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|Style||Escorted or Guided
Dedicated tour escorts & guides throughout
|Departures||November 2015 – April 2016|
|Departs||Miami (MIA) (flight schedule)|
|Highlights||Havana, Cojimar, Callejon de Hamel, Las Terrazas, Ernest Hemingway's Finca Vigia, Varadero, Cardenas, Coliseo & Matanzas|
|Themes||History & Culture|
|What to Expect||This fast-paced, escorted educational program includes a reasonable amount of walking or hiking and requires an average level of physical fitness.|
Just 90 miles from U.S. soil, the Caribbean island of Cuba has remained elusive to most Americans. But thanks to the People to People program, now entering its third year, more and more American travelers are visiting Cuba as part of these unique educational exchanges. Friendly Planet Travel is proud to be among the first operators to be awarded a People to People license, and we're especially excited about our newest program, Highlights of Havana & Varadero, featuring a 3-night stay in Havana and a 2-night stay in Varadero, long considered one of Cuba's most beautiful beaches.
You'll begin your Cuba travel tour in Havana, where you'll be introduced to a rich culture with indigenous, African and European roots. You'll meet artists in their studios in Old Havana, visit schools, tour organic farms and explore an ingenious, creative society with much to share and an eagerness to learn. In Varadero, you'll meet a young teacher who has become another of Cuba's emerging private sector stars. You'll tour a “coincidental” farm in nearby Cardenas and discover what growing fruit and making pottery have in common, and in Matanzas city, you'll discover the ingenuity and artistry that goes into puppetry. Your 5* beachfront resort hotel is perfectly situated to offer opportunities to enjoy the Caribbean in your spare time.
We guarantee you it'll be a travel experience unlike any other. But don't wait too long to book. Cuba is in hot demand, and these tours will sell out quickly!
Departures & Prices
per person, double occupancy*
|Sun||Jun 21||2015||Sat||Jun 27||2015||$2859||Departed|
|Sun||Jul 19||2015||Sat||Jul 25||2015||$3299||$2999||Closed|
|Sun||Aug 2||2015||Sat||Aug 8||2015||$3299||$2999||Closed|
|Sun||Sep 6||2015||Sat||Sep 12||2015||$3099||$2799||Closed|
|Sun||Sep 20||2015||Sat||Sep 26||2015||$3099||$2799||Closed|
|Sun||Oct 11||2015||Sat||Oct 17||2015||$3099||$2799||Closed|
|Sun||Oct 18||2015||Sat||Oct 24||2015||$3099||$2799||Closed|
|Sun||Nov 1||2015||Sat||Nov 7||2015||$3399||$3099||Available|
|Sun||Dec 6||2015||Sat||Dec 12||2015||$3399||$3099||Available|
|Sun||Dec 20||2015||Sat||Dec 26||2015||$3899||$3599||Closed|
|Sun||Jan 10||2016||Sat||Jan 16||2016||$3499||$3199||Available|
|Sun||Jan 31||2016||Sat||Feb 6||2016||$3499||$3199||Available|
|Sun||Feb 14||2016||Sat||Feb 20||2016||$3499||$3199||Available|
|Sun||Mar 13||2016||Sat||Mar 19||2016||$3499||$3199||Available|
|Sun||Apr 10||2016||Sat||Apr 16||2016||$3499||$3199||Available|
Want to stay longer? Unfortunately, we don't offer late returns on this package.
|Highlights of Havana & Varadero|
|Single Room Supplement|
|Jun 21, Jul 19, Aug 2, Sep 6, Oct 11, Nov 1, Dec 6, Dec 20, Jan 10, Jan 31, Feb 14, Mar 13, Apr 10||+$399|
|Sep 20, Oct 18||unavailable|
|Optional Post-Night Crowne Plaza Miami|
|Optional Post-Night Crowne Plaza Miami|
|Jan 10, Jan 31, Feb 14, Mar 13, Apr 10||+$85|
|All other departures||+$70|
|Single Room Supplement|
|Jan 10, Jan 31, Feb 14, Mar 13, Apr 10||+$85|
|All other departures||+$70|
|Taxes & Fees|
|Cuba Visa Fee||included|
This package includes round-trip flights from the cities listed above. Please review the flight schedule, especially if you're booking connecting flights.
Coming from somewhere else? Unfortunately, we don't offer departures from cities that are not listed, but you can book your own connecting flights separately.
To make a reservation, simply select an available departure date and reserve online using our secure booking system. Or call us one of our travel specialists at 800-555-5765, Mon–Fri 9:30–6:00 Eastern time. But first, check out our Things to Know section.
We only require a per-person deposit payment, which you can pay with your credit card or PayPal account. This deposit will be applied towards the cost of your package, and is generally non-refundable (details). The balance is due 75 days prior to departure (or within 72 hours, if you're booking less than 75 days prior to departure), and can be paid by credit card, PayPal, check or money order.
First day of listed departure date is an overnight stay in Miami, Florida with an included pre-tour introductory briefing.
Day 1: Miami Overnight/Pre-tour introductory briefing. Your unforgettable journey to Cuba begins today with an overnight stay in Miami, Florida. If you are arriving at Miami International Airport, complimentary hotel shuttle service to the Crowne Plaza is available every 20 minutes from any 2nd level departure terminal, simply hail the driver as they pass. This evening at 7:30pm, participate in an introductory briefing to get acquainted with your fellow travelers and review your documents and program itinerary. You will be informed of the departure time of the group shuttle leaving the hotel tomorrow morning. Accommodations: Crowne Plaza Miami Airport.
Bienvenidos a Havana! You are welcomed by your private Cuban people-to-people representative holding a Friendly Planet sign outside the arrivals terminal at the Havana Airport. Board your air-conditioned coach, and jump right in as you head directly to your first destination in Cuba.
In the center of Old Havana, set out on a leisurely orientation walk through the cobblestone streets of this vibrant area. You will find many Cubans out strolling with their families offering you a perfect opportunity to interact with locals and immerse yourself in the colors of Cuba which surround you.
Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.
Explore the Used Booksellers Market, a cross-cultural treasure trove for readers of every genre. Meet local independent booksellers and engage in friendly conversation with Cuban readers about popular Cuban and American literature.
Now that you’ve had a taste of what lies ahead during your visit to Cuba, it’s time to check in to your hotel.
This evening, enjoy a welcome dinner at the hotel. Accommodations: Hotel Nacional. Lunch & dinner provided.
Day 3: Old Havana & Cuban Ration Store. After breakfast this morning visit one of Havana’s most famous cigar factories where you see hundreds of workers rolling the Cuban cigars by hand. If the cigar factories are closed, a private cigar rolling demonstration will be provided instead.
Then, visit a primary school in Havana (ages 5 – 12) and meet with some of the school’s administrators and teachers about Cuba’s education system and how it compares to that of the United States. Please note that should a school not be available or not in session, Friendly Planet will substitute the school visit with an equally enjoyable and interesting visit to another community project in Havana.
Enjoy lunch at a local Restaurant.
After lunch visit a local ration store. Your Cuban host will explain the system of rationing and the two-currency system as well as the difference between Ration Stores, Cuban Peso Stores, and CUC Stores.
Visit the famous Christopher Columbus Cemetery, a miniature city of mausoleums, crypts, family chapels, vaults, sculptures and ornate gravestones. Continue to the Artisan Market, where you’ll find plenty of souvenirs, including handicrafts, posters and other collectibles.
Return to the hotel and gather in a pre-reserved, private meeting room where you will engage in a discussion with an English-speaking Cuban expert on the history of U.S./Cuban relations in the 20th & 21st centuries with the opportunity to ask questions in an uncensored format.
This evening take a short stroll from your hotel to Café Laurent, a privately owned restaurant, for dinner. The restaurant this evening is a classic example of Cuba’s recently revised policies allowing private enterprise to flourish. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Las Terrazas was founded shortly after the Cuban Revolution in 1959 as a model community, where local farmers, known as campesinos, moved closer together in order to help each other overcome the hardships of sleeping in huts with thatched roofs, of living without electricity and of living without local schools or medical services.
First, stop briefly at the Clinica Las Terrazas† to learn how medical services are handled in rural Cuba. Locals visit this small, multi-purpose center for medical advice, often non-traditional and homeopathic, and referrals to larger medical centers in the city, dental care by the area’s sole dentist, and even a haircut by the town hairdresser, with whom the space is also shared.
At our next stop, we’ll visit the town’s coffee shop, Café Maria. Maria's family has been welcoming visitors for years to enjoy the “best coffee in the country.” Discuss coffee culture in Cuba and throughout the world and how cafes act as places for social interaction.
Las Terrazas is now part of UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserve, much of it reforested coffee plantation. Real reforestation began in the late 1960s by the local farmers who were concerned that their land had been degraded by former French coffee barons.
Visit the art studio of Lester Campa (When in residence).
Now you’re in for an authentic, country-style lunch prepared and served outdoors at a local farmhouse near Las Terrazas.
On the way back to Havana after lunch, you’ll have the distinct pleasure of visiting “Fusterlandia”, the home and surrounding neighborhood of “The Picasso of the Caribbean”, Jose Fuster. Starting with a small wooden home as his canvas, Mr. Fuster has turned his dream into reality and transformed not just his own home but the entire neighborhood into a unique and colorful artistic landscape. Using the money he makes from selling his artwork, Jose adorns the community with sculptures and mosaics galore.
This evening, enjoy dinner on your own. We recommend dining at a paladar. Feel free to choose one from the list we provided or ask your guides for recommendations. Breakfast & lunch provided.
Day 5: Havana, Alamar, Cojimar, Matanzas & Varadero. This morning, drive to Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s Cuba retreat. Then, drive to the district of Alamar on the outskirts of Havana. Started as an expansive social housing project in the 1970’s, these Soviet-style pre-fabricated concrete apartment blocks are now home to hundreds of thousands of Cubans.
Among the buildings in Alamar are community gardens, called Organoponicos, where residents grow fruit, vegetables and herbs for their own consumption and local sale. Similar to co-op and community gardens in the United States, these Organoponicos facilitate community development and offer Alamar’s residents access to fresh produce. Enjoy a visit to one of these Organoponicos, which few visitors to Cuba have the opportunity to do.
Visit Cojimar, the fishing village that was the setting for Hemingway’s book, The Old Man and the Sea, and enjoy lunch at a local paladar.
Continue on to the beautiful town of Varadero. Accommodations: Melia Varadero. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Day 6: Varadero, Coliseo & Cardenas. This morning drive to visit a Craft Workshop. Artisans Mariela Alemán Orosco and Marilín Martínez Barrio, members of the Cuban Cultural Fund and the Cuban Association of Artisans and Artists, have received prizes and recognition for their creative work. During the visit you’ll tour the workshop and experience the creative process as it is taking place.
Continue to the provincial town of Coliseo, passing by the city of Cardenas. Here you’ll observe village life first hand, including the varied (and often quite creative) means of transportation that residents rely on, like handmade bicycles and horse-drawn carriages. Then, drive to the Coincidencia Farm, founded in 1987 by Héctor Correa, an agriculturist with an interest in preserving certain native species of fruit that he knew and loved as a child. With a cart full of seedlings, he began to plant his farm. In order to multiply the effort, he created a seed bank so that any interested farmer could also cultivate the plants. In addition to farming, Correa created the first ceramics workshop in Matanzas, blending art with nature, essential sources of inspiration for any artist. Correa’s children have kept the family tradition, studying and working hard both on the farm and in the workshop.
After touring the farm and ceramics workshop, engage in a discussion about opportunities for creative expression in Cuba and the US, and how in both countries, artists often find perfect incubators for their creative drives through farming. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Day 7: Varadero & Havana/Miami. Today, bid farewell to Cuba as you transfer to Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport and check-in for your charter flight back to Miami. Adios Havana! Breakfast provided.
† These visits are subject to availability. When not possible to visit, appropriate alternate visits will be included.
NOTE: This itinerary provides a full time schedule of educational activities that will result in meaningful interactions between you and individuals in Cuba. U.S. law requires that all persons who participate in this program adhere to this full time schedule, and imposes on Friendly Planet the obligation to ensure such adherence.
Infrastructure in Cuba, including even the best hotels, may not always be up to U.S. standards. The hotels really do try to maintain quality accommodations, and in the properties we select for our tours, they generally do a good job. However, Cuba's resources and climate do sometimes impact a hotel's ability to keep up with maintenance and indoor air quality. For example, in Cuba's tropical climate, you might notice musty odors in some buildings, including hotels. We do our best to select the highest quality hotels, restaurants and paladars that Cuba has to offer, but we appreciate your flexibility and understanding when you encounter a minor imperfection. Cuba has a long way to go before it's hotels, highways, public restrooms and other features reach US levels, but all in all, you will not suffer any major difficulties in tolerating the small issues that may occur. If you have any medical or dietary concerns, however, please inform us when you make your reservation, so we can take whatever special precautions are required to assure your comfort and well-being.
FRIENDLY PLANET'S LICENSE NUMBER FOR SELLING CUBA: CT-2014-309385-1
First and foremost, as a couple that has travelled extensively around the globe, this trip was without question the "best of the best" in all material respects. From the point of arrival, to the point of departure, your "on-the-ground" team did an outstanding job of maintaining the right balance between chaperone and tour guide. From the perspective of an educational experience, this trip completely dispelled our "American" perceptions, presumptions and preconceived notions of the country, the people and the culture. We left Havana with a clear sense of the history, economy, and political environment within "today's Cuba" -- a compliment to our Itinerary so carefully crafted by your team. We also left wanting more, which is always a good feeling. We would gladly return to Cuba (via Friendly Planet) down the road. Our compliments to you and your staff for an exceptional experience!
Dennis J. Pitocco