Cuba Nature & Culture Expedition
Cuba is an extraordinary island with it’s unique culture, gorgeous beaches, and clear waters. The isolation of this country has resulted in well-protected natural areas and coral reefs and great opportunities to see wildlife. Guanahacabibes National Park, the island's westernmost point, is a great place to witness nesting of green sea turtles and to swim in crystal blue waters. We will spend several nights on the beach with one of the country’s leading biologists, observing nesting and helping with data collection where possible .
In contrast with the remote park, the vibrant city of Havana offers a rich cultural experience including live music, fascinating architecture, and more. Highlights include a private concert, a visit to Hemingway’s home, and a walking tour of Old Havana. In the middle, visit the beautiful countryside with its charming towns, organic farms, and more. Profits from this trip will help to save at least 500 hatchlings at a turtle nesting beach per participant.
This trip is open to American citizens through a "People to People" license given by the US Treasury Department to our partners. There is no more travel warning (though travelers were never at risk) and the country remains safe for travelers. The trip is also open to citizens of other countries.
2019 Dates: August 3 - 10
2019 Price: $3,495 per person ($80 discount for paying by check)
Includes: Bilingual guide, private transportation, accommodations, meals, activities, and a donation to turtle conservation.
Excludes: Airfare to Havana, personal items, one meal, and tips for the guide and driver.
We pair individual travelers up with others of the same sex to share rooms. If we aren't able to pair up or a single room is preferred, the single supplement is $400.
Minimum recommended age is 16 years old, under 18 needs to be accompanied by an adult.
Group size is limited to 16 people maximum.
Private tours and short-term volunteer opportunities are not available at this time.
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Why Travel With US?
All profits support conservation efforts
Work directly with local researchers
DAY 1: ARRIVE TO HAVANA
Start your exploration of Cuba in Havana. You’ll meet your guide at the airport and head to the historic Hotel Presidente in downtown Havana. That afternoon, meet for a welcome cocktail and orientation and then head with the group to have a welcome dinner at San Cristobal, one of the city’s great paladars (privately-owned restaurants in private homes). Get a good night’s sleep or head out for some live music in town after dinner. Overnight at Hotel Presidente (1 night). (D)
DAY 2: HAVANA & VINALES WORLD HERITAGE SITE
The architecture of Havana is a fascinating mix of styles built over the centuries. You’ll see the influence of not only the Spanish and British, who held the city at different points, but also French, Italian, and Middle Eastern styles as well as more modern styles. Old Havana is undergoing an impressive restoration, starting with it’s stunning European squares. This morning, we will have a presentation by a Cuban architect and then take a walking tour of Old Havana. Lunch will be in the city.
After lunch, board your private bus for a 2 hour drive to Viñales Valley, Cuba’s renowned tobacco growing area. The area is famous for its “mogotes,” enormous isolated rock formations that afford some of the most scenic views on the island. Have some down time before dinner at a wonderful organic farm with a great view of the valley and then have time to walk in the charming town. That evening, you'll attend a welcome party organized by a local town committee, where there will be dancing and snacks. Overnight at Hotel La Ermita or similar (1 night). (B, L, D)
DAY 3: TO GUANAHACABIBES
Join your guide this morning for a walk around the beautiful valley to learn about its unique geography. Lunch will be at the impressive Mural of Prehistory. Afterwards, board your bus for the 3 hour drive to Guanahacabibes National Park and Villa Maria La Gorda Resort. Arrive in time to take a dip in the ocean before dinner or relax on the beach.
The national park extends into the ocean, protecting a large coral reef that is home to many species of fish and two species of sea turtles (hawksbills, loggerheads, and greens). After a buffet dinner, the group will receive a presentation from turtle biologist Dr. Julia Azanza, one of the country’s lead sea turtle experts, who has managed this program for more than a decade. You’ll learn about the impressive effort that goes into protecting and studying these turtles and the success they have had in growing the number of nesting green and loggerhead turtles. That night, you’ll drive to the nesting beach to look for nesting green sea turtles and hatchlings (about an hour drive each way). Overnight at Maria la Gorda (3 nights). (B, L, D)
DAY 4: PARK EXPLORATION
Guanahacabibes is a mix of forest, beach, ocean, mangrove, and other habitats that are home to more than 170 species of birds and many other animals. This morning you'll join a park ranger to look for some of the unique bird life of the park, including the world's smallest bird, the bee hummingbird (which is surprisingly easy to see), and many other species of birds.
In the afternoon, you'll have the opportunity to snorkel in one of the park's reefs, either by boat or right from the beach. Around 9 pm, we will head over to the beach again to look for turtles coming ashore and observe the nesting process as the researchers collect data. Some participants may be able to help researchers with the data collection. (B, L, D)
DAY 5: SNORKELING & TURTLE RESEARCH
Today, there will be 2 opportunities to snorkel the park's coral reefs, before and after lunch. Take a boat out to one of the deeper reefs to look for hawksbills or explore the area around the resort's beach that has many fish. Tonight will be an optional opportunity to visit the nesting beach to look for green and loggerheads with an earlier return to the hotel to get sleep for the long drive back to Havana the next day. (B, L, D)
DAY 6: RETURN TO HAVANA
Take one more opportunity to snorkel the park’s reefs this morning. We will then board the bus to return to Havana, stopping for lunch along the way (5 hour drive). Depending on departure time, the group may have some free time explore the some of the city's great museums late that afternoon. Dinner this evening will be on your own (cost not included) to choose from the many wonderful options and then head out to see live music (entrance fees not included). Overnight at the Hotel Presidente (2 nights). (B, L)
DAY 7: HAVANA EXPLORATION
After a buffet breakfast at the hotel, board the bus to visit the former home of Ernest Hemingway at a beautiful spot outside of the city. Next you'll visit nearby El Divino, a unique organic farm and community outreach program, where you'll also eat lunch. In the late afternoon, we will be treated to a private rooftop concert by Grupo Mezcla to learn about different genres of music in Cuba today with world class musicians. Dinner will be at La Casa, a wonderful third-generation paladar for a multi-course meal. Head out on the town for music after dinner or rest for the trip home. (B, L, D)
DAY 8: DEPARTURE
Extend your stay to visit other parts of the island or get the shuttle to the airport in time for your flight home. Take your memories, pictures, and souvenirs home with you to remember this unique adventure. (B)
This trip was wonderful in every way. The opportunities to see the nesting sea turtles and explore the fascinating city of Havana left memories that will last a lifetime. All the guides were knowledgeable and personable.
Is This Trip Right For Me?
Cuba is a unique destination, which has both positives and negatives. The country is safe and legal for US citizens and our partners have permits from the US government to bring people to the country. This trip includes much time spent time outside, which means some activities are dependent on weather and there can be significant mosquitoes in this area around dawn and dusk. The trip also involves a lot of time on the private bus, including a 5 hour drive from Guanahacabibes to Havana and about an hour each way from the resort to the nesting beach each evening, which results in late nights (arriving back to the resort as late as 2 am some nights).