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Cuba Walking Tour: National Parks, Culture & History tour

Cuba Walking Tour: National Parks, Culture & History

Adventure Unbound
5.0 . Excellent
100%
Travel Style: N/A
Physical Level: Regular walking or cycling over moderately long, hilly, or bumpy distances. Some public transport or utility vehicles such as safari jeeps. Moderate
Lodging Level: Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
8 days
From: $ 3,490 $ 436 / day
Checking price

Overview

Highlights

  • Enjoy Hiking of quintessential Topes trail, the Salto del Caburní trail
  • Visit Trinidad
  • Experience trekking into the crenellated, Caribbean pine-coated Sierra Escambray mountains
  • See most famous locations in all of Cuba - the Bay of Pigs or Bahia de Cochinos
  • Visit Colonial or Old Havana

Short Description

Explore the National Parks, People, Food and Culture of Cuba

The first people-to-people walking tour in Cuba exploring the unexplored: National Parks!

Cuba is an enigma, able to confound and intoxicate with its embodiment of colonial grandeur, revolutionary rigor, and Caribbean panache. Classic cars glide by on Havana streets. Salsa beats percolate through the night. Rum finds its way into many a glass. It’s the quintessential Cuban tableau, but for those who step off the Malecón - on this walking tour - Cuba reveals itself to be so much more.

Cuba was a popular destination for Americans until the 1959 Revolution changed it all. Since then a fascinating history has unfolded and today, the door has been opened again for Americans to visit. This open door leads to incredible opportunities for learning and immersion into a complex culture replete with rich and meaningful interactions with the people of Cuba. On this Cuban walking tour that we are licensed to offer, we pair daily explorations of Cuba’s land and seascapes with unforgettable interactions with Cuba’s people-scapes.

Led by a team of local guides along with our own tour leader, we are joined during the journey by other local experts. We visit with naturalist guides, farmers, historians, national park officials, artists, small business entrepreneurs and more on this artfully crafted Cuba walking tour. For those who are curious and want to explore on their feet rather than looking out a bus window this journey is the perfect choice. We walk between three and eight miles each day with easy to moderate elevation gain.

Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
Trip Type Small Group Tour
Array
Itinerary Focus N/A
Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Lodging Level Value - 3 star
Flights & Transport Only ground transport
Start City Santa Clara
End City Havana

Destinations

Cuba

Cities & Attractions

Caribbean Havana Trinidad

Age Requirement

12

N/A
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Trip Includes

  • Experienced English-speaking guide(s)
  • Specialized activity guides based on activity of trip (kayaking, biking, hiking, etc.)
  • Specialized equipment needed for activities such as kayaks, bikes, helmets, paddles, personal flotation devices, etc.
  • Private pre-tour orientation meeting
  • Cuba Unbound hand-crafted itineraries
  • Accommodations as noted in the itinerary
  • All meals as noted in itinerary
  • Certification of travel to Cuba under the U.S. Department of Treasury general license
  • Small group size (Custom tours for 2, group tours are 16-18)
  • All entrance fees to include events and activities
  • All in-country ground transportation
  • Clean drinking water available at all times
  • Gratuities for presenters, luggage handling, and restaurant staff

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Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Cuba!

Meals: Dinner

Accommodation: Hotel in Cienfuegos

We ask that our guests book their own travel between the U.S. and Cuba. This tour begins in Santa Clara which is currently served by once-a-day flights from both American and JetBlue.  Once both flights have arrived and we have gathered everyone we will transfer about 90 minutes to Cienfuegos.

Bienvenido a Cuba! After arrival to the Santa Clara airport, we transfer to our Cienfuegos hotel, check in, have an orientation meeting, and then head to dinner. 

Cuba’s Pearl of the South—Cienfuegos has a French flair and Caribbean verve and is one of Cuba’s most seductive cities. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the French-colonial town sits on the coast, and visitors are drawn to the glittering waters as well as the eclectic colonial architecture. After dinner we stroll the Malecon with views of the natural harbor and, as the night wears on, the main gathering point for the youth of Cienfuegos.

Day 2: Cienfuegos Exploration, Hike in Parque El Cubano and Trinidad

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation: Casas Particulares Trinidad

After breakfast we start with a walking tour of Cienfuegos’ urban historic center at Parqué Jose Martí, the site of many of Cienfuegos’ most impressive buildings such as the 19th-century neoclassical Santa Iglesia Catedral de la Purísima Concepción, the French and Italian influenced Tomás Terry Theater, and the Palacio del Ayuntamiento. We then make our way to the Paseo del Prado lined with colonial buildings and pastel-painted columns. One of the Prado’s most iconic sites is the statue of musician Benny Moré celebrated as the ‘barbarian of rhythm’. Later in the morning we have a special People-to-People visit with the Cantores de Cienfuegos, a world-renown choir.

Leaving Cienfuegos, we drive along the coast towards the historical town of Trinidad. We stop first at Parque El Cubano for a delightful hike and dip in a pool at the base of a tropical waterfall.

By late afternoon we arrive in Trinidad, a city which has eschewed many modern enterprises in favor of old-world charm. We enjoy a walking tour of the preserved Spanish colonial settlement—now a UNESCO World Heritage Site—where the grand tastes of the past are very much sentient in the Italian frescoes, finely wrought chandeliers, and bone china still gracing the plantation-era mansions. It’s an atmospheric, tranquil town very different from Cienfuegos’ feisty Cuban vibe. Here we check into our Casa Particulares for the next two nights.

We dine at a local restaurant in Trinidad and after dinner, some may enjoy an outdoor concert and dancing at Casa de la Musica, on the city’s steps before retiring to our evening accommodations.

Day 3: Topes de Collantes Nature Reserve, Trinidad

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation: Casas Particulares Trinidad

We drive a short distance outside of Trinidad and begin a trek into the crenellated, Caribbean pine-coated Sierra Escambray mountains (sometimes known as the Guamuhaya mountains). Within the long stretch of mountains lies the Gran Parque Natural Topes de Collantes. Though Topes is not considered a national park in the strictest of senses, it is highly protected by the Cuban government as are the four smaller parks that make up the umbrella park of Topes. We have several choices of hikes. Normally we do the Vegas Grandes hike through a pine forest followed by a steep descent to a plunging waterfall with an idyllic swimming hole.

Another choice is to hike the quintessential Topes trail, the Salto del Caburní trail. This 3 mile round trip hike leads to a 190’ waterfall that crashes down overhanging cliffs into swimming holes below. The rushing water tumbles into a clefted chasm where only the most intrepid adrenaline junkies dare to jump. Yet another option is to hike the Sendero La Batata, or Sweet Potato, Trail. This 4 mile hike takes us through the forest to a prehistoric cave and its underground river. This trail explores forests rich with lichens and mosses and lucid pools disrupted only by crashing waterfalls. Topes is also home to a variety of birds, so make sure to look up on the hikes.

We also visit a nearby coffee plantation with a small museum to learn about the role of coffee in Cuba, and the traditions surrounding it. We have lunch in the mountains before returning to Trinidad later in the afternoon with time to continue exploring the town’s historic center and sites.

Our day culminates with a People-to-People meeting with Julio Munoz, an acclaimed photographer whose published work of Trinidad has brought a town evocative of the past into the public eye.

There’s more time for exploring Trinidad’s music scene in the evening after dinner.

Day 4: Playa Giron, the Bay of Pigs, Zapata National Park and Playa Larga

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation: Casas Particulares Playa Larga or Playa Giron.

We drive west along the coast to one of the most famous locations in all of Cuba – the Bay of Pigs or Bahia de Cochinos. It was here that the infamous 1960s CIA-sponsored invasion took place, but centuries earlier there had been other invasions, including one by the French pirate Gilbert Girón. Girón’s decapitation at the hands of angry locals has been remembered by history through his Playa namesake. The town of Playa Giron is home to an excellent museum we visit to learn about the 1961 invasion.

Today, this is a peaceful place and now people ‘raid’ Playa Girón for the warm Caribbean waters whose wealth of coral reefs and marine life make it a diver’s paradise. We stop for a snorkel session to witness first hand some of the healthiest coral reefs in the world located here within the boundaries of the Zapata National Park. With our local guide we also discuss the reasons for the reefs’ health and Cuba’s role in protecting its marine ecosystems. It’s the perfect place for snorkeling, with colorful fish and transparent, warm waters that make our environmental learning most enjoyable! Those who prefer not to snorkel may enjoy relaxing on the shore.

Our snorkeling is within the boundaries of the Zapata National Park, also called Ciénaga de Zapata. It is also a designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and has expansive tracts of dense forests and mangrove-lined swampland, within a peninsula that is wild and largely untouched. Wildlife such as crocodiles, iguana, flamingos, and boars inhabit the wetlands, and it’s one Cuba’s main attractions for birders who can find endemic species such as the Cuban pygmy owl, bee hummingbird and Zapata rail.

After a picnic lunch we continue to one of the nicer trails in the Park, the Enigma Las Rocas, which weaves through the forest among cenotes (sinkholes) common in this limestone geology. It’s also an excellent birding area and we may see the Key West Quail Dove, Cuban bullfinch and Cuban Peewee.

We arrive late in the afternoon to the small town of Playa Larga and check into our Casas Particulares. Those interested may want to take a swim at the beautiful beach just a few yards from our accommodations and enjoy a tropical sunset.

Before dinner have an engaging People-to-People presentation from Frank Medina, Director of Zapata National Park, who discusses the joint pressures of tourism and conservation facing the park. He’s a lively speaker and after the informative discussion, we enjoy a festive dinner of delicious, authentic Cuban fare.

Day 5: Hemmingway’s House, Parque Lenin, Pinar del Rio.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation: Villa Soroa

We rise early and drive northwest to the edge of Havana where we visit Hemingway’s former estate of Finca Vigia, home to the Museo de Ernesto Hemingway. While Hemingway lived here, he found inspiration for several of his books. We take a short walking tour of the estate to learn about this very interesting history and US-Cuba relationship.

A short drive and we’re at Parque Lenin, one of Havana’s largest parks, constructed between 1969-72 under the direction of Celia Sanchez, long-time associate of Fidel. We stop to stretch our legs and have a picnic lunch and then continue driving west to a mountain resort called Soroa, where we check into our hotel and if there’s time, visit a local orchid garden. Soon it’s time for dinner and sharing memories of our days thus far.

Day 6: Vinales National Park, Soroa

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation: Villa Soroa

We breakfast at the hotel and then we’re on our way to one of Cuba’s finest national parks. Thrust into the rolling rows of the Sierra de los Órganos lays the Valle de Viñales, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the source of several stunningly unique habitats. We spend our day walking throughout the varied living landscapes the Valle de Viñales nurtures, giving us insight into Cuba’s signal crop, tobacco, as well as the geological forces that shaped the rare valley. We spend the day exploring all that the valley has to offer. With obscure “trail systems” that sprawl chaotically throughout the valley, it’s common for visitors to create their own pathway. The valley’s notable bulbous mogotes give this valley an otherworldly quality. They appear like explosions of limestone rapidly rearing from the earth, where in fact they are the remains of limestone hills eroded away by slow rainfall around 160 million years ago. One of the more iconic sites are the Mogote dos Hermanas, or two mogote “twin sisters,” that lie side by side standing sentinel over stretches of flat fields.

The limestone mogotes are coupled with Cuba’s limestone karst valley riddled with complexes of caves. The caverns hold underground pools and occasional vegetation as well as anthropological evidence that the cave systems were once used by the indigenous Guanahatabeys as refuge.

This region is also the most famous in the world for fine tobacco. Like Burgundy is to wine, Vinales is to cigars. We meet with a cigar maker, visit a tobacco processing plant or despalillo, (not to be confused with a cigar factory), where we see the long, dried leaves hanging in lines and learn more of the curing and fermenting processes that follow the harvest and learn about the interesting and very involved process as a green tobacco leaf transforms to the final product.

We also explore fields of tobacco--Cuba’s export that has reached near-mythical status. The vast fields are a stunning sight with their rows upon rows of rich umber earth lined with tall stalks tobacco waving their wide, spring green leaves. We have the incredible opportunity to visit one of the valley’s tobacco plantations where we might hear the melodious sounds of the vaguero, or field workers, whose songs speak of the valley’s unique synthesis of indigenous, Spanish, and African cultures.

By late afternoon, satiated with fresh air and well-used legs, we return east to our tranquil resort where we enjoy dinner and rest.

Day 7: Soroa to Havana, Walking Tour of the Old City, Classic Car Ride

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation: (Havana Hotel): likely locations include Hotel Presidente, , Riviera, Plaza, Havana Libre or similar

Leaving the countryside, we head to Havana and arrive to the old city for an eye-opening walking tour of Havana Vieja, also known as Colonial or Old Habana. We stroll down Obispo Street and visit historic sites of revolution and colonialism such as the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, the Museo de la Cuidad, the Plaza de Armas, the Plaza de la Catedral, and the Catedral de San Cristóbal de La Habana. As we walk, we learn more of Havana’s turbulent past of plundering privates and affluent colonials as well as the Cubans of today, many who have come to the busy city with hopes for the future.

After lunch in a scrumptious Paladar, we have more time to explore this fascinating city. There’s the large art and craft market of Mercado San Jose, the Museum of Belles Artes with an impressive collection from around the globe, lively neighborhoods, and the seafront Malecon where lovers wander. In the evening we celebrate our week together with a fine farewell dinner at one of Havana’s best paladars. If you’re worn out from our busy day, feel free to find your way to our evening’s accommodations. If, however, you’re feeling the infectious energy of the city, you might want to visit Fábrica des Artes, where the best of Cuba’s avant-garde art can be experienced, or for a more low-key experience, head to UNEAC (The Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba) for an evening bolero and other singing performances.

Day 8: Adios Cuba!

Meals: Breakfast

This morning we offer one airport transfer at a time that matches the departure time of the majority of the group. For flights that don’t match up well, we recommend you take a taxi to the airport at your convenience (not included.)

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Price Per Day: $ 436 per day
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7 Adventure Unbound Travel Reviews & Ratings

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Cuba Walking Tour: National Parks, Culture & History

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They are just great!!!

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They are just great!!!
They have a no-nonsense ambience.
The Dormitory is adequate, very clean and comfortable.
The food was very tasty, homely and had a good variety.
The activities catered to our satisfaction. They are provided with lots of patience. Every staff member is so friendly and they ensure that you enjoy the outing.
We were a family with people from all are groups. They took care of every individual needs. Our aged mother was made very comfortable, and they arranged a chair for her at every activity area.
We spent almost two days and one night. And we enjoyed every moment.
If one is looking for a good outing, this is the place. Total value for money. Above all it's the passion of the staff that makes them better than most places around Bangalore.
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The hygiene and quality of food served was par excellence.

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Just a couple of weeks ago, our team had been to ‘Eagles Unbound Adventure Camp’ for a team outing. It was one of the best outings that we have had and a lot of credit goes to Mr. Sunil Chris for being the perfect host. He and his team had ensured that every minute detail was taken into consideration and delivered as promised. The fact that the organizers were able to feel the pulse of our team and plan activities accordingly had built the right tone for team bonding. The hygiene and quality of food served was par excellence. I would recommend ‘Eagles Unbound’ to anyone planning a team outing.
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Wonderful place for day outing and adventure activities

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Wonderful place for day outing and adventure activities , and learning for personality development and come out from inner fear of adventure
good work keep it up ...
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amazing adventure activities and friendly staff.

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Great place to have a refreshing day with friends, family and co-workers.
amazing adventure activities and friendly staff. Food is nice too. They also have a great variety of adventure packages.
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A wonderful destination for camping and adventure activities

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A wonderful destination for camping and adventure activities in South India. well qualified instructors and world class equipments. safety and security is their prime concern.
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Amazing place with lots of adventures activities

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Amazing place with lots of adventures activities combined with military activities like obstacle course.. A must place to visit... Loved being there.. Worth the penny
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Details

Flights & Transport

Only ground transport

Group Size:

Small Group - 24 max

Cancellation Policy:

CANCELLATIONS AND REFUNDS

If you find it necessary to cancel your trip, you should notify Adventure Unbound in writing, by e-mail or fax immediately.  If written cancellation is received (call to verify) before the final balance is due, you will be given a refund less the amount of the deposit.  Deposits are not refundable.  If cancellations are made on or after the final due date, no money will be refunded.  If you are unable to go on the trip, you are welcome to find a replacement for yourself.  Please understand that once you’ve signed up, we lose the right to sell your reserved space to other individuals or groups.  Therefore, we regret that we cannot make exceptions for personal emergencies.  For this reason we strongly recommend you consider purchasing the Travel Protection Plan we offer.

For non USA-based trips, Adventure Unbound must make substantial payments to its suppliers (hotels, transportation companies, etc.) far in advance of the trip departure date.  If Adventure Unbound cancels any tour, trip or expedition due to acts of insurrection, force majeure, strikes, popular demonstrations, acts of God, earthquake, flooding, or any cause beyond its control, Adventure Unbound will refund the portion of the trip cost not already advanced to suppliers and use its best efforts to recover and refund the balance as promptly as possible.

If we are not able to provide a substitute trip, river, or altered itinerary and have to cancel the departure completely, you will be refunded in full. Refunds are limited to the amount actually paid to Adventure Unbound.

CANCELLATIONS FOR EXTENSIONS

There is a $100 per person non-refundable cancellation fee for all extensions.  Cancellations must be received no later than 60 days prior to departure to avoid additional penalties.  Cancellations made 59-30 days prior to departure incur a cancellation fee of 50% of the total fare.  Cancellations made 29-0 days prior to departure forfeit all fees paid.  For groups of 10 or more, cancellations must be received no later than 120 days prior to departure.  Cancellations made between 119-60 days incur a cancellation fee of 25% of the total fare.

Age Notes

Min. Age: 12

Additional Information:

How difficult is the walking?

We walk between three and eight miles each day.  Our pace is casual and most hikes have little to no elevation gain.  An exception is on day 1 and day 6 when our hikes do have 300-600’ elevation gain/loss.

What are the trail conditions?

Trails are generally well maintained, but loose rock and dirt are common. The day 6 walk in Topes de Collantes is on paths that are uneven and steep in places. All paths may be slippery when wet. Walking boots are essential; walking poles are recommended. In the cities where we walk, careful attention to holes in the sidewalks or streets is critical.

How much snorkeling will we be doing?

Cuba has some beautiful beaches that are perfect for snorkeling. The flourishing ocean life is an ecological treasure. We have one specific times dedicated to snorkeling. We do recommend you try snorkeling ahead of time for your trip to get the most out of your experience, if you have never done so.

Trip ID#:

CubWalAdv

Trip Excludes

  • Round-trip air to/from Cuba
  • Cuba Tourist Visa Fee  (ranges from $50-$100 depending on where you buy it)
  • Guide and driver gratuities
  • Personal expenses such as souvenirs, gifts, additional drinks/entertainment, and incidentals

Meals Included:

7 Breakfasts, 6 Lunches and 7 Dinners

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