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.
Connect with the extraordinary people and lively culture of Cuba through experiences made possible by the relationships we’ve developed over almost ten years of licensed expeditions to the island.
Discuss historic preservation with local restoration experts in Havana and Trinidad, then set out to see centuries-old buildings and meet the Cubans who live and work in them.
Talk with local artists on a behind-the-scenes tour of a factory-turned-art gallery, and soak up Afro-Cuban rhythms during a private dance performance.
Gain insights on the future of Cuba during a specially arranged discussion with a Cuban economist and sociologist.
Itinerary - 8 Days
Day 1 — Miami, Florida/Havana, Cuba
Depart Miami for Havana, Cuba. Upon arrival, take a brief driving tour of the city. Then meet troupe members of an Afro-Cuban dance group and enjoy an energetic private performance. Later, check in to our hotel before gathering for a welcome reception and dinner tonight at a local paladar (privately owned restaurant). Hotel Parque Central (L,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. This afternoon, engage in a specially arranged question-and-answer session with Cuban professionals, discussing education, economics, social issues, the role of government, and other topics of interest. After dinner, you will have the opportunity to attend a traditional Cuban music performance. Hotel Parque Central (B,L,D)
Day 3 — Cienfuegos
This morning, visit an urban organic farm to meet with a local farmer and discuss agriculture in Cuba. Then drive south to Cienfuegos, a port city with French colonial roots. After lunch, visit 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. Hotel Jagua (B,L,D)
Day 4 — 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 5 — Cienfuegos
Near Cienfuegos, explore Cuba’s oldest botanical garden with a botany expert who will educate us about ongoing 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, stroll along the main commercial street on a walking tour of Cienfuegos, stopping to talk to cuentapropistas (self-employed workers) about the burgeoning private economy here. Later, enjoy a choral performance and discussion with a world-renowned a cappella group, the Choir of Cienfuegos. Then hear from a local athlete about the role that sports, such as baseball, play in Cuban culture. This evening following dinner, there will be an opportunity to get to know residents of a typical neighborhood in Cienfuegos. Hotel Jagua (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Bay of Pigs/Havana
Today, head to the historic Bay of Pigs. Trace the dramatic events that occurred here at a small museum, then step foot on the Playa Girón, one of two landing sites for the 1961 U.S.–backed invasion. Stop for lunch and enjoy an opportunity to talk with a park ranger visiting us from the nearby Ciénaga de Zapata National Park. Learn about the ecology and conservation efforts of the protected area, declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. On our way back to Havana, pay a visit to Finca Vigía, the former home of Ernest Hemingway. A museum expert joins us to share a Cuban perspective on Hemingway’s strong connection to the Cuban people. Hotel Parque Central (B,L)
Day 7 — Havana
This morning, learn about Cuba’s rich history of art at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana on a guided tour of the collection. Delve into Havana’s contemporary art scene this afternoon by meeting with local artists at one of Havana’s top art spaces. Then celebrate our Cuban experience together at a farewell dinner. Hotel Parque Central (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Havana/Miami, Florida
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight back to Miami. (B)
Please note that 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.
Special Music Departure
Join National Geographic Expert Carol Steele, renowned Afro-Cuban percussionist, on the April 23-30, 2018 departure designed to explore Cuba through its people and captivating rhythms. Enjoy special performances and engagements with Cuban musicians, music students, and dance troupes to experience musical styles—from rumba to salsa and more—and learn of their importance in Cuban society.
The Lowell Thomas Award 2008 ‘Travel Journalist of the Year,' photographer and writer Christopher Baker is one of the world's foremost authorities on Costa Rica and Cuba. He has authored guidebooks to Costa Rica, Cuba, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Panama in the National Geographic Traveler series. He is also the author of the award-winning Mi Moto Fidel: Motorcycling Through Castro's Cuba, published by National Geographic Adventure Press. His more than 20 other books include the coffee table book Cuba Classics: A Celebration of Vintage American Automobiles. He has written for more than 200 publications, from National Geographic Traveler to Newsweek, and has been an invited speaker at National Geographic headquarters, the National Press Club, and the World Affairs Council, among other prestigious organizations. Christopher has been profiled in USA Today and featured on the National Geographic Channel, CNN, Fox News, NPR, and dozens of other radio and TV outlets. He is currently partnering with actor/director David Soul to produce a documentary about the restoration of Ernest Hemingway’s recently rediscovered 1955 Chrysler New Yorker in Cuba.
Christopher will join the following departures:
Jan 08 - 15, 2018 Feb 19 - 26, 2018 Mar 26 - Apr 02, 2018 May 14 - 21, 2018
ALT indicates a departure that has a slightly different itinerary than the one shown on this page. Click the ALT icon to see the day-to-day itinerary.
November 2017 - June 2018
November - December, 2017
January - April 2018
Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $1,850 in 2017 and $1,600 in 2018.
Airfare is not included in the expedition cost. The per-person costs for round-trip group flights between Miami and Havana are $450 (November 2017 - June 2018 departures). Group flight cost includes air ticket, taxes and fees, and required Cuban health insurance as well as expedited check-in service, one checked bag, and a Cuban visa processed on your behalf.
Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives on bumpy roads, or easy hikes.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
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. Information about travel restrictions in Cuba will be provided in your pre-departure materials.
Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. We will be walking approximately one to two hours at a time in warm and humid weather on various excursions, and will need to maneuver across some cobblestoned streets, potholed sidewalks, and other uneven surfaces, as well as some stairs without handrails.
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.