Highlights of Havana & Varadero

Explore Havana, Cuba's cultural capital, & Varadero, its premier beach; plus Cojimar & Matanzas


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We're still going to Cuba!
Our People-to-People tours are still legal and not impacted by recent changes in U.S. policy. Questions? See our Cuba FAQs.
Style Small Group TourTravel with a small, intimate group of no more than 24 likeminded travelers (and often much fewer), escorted by an English speaking guide and/or tour manager for some or all of your journey. More of these packages
Dedicated tour escorts & guides throughout
Departures Group Size 24 travelers max
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.
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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 a cigar factory, tour an organic farm and explore an ingenious, creative society with much to share and an eagerness to learn. You'll visit a one-of-a-kind publisher in Matanzas, where books and journals are individually handmade using repurposed materials to create beautiful works of art. 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. 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.

Package includes

  • Flights
  • Coach
  • Transfers
  • Hotel
  • Meals
  • Guides
  • Non-stop round trip flights from Miami to Havana, including fuel surcharges and taxes and fees
  • U.S. Treasury Department, OFAC License Certification and Authorization Letter
  • Cuba Entrance Visa & Departure Tax
  • All land transportation, transfers & porterage in Cuba
  • 4 nights accommodations in Havana at a well-located & completely renovated 'casa particular' (Cuban bed and breakfast)
  • 2 nights accommodations at an all-inclusive resort in Varadero Beach
  • 15 meals: 6 breakfasts, 5 lunches and 4 dinners
  • Comprehensive educational exchange program, including entrance fees
  • Friendly Planet Tour Manager
  • Professional, English-speaking local guide, who will facilitate the educational exchanges with Cubans
  • Health insurance in Cuba (mandatory)

Optional add-ons

  • Pre-Night stay in Miami
  • Post-Night stay in Miami
  • Casa Suite Upgrade in Havana (Very Limited: Call us for availability)

Why you'll love it

  • Explore Old Havana’s architectural treasure trove
  • Learn how Cuban masters hand-roll cigars at a famous Cigar Factory
  • Visit the fascinating Afro-Cuban neighborhood of Regla
  • Walk in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway at Finca Vigia
  • Visit a publisher of unique, handmade books and journals in Matanzas
  • Meet a talented fashion designer and a woodcraft expert at their home workshop near Varadero



Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Miami/Havana

4 nights El Encanto de Perseverancia, Havana. Dinner.

  • Depart the USA on your flight for Havana
  • Welcome dinner at a local paladar

Classic cars, HavanaFull Day Itinerary: Today, board your flight bound for Havana, Cuba's capital city and designated World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982.

¡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 vehicle and transfer to the casa.

Check into the casa and enjoy a welcome drink. You’ll meet your tour manager and have some time to rest a little or take a stroll to the nearby Malecon before dinner.

This evening, the group will enjoy a welcome dinner at a local paladar.

Day 2: Old Havana

Breakfast & lunch.

  • Leisurely orientation walk through Old Havana, including the Used Bookseller's Market
  • Visit private studio of one of Cuba's talented independent artists
  • Enjoy lunch at a local paladar
  • Learn about Cuba's two currency system at a local ration store
  • Tour the famous Christopher Columbus Cemetery

Used Boosksellers Market, HavanaFull Day Itinerary: After breakfast this morning, enjoy 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. 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 the private studio of one of Cuba's talented independent artists. During your visit, you'll learn different techniques of printmaking, sculpture and other art forms from innovative Cuban artists and their teams. 

Enjoy lunch at a local paladar.

Scale, ration storeAfter 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, which has been named a National Landmark.

Return to the casa and enjoy the rest of the day on your own. We recommend dining at a paladar for dinner. Feel free to choose one from the list we provide or ask your guides for recommendations.

Day 3: Alamar, Cojimar & Havana

Breakfast & lunch.

  • Tour one of Havana’s famous cigar factories
  • Explore Ernest Hemingway's home, Finca Vigia
  • Tour co-op community gardens in Alamar
  • Enjoy lunch in the fishing village of Cojimar
  • Visit Muraleando or another interesting community Project
  • Enjoy a cocktail at Bar la Fama in the Hotel Nacional

Finca VigíaFull Day Itinerary: 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.

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 Vigía, (literally meaning "lookout farm"), where his 9,000 book library is preserved, as well as his animal trophies and famous fishing boat, Pilar.

Hemingway Monument, CojimarThen, 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 roughly a hundred thousand 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.

After lunch, visit Muraleando or another interesting community project.

Visit the Bar la Fama at the Nacional Hotel de Cuba, one of Havana’s most iconic, historical properties.

Afterwards, return to the casa and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure.

Day 4: Havana & Regla

Breakfast, lunch & dinner.

  • Take the small ferry to Regla across the bay
  • Visit the Fine Arts Museum (Cuban collection) or the Revolution Museum
  • Lunch at a paladar
  • Walk along Paula promenade and stop at the Artisans Market
  • Join your fellow travelers at a farewell dinner

Revolution MuseumFull Day Itinerary: After breakfast this morning, transfer to the ferry terminal for a short ferry ride to the other side of the bay. Visit Regla, a settlement south of the bay, and the famous Virgin of Regla Church, where an interesting blend of Afrocuban creeds and the Catholic faith can be experienced.

Return by coach from Regla 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. If you prefer history to art, you can choose to visit the Revolution Museum, housed in the former Presidential Palace instead.

Enjoy lunch at a local paladar.

Salsa dancingThen, 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.

Return to the casa to rest before dinner.

Tonight, join your fellow travelers at a farewell dinner, served in a privately owned restaurant. Be sure to wear your dancing shoes as you enjoy live, traditional Cuban music and salsa dancing, reminiscent of the Buena Vista Social Club.

Day 5: Havana, Matanzas & Varadero

2 nights Melia Varadero, VaraderoBreakfast, lunch & dinner.

  • Drive to Matanzas
  • Tour the San Severino Castle and museum
  • Visit the Ediciones Vigia, a publisher of unique books & journals
  • Continue to Varadero

Libertad Square, Matanzas photo by Emmanuel Huybrechts Full Day Itinerary: After breakfast this morning, check out of the casa and drive to Matanzas.

Tour the San Severino Castle, once a fortress to defend the province of Matanzas and today a Museum of the Slave Route in Cuba created in partnership with UNESCO. This unique museum allows visitors to learn about the history of slavery in Cuba and the rich African, Latin American and Caribbean cultural heritage that gave birth to the Cuba of today.

Continue to Ediciones Vigia, a publisher of unique books and journals, where artisans use repurposed materials to create first-edition books on a variety of topics, all made by hand. Visitors are welcome in the workshop where you’ll witness the talent and ingenuity behind each perfectly detailed edition.

Later today, arrive in Varadero, the most famous beach on the Cuban mainland, and check into your all-inclusive hotel.

Day 6: Varadero

Breakfast, lunch & dinner.

  • Learn about the official national dance and musical genre of Cuba at the Danzón's Club
  • Visit a unique craft workshop

Beach, VaraderoFull Day Itinerary: After breakfast at the hotel this morning, depart for a visit to the Danzón's Club in Varadero. Danzón is Cuba’s official national dance and musical genre. It originated in Matanzas and is practiced 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 about the history and unique characteristics of this dance. Of course, you'll also have the pleasure of joining in the fun by trying out your own moves dancing to the traditional and lilting Danzón rhythm.

Later today, 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.

Tonight, enjoy dinner with your fellow group members in one of the hotel's specialty restaurants.

Day 7: Varadero/Miami


  • Transfer to the airport and board your flight back to the USA

Full Day Itinerary: Today, bid farewell to Cuba as you transfer to Varadero’s Juan Gualberto Gómez International Airport and check in for your flight back to Miami. ¡Adiós, Cuba!

Note: Itinerary is subject to change based on local availability.

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.

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