Capitol building at night, Old Havana

Educational Resources Journey To Cuba

Hosted by Dr. Steven Derfler


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Itinerary at a Glance
Day Destination
1 Arrive Miami
2 Miami/Havana
3 Havana
4 Havana & Las Terrazas
5 Havana, Alamar & Cojimar
6 Havana, Santa Clara &
Sancti Spiritus
7 Trinidad & Sancti Spiritus
8 Cienfuegos & Havana
9 Depart Havana/Arrive Miami
Style Custom Group
24 travelers max, dedicated tour escorts & guides throughout
Price Includes
  • 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
  • 8 nights superior first class hotel accommodations including 1 night Crowne Plaza Miami Airport with introductory briefing
  • 20 meals: 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches and 6 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)
Highlights Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Sanata Clara, Cojimar, an authentic Rumba block party, Ernest Hemingway's Finca Vigia, and a dinner in a "paladar".
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.

Prepare for your trip Already booked? Find everything you need to know before you go, including information about passport & visa requirements, flights, luggage, and more.

After many years, Americans are again able to travel to Cuba under a new ‘people-to-people’ program authorized by the U.S. Treasury Department, which provides an opportunity to interact with Cubans through educational exchanges concerning art, music, culture, and more. The People to People license issued by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control allows you to enjoy 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 Cuban community and provide an opportunity to interact with them in meaningful and rewarding ways.

Dates, Prices & Options

Sorry, there are no currently available tour dates.

Detailed Itinerary

Dancers, HavanaDay 1 - Wednesday, Feb 6: Arrive Miami. Your unforgettable journey to Cuba begins today as you arrive 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. Accommodations: Crowne Plaza Miami Airport.

Day 2 - Thursday, Feb 7: Miami/Havana. Today, transfer to the Miami International Airport to 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.

Havana Vieja Photo by Adam JonesEnjoy 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.

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. Lunch & dinner provided.

Students of Angela Landa Elementary SchoolDay 3 - Friday, Feb 8: 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. We will also have time this morning to visit many of Havana’s historically valid landmarks such as the Plaza de le Revolucion, the Christopher Columbus Cemetery, Morro Castle and the Museum of Captain Generals.

Lunch is served at Prado y Neptuno Restaurant in Old Havana before we proceed to Cuba’s famous Museo des Belles Artes (Museum of Modern Art) where we concentrate on the vast collection of Cuban artists who are represented here.

We then continue on to the private studios of at least two prominent and well known local Cuban artists.

Late this afternoon we visit Beth Shalom Synagogue in the Vedado Section of Havana where where we have the opportunity to deliver medical supplies and medecine to the pharmacy which distributes our gifts throughout the local community.

This evening we dine one of Havana’s privately owned in-home restaurants known as Paladars. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Las TerrazasDay 4 - Saturday, Feb 9: 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 Cafe Maria, Las TerrazasAt 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). Today he’ll share with us his unique paper recycling process, the results of which are used for various artistic items, and explain the methods used to create the paper.

On the way back to Havana after lunch, we 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.

Return to Havana and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure. Breakfast & lunch provided.

Finca VigiaDay 5 - Sunday, Feb 10: Havana, Alamar & Cojimar. This morning, drive to Finca Vigia, Hemmingway’s Cuba retreat and visit Cojimar, the fishing village that was the setting for his book, “The Old Man and the Sea.” 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. 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.

Callejon de HamelAmongst 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.

We return to Havana in time to visit the lively and colorful local neighborhood of Callejon de Hamel where we experience live salsa music and the locals dancing to the rumba and salsa before lunch at El Aljibe Resturant. After lunch we stop by the Artisans Market located on the Malecon.

Join your fellow travelers for dinner which is 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. Accommodations: Hotel Melia Cohiba or Hotel Nacional. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Santa Clara Music & Performing Arts SchoolDay 6 - Monday, Feb 11: Havana, Santa Clara & Sancti Spiritus. After breakfast, depart from Havana and continue to the town of Santa Clara where 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. 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.

We arrive at the delightfully small and quaint town of Sancti Spiritus late this afternoon. Our guide will lead us on a stroll through the small streets which are navigated primarily by horse drawn carriages and the small town plaza before we check into our hotel.

Dinner this evening is included in a local restaurant. Accomodations: Hotel Rijo or Hotel Plaza. Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided.

Plaza Mayor, Trinidad Photo by Nick GrunwaldDay 7 - Tuesday, Feb 12: Trinidad. After breakfast this morning, visit Trinidad and its environs. First we visit the Casa del Alfarero, a pottery house that was founded 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 along with some of the religion’s devotees will explain the basic principles of Santeria. Discuss the role of religion and religious organizations throughout both Cuba and the US.

Manaca Iznaga observation towerLunch 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.

We return to Sancti Spiritus late this afternoon. Dinner this evening is in a private home and restaurant (known as a Paladar) in Sancti Spiritus 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 the locals at the Casa de la Musica which is easy walking distance to your hotel 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.

Plaza de la Catedral, Havana Vieja Photo by KrasivajaDay 8 - Wednesday, Feb 13: Sancti Spiritus, Cienfuegos & Havana. Shortly after breakfast this morning, depart Sancti Spiritus and drive 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.

We enjoy a lunch at a local restaurant and then explore the main square and the Punto Gordo peninsula before heading on to Cuba’s Autopista Highway and returning to Havana.

Our farewell dinner this evening is at the elegant Café del Oriente Restaurant located on the Plaza de Armas in Old Havana. Accommodations: Hotel Melia Cohiba or Hotel Nacional. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner provided.

Day 9 - Thursday, Feb 14: Depart Havana/Arrive Miami. We transfer to Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport and fly to Miami.

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, 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.


Contact Information

Steven DerflerDr. Steven Derfler
Director Educational Resources, Inc.
Tel: 651-592-3688

An international educational consultant, public speaker, archaeologist, historian, researcher, teacher and writer, Dr. Derfler has been uncovering the histories of ancient civilizations for over 35 years. Tracing the development of western religions from their roots in the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean countries, Dr. Derfler brings insight to current political and social events, bridging the past with the future to promote greater understanding between people from different faiths and walks of life.

A recently retired university professor from the University of Wisconsin- River Falls, Dr. Derfler has been associated with international institutions such as Tel Aviv University's Institute of Archaeology, the Israeli Antiquities Authority, and The Negev Museum of Beersheva. He has also served as a scholar-in-residence at Oxford University, England. He is the director of Educational Resources, Inc- an educational consultancy and curriculum design agency, as well as guest lecturer in a wide variety of venues throughout the US.

His commentaries have been found in such publications as the St. Paul Pioneer Press and The American Jewish World. His research has been published by the Israel Exploration Journal, Tel Aviv Journal of Archaeology, Hadashot Archaologiot, Atiqot, Middle East Review, The ARAM Journal of Oxford University, The University of Minnesota Press and the Edwin Mellen Press. In addition, he has published a fiction novel about archaeology and the Middle East via Xlibris Press.

He has directed international programs to Israel and Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Greece and Turkey as well as Cuba. This will be Dr. Derfler's fifth program in Cuba.