gallery that has Cienfuegos’ best collection of art and even antiques for sale. This also represents a good opportunity to engage with local artist and artisans and learn about their lives firsthand. Your Cuban guide will facilitate introductions and translation.
Before going to the hotel, we will pay a visit to Parque de Las Esculturas. Located in the one-time aristocratic neighbourhood of Punta Gorda, right on the Prado avenue The Sculpture Park (or Parque de Las Esculturas in Spanish) contains 13 sculptures created by leading artists from Cuba and Spain such as Antonio Chaviano and Camilo Villavilla.
Time permitting, we will visit to the studios of some of Cienfuegos most important visual artists the likes of Ernesto Rodríguez González and Dilema Baldovi Gutiérrez.
We now go back to Punta Gorda neighbourhood to check in at the Jagua hotel rising over the vast bay of Cienfuegos that opens to the Caribbean Sea. Dinner is complimentary at your hotel today.
Day 6. Discovering the Authentic Cuba, Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Morning: after enjoying a complimentary buffet breakfast at our hotel this morning, we will embark on a day trip to one of Cuba’s more authentic destinations, Trinidad and the Sugar Mill Valley both declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.
The 45 minute coastal road trip is as worthy as the destination itself. And we will enjoy the amazing natural scenery of the Escambray Mountains and the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea as we go.
Escorted by local city planners and architects from the Office of the City Historian, the local organization in charge of the preservation and restoration of Trinidad Historical Centre, we will embark on a walking tour of the old city.
As we tour Trinidad’s Historical Center today, we will find that behind most colonial palaces of red terracotta tiles, wide porticoes and ample balconies there’s the name and fortune of a sugar cane baron with properties in the nearby Valle de Los Ingenios (Sugar Mill Valley).
We will visit the Iglesia Parroquial de La Santisima Trinidad, that threasures the venerated Christ of the Veracruz; the Museo de La Lucha contra Bandidos, located in a former 18th century convent of San Francisco de Asis that displays objects related to the war against counter revolutionary military groups that operated in Sierra del Escambray in the early years of the Cuban Revolution; and many other buildings.
Next, we will board our air-conditioning bus for a short 10 minute ride to the Valle de Los Ingenios (Sugar Mill Valley). By now we know the importance of the valley for the economic development of the city so it is only fair we pay a visit. We will stop at a lookout for a panoramic view of the series of valleys (San Luis, Agabama-Meyer and Santa Rosa) that comprise the Sugar Mill Valley. Many of the mills and estate house remain today (mainly in ruins though).
We will have a complimentary lunch at El Jigue restaurant located in El Jigue Square where Fray Bartolome de Las Casas held the first mass of the city in 1514.
Afternoon: we visit the Casa Templo de Santería Yemayá. This is an opportunity to see a Santeria altar dedicated to Yemayá, Goddess of the Sea, and exchange with religious leaders about Afro-Cuban religion and influences in Cuba today.
As you walk the streets of Trinidad, you will run literally into dozens of private and state-owned studios and art galleries, most of them catering to mass international tourism to Cuba. Yet there are those rare artists who are not driven by commercialism, but by genuine artistic expressions. That’s the case of Yudit Vidal, Iván Basso and Jorge César Sáenz. That's why, we have chosen to devote some time during our Cuba art tours to give tour participants the chance to get to know them better.
It could be the quality of the region’s clay and the skills of the artisans who have been passing from generation to generation the genuine techniques, but the fact remains that Trinidad’s pottery making is one of Cuba's most authentic traditions. We will visit the Workshop of the Santanders, one of those legendary families next.
Before heading back to Cienfuegos, we will visit the Galerias de Arte Universal (Universal Art Gallery) housed in the former Ortiz Palace where you will find original contemporary art by local artists.
Return to your hotel in Cienfuegos.
Dinner is complimentary at your hotel tonight, but you can also take some time on your own to enjoy a local paladar (private restaurants). Paladares are abundant in town today.
After dinner, we recommend to pay a visit to nearby Casa de La Musica to listen to Cuba’s best salsa bands live and dance with Cubans and tour mates. Your Authentic Cuba Travel guide will keep you posted on the schedule of evening venues in the city.
Day 7. Hemingway, an American in Havana
After a complimentary breakfast at your hotel, we will board our bus and head back to Havana.
Upon arrival at the city, we will go for lunch to one of Hemingway’s favorite hangouts, Restaurante La Terraza in Cojimar. This is the very spot featured in The Old Man and The Sea as The Terrace, and where the American novelist spent countless afternoons drinking with local fishermen like Anselmo Hernandez, the man who inspired him to create Santiago, the main character of his 1954 Nobel Prize novel.
But Cojimar, a fisherman village founded in the 17th century at the mouth of the Cojimar river, was also the harbor where Hemingway kept El Pilar, his famous wooden boat and pretty much the model of the fishing village that serves as the backdrop of The Old Man and The Sea. After lunch we will go for an exploration of the village. There’s even small plaza named after Hemingway near the Cojimar waterfront which is centered by small gazebo and a bronze bust of the American author.
Learning about Hemingway’s life in Cuba seems almost like a mandatory task for most Americans visiting Cuba. And this afternoon, US travelers will have the chance to follow the trails of the famous American author in Cuba. We will start with a visit to the lookout farm, Finca La Vigia where Hemingway made his home for over 20 years. Here he wrote 7 of its most famous books such as Islands in The Stream and The Old Man and The Sea. Hemingway was beloved by the humble, ordinary Cuban people he like to spend time with. Hemingway loved the Cuban people back. In 1954 when he was awarded the Nobel Prize, he donated it to the Cubans as a gesture of gratitude.
Check in at your hotel in Havana
Evening: following the locals is the approach Cuba Engage Tours follow in the creation of meaningful people-to-people Cuba tours to achieve maximum exposure of American visitors to the local culture. And tonight we are going to follow the hundreds of Cubans that meet at La Cabana Fortress every night to attend one of the most authentic ceremonies in Cuba, the Fire of the Cannon of 9 O'Clock.
Day 8. Departure
After breakfast and check out this morning, we will say good bye to Vinales Valley and Cuba. The Authentic Cuba Travel bus driver and tour guide will escort the US citizens back to the Havana City’s international airport for taking flights back to North America. We wish your travel to Cuba to be among your most rewarding travel experiences ever!
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Cuba is a paradise in the Caribbean, just 90 miles off Key West. In fact, Cuba is so close that swimmers have made it from coast to coast, even without a shark cage! Yet Cuba is the forbidden fruit for most American travelers due to the US travel restrictions and the frozen diplomatic relations in between the two countries. The discerning travelers are taken off guard when joining our people-to-people tours to Cuba. They are surprised to find a bubbly atmosphere charged with the smoke of Cuban cigars, the loud music that pours out of the windows of 1950’s vintage cars, the lively salsa dancing in every corner, and the entrepreneurial spirit of the Cuban people. Not what they have anticipated for sure! Absorb it all in a short time by the hand of the USA Cuba travel experts!