Viva Cuba! - Family holiday Trip Notes

At Imaginative Traveller we always aim to provide accurate information for our travellers. Unfortunately information such as the price of optional activities is occasionally subject to change, and this means that we are constantly revising our trip notes. In order to ensure that you have the most up to date information for your trip we suggest that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure.

Trip code : FQUFA
Trip length : 12

highlights

  • Feel the Cuban rhythm build as the sun sets
  • Step back in time on the unique streets of Havana
  • Snorkel in the clear Caribbean waters

Discover the friendly Caribbean island of Cuba with its stunning white sandy beaches, lush jungle covered mountains and vibrant culture. This comprehensive family holiday visits all the major sites and shows the complex and exciting personality of the country through its history and people.A heady cocktail of Hispanic history, atmospheric cities, Latin culture, wonderful music and coconut palm-fringed Caribbean beaches in a Communist state - now there’s an interesting mix! Cuba is the antithesis of American culture; the lack of advertising and US household names is immediately striking and refreshing. Its isolation has ensured that its cars are endlessly recycled; the 1950s automobiles are amazing. Starting in Havana you’ll see the crumbling buildings and feel the exotic rhythms of the numerous live bands. Around Viñales you’ll explore tobacco fields, strange caves and stunning landscapes. At Cienfuegos, enjoy the French colonial influence in the architecture, relax in the colonial charm of Trinidad and snorkel at the beach before returning to explore Havana. This trip allows you to see all the sides Cuba has to offer. Above all, the Cubans themselves make any visit memorable; open, warm and friendly people with a zest for life.

daily-itin

Day
1

Havana

Bienvenidos a Cuba! Welcome to Cuba.

After your flight, you transfer to your first night’s accommodation and check in. Your trip starts in Havana. You will receive full details of exactly where to meet your Group Leader on the Joining Instructions which will be sent to you 2-3 weeks before your trip starts. For information on when the trip ends please refer to the itinerary as described below.

Standing on Cuba’s north coast, less than 100 miles from Florida, Havana is the political, industrial and cultural heart of the nation and home to 20% of its population. The city was founded in 1519 when Spanish settlers moved here from an ill-fated earlier site on the south coast, and Havana quickly became established as a great port, creating much of the city you can still see today. As the New World started to yield its riches, Havana grew to prominence as the assembly point for the annual treasure convoy to Spain. In 1553 the Spanish governor moved from Santiago de Cuba at the other end of the island, and Havana has been capital ever since. 

Havana is one of the finest colonial cities in the Americas with narrow streets, spacious plazas and glorious Spanish architecture. There is an air of faded glory about the place with paint peeling off buildings and '50s and '60s American automobiles still dominating the roads.

Hotel Presidente (AAA) - 1 night - Swimming Pool

Day
2-3

Viñales

After breakfast, you set out on the 200km (approx. 3 hours) drive westward to Piñar del Rio province, crossing typical landscapes of cane fields, tobacco plantations and tall palm trees along the way. En route you’ll stop at Las Terrazas set in the midst of the Sierra del Rosario Mountains. Here there is a community of farmers and artisans as well as a coffee plantation where you’ll be able to learn something of the process. Nearby is the beautiful San Juan river, a stunning swimming spot. The river has been noted for over a century for its sulphur springs and clear natural pools; don’t forget your swimming costumes!

Straw-hatted guajiro peasants tend the finest tobacco in the world; the plant is native to the island. In Pinar del Rio you’ll stop and visit a cigar factory; cigars, along with rum are Cuba’s principal exports. Turning north on a scenic road you climb into the Sierra de los Órganos towards the sleepy village of Viñales. 

The Vinales Valley boasts the oldest geological formations in Cuba, unique to the area. Spectacular mogotes - sheer-sided, conical towers of limestone - some over 300 metres high are all that is left of a great plateau after millions of years of erosion by wind and water. The resultant karst terrain is similar to southern China or Vietnam, especially when a layer of mist carpets the valley floor in the early morning. It is a fascinating scene, all the more so when oxen are working the fields and the scent of tobacco fills the air.

You'll take a guided walk through this rich countryside to see something of rural life, and hopefully stop at a farmer's house.In the afternoon you'll visit the Cueva del Indio, an impressive limestone cave once inhabited by local Indians and filled with stalactites and stalagmites. A river runs through the second half of the cave and you'll board a boat to take us through and out into the daylight. At dusk thousands of bats stream out of the cave to go and feed.Homestay - 2 nights (Bx2)

Day
4

Bay of Pigs; Playa Larga

Today is a relatively long travel day (approx. 5-6 hours). Starting early, you retrace your steps towards Havana before bearing south into Matanzas province. Your route takes you past the badlands of the Zapata Peninsula to Playa Larga standing at the head of the famous Bay of Pigs, where in 1961 a force of CIA-trained Cuban exiles landed to stir up a counter-revolution, an attempt that was ultimately doomed to failure, and helped the Cuban Revolution to succeed. Further along the coast at Playa Girón, a small museum commemorates this failed US effort to impose its will on socialist Cuba.

You stay tonight at a homestay near this beautiful Caribbean beach. While here this is an opportunity to go snorkelling.

Homestay - 1 night (B)

Day
5

Cienfuegos

Today you head to Cienfuegos, a pleasant city with a European feel. This is largely due to the influence of French settlers who arrived in the early 19th century. The city was involved in the war between the USA and Spain in 1898, and has a central role in Cuban history. A sheltered deep-water harbour ensured its prosperity and as the fortunes of nearby Trinidad waned, wealthy merchants and plantation owners indulged in a building bonanza. A walking tour of Cienfuegos is included in the afternoon. You will also visit one of the famous Coppelia ice cream parlours where you can enjoy a sweet treat on us!

Hotel Jagua (AAA) - 1 night - Swimming pool (B)

Day
6-8

Trinidad

Continue towards Trinidad (aprox. 1 hours drive).  Trinidad, in the Sancti Spíritus province, is one of the seven cities founded by Diego de Velázquez in 1514, and is now a national monument. Nestling on a plain in the lee of the mountains and within sight of the Caribbean, Cuba’s best-preserved colonial town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its narrow, cobbled streets are paved with stones that once served as ballast for ships on the empty, outward journey from Europe. The town grew rich from trade through the nearby port of Casilda, until it silted up and was eclipsed by Cienfuegos. Despite its well-to-do air, Trinidad has no grand palaces and still retains the intimate feel of a small town. At night there’s often something of interest happening such as a music or dance performance. 

During your time here you will take a half day walk to Salto de Javira, a beautiful waterfall with a natural pool you can swim in. You will also take a trip to Playa Ancon, a classic Caribbean beach.

Homestay - 3 nights (Bx3)

Day
9-10

Havana

We drive today from Trinidad to Havana, stopping at Santa Clara on the way.

Santa Clara was the first major city to be liberated by Castro's army in December 1958. Today a number of monuments commemorate this important period of Cuba's history, including the mausoleum of the legendary Che Guevara, where we stop for a visit.We arrive into Havana in the afternoon and head to our homestay, where we will sleep for the remainder of the trip.The following morning we take a walking tour of Old Havana. Havana's Old City is well preserved and was designated a World Heritage Site in 1982. The streets are lined with colonial architecture, 16th century fortresses and countless churches. Sites we may visit include La Catedral San Cristobal de la Habana, described by the novelist Alejo Carpentier as 'music set in stone', Palacio de los Marqueses de Aguas Claras (now a restaurant) and the Plaza de Armas, complete with a statue of Manuel de Cespedes, one of the leaders of the independence movement.We also visit the Plaza de Revolucion, Miramar and the Malecon on a tour, driven in vintage American cars.Homestay - 2 nights (Bx2)

Day
11-12

Trip ends

There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. Please check the 'Finishing Point Hotel' section for checkout times and luggage storage possibilities.

This morning is free to soak up the last of the Caribbean sun. Later those on our group flights return to the airport for your overnight flight home. 

(B)

trip-grade

Standard

Ideal for those that enjoy the quirkier side of a destination without roughing it. Join inquisitive travellers of all ages for a fun, informative experience.

  • A number of included activities
  • Tourist class, family-run hotels
  • Various meals included throughout
  • Public & private transportation

This tour is operated by our partners The Adventure Company

included

Transport - Minibus

Accommodation - Hotels (2nts), Homestay (8nts)

Meals - 10 breakfasts

overview

A heady cocktail of Hispanic history, atmospheric cities, Latin culture, wonderful music and coconut palm-fringed Caribbean beaches in a Communist state - now there’s an interesting mix! Cuba is the antithesis of American culture; the lack of advertising and US household names is immediately striking and refreshing. Its isolation has ensured that its cars are endlessly recycled; the 1950s automobiles are amazing. Starting in Havana you’ll see the crumbling buildings and feel the exotic rhythms of the numerous live bands. Around Viñales you’ll explore tobacco fields, strange caves and stunning landscapes. At Cienfuegos, take a boat trip to fishing villages, relax in the colonial charm of Trinidad and snorkel at the beach before returning to Havana. This trip allows you to see all the sides Cuba has to offer. Above all, the Cubans themselves make any visit memorable; open, warm and friendly people with a zest for life.

fitness

Anyone in good health should be able to take part. There are some moderate (but optional) walks. The joint effect of temperature and humidity can be tiring. Some accommodation may be basic and expectations may need to be adjusted. Minimum age: 6 years.

preparing-to-travel

Travel tips

Cuban hotels can often be without sink plugs so you may want to take one with you – or an old squash ball works too!

SOME INTERESTING READING:
Your Child’s Health Abroad – Matthew Ellis and Jane Wilson-Howarth, (Bradt Publications)
Travel with Children – Maureen Wheeler (Lonely Planet)
The Land of Miracles - Stephen Smith
Inside Cuba - Julio Cesar Perez Hernadez
Our Man in Havana – Graham Greene
Che Guevara and the Cuban Revolution - Mike Gonzalez

FOR YOUNGER READERS:
The Road to Santiago – D.H. Figueredo
Where the Flame Trees Bloom – Alma Flor Ada

SOME USEFUL PHRASES:
Hola! (don’t pronounce the ‘H’) – Hello
Buenas dias / Buenos Tardes - Good day / Good afternoon
Gracias – Thank you.
Hasta Luego/pronto/la proxima – see you later/soon/next time
Donde esta el baño – Where are the toilets?
¿Cuanto cuesta? – How much does this cost?
La cuenta, por favour – The bill, please
Mi amigo/hijo/padre/madre pagará – my friend/son/father/mother will pay
Helado – ice cream (again no ‘H’)

Accommodation

Rooming Arrangements

For most trips prices are based on sharing a twin room. Therefore, if you’re a solo traveller you’ll be paired with someone from the group of the same sex, unless you decide to pay a single room supplement. Details of this supplement can be found on the Extensions & Extras tab on our website. Occasionally we use multiple-share or dormitory accommodation – particularly when stating in remote places.

Rooming arrangements – Family trips

If you’re a family of 2 you’ll be accommodated in a twin room. If you’re a family of three you will usually be accommodated in a triple room. If you’re a family of four you’ll probably be accommodated in two twin rooms and we’ll do our best to ensure they’re as near as possible. We cannot always guarantee a triple room. If a triple room is not available, an adult from your family will automatically be roomed with a fellow adult member of the group of the same sex. If you prefer to have a room of your own we can sometimes offer a single room for the entire trip or on selected nights within a trip. However a single room supplement applies, look on the Extensions & Extras tab on our website or ask our Travel Consultants for details.

money

Local Costs - Cuba

Approximate costs are given for guidance only, and may vary widely according to location and type of establishment.

  • Coffee/tea CUC 1.00
  • Soft drink/small bottle of water CUC 1.00/1.50
  • Medium beer CUC 1.00/1.50
  • Bottle of wine CUC 7.00 onwards
  • Bottle of water CUC 0.70/2.50
  • Local snack lunch CUC 5.00
  • 3-course dinner* CUC 10.00/15.00

*reasonable mid-range tourist class restaurant

NB: it can be hard to find a suitable place to eat while travelling in Cuba, as roadside restaurants tend to cater for large tour groups and either offer a fixed meal or a very limited selection of snacks. In the cities and towns small privately-owned restaurants, paladares, offer a little more choice but can often only seat a maximum of twelve people (the number for which they are officially licensed) though some proprietors will often find a practical solution.

visa-information

Visas & Permits - Cuba

A tourist card (Tarjeta del Turista) is valid for all tourist visits with a pre-arranged itinerary. These can be purchased (price approx. £15) from a Cuban consulate. Passports must be valid for at least six months after the end date of the trip. Information can also be found at www.travcour.com.

From the 1st May 2010, the Cuban authorities will require proof of valid medical insurance before allowing visitors to gain entry to the country. It is essential that you have a copy of a valid travel insurance policy, insurance certificate or other suitable evidence in your possession on arrival at the Cuban airport, port or marina. Please ensure that you keep the policy documents easily to hand upon arrival. US residents visiting Cuba must ensure that any medical insurance policy that they purchase covers them for travel to Cuba.

This information is given in good faith, but may be subject to change without warning. Please note that, where appropriate, obtaining a valid visa is ultimately your responsibility. Please consult a visa agency or the consular authorities 4-6 weeks before departure for the most up-to-date information.

Medical---prep

Vaccinations - Cuba

None compulsory. The following are recommended:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Tetanus
  • Polio
  • Typhoid

NB: Yellow Fever. If travelling from an infected area, you must produce a certificate of vaccination against Yellow Fever.
For detailed information and advice concerning vaccinations go to:www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk
Vaccination requirements change periodically so we advise that you check with your nearest specialist travel clinic 4-6 weeks before departure to get up-to-date information.

International rules for carrying medicines vary. Some countries do not allow certain medicines to be imported, or require official documents, such as a doctor’s letter, to prove drugs have been prescribed by a doctor and obtained legally. It is sensible to contact the relevant embassy or high commission of your destination to check what their drug transportation rules are before you travel.

responsible-travel

At Imaginative Traveller we love helping our clients experience the beauty and cultures of the destinations we visit. However, hand in hand with this we have always been aware that we have a responsibility to minimise any negative impacts that tourism can bring.

Responsible Travel is twofold. It's about taking people to the places they want to go in a safe and responsible manner but also about respecting and maintaining the natural and often delicate balance of the destination. Economic gain from tourism is often fundamental to a country, but should never be at the expense of its culture or the environment.

Our Aims

  • It is our aim to provide journeys that have minimal negative and maximum positive impact on the places we visit.
  • We do not believe that, as visitors, we should impose our own cultures on others; rather that we should experience foreign cultures and appreciate them for what they are.
  • Whilst it is our aim to show destinations and cultures in a positive light, we do not believe in papering over the cracks or shielding visitors from the realities of life. This does not mean, however, that we condone or endorse certain situations or regimes that may be in place.

Our guidelines are meant not as rigid instructions but rather as suggestions to make our holidays more enjoyable – for everybody. As cultural and environmental sensitivities vary from country to country more specific guidelines can be found in our individual country and trip dossiers.

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