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Within cities seemingly frozen in time beats the vibrant pulse of Cuba’s most valuable resource: its people. Connect with Cubans of all backgrounds on this unique program, learning about their everyday lives and examining the forces that have shaped Cuban culture. From the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Old Havana and Trinidad to colonial Cienfuegos, meet historians and scientists, athletes and artists, entrepreneurs and musicians—and experience this fast-changing island nation through their eyes.
Discuss historic preservation with local experts, and meet residents as you explore Old Havana and Trinidad.
Witness Cuba’s shifting cultural and economic landscape on visits to schools, art studios, and privately owned businesses.
Soak up rhythms of all sorts—from Afro-Cuban to award-winning a cappella.
Meet with local dancers and musicians in the colonial city of Cienfuegos.
Itinerary - 9 Days
Day 1 — Miami, Florida/Havana, Cuba
Depart Miami on a charter flight. Upon arrival in Havana, enjoy a brief driving tour of the city and head to the lively community arts program of Muraleando. Get to know artists, dancers, and musicians who have helped transform a downtrodden neighborhood into a living work of art. Then check in to our hotel before gathering for a welcome reception and dinner tonight. Hotel Parque Central (D)
Day 2 — Havana
The architecture of Havana is astounding in its breadth and elegance, yet years of neglect have left many buildings in need of restoration. Learn about the challenges and successes of historic preservation from a local expert, then set out into Old Havana to see centuries-old gems—and meet the Cubans who live and work in them. After lunch, join local youth and their teachers who are carrying on the traditions of Afro-Cuban religion, dance, and music. Delve into race relations and other issues during a meeting and short film screening with Afro-Cuban filmmakers. Attend a special musical performance after dinner. Hotel Parque Central (B,L,D)
Day 3 — Havana
Spend the morning with Cuban professionals, engaging in a specially arranged discussion on education, economics, social issues, the role of government, and other topics of interest. Then join sports journalists at the stadium where the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame was established and explore the historical and political importance of baseball here. In the afternoon, meet the instructors and students of La Colmenita, an after-school program that uses song and dance performance as a social development tool. Hotel Parque Central (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Cienfuegos
Drive south to Cienfuegos, a port city with French colonial roots. Stroll along the main commercial street on a walking tour of the city, stopping to talk to cuentapropistas (self-employed workers) about the burgeoning private economy here. At the prestigious Benny Moré Art School, watch students perform music and dance, view their artwork, and hear the stories of these talented youth and their teachers. After dinner, there will be an opportunity to get to know residents of a typical neighborhood in Cienfuegos. Hotel Jagua (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Trinidad/Cienfuegos
Travel along the Caribbean coast to charming Trinidad, where we explore Cuba's best preserved colonial city with a restoration expert. Set off along its cobblestoned streets, pausing at colorful houses along the way to meet artisans, antiques collectors, and longtime residents who have transformed their historic homes into guesthouses. One such man is Julio Muñoz, a photographer and union representative for the self-employed, whose family appeared in an October 1999 National Geographic magazine article. At his colonial-era house, learn about his private businesses, such as his bed-and-breakfast, and hear about his program promoting equine care. Hotel Jagua (B,L)
Day 6 — Cienfuegos
Near Cienfuegos, explore Cuba's oldest botanical garden with a botany expert, who will educate us about Cuba's efforts to maintain the rich biodiversity of its extraordinary plant life. Then stop in a former sugar mill town and meet with the town's present-day inhabitants. After lunch, focus on sports and their importance in Cuban culture during a discussion with local athletes. Later, enjoy a choral performance and discussion with a world-renowned a cappella group, the Choir of Cienfuegos. Hotel Jagua (B,L,D)
Day 7 — Bay of Pigs/Havana
Today, head to the historic Bay of Pigs. Trace the dramatic events that occurred here at a small museum, and then step foot on the Playa Girón, one of two landing sites for the 1961 U.S.–backed invasion. On our way back to Havana, pay a visit to Finca Vigía, the former home of Ernest Hemingway. The director of the museum joins us to share a Cuban perspective on Hemingway’s strong connection to the Cuban people.
Hotel Parque Central (B,L)
Day 8 — Havana/Jaimanitas
In the fishing village of Jaimanitas, wander through the fantastical workshop and home of ceramic artist José Fuster, called the “Picasso of Cuba.” Stroll down village streets decorated with his mosaics, stopping to interact with neighborhood families along the way. Then attend a question-and-answer session with American author and Havana resident Marc Frank. Meet with Marc and a Cuban journalist to discuss their perspectives on Cuba’s past, present, and future. Celebrate our Cuban experience together at a farewell dinner tonight. Hotel Parque Central (B,L,D)
Day 9 — Havana/Miami, Florida
After breakfast, talk with troupe members of an
Afro-Cuban dance group and enjoy an energetic
private performance. Later, transfer to the airport
for your flight back to Miami.
Born in the U.S. but raised in Spain and Cuba, Rob Hernandez was in Havana during the pivotal early years of the Cuban Revolution. After leaving in 1960, he first returned in 1987 with the hope of gaining access on behalf of the National Geographic to what at that time was largely a closed nation. He has traveled widely throughout the island and will enjoy sharing with you his broad knowledge of the history, culture, and environments of this enigmatic nation that's still struggling to reconcile its past with its future. A 28-year veteran of the Society, Rob first served as a senior editor for the magazine, later becoming Senior Vice President and head of the Society's International Publishing division that produces books, magazines, and other media in more than 35 languages. An ecologist by education, he spent his early career doing field research and documenting through films and photography many of the world's more remote places, work that has appeared in leading global publications. After spending two years circumnavigating the Indian and Pacific Oceans in a small sailboat, he went on to lead many expeditions to Africa, the Arctic and Antarctic, Southeast Asia, and South America, among other regions.
Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single
room, add $800. There is an additional holiday surcharge of $700 per person on the December 15 and 29, 2016 departures.
Airfare is not included in the expedition
cost. Round-trip charter airfare between Miami
and Havana is $550 per person. A $75 per person
airfare supplement applies for the December 15 and 29, 2016 departures.
Featured Expedition Moment
What To Expect
This trip is permitted through the people-to-people general license category authorized by the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. The itinerary was designed to provide an in-depth cultural experience with numerous opportunities for meaningful interactions with Cubans.
Travel restrictions in Cuba, such as limits on how much one may spend and what may be purchased, will be provided in your pre-departure materials.
While we do our best to adhere to the itinerary listed here, traveling in Cuba requires flexibility, and changes to hotels and activities may occur.