Colors of Cuba

Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Sancti Spíritus, Santa Clara & Cojimar

This itinerary is for a past tour program.
Check out our new Colors of Cuba tour itinerary.

Overview

Itinerary at a Glance
Colors of Cuba
Day Destination
1 USA/Havana
2 Havana
3 Havana & Las Terrazas
4 Havana, Cienfuegos & Trinidad
5 Trinidad
6 Sancti Spíritus, Santa Clara & Havana
7 Havana, Alamar & Cojimar
8 Havana/Miami
Departs Miami (MIA)
Highlights Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Sanata Clara, an authentic Rumba block party, and a dinner in a "paladar".
Included Features
  • Non-stop round trip flights from Miami to Havana via U.S. Government-licensed charter service
  • U.S. Treasury Department license and letter of authorization
  • Cuba Entrance Visa
  • All land transportation, transfers & porterage in Cuba
  • 7 nights superior first class hotel accommodations
  • 21 meals: 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches and 7 dinners
  • Comprehensive educational exchange program, including entrance fees
  • Friendly Planet escort
  • Professional, English-speaking local guide, who will facilitate the educational exchanges with Cubans
  • Health insurance in Cuba (mandatory)
Travel Style This fast-paced, escorted educational program includes a reasonable amount of walking or hiking and requires an average level of physical fitness.

Children in Callejón de Hamel, Havana  Photo by James Emery After many years, Americans are again able to travel to Cuba under a new "people-to-people" program authorized by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control. Friendly Planet is proud to be one of the very few companies in the United States to have been awarded such a license, which provides an opportunity to interact with Cubans through educational exchanges concerning art, music, culture, and more. Join us for a unique adventure to experience this island which sits 90 miles off our shores and shares such an amazing and extraordinary history with the United States!

Cuba’s culture is rich with contributions from its indigenous, African and European roots. But above all, the people of Cuba are the island’s greatest asset. They are friendly, welcoming, resourceful and full of life. This program will introduce you to the people and provide ample opportunities to interact with them in meaningful and rewarding ways, learning and teaching each other about life in Cuba vs the USA. But don't wait to reserve your spot. With a rare opportunity like this, with prices this low, space is sure to fly!


As seen in:

Detailed Itinerary

Colors of Cuba itinerary map Day 1: Miami/Havana. Your unforgettable journey to Cuba begins this morning at Miami International Airport. Board your non-stop flight bound for Havana, Cuba’s capital city and designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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.

Callejón de Hamel Visit the colorful Callejón de Hamel, one of the shortest but most interesting streets in Havana, where you will discover how the African Cuban religion of Santeria, a fusion of Christianity and African belief systems like spirit worship, is portrayed in the street art and music. Meet with artists, including Salvador Gonzáles Escalona (when in residence), whose prolific murals that adorn the neighborhood reflect the culture and religious beliefs of this area.

Enjoy your first lunch at a local restaurant in the center of Old Havana, followed by a leisurely orientation walk with your guide through the vibrant cobblestone streets as you immerse yourself in the colors of Cuba which surround you. 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.

Capitol building 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. After time to rest at the hotel, engage in a discussion with a panel of English-speaking Cuban experts 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, enjoy a welcome dinner at the hotel. Accommodations: Hotel Nacional or Telegrafo. Lunch & dinner provided.

Students of Angela Landa Elementary School Day 2: Havana. After breakfast this morning, visit a primary school (ages 5–12) located in a beautiful historical building which has been carefully renovated by Havana’s Office of the Historian. Interact with the children in their classrooms and participate in a discussion session with some of the school’s administrators and teachers about Cuba’s education system and how it compares to that of the United States.

Lunch is served at a local restaurant, followed by a visit to the Ludwig Foundation. Meet with local members of the foundation and discuss the roles that both art and artists have within the US and Cuba.

Continue on to the private studio of independent artist, Eduardo Roca “Choco”. Today you’ll learn different techniques of printmaking from an innovative and internationally acclaimed Cuban artist and his team.

This evening, meet with the owner or general manager and some of the workers of one of Havana’s finest and most interesting new restaurants, El Gijon. Hear firsthand how new businesses—especially restaurants—get started, find working capital, and make a profit in a society where private business ventures are almost unknown. Also, learn about the history of the “Association” restaurants, of which El Gijon is one of the best. Afterwards, enjoy dinner at El Gijon. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Las Terrazas Day 3: Havana & Las Terrazas. Depart for Las Terrazas in Pinar del Rio Province, a “must see” in Cuba and known worldwide for its magnificent, scenic beauty. Pinar del Rio Province is also home to much of Cuba’s tobacco farming.

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, we’ll visit the Clinica Las Terrazas to learn how medical services are handled in rural Cuba. Here the nurses and doctors believe in non-traditional treatments and specialize in homeopathic remedies. Learn how locally-grown plants and other materials are used to prepare remedies and discuss both the merits and problems of homeopathic versus manufactured pharmaceuticals.

Enjoying coffee at Café Maria, Las Terrazas At our next stop, we’ll visit the oldest member of the community, Maria. She is the sole proprietor of the town’s only coffee shop, Café Maria, where she and her family have 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. Engage in a lively exchange with members of a local farming community and discuss with Cuban Guajiros (farmers and cowboys) the importance of reforesting. Discuss how the Cuban experience in Las Terrazas has had a positive impact on the ecological movement on society and its similarity or dissimilarity to efforts in the USA.

Now you’re in for an authentic, country-style lunch prepared and served outdoors at a local farmhouse near Las Terrazas.

Visit the art studio of Lester Campa (when in residence). He’ll demonstrate his unique paper recycling process, the results of which are used for various artistic items, and explain the methods used to create the paper.

Fusterlandia On the way back to Havana after lunch, we have the pleasure of visiting “Fusterlandia”, the home and surrounding neighborhood of “The Picasso of the Caribbean”, José 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, José adorns the community with sculptures and mosaics galore.

Return to the hotel and take some time to relax and freshen up before joining your travel companions for dinner at a local restaurant in the heart of “Habana Vieja”. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Women  & children of Cienfuegos Photo by Adam Jones Day 4: Havana, Cienfuegos & Trinidad. Shortly after breakfast this morning, depart from Havana and drive along Cuba’s “autopista” highway. Continue through small towns and villages en route to Cienfuegos, known as the “Pearl of the South” and the capital of Cienfuegos Province on the southern Caribbean side of the island.

Continue to a ration store where your Cuban guide will explain the system of rationing, the two-currency system, as well as the difference between Ration Stores, Cuban Peso Stores, and CUC Stores.

Enjoy a lunch at a local restaurant and then explore the main square and the Punto Gordo peninsula.

Your next visit affords you a singular opportunity to engage in an educational exchange with the faculty, staff and students of the Beny More Art School in Cienfuegos. Learn how students are trained in the visual and musical arts in this institution, and discuss the similarities and differences between Cuban and the American educational programs in music and the arts. Beny More, considered by some to be Cuba’s most famous singer, was a native of Cienfuegos, and he is honored and remembered by this institution which carries his name.

Trinidad Continue the drive along the Caribbean coast to the charming old Spanish colonial town of Trinidad. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, Trinidad is one of the best preserved towns in all of Latin America, famous for its lovely, cobblestone streets, pastel colored houses with elaborate wrought-iron grills, as well as beautiful palaces, plazas, and churches, such as the beautiful Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco. Dinner this evening is at our beachfront hotel located on Playa Ancon on the Caribbean Sea. Accommodations: Las Brisas Del Mar. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Plaza Mayor, Trinidad Photo by Nick Grunwald Day 5: Trinidad. After breakfast this morning, visit the Casa del Alfarero, a pottery house that was founded and and has been managed by the Santander Family for generations. Today you’ll learn the process of ceramic production and have the opportunity to create a piece of your own.

Continue to one of Trinidad’s many “casas particulares” or bed and breakfasts, where you’ll enjoy a tour and a discussion with the owners. Learn how bed and breakfasts are one of Cuba’s new entrepreneurial opportunities in a society where the state typically owns most enterprises. Ask questions and share insights about U.S. businesses, including the ever popular bed and breakfasts that are ubiquitous in the U.S.

Continue to Templo de Yemaya, where a Santeria practitioner and some of the religion’s devotees explain the basic principles of Santeria. Discuss the role of religion and religious organizations throughout both Cuba and the U.S.

Manaca Iznaga Observation Tower Lunch today is at the beautifully restored Hacienda de Manaca Iznaga, located in the heart of the Valley de los Ingenios, a series of valleys once known as a center for sugar production. Built in the late 1700s, the mansion displays an exhibition of paintings depicting the lives of slaves on sugar plantations.

After lunch learn, through the stories of local families, about the region’s harsh past, where great fortunes were made on the backs of African slaves, and where many descendants of the Afro-Cuban slaves still reside.

Our next visit is a wonderful and enlightening visit to a local Cuban Maternity Home, where we’ll meet with residents and staff members. Tour the home and discuss with residents and staff members the medical services provided to expectant mothers and the role of families in both Cuban and US society.

After time to rest at the hotel, dinner this evening is in a private home and restaurant (known as a Paladar) for a home cooked meal. Meet with the multigenerational family members, and get an intimate look into local Cuban daily life while enjoying one of the best meals you’ll have in Cuba!

After dinner, join Cubans at either Casa de la Musica or Casa de la Trova for a community block party, a celebration where locals from all walks of life and generations come to eat, drink, build friendships, and discuss neighborhood matters. Enjoy the celebration, regarded as one of the best experiences of the trip, and engage in discussions with the locals about community life in Cuba and the US. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Day 6: Sancti Spíritus, Santa Clara & Havana. After breakfast, depart from Trinidad and visit the picturesque town of Sancti Spíritus, one of the original seven cities founded in Cuba by the Spanish five centuries ago, and home to Cuba's oldest church, the Parroquial Mayor. Here, you'll visit the Sancti Spíritus Medical University and discuss medical education in Cuba, conditions for medical students who practice abroad after completing their education, and the career track for graduated Cuban doctors in Cuba, as well as medical practices in Cuba and the USA, in general.

Continue to the town of Santa Clara. Lunch will be served buffet style in Santa Clara’s Los Caneyes Hotel. Enjoy a special visit to the Santa Clara Music and Performing Arts School, with dance, theater and music performances by the students. Participate in a discussion with faculty and students about the role of music and education in the USA, and the impact of music on Cuban life and its importance in education in Cuba. Please note that this visit is only possible during the school year (September through early June). Should this school not be available, or in session, during your trip, an equally enjoyable and interesting visit to another community project will be substituted. Accommodations: Hotel Nacional or Telegrafo. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Day 7: Havana, Alamar & Cojimar. This morning visit 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. Meet with some local residents and discuss the process of buying and selling or otherwise obtaining housing in Cuba. Also learn about the tradition of having multi-generational living arrangements.

Proceed to a local Elementary School in Alamar. Interact with the children in their classrooms as part of an English lesson and participate in a discussion session with some of the school’s administrators and teachers about Cuba’s education system and how it compares to that of the United States.

Girls on a bus  Photo by Adam Jones Amongst 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. Lunch today is an open-air organic feast served by community volunteers and workers from Alamar.

This afternoon, visit Beth Shalom Synagogue Pharmacy, where pharmaceuticals that are donated by visitors from throughout the world are distributed, free of charge, to everyone who needs them, regardless of their faith. Afterwards, return to the hotel.

Plaza de la Catedral, Havana Vieja Photo by Krasivaja After some well-deserved downtime at the hotel, join your fellow travelers at the farewell dinner, served in the rooftop restaurant of the Ambos Mundos Hotel, where Hemingway lived in the 1930s and wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls. Be sure to wear your dancing shoes as you enjoy live, traditional Cuban Buena Vista-style music and salsa dancing. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Day 8: Depart Havana/Arrive Miami. After breakfast in the hotel this morning, bid farewell to Cuba as you transfer to Havana’s José Martí International Airport and check-in for your charter flight back to Miami. Adios Havana!

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 schedule, and imposes on Friendly Planet the obligation to ensure such adherence.

Infrastructure in Cuba, especially in hotels, may not be sufficient to satisfy demand in certain periods. While all inclusions in your tour will be maintained, it is possible that the itinerary may be rerouted to accommodate hotel availability. Please be flexible and understand that we will always do whatever we can to assure the best possible experience for all our Cuba travelers.

FRIENDLY PLANET'S LICENSE NUMBER FOR SELLING CUBA: CT-2012-295959-1

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