The Heart of Cuba
Below please find the day-by-day itinerary for this expedition. Unless otherwise noted, daily excursion options are included in the cost of the trip. We do our best to adhere to the scheduled itinerary, but in the spirit of our expeditionary style of travel we may deviate slightly to take full advantage of encounters with the destination and its people, culture, and wildlife.
Miami, FloridaFebruary 9
Depart on your independent flight and arrive in Miami. Transfer to the Sheraton Miami Airport Hotel for a welcome reception and special presentation by your expedition leader. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Miami / Santa Clara, Cuba / CienfuegosFebruary 10
Return to the Miami Airport for your charter flight to Santa Clara. Visit the Che Memorial, then transfer to colonial Cienfuegos—a World Heritage Site—on Cuba’s southern coast. Enjoy lunch at a bayside restaurant before checking in to Hotel La Union. This afternoon explore the historic center of town with its neoclassical architecture, the legacy of French immigrant settlers. Enjoy a performance by the Cienfuegos Choir before dinner in a lovely garden setting.
Cienfuegos / Trinidad / Topes de CollantesFebruary 11
Drive southeast to colonial Trinidad, a World Heritage Site, founded in the early 1500s. Over lunch in a paladar, a privately owned family-run restaurant, you’ll have the opportunity to hear the stories of Cuban daily life and visit local homes. As you explore the center of town, enjoy personal exchanges with shop owners, meet the artists and potters at Casa Del Alfarero Santander, and listen to live, authentic Cuban music in a popular club. Drive into the cool mountains of Sierra de Escambray for a two-night stay at Hotel Los Helechos in Topes de Collantes National Park.
Topes de Collantes National ParkFebruary 12
Laced with rivers and photogenic waterfalls, this 12,500-acre park is also a wonderland of lush forests and tropical botanicals. For those interested, begin your day with a birding walk around the grounds. After breakfast, enjoy an off-road adventure through Topes de Collantes. Join a local naturalist for a forest walk and watch for such avian species as Cuban trogons and West Indian woodpeckers. Savor a traditional roast pig lunch at a farm, and a rich Cuban brew in a nearby coffee house. On the way back to your hotel, visit the Museum of Contemporary Cuban Art.
Trinidad / Bay of Pigs / Zapata WetlandsFebruary 13
Travel westward to the infamous Bay of Pigs on the border of the Zapata Peninsula. Join local farmer, Orlando Ramirez, for a hike to observe the endemic bee hummingbird, the world’s smallest bird. At Playa Giron visit
the Bay of Pigs Museum, which offers the Cuban perspective of the historic events. This evening, discuss the importance of the Zapata Wetlands—a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the largest wetlands in the Caribbean—with the director of Zapata National Park. Dinner and overnight at the Hotel Playa Larga.
Zapata Peninsula / Boca de Guama / ViñalesFebruary 14
The ecosystems of the Zapata Peninsula are home to more than 900 botanical species; 171 bird species; and 31 species of reptiles, including crocodiles. Early this morning join naturalists in a search for the endemic Cuban green woodpecker and the colorful Cuban parrot. Continue to the Korimakao Project, which nurtures the talents of some of Cuba’s finest musicians, dancers, and artists, and present a gift of art supplies to director Hilda Tamayo. At Boca de Guama learn about Cuban crocodile conservation efforts during a boat excursion on Treasure Lake, then drive to the Viñales Valley in Pinar Del Rio Province, stopping to visit a local tobacco farming family to witness the process of creating Cuba’s legendary cigars. Check in to Hotel Las Jazmines for the next two nights.
Explore the World Heritage Site of Viñales Valley, punctuated with mogote—karst outcroppings. In a huge limestone cave board a boat for a ride on the interior river. At lunch savor vegetables grown at an organic farm while meeting the family responsible for the land; afterwards, walk an easy trail to look for the endemic Cuban solitaire. In the small town of Viñale visit a private botanical garden, then browse a local bodega where residents shop with their ration books. This evening’s restaurant is located at the colorful Mural de la Prehistoria.
Viñales / Soroa / Las Terrazas / HavanaFebruary 16
Drive into the mountains of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Sierra Del Rosario, to visit the lush orchid gardens of Soroa, accompanied by local botanists. Watch for such bird species as great lizard cuckoos and Cuban grassquits. In nearby Las Terrazas, learn about daily life from the farmers and business owners of this planned eco-community. Continue to the outskirts of Havana to pay homage to Ernest Hemingway at his remarkably preserved home, Finca Vigia, and discuss his life with Cuban Hemingway experts. Follow oceanfront Malecon Avenue and see famed Revolution Square before arriving at Hotel Melia Cohiba, where you will spend the next three nights.
Begin your exploration of authentic Old Havana, a World Heritage Site, at the Belen Convent to learn about neighborhood social projects and enjoy personal exchanges with senior citizens and children participating in program activities. Walk the historic streets, stopping to visit local artists in their studios and at the Havana Library, to present a gift of children’s books. After lunch mingle with the locals in an art market along the harbor. This evening, you have the option to watch a show by the famed Buena Vista Social Club at nearby Café Taberna.
Meet with staff from the Antonio Nunez Jimenez Foundation for Nature and Humanity to learn about its mission of environmental education and protection of Cuba’s delicate ecosystem, particularly the coral reefs. After lunch in the garden of the iconic Hotel Nacional visit the Museum of the Revolution, housed in the former presidential palace. Gather for a final trip recap, then enjoy a special farewell dinner.
Havana / Miami, FloridaFebruary 19
Transfer to the airport for your charter flight to Miami, and connect with your independent homeward flight.