“ALL aspects of the trip; hotel, meals, guide, driver and selected itinerary components were perfect.”
– A. Zelkin
“Great experience for people who have traveled all over the world. The hotel was deluxe and unexpected for a third world country. We would highly recommend Cultural Cuba. Thanks for a great birthday celebration!”
– D. Fox
“The trip was simply brilliant!”
– R. Mantena
“Everything was top notch. The restaurants were all superb. We toured some great sites and gained a new found education on the Cuban culture. The Dance troop was a wonderful stop. So much passion and feeling for their craft. Our great guide had a plethora of knowledge and a passion for her home. That is a plus when trying to provide a sense of understanding for an outsider. She handled every issue with professionalism and no stress. She gets 5 stars!! We left Cuba with a clear mind and a love for the culture, food and people. We would love to visit again! “– R. Gathen, Esq.
“We had a fabulous 4 days in Havana. The Manzana Kempinski Hotel was amazing and definitely the perfect place to stay. We loved the location, the rooms and especially the rooftop bar! Our guide and driver were also fantastic and went out of their way to make sure that we had a rich and enjoyable experience.” – A. Dunn
Wow, Wow, Wow! “Cultural Cuba put together an itinerary that was fun, informative, and relevant. Our tour guide was so fabulous and loved by my entire family. Our driver was also great. We met with several important Cubans who each gave us insight into Cuba’s history, present issues, and their hope for the future. David’s access in Cuba is amazing which enabled us to have such a fascinating trip.” – M. Krapf
Support for the Cuban People
Private Cultural Cuba VIP Tour
HAVANA & DAY-TRIP OPTIONS
This is your private trip and we want you to have an enjoyable immersive experience. We plan your activities to your specific interests and desired travel pacing while adhering to the cultural interaction requirements of Support for the Cuban People sanctioned travel. Once the trip is confirmed and deposited and we have your flight information, we create a customized draft itinerary for your review. Some of the listed sites and activities may change due to a change in accessibility/season. During your trip, the dedicated expert Cuban guide is with you to navigate any changes as well as to incorporate any substitute activities and adjustments to the pacing that are requested.
GRAN HOTEL MANZANA KEMPINSKI The hotel is situated in the heart of Old Havana amidst UNESCO World Heritage sites with direct views of the Capitol, El Floridita, and the Grand National Theater of Havana. Experience the first true luxury hotel in Cuba and the extra-high ceilings and French windows opening onto Old Havana. Explore the one-of-a-kind ventilated cigar lounge and the rooftop Panoramic Restaurant and Bar with a spectacular reflecting pool and 360-degree views. The hotel also has an excellent spa and top-of-the-line fitness center.
Embark on a WALKING TOUR OF LA HABANA VIEJA -OLD HAVANA, exploring the four major plazas: Plaza Armas, Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza Vieja, and Plaza San Francisco. With its narrow streets and overhanging balconies, residential Old Havana is also the traditional center of much of Havana’s commerce, industry, and entertainment. It is richly endowed with historic buildings representing architectural styles from the 16th through the 19th centuries.
EL TALLER EXPERIMENTAL DE GRAFICA – During the walking tour, stop in at this community-based Graphic Arts Studio located just off Cathedral Square. Printmaking is an important traditional art form in Cuba and the studio has helped preserve it, turning out etchings, lithographs, collagraphs, and woodcuts since 1962.
EXCLUSIVE PRIVATE RUM TASTING with the sommelier of HAVANA CLUB RUM. This can also be paired with a cigar tasting, if desired and will take place either post-lunch or dinner at a paladar/restaurant or in a secret room within the Rum Museum.
CLASSIC 1950’S CONVERTIBLE SUNSET RIDE through Old Havana and the Malecon which can be combined with.
EXCLUSIVE photo session during the ride as the Cultural Cuba photographer utilizes Havana´s captivating lighting and the colorful cars to capture the beauty and contrasts of the experience. The Cultural Cuba photographer will give your guide the complimentary flash drive of your edited photos prior to your departure from Havana.
EXCLUSIVE discussion and presentation with the LEAD CITY PLANNER AND CHIEF ARCHITECT FOR THE CITY OF HAVANA who has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, Anthony Bourdain, and in numerous world-wide publications. He will provide a fascinating history on the renovation of Old Havana as well as the future critical redevelopment issues.
NJOY PRIVATE ONE-ON-ONE SALSA LESSONS at the Home of Salsa – Casa del Son in Old Havana. A colonial house in Old Havana from 1715 that has been refurbished to provide a welcoming atmosphere of art, music, and dance. You will receive private instruction.
Visit ALMACENES SAN JOSE (open daily from 10:00 – 6:00 pm). Browse local crafts and souvenirs. Leather goods, hand-carved wooden items, and canvas folk-art paintings are especially good finds at this large covered artisan market near the marina.
Travel 30 mins outside the city to FINCA VIGIA, the estate of Ernest Hemingway, in the San Francisco neighborhood overlooking Havana. This UNESCO site is part of the Hemingway Foundation preserved as Hemingway left it. It was at Finca Vigía that Hemingway wrote much The Old Man and the Sea (1951) about a fisherman who lived in the nearby town of Cojimar and worked the waters off Havana.
EXCLUSIVE – Enjoy a visit and an in-studio performance by the Dance school of HABANA COMPAS DANCE. Members are classically trained dancers and powerful percussionist who bring dynamic cross-cultural energy to the stage. Chairs, drums, castanets, batas and all sorts of instruments incorporated into their lively modern performance; think front row seats to Stomp mixed with flamenco. The dancers teach young students from the community offering free lessons to dedicated pupils.
EXCLUSIVE Conversation with the dynamic former CULTURAL AND PRESS ATTACHÉ (diplomat with missions 2004 – 2011), who is currently a History Professor at the University of Havana. He will join you for dinner to give further insight and a unique perspective on life in Cuba through casual conversation.
Travel outside the city to the quaint fishing village of JAIMANITAS and visit the Gaudi Inspired neighborhood mosaic tile art project of world-renowned ARTIST JOSE FUSTER. Mr. Fuster turned his entire village into a mosaic project. Featured on A&E and Discovery, you will visit his private home and studio.
Visit the historic Riviera Hotel and Casino to see infamous mobster MEYER LANSKY’S RESORT as it was at the time of the revolution.
Visit Havana’s monumental COLUMBUS CEMETERY. One of the largest cemeteries in the world and a place to really learn about Cuba. There are several centuries of scandals and intrigue to be discovered. Don’t miss the tomb of La Milagrosa – travelers from around the world attest to its health-influencing properties.
Visit the historic HOTEL NACIONAL de CUBA. The hotel was originally designed by McKim, Mead and White which also designed Columbia University in New York City. The hotel’s iconic HALL of FAME bar depicts many of the famous visitors and the small museum and trenches on the grounds of the hotel highlight the story of the Cuban Missile Crisis from Cuba’s perspective.
EXCLUSIVE Visit the renowned PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIO of Ramses Batista and Alex Castro (Fidel’s son!). Ramses’ photography captures the beauty of the human form and nature. Be sure to view the hurricane series for which he ends up in jail each year. Alex pays homage to his father, Fidel, often revealing a not-commonly-seen sweet and tender side to the island’s former leader. He is also a renowned baseball photographer. (Please note: that Alex Castro’s schedule involves frequent travel and his presence in the studio is not guaranteed).
EXCLUSIVE unique access to working PRIVATE STUDIOS AND THE GALLERIES of Cuba’s top emerging and established artists to observe the creative process and speak with artists first-hand. The art scene is exploding in Cuba and many new and experienced collectors find wonderful pieces to build their collections.
EXCLUSIVE – Enjoy an informative tour of an ORGANIC FARM on the outskirts of Havana. Learn about the methods used to grow fresh produce and understand the struggle of organic farming to meet the island’s healthy dietary needs in the current environmental, economic, and political climate.
Stop in to ALMA CUBA SHOP. A unique small boutique, and one of Tory Burch’s favorite stops, that sells goods handmade by Cuban artists and artisans using natural or recycled materials. The shop’s objective is to promote the creativity of Cuba’s artists.
EXCLUSIVE Visit with the Museum Curator at the CUBAN WING OF THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS. Beautifully curated wonderful art from early Cuban history as well as more modern and socialist influenced pieces.
Tour one of the OLDEST CIGAR FACTORIES in the World to observe the different stages of the cigar making process including the hand-rolling of the best and most recognizable brands such as Cohiba, Romeo y Julieta, Partagas, and Montecristo. Not a museum – a real working factory.
Visit the EL MORRO FORT which, at one time, was the most fortified post in all the Caribbean, and enjoy the expansive view of Havana. Visit La Cabaña to see some of the aircraft and weapons used to defend the country from the Bay of Pigs invasion.
Visit the MUSEUM OF THE REVOLUTION. Housed in the palace that Batista used to occupy which still bears the bullet holes from the coup.
Visit BET SHALOM SYNAGOGUE AND THE COMMUNITY PHARMACY run by the Temple. Beth Shalom is considered the headquarters of the Cuban Jewish Community. The building also houses a Jewish library. The pharmacy, run by the Jewish Community Center, provides medicine free of charge to the Patronatos neighbors and to the outlying Jewish communities. Option to attend services, make donations, and/or have dinner at the synagogue can be arranged (dependent on schedule).
Stop in at one of the FINEST CIGAR SHOPS to enjoy the world’s best cigars. You can bring up to 100 cigars (4 boxes) back to the US for personal use.
Stop at the historic REVOLUTION SQUARE. The square is dominated by the José Martí Memorial and is the site where former President Fidel Castro delivered most of his political addresses. The famous Che Guevara image with his well-known slogan; “Hasta la Victoria Siempre” (Until the Everlasting Victory, Always), identifies the Ministry of the Interior building.
Visit the UNIVERSITY OF HAVANA. From January 1, 1959, the date on which Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba, until January 1, 1962, the University went through a period of reformation to eliminate ‘anti-revolutionary ideas.’ Today, the University is made up of 16 faculties and 14 research centers with 60,000 students in regular classes.
Visit THE MERGER featuring museum quality (and priced) art pieces created through a collaboration of 3 famous Cuban artists and their combined mediums. The 3 artists select a theme or idea and then together create one piece of art, usually large and thought-provoking. They have “merged” their talents and have agreed not to create solo pieces, only the work of their combined collaborative efforts.
EXCLUSIVE Visit the HEAD START PRE-SCHOOL FOR DISADVANTAGED STUDENTS – A small school for children ages 2 – 5 from challenging home environments (domestic violence, drug abuse, and or poor living conditions). The beautiful colonial home was rescued and restored by the city historian’s office and is now operated by nuns, who provide formal education with a lot of extracurricular activities involving art and music.
DADOR is a brand new shop in Old Havana that functions as a design and art collective run by a group of talented women. They sell artwork and beautiful handmade clothing that reinvents traditional Cuban design.
EXCLUSIVE Experience a private jazz concert by a renown CUBAN JAZZ TRIO who will play an hour-long set and provide insights into both the benefits and the challenges of being artists in a socialist regime and economy that greatly values the arts.
CUBAN CUISINE & HAVANA DINING
Havana’s Top Restaurants, or “PALADARES,” are privately run and owned establishments often found inside of former mansions or private homes converted to restaurants. Cultural Cuba continuously vets each restaurant to make sure the food quality and service are exceptional. Our list of the best dining establishments changes frequently as new restaurants open or familiar ones don’t meet our expectations. Cuban cuisine in Havana is under going an evolution as chefs create unique interpretations of Cuban classics, pay tribute to traditional recipes handed down through generations, and celebrate a melting pot of styles and flavors.
POST-DINNER OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES
Your guide will serve as your night-time concierge, determining where and when the best live music offerings are happening, getting you to your post-dinner destination. For activities you know you wish to partake in, please let us know so that we can reserve your tickets and or plan the itinerary accordingly.
Enjoy Havana’s hottest night-spot! The CUBAN ART FACTORY is a multi-faceted venue, built into a former cooking oil factory that features art installations, live music, pop-up fashion stalls, performance art, Indy cinema, and more. Entrance fees are intentionally kept low to provide access to all, making it a popular and inclusive venue for locals and visitors alike. (Thursday – Sunday nights only, must be 18).
Enjoy the sophisticated CAFÉ MIRAMAR. This club has established itself as one of the very best places to hear some of Cuba’s top musicians jamming. The open-plan design provides a nice bar atmosphere. Expect a high level of improvisation, possibly including Grammy-winning musicians.
Walk to nearby FLORIDITA (conveniently located across the street from the Kempinski) – home of the daiquiri and Hemingway hangout with live music.
Day Trips From Havana
- Cultural Cuba Trips
- What is Included
- UNESCO Biosphere Las Terrazas
- Organic Farm Work at FINCA TUNGASUK
- Las Terrazas Day Trip
- Vinales Valley Day Trip
- Varadero Day Trip
- The Beaches of Varadero
- The Tobacco Fields of Vinales Valley
Let Cultural Cuba plan your authentic and unique cultural journey to Cuba. Click on each Day Tab above to see a sample day. We work with you to create a custom itinerary that reflects your interests and desired trip pacing and scope.
ITINERARY: Nothing is cookie cutter about a Cultural Cuba trip. We do not like rigid, large group trips. Our Cuba trips are always private, small and flexible. You may have heard about the tightly regulated mandatory “People to People” trips. Our trips meet all the legal requirements yet still have some flexibility. This is one of the many benefits of a small private group.
HOTEL: We only work with the top centrally-located hotel properties in Havana.
DINING: The Food scene in Cuba is undergoing an evolution. You will dine almost entirely at Paladares. These are private restaurants ranging from 1-2 tables in home kitchens to full-scale restaurants hidden inside fully restored Mansions.
NIGHTLIFE: Jazz Clubs, Salsa Bars, Night Clubs, and some venues that only the locals go to enjoy. The only thing stopping anyone is a need for sleep. This is a late-night town. The large Salsa/Reggaeton bands usually don’t take the stage before midnight. That said, there is no pressure to do anything at all after dinner. Participants can go back to the Hotel to rest or head out on their own (with a little guidance).
GUIDE: Our Cuban Guides are the best there are in Havana. We only work with vetted guides who are highly educated and speak excellent English. You can ask them anything and everything – they are not afraid to give you the truth on the good and the bad of living in Cuba.
HUMANITARIAN: Elect to add a Humanitarian element to your trip. Visit a music conservatory, dance school, pharmacy, elementary school, or other entity of interest where much-needed “non-cash” gifts may be donated.
PRIVATE VIP TOUR
HAVANA & LAS TERRAZAS or VINALES VALLEY or VARADERO
SAMPLE 4 Nights Havana Support for the Cuban People ITINERARY
- INCLUDED in your private tour:
• Deluxe Suite accommodations at a centrally located lux hotel
• VISA Services – USA and Havana
• Daily full breakfasts
• Full-time private expert bilingual Cuban Guide
• Full-time private air-conditioned transportation with stocked waters
• Full-time dedicated Driver
• Cultural expert speaker interactions
• Salsa Dancing Lessons
• Exclusive rum tasting
• Old Havana photo shoot with professional Cuban photographer
• All Scheduled Activities including Museum entrance fees
• Gratuities for the Guide and the Driver
Day-Trip Las Terrazas (45 min. drive each way)
After breakfast, Travel 45 mins. to LAS TERRAZAS NATIONAL PARK AND BIOSPHERE RESERVE. The pioneering eco-village of Las Terrazas is a Unesco Biosphere Reserve, dating back to a reforestation project started in 1968. Today it’s a burgeoning activity center with Cuba’s only canopy tour and the site of the earliest surviving coffee plantations in Cuba.
- Explore the picturesque whitewashed village that overlooks a small lake, featuring an art community with open studios, woodwork, and pottery workshops.
- Visit the CASA DE POLO MUSEUM and learn about the beloved farmer Polo Montanez who gained fame and fortune later in life as a composer and singer. His love of the land and his personal philosophies and how these are incorporated into his music are explored in the small museum.
- Lunch at a rustic restaurant known to serve the BEST ROPA VIEJA in Cuba
Return to Havana – Free afternoon to enjoy the pool, rest and relax
Day-Trip to FINCA TUNGASUK (one hour drive each way)
Volunteer for a morning alongside Cuban farmers at this organic farm located one hour from Havana. Enjoy a local breakfast before working for 3 hours alongside the farmers. Reward your labors with a delicious organic lunch on the farm followed by a tour of the main crops before returning to Havana. NOTE: Guests must arrive by 8:30 am and be 16 an up.
Return to Havana – Free afternoon to enjoy the pool, rest and relax
LAS TERRAZAS (All Year)
Breakfast at the hotel
Travel 1 hour to Las Terrazas National Park and Biosphere Reserve. The pioneering eco-village of Las Terrazas is a Unesco Biosphere Reserve, dating back to a reforestation project started in 1968. Today it’s a burgeoning activity center with Cuba’s only canopy tour and the site of the earliest surviving coffee plantations in Cuba. Visit the Moka Hotel, an eco-resort, and take a dip in the crystalline waters of the San Juan River. Explore the picturesque whitewashed village that overlooks a small lake, featuring an art community with open studios, woodwork and pottery workshops. Visit the Casa de Polo Museum and learn about the beloved farmer Polo Montanez who gained fame and fortune later in life as a composer and singer. His love of the land and his personal philosophies and how these are incorporated into his music are explored in the small museum.
Lunch – enjoy the Best Ropa Vieja in Cuba
Return to Havana and visit the Visit the University of Havana. After the government was taken over by Fulgencio Batista in 1952, the University became a center of anti-government protests. Batista closed the University in 1956. From January 1, 1959, the date on which Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba, until January 1, 1962, the University went through a period of reformation to eliminate ‘anti-revolutionary ideas’. Today, the University is made up of 16 faculties and 14 research centers in different fields like economics, sciences, social science and humanities. In total, up to 25 specialties are taught at the university with 60,000 students in regular classes.
Relax at the Hotel.
Dinner at a highly touted paladar that serves a chef-inspired fusion of Cuban and French dishes. A guest medical student, musician, or University History professor may join for dinner (if you’d like) to give further insight into life in Cuba.
Optional evening activities: Live music – your guide will assist
VINALES VALLEY, TOBACCO FARM, LOVE & HOPE, CAFÉ LAURENT (Dec – April),
OPTION: EVENING WITH THE BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB
- Breakfast at the hotel
- Travel 2 hours to VINALES VALLEY. A UNESCO World Heritage site. The striking landscape of the Viñales Valley is notable for its mogotes, a series of tall, rounded hills that rise abruptly from the flat plain of the valley. It is also significant for its cultural associations, particularly its traditional agricultural practices related to growing tobacco.
- Visit the 160 million-year-old limestone formations and the historic caves once used by runaway slaves.
- Visit the famous BENITO a working tobacco farm.
- Lunch at an organic farm.
- After lunch, we will visit a community-based art project established for disabled children and young adults. Artists teach special engraving techniques to the children who create beautiful works of art.
VARADERO (May thru Nov)
- Breakfast at the HOTEL
- Departure for a day trip to Varadero, Travel 2 hours. Varadero is foremost a tourist resort town, boasting more than 20 km of white sandy beaches.
- Stop at Bacunayagua Bridge & look out (a Cuban Architecture jewel). Enjoy a refreshing pina colada!
- Panoramic tour of Matanzas – the “City of Bridges” (there are 21 in total).
- Visit Ediciones Vigia and learn about the hand-made books they produce.
- Lunch at the Dupont house. Learn about the influence and stories of this rich family on the island.
- After lunch, time to relax. Golf at the VARADERO GOLF CLUB LOCATED ON THE SHORES of CARIBBEAN SEA and/or enjoy the Beaches of Varadero area.
- Visit CALLEJON DE HAMEL. Learn about SANTERIA, an Afro Cuba religion mix between Catholicism and the African religion of Yoruba. Cuba’s African roots have an important influence on the country’s culture, art and music.
- Return to Havana for Dinner at another of Havana’s Famous Paladares
- Optional evening activities: An evening with the famous musicians of the BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB.
Day-Trip Varadero (two hour drive each way)
- Stop at BACUNAYAGUA BRIDGE – a Cuban Architecture jewel.
- Panoramic tour of MATANZAS – the “City of Bridges.” There are 21 in total.
- Visit EDICIONES VIGIA and learn about the hand-made books they produce.
- Lunch on the ocean at the DUPONT HOUSE. Learn about the influence and stories of this wealthy family on the island.
- After lunch, time to relax. Enjoy the BEACHES OF VARADERO
Return to Havana – Relax. Dinner at a highly reputed paladar.
Day-Trip Viñales Valley (two and a half hour drive each way) Late Fall through Late Spring
After breakfast, travel 2 ½ hours to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Viñales Valley. The striking landscape is notable for its mogotes, a series of tall, rounded hills that rise abruptly from the flat plain of the valley. It is also significant for its cultural associations, particularly its traditional agricultural practices related to growing tobacco.
- Visit the 160 million-year-old limestone formations and the historic caves once used by runaway slaves.
- Visit the famous BENITO, a working tobacco farm, to explore the tobacco harvest and production process.
- Lunch at Finca Paraiso. This organic farm offers a true farm-to-table experience.
- Horse-back riding on well-trained horses in the natural parks if desired.