Cuban youth play on Varadero beach.
Photo Ana Lorena
Tour
days

Magical Havana, plus sun, fun, nature and the beach

Old Havana and the sea

Stay in Varadero, Cuba’s seaside Eden
Walk Old Havana World Heritage sites
Mojito lessons at Museum of Rum
Foodies’ delight at best eateries
Visit Havana’s gallant Capitol building
Cruise in 1950s classic American cars
Tour a handmade book collective
Amazing evening entertainment
Eat at a rustic tropical organic farm
Salsa lessons from Cuban masters

Old Havana and the sea tour overview

Ernest Hemingway called Havana the “Paris of the Americas,” and royalty, celebrities and poets describe Cuba’s Varadero as “la playa más linda del mundo” [the world’s most beautiful beach].

Now Americans can relish the warm blue Caribbean Sea and white sand beaches of enchanting Varadero on this legal Cuba tour.

You’ll get to know Havana’s arousing culture – night and day – and spend the rest of your holiday at an all-inclusive beach resort in Varadero. That means all meals free in lavish buffets and gourmet restaurants, including snacks and drinks 24 hours a day. Access to pools, recreational facilities, evening entertainment, shops and much more are there for you to enjoy.

In Havana, reminiscent of the great European capitals, you’ll stay in the four-strong-star NH Capri hotel. Its glamorous 1950s Las Vegas-inspired roots shine brightly in comfort and amenities. The Capri’s Salon Rojo club was a favorite nightspot for global heartthrob actor Errol Flynn. Capri’s calling card is a caring staff, central location, and excellent WiFi. It is walking distance from the romantic Malecón seawall and much of the city’s pulsating nightlife.

This journey offers the best Havana with its historic charm and sophisticated culture, plus Varadero beach with its stunning natural surroundings. If you’re a foodie, this tour includes meals at tasty top-ranked restaurants.

Air flight notice Flights arrive in Havana (HAV) and depart from Varadero (VRA) via American Airlines. If you prefer other flight options, we’ll help with airport transfers and trip extensions. Contact us. Flight cost not included in package.

Old Havana and the sea tour map

On this tour you’ll visit

Cuba is big. It’s larger than Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont combined.

Day 1 • Monday • Hello Havana, fine dining, old cars

Cuban female acrobats on beach.
Cubans love their beaches and every summer day is a beach party. Three thousand five hundred seventy miles of coastal shoreline provide plenty of opportunities for seaside adventures. Photo Alex Mene.
  • Arrive at Havana's José Martí International airport (HAV).
  • Enroute to your boutique accommodations savor the sights and sounds of one of the oldest and most stunning cities in the New World.
  • At your lodging, enjoy a welcome cocktail, freshen up, and get comfortable.
  • 1950s time travel. One in ten cars in Havana are pre-1959. And they're all American: Chevrolet, Ford, Buick, Mercury, Dodge, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac. We'll cruise the romantic Malecón in these lovingly maintained classics.
  • Group welcome dinner with your guide and tourmates at the award-winning private five-star Restaurante Mediterráneo Havana. An open menu selection features southern European haute cuisine. All ingredients are fresh from the farm and sea.
  • Evening entertainment suggestion. Shake your booty to the best Afrocuban jazz at Club La Zorra y El Cuervo [The Fox and the Raven] featuring astonishing performances by up and coming island ensembles. It's a popular haunt for locals and foreign guests.

Day 2 • Tuesday • Old Havana, rum, architecture, history

Havana’s capitol and old cars.
One in ten cars in Cuba were manufactured before 1959. You’ll tool the city in 1950s classic American convertibles. Background: Cuba’s magnificent Capitol Building undergoes a ten-year restoration to be completed in November 2019 for the 500th birthday of the city of Havana. Photo Norlys Pérez Padrón.
  • Greet the day with tasty breakfast at your boutique accommodations.
  • Time flies when you’re having rum! Cuba’s golden elixir spans nearly five hundred years of brewing. You’ll learn the fascinating history and art of distillation of the island’s (and Hemingway’s) most popular spirit. The Havana Club Museum of Rum opened in the year 2000 within a grand private palace. It houses incredible artifacts used in the rum-making process, as well as an expansive Rum inventory, and a chance to sample this liquid ambrosia.
  • Walking tour of Old Havana. “In terms of beauty, only Venice and Paris surpassed Havana,” penned Ernest Hemingway. He was alluding to Havana’s incredible architecture, arts, and, of course, the joie de vivre of its engaging people. Old Havana’s four ancient plazas are full of color and personality, with a mix of palatial buildings, monuments, museums, galleries, churches, lively entertainment, restaurants, and bars. Together, the four plazas of Old Havana contain the most extensive collection of Spanish colonial-era architecture in Latin America. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, restoration and care of Old Havana’s majestic wonders is assigned to the Office of the Historian of Havana – the sponsor of Cuba Explorer.
  • You’ll witness Cathedral Square, considered the most beautiful colonial plaza in Latin America, and a symbol of Havana. Its centerpiece is Catedral de San Cristóbal de La Habana, erected in 1748 by the Jesuit order. The bones of Christopher Columbus were kept in the church until 1898.
  • Next, we tour Plaza de Armas [Square of Arms], an ancient military parade ground for Spanish soldiers, surrounded by such impressive buildings as Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, the former seat of colonial government. The stately edifice, dating from 1776, houses the Museum of the City.
  • We continue onto San Francisco Square, one of the oldest in the historical quarter, and christened after the magnificent Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco de Asís. Its construction began in 1580. It features a 138-foot bell tower and contains the remains of Havana’s past elites.
  • Finally, we visit Plaza Vieja, laid out in 1559, for public processions, bullfights, and executions. Later it became home to Havana’s colonial elites and is dominated by their opulent aristocratic 17th-century mansions. Today it is a hub of shops, cafés, beer gardens, music, and dance.
  • Group welcome lunch at Iván Chef Justo private paladar. Set in a 1766 colonial mansion, the eatery is located near the Museum of the Revolution in Old Havana. Diners describe the food as world-class. All the ingredients are organic and sourced each morning at farmers markets. Its Mediterranean atmosphere is complemented with Cuban classical music.
  • We’ll visit the recently renovated Capitolio de La Habana, home to Cuba’s National Assembly. The imposing monument is reminiscent of the US Capitol but taller and less austere; chocked full of grand statuary, breathtaking ornamental details, and jaw-dropping art. The building supports the sixth-largest dome in the world – clad in 24 karat gold plated panels. You will learn all about this magnificent structure from staff who work at the Capitolio.
  • Return to your boutique accommodations to freshen up.
  • Dinner not included in tour cost. Tonight is an occasion to sample Havana’s stellar private eateries and taste the diversity of the island’s distinctive cuisines. We’ll provide suggestions for restaurants most popular with Cubans and our travelers.
  • Time to explore Havana’s vibrant nightlife and make new Cuban friends. We’ll keep you posted on evening entertainment options.

Day 3 • Wednesday • Matanzas, handmade books, Varadero

Varadero beach couple enjoy solitude.
In solitude or together with friends, Varadero’s 16 miles of sugar-white sand beaches and warm, clear water are a tropical paradise. In 2019 TripAdvisor travelers voted Varadero as the second most beautiful beach in the world. Photo Norlys Pérez Padrón.
  • Greet the day with tasty breakfast at your boutique accommodations.
  • Morning departure across Cuba’s northern coast to Matanzas and Varadero.
  • Enroute we stop at Bacunayagua mirador [lookout], at the entrance of Bacunayagua bridge spanning a deep canyon above the beautiful Yumurí Valley. It’s the highest bridge in Cuba and divides the provinces of Mayabeque and Matanzas. The lookout hosts a roadhouse whose staff prepare delicious Piña Coladas. Yum!
  • We’ll visit the provincial capital city, Matanzas, founded in 1693. It is known as the City of Bridges. Seventeen links traverse three rivers meandering through the town. Matanzas means massacres and many legends surround its macabre moniker. Matanzas had vast sugar plantations during the colonial era, and vast numbers of African slaves were imported to support the industry. Due to the high number of both slaves and free Afrocubans, many African traditions are especially strong in the city. In 1898, Matanzas was the location of the first action in the Spanish American War: it was bombarded by American Navy vessels on 25 April 1898. It is the birthplace of the Cuban national dance “Danzon” and the “Danzonete.”
  • Matanzas’ Gutenbergs. In Cuba stuff we take for granted like paper, is rare. Enter Ediciones Vigía, an independent publishing collective, where artists craft paper and bind stunning books by hand. These artisans and authors seek to keep the written word alive. They work with recycled fibers and found materials to fabricate precious paper to print limited editions of classics. The results are labors of love and literature. These innovative logophiles also offer gorgeous notebooks and diaries – perfect gifts to remember your Cuba vacation.
  • Awarded a five-star TripAdvisor badge, the private paladar Amelia Del Mar presents diners with authentic Cuban culinary delights. Located near the bay, you are seated in an enchanting hidden garden and attended to by friendly staff.
  • Hello Varadero. In the18th century, Varadero was a tiny village of fishers and farmers. They lived in “bohíos” (dirt floor huts made of royal palm planks and fronds). In 1926 American millionaire Irénée du Pont came to Varadero and purchased most of the area. He constructed his residential architectural masterpiece called Xanadu in 1930, then rigorously promoted Varadero’s paradisiacal attributes as a global tourist destination. Varadero wins the hearts of all who visit. Its stunning blue waters inspired Christian Dior’s “Azul Varadero,” his defining color line in the 1950s. For more than 100 years, it’s been visited by kings, princesses, presidents, celebrities, poets, artists and writers. Varadero, with 51 luxury resort hotels, hosts more than a million foreign visitors annually.
  • Check-in to your all-inclusive beachside accommodations with assistance from your guide. Enjoy a welcome cocktail. Time to settle in and freshen up.
  • Dinner at your beachside accommodations. Taste, sample, and delight from a giant self-serve buffet of delectable fresh fruit and vegetable salads, exotic appetizers, entrees, and desserts. As well, chefs are on the spot to prepare any request you can imagine.
  • Included this evening: Fabulous evening entertainment venues at your all-inclusive beach resort.

Day 4 • Thursday • Countryside, organic farm, dance lessons

American visitor pets Cuban cow.
An American visitor pets a Cuban ox at an organic farm. Known as Siboney de Cuba, this unique breed is a cross between Holsteins and African Zebus. They are ideally suited for hot climes and hard work. Oxen are the backbone of Cuban agriculture, often replacing tractors and other mechanized farm equipment. Photo Jack Kenny.
  • Greet the day with tasty breakfast at your seaside accommodations.
  • This morning we visit Finca la Coincidencia, a model organic farm in a hamlet called Guasimal del Toro. Sparked in the late 1990s by the Correa family of artisans and agriculturalists, Coincidencia has become a social and cultural project for members of an extended community. In addition to cultivating many species of tropical fruits, vegetables, and medicinal plants, it is home to a ceramic school and gallery, and a small cheese factory. Since 2002 Finca la Coincidencia hosts a global Arte del Fuego ceramics event.
  • We’ll feast on a lunch made from fresh produce raised on Finca la Coincidencia and neighboring farms. Many describe this meal as their favorite in Cuba.
  • Cuban dance lessons by performers. All great dance is globally inspired. Movements from other countries going back millenniums, refined and stylized, turned into something ethereal for our time. If any nation has contributed most to US dance, we think it is Cuba with its rich sensuous African, European, Asian and Indigenous mixes. Dance masters and choreographers of the funtastic Cuban floor shows will help you move with the grace of angels – very wild angels! You’ll learn all the best steps this afternoon from tutors who’ll turn you into a salsa, mambo, rumba, danzon, and cha cha chá whiz.
  • Return to your beachside accommodations to freshen up.
  • Dinner at your beachside accommodations. Taste, sample, and delight from a giant self-serve buffet of delectable fresh fruit and vegetable salads, exotic appetizers, entrees, and desserts. As well, chefs are on the spot to prepare any request you can imagine.
  • Included this evening: Fabulous evening entertainment venues at your all-inclusive beach resort.

Day 5 • Friday • Missing Cuba so much already

Cuban schoolgirls in Havana.
Cuban schoolgirls relax after class. Education in Cuba ranks tops in Latin American. It is free and universal beginning with preschool through university. Youth illiteracy is close to zero, and high school graduation rates are near 98 percent. The University of Havana, founded in 1728, was the first institution of higher learning in the New World. Photo Trudi Unger.
  • Greet the day with tasty breakfast at your accommodations.
  • Transfer to Juan Gualberto Gómez airport (VRA) for flights home.
  • We'll miss you and hope you will return soon. In Cuba, we say, "A true friend remembers the song in your heart when you have forgotten the lyrics."
  • Want to extend your Cuba stay? We'll gladly assist. Just ask us!
  • Air flight notice Flights arrive in Havana (HAV) and depart from Varadero (VRA) via American Airlines. If you prefer other flight options, we’ll help with airport transfers and trip extensions. Contact us. Flight cost not included in package.

While in Cuba, our attentive island team ensures your trip is magical and memorable.

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Included in Cuba tour package cost

  • Small group size – ten guests or fewer
  • Certificate of Legal Cuba Travel ensuring compliance with US regulations
  • Flexible tour payment options, you decide payment schedule
  • Knowledgeable, fun, attentive Cuban guides from arrival to departure
  • Quality accommodations as listed in this itinerary
  • Air-conditioned transport, professional chauffeur, and bottled water daily
  • Airport-accommodation transfers on tour start and end days
  • All activities and fees listed unless noted as optional or suggested
  • Emergency telephone and internet access from Cuba to America
  • Cash advances for participants caught short of funds in Cuba
  • Ongoing support from our US and Cuban staff before, during and after travel
  • Participants become Club Cubano alumni and receive future tour discounts

Tasty meals included each tour day

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Not included