Private Journeys

Family Cuba: Salsa, beach and vintage cars

15 days from £3,076pp

Cuba

Itinerary

map marker Map

Day 1

Arrive in Havana. Transfer to hotel in the historic centre.

Private transport to your atmospheric hotel in the lively historic centre of Havana for a 3-night stay.

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Day 2

Guided tour of Old Havana by 1950s vintage American car.

Your introduction to the city is a guided tour of Old Havana in one of the city’s multitude of lovingly maintained, gargantuan 1950s American vintage cars. What a treat!

The streets of La Habana Vieja were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982, and the subsequent restoration of this part of town has transformed it into arguably Latin America's finest colonial quarter, in marked contrast to the rambling, potholed streets and crumbling façades around it.

Drive along the cobbled narrow streets between grand, pastel-hued mansions and bustling street life. You'll have trouble keeping younger children by your side as spontaneous dance, music and chat erupts before you round the corner, and seeps out of every doorway.

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Day 3

Matanzas city tour.

Start your guided tour with a visit to the Castillo de San Severino (1693), a sturdy fort from which the bay could be defended from pirates. It was later used as a prison and is now being converted into a museum of slavery. In the town centre you'll visit the French Museo Farmacéutico, which exhibits the original equipment including 19th century porcelain jars, pill makers, and even gynaecological equipment. Other places of cultural significance you'll see are the publishing house Edicciones Vigia, an art gallery and a puppet theatre. Outside town further along the bay you'll inspect the Castillo del Morrillo, another colonial fort.

Day 4

Transfer to rural La Terrazas.

Travel on by land to visit the community project of Las Terrazas in the Sierra del Rosario UNESCO biosphere reserve. This is Cuba's premier centre for ecotourism, which offers the opportunity to get close to the local community, who coexist harmoniously with their surroundings. Stay at the much admired La Moka Eco-resort for 2 nights.

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Day 5

Day trip to an old coffee farm with a dip in natural pools.

Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve sits on an impressive mountain range of tropical and semi-deciduous forest within the coffee-producing region of Pinar del Rio. The reserve is rich in flora and fauna and offers some the island's best bird-watching. Other notable wildlife includes bats, frogs and lizards.

Travel to Rancho Curujey and learn about the area's sustainable development project. Visit the ruins of Cafetal Buena Vista, a coffee plantation founded by French immigrants in the 19th Century. Learn about the history of coffee in Cuba, including the various processes.

Later, enjoy a canopy tour extending 800m through the forest. Visit the community of Las Terrazas, including the workshops of local artists, and then a stop for lunch at a local restaurant. Later, travel to the Río San Juan river pool for a refreshing dip in the clear, natural waters.

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Day 6

By road to Viñales, western Cuba.

Continue by road to Viñales, a small, bucolic town tucked away in the Sierra de los Órganos. The shady high street is lined with trees, wooden colonnades and one-storey, red-roofed houses. Horse and carts clatter along the main road and local children play baseball with sticks and stones outside the dilapidated whitewashed church in the main square.

There is a splendid old chemist's shop and a few other bare-shelved stores, as well as a couple of salsa bars that attract a lively crowd in the evening.

The valley has a distinctive landscape, with dramatic limestone mountains, known as mogotes, which jut into the sky from a lush, fertile plain. Using oxen and carts, local farmers cultivate the red soil of the valley floor for fruit, vegetables and tobacco, and the countryside is peppered with thatched curing barns for drying the tobacco leaves.

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Day 7

Half day guided biking tour in Viñales Valley.

Enjoy a biking tour in Viñales with a stop at a prehistoric mural. Visit a tobacco farm to learn about the growing process of this high-value crop, stop at El Palenque and continue to enjoy a boat trip along a subterranean river inside Cueva del Indio.  We cannot guarantee a cycling helmet, but our representatives in Havana can lend one to you, which you should return to the office.

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Day 8

Transfer to Trinidad via wildlife peninsula Zapata.

Travel to the remote Ciénaga (swamp) de Zapata covering a large area at the southern end of Matanzas province. Part of it is a UNESCO biosphere reserve including the largest wetlands of all the Caribbean Islands, and is home to all manner of wildlife, especially birds such as flamingoes,  and trogons - the national bird. Other inhabitants include lizards, crocodile and rock crab. Crocodiles lurk in the shadows here. 

There is a great diversity of ecosystems such as grassland, mangrove, forest, coastal lagoons, coral reef and some delightful beaches such as Playa Larga and Playa Girón. The area is also famous for one of Cuba's most monumental historical events - the thwarted 1961 invasion by the US-sponsored Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs.

Your guided tour starts with a visit to Cuba's largest crocodile breeding farm where you’ll find around 100,000 reptiles kept in separate pools according to size, age and species. Next to the farm, at the Treasure Lake, you’ll board a boat and enjoy a 20min trip to a reproduction indian village.

Continue to the colonial city of Trinidad, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. Its popularity has not affected its colonial charm and unhurried atmosphere. Low-rise, brightly painted houses with vast shutters open out onto cobbled streets; palm trees dot the main plaza. Evening entertainment continues into the early hours with dancing and music each night. You have 2 nights here.

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Day 9

Boat trip along Ancón beach.

Trinidad is just a few kilometres from pearl white beaches. Board a catamaran at Playa Ancón and cruise in style to Cayo Blanco - a typical white-sand Caribbean island - where you can snorkel along the coral reef and view a wealth of colourful tropical fish. Life jackets and snorkelling equipment will be provided. Next, enjoy a welcome cocktail or juice on the beach with a seafood lunch and a well-stocked Cuban bar.

After a few hours of soaking up the scenery and sun, you'll head back by catamaran. Bear in mind you'll need to take your passport with you on this trip.

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Day 10

Family salsa lesson.

At leisure in Trinidad. Make your way to the simple, yet characterful Casa Artex dance-hall to pick up some fancy new footwork during a private hour-long family salsa lesson. You'll be guided through the steps by an enthusiastic professional instructor, attempting the son, salsa, chachachá and mambo.

Day 11

Transfer to Cayo Santa María via Sancti Spíritus, and tour of Santa Clara.

Drive to Sancti Spíritus. This city sits right slap bang in the centre of Cuba.  It was one of the original seven Cuban cities founded by the Spanish in 1514. Its colonial origins are evident in its buildings and layout, although it is not as exquisite and well preserved as the Trinidad to the south, which as a result attracts more visitors. Its neglect by governments through the decades adds to its charm for some.

Continue by road to Santa Clara. Here, half a century ago the capture of the railway, by Ché Guevara assisted by just 18 guerrillas, was instrumental in the triumph of the Revolution. Today, this vibrant university town is home to an excellent museum dedicated to the events of the late 1950s and to Ché Guevara. There’s a guided tour with time to visit the armoured train ambushed by Ché and his little band, Ché's mausoleum and a monument and plaza dedicated to the man and the Revolution.

Transfer along a breathtaking causeway to Cayo Santa María, one of a string of small tropical coral cayos (they form part of the Jardins del Rey archipelago) connected to the town of Caibarién.

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Days 12-13

At leisure on the beach, water-sports options.

The little island (2 x 13km) is blessed with gorgeous powdery white sand beaches, mangroves and calm turquoise waters, ideal for snorkelling and diving. The eponymous national park has interesting wildlife, especially birds and reptiles. The island is served solely by a small cluster of resort hotels and has no real local village life. This is your beach time, relax together on the sand or take part in water sports organised from your all-inclusive hotel.

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Day 14

Transfer overland to Havana.

Transfer by road to Havana for final overnight stay.

Day 15

Transfer to airport for international flight home.

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