Treasures of Eastern Cuba
Explore Santiago, Cuba's eastern cultural capital, an indigenous Taíno village, Holguín, city of parks & eclectic art, and Guardalavaca's sun & sand
|Style||Small Group TourTravel with a small, intimate group of no more than 16 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||Travel safely and confidently with our new health & safety protocols.|
|Already booked?||Find everything you need to know before you go, including information about passport & visa requirements, flights, luggage, and more.|
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There’s much more to Cuba than Havana—off to the east, there’s a whole other world of culture, music, food and even the way the Spanish is spoken. Our new Treasures of Eastern Cuba tour will delight you with its unique music, eclectic art, fascinating history and laid back way of life in this often-overlooked but incredibly charming part of the country. You’ll visit Santiago, Cuba’s second largest city and historical gem; experience indigenous Taíno culture at an authentic recreation of a traditional village; explore the fascinating art scene in Holguin, the city of parks; enjoy the white, sandy beaches and azure water of Guardalavaca, and much, much more. Cubans say that to visit Cuba’s East is to know Cuba’s heart. Join us on our Treasures of Eastern Cuba program and see for yourself how true it is.
- Non-stop round trip flights from Miami to Holguín, Cuba 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
- 1st night Crowne Plaza Miami Airport Hotel with Pre-tour introductory briefing
- 5 nights superior first class & deluxe hotel accommodations in Cuba
- 15 meals: 6 breakfasts, 5 lunches and 4 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)
- Post-Night stay in Miami
Why you'll love it
- Witness an impressive changing of the guard at Cementerio Santa Ifigenia
- Visit Santiago’s Rum Museum and learn the history & art of rum making
- Witness the fascinating art of bronze casting
- Visit the actual San Juan Hill of Teddy Roosevelt fame
- Explore the birthplace of Fidel and Raul Castro
- Tour an authentic recreation of a Taíno Village
- Learn about the art of handmade paper and traditional printmaking
- Listen to talented young artists perform at the Holguín Lyrical Singing School
Day 1: Miami Overnight/Pre-tour introductory briefing
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. Upon arrival 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 of the Crowne Plaza branded bus when it approaches.
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/Holguín & Santiago de Cuba
3 nights Meliá Santiago de Cuba. Breakfast, lunch & dinner.
- Depart Miami on your flight bound for Holguín, Cuba
- Enjoy lunch at a privately owned paladar
- Continue on to Santiago de Cuba
- Stop at the Plaza de la Revolución
- Visit the sanctuary of La Virgen de la Caridad
- Welcome dinner at your hotel
Full Day Itinerary: Enjoy an included breakfast at the hotel and then transfer to the Miami International Airport to board your non-stop flight bound for Cuba! After arriving into Holguin's Frank País International Airport, complete airport formalities and meet your local guide.
Stop at Plaza de la Revolución, Santiago’s homage to Antonio Maceo, native son and hero of two wars for Cuban Independence.
Visit the sanctuary of La Virgen de la Caridad (the Virgin of Charity) del Cobre, Cuba’s Patron Saint and its most important religious site. The Virgin of Charity is worshiped by Catholics as well as practitioners of the Santería religion. Continue to the hotel to check in.
This evening, enjoy a welcome dinner at the hotel.
Day 3: Santiago
Breakfast & lunch.
- In the morning, see the changing of the guard at Santa Ifigenia Cemetery
- Continue with an exploration of the historic centre of Santiago
- Visit the Rum Museum
- Lunch will be served at a local paladar
- In the afternoon, visit the Conservatory of Esteban Salas, Cuba’s first composer
- Return to the hotel and enjoy the remainder of the evening at leisure
Full Day Itinerary: After an early breakfast, nestled peacefully on the city's western extremity, visit the Cementerio Santa Ifigenia, second only to Havana's Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón in significance and grand monuments. Cuba’s poet and independence hero, José Martí, is buried here and his mausoleum is a highlight of the cemetery. View the solemn and impressive changing of the guard, carried out every 30 minutes and well worth capturing on video.
Then, nestled peacefully on the city's western extremity, visit the Cementerio Santa Ifigenia, second only to Havana's Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón in significance and grand monuments. Cuba’s poet and independence hero, José Martí, is buried here and his mausoleum is a highlight of the cemetery. View the solemn and impressive changing of the guard, carried out every 30 minutes and well worth capturing on video.
Continue with an exploration of the historic centre of Santiago and its magnificent colonial architecture. Visit the House of Velázquez, the oldest private house in the Americas and the residence of Diego Velázquez, Spanish consquístador and first Governor of Cuba. The Parque Céspedes is the epicentre of the city and the place where Fidel Castro announced the victory of his revolution in 1959. This popular square offers a real taste of Cuban life, with friends chatting and arguing sports (a favorite Cuban activity) and folks generally enjoying the shade of the trees while they listen to impromptu performances by local musicians.
Santiago de Cuba’s Rum Museum, a must for visitors, explains the history of the sugar industry and how rum evolved from sugarcane to Cuba’s iconic drink. After a guided tour of the museum, you’ll enjoy a sample of aged premium Santiago rum.
Santiago is a lovely city, and the Balcón de Velázquez, the site of an old Spanish fort, offers one of the best panoramic views of the terracotta-tiled roofs that cover the colonial houses. From there, climb the famous staircase, the Padre Pico Steps, to Tivolí, the picturesque French Quarter of Santiago which was settled by Haitians in the late 18th century.
Lunch will be served at a local paladar.
In the afternoon, visit the Conservatorio Esteban Salas, founded in 1959 to honor Cuba’s first, native-born composer. Here you’ll meet teachers of classical and modern music and discuss the evolution of Santiago's unique, Afro-Caribbean musical styles, influenced by Santiago’s first settlers from Haiti and other parts of the Caribbean and Brazil, as well as slaves from Africa. After a performance at the conservatory, you’ll meet professional dance instructors who will explain the history of Cuba’s most popular dance, the salsa, followed by an actual dance lesson where you’ll learn the tricks of moving your hips and feet to the music, just like the Cubans.
Return to your hotel and enjoy the remainder of the evening on your own. We recommend dining at a paladar. Feel free to ask your guide for recommendations.
Day 4: Santiago.
Breakfast, lunch & dinner.
- This morning, visit the Taller Cultural Center in & the Fundación Caguayo
- Later, drive to the legendary El Morro Castle
- Take a boat to Cayo Granma, a small key, to enjoy lunch
- After lunch, travel to San Juan Hill, where the Spanish surrendered to US forces
- Later this afternoon visit Santiago's famous Moncada Barracks
- Return to the hotel for a short rest before dinner at a private paladar
Full Day Itinerary: After breakfast this morning, visit the Taller Cultural Center in Santiago which brings together artists of many genre, critics, and researchers interested in the creation, study and dissemination of the Fine Arts. You’ll enjoy this opportunity to talk with young, budding artists and view their work, some of which is available for sale.
Afterwards, visit the Fundación Caguayo dedicated to the art of making bronze monuments and managed by Lescay, the creator of the bronze statue of Antonio Maceo that you viewed at the Santiago Plaza de la Revolución. Here, you’ll learn the fascinating art of bronze casting, from the sketch to the wax model, to the casting, to the finished product. While you observe the process, take advantage of the opportunity to chat with local artisans as they work.
Later, drive to the legendary El Morro Castle, a 17th century fortress built to protect the city against pirates, which later became a prison for Cuban revolutionaries fighting against Spain. Declared a World Heritage site in 1988, El Morro protected the Bay of Santiago from invaders over its 360-year history, and the stunning views of the beautiful blue waters seen from its vantage points are there for you to enjoy today.
Take a boat to Cayo Granma, a small, picturesque key where you’ll enjoy lunch at a local restaurant overlooking the water.
After lunch, travel to San Juan Hill, where Spanish colonial troops surrendered to US forces in July, 1898. Visit the monument and discuss with your guide the victory of Teddy Roosevelt in the Spanish - American War.
Later this afternoon visit Santiago's famous Moncada Barracks, an art deco building completed in 1938 and was the main barrack of the army in Eastern Cuba. In 1953, a young Fidel Castro led an assault against Batista at the Moncada Barracks, and although this attack failed, it marked the beginning of the fight against the Batista regime. Your local guide will explain the history of the revolution and how Castro began on his path to leadership.
Return to the hotel for a short rest before dinner.
This evening, you’re in for a real treat. You’ll enjoy dinner at a private paladar whose owner is a delightful fellow who will demonstrate how he prepares coffee in the traditional way, roasting the beans over a blazing fire, hand grinding them and finally preparing the coffee over a small brazier for you to enjoy. The owner’s wife and daughters are talented cooks who will prepare several dishes that are specialties of the eastern part of Cuba. You’ll enjoy this delicious meal and the peek into authentic Cuban customs even more.
Day 5: Santiago de Cuba, Birán & Guardalavaca
2 nights Meliá Sol Río de Luna y Mares. Breakfast, lunch & dinner.
- After breakfast, head north to Birán, the birthplace of Fidel & Raúl Castro
- After a stop for lunch, continue to the Taíno Village
- Afterwards, continue to Guardalavaca and check into your seaside resort hotel
- Dinner this evening is included at the hotel’s buffet
Full Day Itinerary: After breakfast this morning, check out of the hotel and depart for Birán, the birthplace of Fidel and Raúl Castro. Angel Castro, father of Fidel and Raúl, was a wealthy Spanish landowner and farmer with an expansive farm of sugar cane, timber and cattle. The family’s house became a museum in 2002, and here you’ll learn how the Castro brothers spent their youth at their father’s farm as well as catch a glimpse into Cuban rural life in the 1930’s, nearly a century ago.
After a stop for lunch, continue to the Taíno Village, the indigenous people that Christopher Columbus discovered when he arrived in Cuba. The Taíno Indians were decimated by disease and conquest by the Spanish conquistadores, but this recreation of a typical village gives an accurate and surprising depiction of how these people lived, worked and worshiped.
Afterwards, drive to the beautiful town of Guardalavaca and check into your seaside resort hotel. Dinner this evening is included at the hotel’s buffet.
Day 6: Guardalavaca & Holguín
Breakfast, lunch & dinner.
- First, stop at Cuadernos Papiro a unique publisher of books
- Continue to the Holguin Lyrical Singing School
- Next see a wonderful panorama of the city of Loma de la Cruz
- Return to the resort for lunch and enjoy the balance of the day at leisure
- This evening, enjoy a farewell dinner at one of the hotel’s specialty restaurants
First, stop at Cuadernos Papiro a unique publisher of books and magazines, where text is typeset on vintage equipment that has been lovingly restored. Handmade paper, produced one sheet at a time, is then used to create first-edition books on a variety of topics. Visitors are welcome in the workshop where you’ll witness a demonstration of the art of printing and paper making.
The Holguin Lyrical Singing School is one of the most recognized in the country and the talent source of the Rodrigo Prats Lyric Theater. You’re in for a musical treat as talented students at the school perform various pieces in different musical genre, followed by 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.
Before returning to your hotel, travel for a spectacular panorama view of the city of Loma de la Cruz, which rises just 261 meters above sea level. It’s named for a wooden cross at the summit, first put in place in 1790, which has become a symbol of divine protection for the people who live under its shadow and for the many visitors who come to pray there.
Return to the resort for lunch and enjoy the balance of the day at leisure.
This evening, enjoy a farewell dinner at one of the hotel’s specialty restaurants.
Day 7: Guardalavaca & Holguín/Miami
- Transfer to the airport and board your flight back to Miami
Full Day Itinerary: This morning, bid farewell to Cuba as you transfer to Holguin's Frank País International Airport and check in for your flight back to the US. Adios Cuba!
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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