Highlights of Havana & VaraderoBook this package
based on Sep. 17, 2017 departure
|Featuring||Explore Havana, Cuba's cultural capital, & Varadero, its premier beach; plus Cojimar & Matanzas|
|Style||Small Group TourTravel with a small, intimate group of 15-24 likeminded travelers escorted by an English speaking guide and/or tour manager for some or all of your journey. More of these packages
24 travelers max, dedicated tour escorts & guides throughout
|Departures||Scheduled Dates; one open departure, Sep 17 - Sep 23, 2017|
|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.|
In recent months, we’ve seen the restoration of ties continue between the US and Cuba, and more and more travelers are clamoring to visit the elusive island now, while it remains a genuine time capsule.
You'll begin your Highlights of Havana and Varadero 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 an organic farm and explore an ingenious, creative society with much to share and an eagerness to learn. In Varadero, you’ll meet a talented fashion designer and an intricate wood carver, a husband and wife duo, whose unique creations have won them numerous awards. You'll tour a "coincidental" farm in nearby Cardenas and discover what growing fruit and making pottery have in common. Your 5 star beachfront resort hotel is perfectly situated to offer opportunities to enjoy the Caribbean in your spare time.
Friendly Planet is proud to be one of the first U.S. tour companies to have been awarded a People to People license. We received our first license in September, 2011, and since then, we’ve sent thousands of American travelers to Cuba to participate in unique, inspiring, and affordable encounters with the Cuban people.
Dates, Prices & Options
Departure Dates & Prices
Departures & Prices
per person, double occupancy*
|Sun||Jun 18||2017||Sat||Jun 24||2017||$3599||$3299||Closed|
|Sun||Jul 16||2017||Sat||Jul 22||2017||$3599||$3299||Closed|
|Sun||Aug 27||2017||Sat||Sep 2||2017||$3599||$3299||Closed|
|Sun||Sep 17||2017||Sat||Sep 23||2017||$3699||$3399||Available|
|Sun||Oct 15||2017||Sat||Oct 21||2017||$3699||$3399||Closed|
Want to stay longer? Unfortunately, we don't offer late returns on this package.
Options & Fees
|Highlights of Havana & Varadero|
|Single Room Supplement||+$599|
|Optional Post-Night Crowne Plaza Miami|
|Optional Post-Night Crowne Plaza Miami|
|All other departures||+$70|
|Single Room Supplement|
|All other departures||+$70|
|Taxes & Fees|
|Cuba Visa Fee||included|
|Airline Baggage Fee1 (paid separately)||+$25|
1. For some flights, baggage fees must be paid at airport for each flight segment: $25 for 1st checked bag / $40 for 2nd checked bag.
Flights & Departure Cities
This package includes round-trip flights from the cities listed above.
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.
How to Make a Reservation
To make a reservation, simply select an available departure date and reserve online using our secure booking system. Or call 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 120 days prior to departure (or within 72 hours, if you're booking less than 120 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 and introductory briefing in Miami.
Day 1: Miami Overnight/Pre-tour introductory briefing
Accommodations: 1 night Crowne Plaza Miami Airport Hotel.
- Arrive in Miami
- Attend an introductory briefing at your hotel at 7:30 p.m.
Full Day Itinerary: Your journey to Cuba begins today with an overnight stay in Miami. 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 7:30 p.m., participate in an introductory briefing to get acquainted with your fellow travelers, review your documents, and complete the final paperwork for travel to Cuba. You will be informed of the departure time of the group shuttle leaving the hotel tomorrow morning.
DAY 2: Miami/Havana
Accommodations: 3 nights Hotel Nacional, Havana. Included meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner.
- Depart the USA on your flight for Havana
- Lunch at a privately owned restaurant
- Stop at Plaza de la Revolución
- Tour Modern Havana
- Welcome dinner at your hotel
¡Bienvenidos a La Habana! You are welcomed by your private Cuban National Guide 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 lunch in Cuba.
Enjoy your first meal in Cuba at a privately owned restaurant, called a paladar.
Stop at the Plaza de la Revolución, the most famous and politically important square in Cuba. The square has witnessed many rallies and revolutions that have altered the course of Cuban history, where you'll view the 109m tall tower and an 18m statue of José Martí.
Continue on a panoramic tour of the urban area that lies west of Old Havana and shows the progression of the city over time: from a neighborhood along the city walls after its demolition, passing through the transitional Midtown (Centro Habana), to the extensive and more modern Vedado and Miramar neighborhoods.
Now that you've had a taste of what lies ahead during your visit to Cuba, it's time to check into your hotel. This evening, enjoy a welcome dinner at the hotel.
DAY 3: Havana
Included meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner.
- Attend a lecture by a specialist from the Office of the Historian on the rehabilitation of Old Havana
- Orientation walk through Old Havana, including the Used Bookseller’s Market
- Learn about Cuba's two currency system at a local ration store
- Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant
- Tour the Rum Museum to reveal the secrets of rum making
- Walk along Paula promenade and stop at the Artisans Market
- Enjoy dinner at a paladar
Full Day Itinerary: After breakfast this morning, attend a lecture given by a specialist from the Office of the Historian. Learn about the City Historian's massive efforts to restore Old Havana buildings, attract tourism and new investment, and improve social services for local residents. After the lecture, take a walking tour to see the different examples of ongoing and finished restoration projects.
Continue on a leisurely orientation walk in Old Havana with your guide through the vibrant cobblestone streets as you immerse yourself in the colors of Cuba which surround you. At the Plaza de Armas, the oldest plaza in the city, enjoy some time on your own to 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.
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.
Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.
After lunch, tour the Rum Museum. You’ll learn why Cuban rum has such high quality by going through the different steps of the rum-making process. You will have the opportunity to taste a shot of “añejo” (aged rum) at the end of the tour in their beautiful bar.
Then, walk along the beautiful Paula Promenade by the waterfront to see the changes related to the program of transformation for the Bay of Havana. Stop at the Artisans Market, where you will find plenty of souvenirs, including handicrafts, posters and other collectibles.
This evening take a short stroll from your hotel to Café Laurent, a privately owned restaurant, for dinner.
DAY 4: Havana
Included meals: Breakfast & lunch.
- Tour one of Havana’s famous cigar factories
- Visit the Fine Arts Museum (Cuban collection)
- Lunch at a local restaurant
- Explore Jose Fuster's whimsical "Fusterlandia"
- Visit the famous Christopher Columbus Cemetery
Full Day Itinerary: After breakfast this morning visit one of Havana's famous cigar factories where you will see hundreds of workers rolling Cuban cigars by hand. If the cigar factories are closed, a private cigar rolling demonstration will be provided instead.
Continue on to the edge of Old Havana to experience the Cuban collection at the Fine Arts Museum. Here you can appreciate the evolution of the country's history through the work of its most famous artists.
Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant
Drive to Jaimanitas, where you'll visit "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.
On the way back to the hotel, visit the famous Christopher Columbus Cemetery, a miniature city of mausoleums, crypts, family chapels, vaults, sculptures and ornate gravestones, which has been named a National Landmark.
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.
DAY 5: Havana, Alamar, Cojímar, Matanzas & Varadero
Accommodations: 2 nights Melia Varadero. Included meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner.
- Explore Ernest Hemingway's home, Finca Vigia
- Tour co-op community gardens in Alamar
- Enjoy lunch in the fishing village of Cojimar
- Visit Traditions Alleyway in Matanzas
- Continue on to Varadero
Full Day Itinerary: This morning, drive to Hemingway's Cuba retreat. There are many historical and cultural ties between Cuba and the United States, and one of the best known is the legacy of Ernest Hemingway, who lived more than 20 years in Cuba, from 1939 to 1960. You'll visit Hemingway's beautiful mansion, now a museum, Finca Vigia, (literally meaning "lookout farm"), where his 9,000 book library is preserved, as well as his animal trophies and famous fishing boat, Pilar.
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 "Organopónicos," 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 Organopónicos facilitate community development and offer Alamar's residents access to fresh produce. Enjoy a visit to one of these Organopónicos, which few visitors to Cuba have the opportunity to do.
You'll continue on to the quaint fishing village of Cojimar, the setting for Hemingway's book, The Old Man and the Sea, and enjoy lunch at a local paladar. La Terraza Restaurant, where the book's character Santiago brings in the remains of his epic fish, still stands today, and the pier where Hemingway's fishing boat docked can be seen from the shore.
Drive to Matanzas along the scenic route Vía Blanca, the coastal highway, and stop at the Traditions Alleyway to learn about the Afro-Cuban religion of Santería, an interesting blend of African and Catholic elements.
Then, continue on to the beautiful town of Varadero, the most famous beach on the Cuban mainland, and check into your all-inclusive hotel.
DAY 6: Varadero
Included meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner.
- Learn about the official national dance and musical genre of Cuba at the Danzón's Club
- Visit a unique craft workshop
Full Day Itinerary: After breakfast at the hotel this morning, we'll depart for a visit to the Danzón's Club in Varadero. Danzón is the official national dance and musical genre of Cuba. It originated in Matanzas and is practiced by hundreds of Cubans throughout the country. The clubs of "danzoneros" are dedicated to preserving the tradition and history of this dance. While visiting the Danzón's Club you'll have the opportunity to talk with its members (mostly elderly) about the history and characteristics of this dance. Of course, you'll also have the distinct pleasure of joining the members while they dance to this traditional and lilting rhythm.
Our next stop will be a visit to a unique Craft Workshop on the outskirts of Varadero. 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.
Return to the hotel for lunch and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure.
Tonight, the group will have the dinner in one of the hotel's specialty restaurants.
DAY 7: Varadero & Havana/Miami
Included meals: Breakfast.
- Transfer to the airport in Havana and board your charter flight back to Miami
Full Day Itinerary: Today, bid farewell to Cuba as you transfer to Havana's Jose Marti International Airport and check in for your flight back to Miami. ¡Adiós, Cuba!
† These visits are subject to availability. When not possible to visit, appropriate alternate visits will be included.
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 its hotels, highways, public restrooms and other features reach U.S. 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 wellbeing.
Our Refer A Friend program is not applicable on our Cuba programs.
We all had a wonderful time and marveled at how clean, pretty and safe Havana was. We particularly liked our visit to the Center for Adult Day Care where we were asked to go onto a stage so the 200 or so people at the Center, a former convent, could welcome us. The Director asked if any of us wanted to say something to them in Spanish. I volunteered and in the best Spanish I could muster at the time told them "we were happy to be in Cuba, that we were from the United States of America, and that we hoped they were happy we were there." The crowd burst into a loud, sustained applause. When we came off the stage and filed past the audience, everyone reached over to shake our hands. It was very touching and almost brought us to tears as we didn't expect such a hardy welcome from Cubans.
Before You Book
- Do I need a visa or any other documents? Travel visas are required for this package. Please review the requirements.
- Should I purchase travel protection? Protect your travel investment with our recommended travel protection plan.
- What's the fine print? Read the terms & conditions for this package.
- I'm traveling solo. Can you help me find a roommate? Yes, you can connect with other travelers to share a room and avoid single occupancy rates.
- Can I bring my kids? Are there any age restrictions? To book this package, you must be 18 or older. Your traveling companions must be 12 or older at the time of travel.
- What should I know about Cuba? Check out our country guide for travel tips, the best time to go, blog posts, videos, and more.
More Common Questions
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