Humans of Havana

Here’s How to Design a Tour of Cuba

The reasons behind Cuba’s rapid growth in tourism have as much to do with its Caribbean location as with the recent changes in US consumption trends that emphasize experiences over possessions.

The birth of a new tourism market is a rare thing to witness. In fact, it is not entirely accurate to describe Cuba as a new tourism market, given the country’s history as a booming travel destination prior to the 1959 revolution and more recently with non-American visitors.

But Cuba’s newness to Americans is causing the island nation to brace for massive growth from the largest, richest country in the world. At a recent investment conference about Cuba, Southwest Airlines’ Director of International Business, Steve Swan, suggested, a “huge influx” of Americans is expected in Cuba. The start of scheduled flights from the US to Cuba is expected to commence later this year and will bring huge numbers of additional travelers.

On way to get ahead of the crowds is to arrange a private, tailor-made tour of Cuba from Ker & Downey.

Ker & Downey’s Cuba journeys vary from approximately $600 – $1,000 per day per person, based on interests, accommodations and tours and are compliant with current US travel restrictions to Cuba.

Suggested Itinerary-at-a-glance:

  • Day 1:Arrive Varadero / Iberostar Varadero (D)
  • Day 2:Varadero / Iberostar Varadero (B,L,D)
  • Day 3:Varadero / Iberostar Varadero (B,L,D)
  • Day 4:Havana / Hotel Saratoga (B,L,D)
  • Day 5:Havana / Hotel Saratoga (B,L)
  • Day 6:Havana / Hotel Saratoga (B,L,D)
  • Day 7:Havana / Hotel Saratoga (B,L,D)
  • Day 8:Departure (B)

Cuban girl in red

Here are some highlights of what travelers can organize:

Snorkeling and diving in Cuba

  • Snorkeling and diving can indeed be incorporated into Cuba programs. Travelers have two options to do so: travel to Cuba under or professional research category or go through a government agency to incorporate it into the people-to-people program as a minor component.
  • There are several marinas in Cuba where boats can be rented in a private fashion for a day or longer. Some of our favorites include: Marina Hemingway in Havana, Cayo Jutias near Vinales Valley, and several in Varadero, but the best diving/snorkeling spots are off of the Zapata peninsula and central/western Cuba.

Please note: The marinas in Cuba are all owned by Gaviota (government agency controlled by the army) and renting boats from them is not impossible, but the paperwork involved can be relatively easy or difficult depending on exactly what the clients are hoping to do.

Also, Cuban guides are not allowed on motor boats.

Arts Experiences

Havana art shop
Jacinto Viamontes Rodriguez “Plaza El Cristo” Art Shop. Havana

Embark on guided art tour of Havana, accompanied by a Cuban modern art curator or architect. Stops can include:

  • Cuban Fine Arts Museum. Bellas Artes hosts the best, most complete collection of Cuban art available. After a two-hour visit, your curator will take you to a couple of artist studios where you will enjoy recent works by Cuban maestros and have the opportunity to speak to the artists themselves.
  • Contemporary artist studios where you have the opportunity to speak to well-known and emerging contemporary artists, who will share their work and how it connects with the Cuban reality;
  • A behind-the-scenes rehearsal of Habanas Compas Dance at Marianao;
  • A visit to Almacenes San Jose, Havana’s largest arts and crafts fair, where you get a feel for Cuban art and have the opportunity to talk to the artists who are working while also selling their work.
  • Behind-the-scenes visit with the director of Cuba’s internationally renowned ballet;
  • Private salsa lesson
  • Visit the home of a renowned Cuban musician or photographer. Depending on your taste, you may have an encounter with a famous jazz player, or a classic rock guitar player, or perhaps a trumpet player.
  • Muraleando. This community-led project is an uplifting example of how residents in a formally downtrodden neighborhood are using street art to effect positive change. Engage with residents whose enthusiasm and community pride is contagious
  • Explore Matanzas the “Athens of Cuba” and its the artistic side. Many poets, musicians, and influencers got their start in the city; so too did the Cuban dances and musical forms of rumba and its national dance, the subtly-seductive danzón. Your visit may include an encounter with Los Munequitos de Matanzas, a famous Cuban rumba and Folkloric group, where you will meet with young Cuban dancers and rhythmic musicians; or perhaps an exchange with a modern dance troupe: Danza Espiral. Additional experiences include:
  • Learn about Afro Cuban traditions you can then explore El Callejon de las Tradiciones, a unique alleyway where the history of slavery and Afro Cuban culture are explained to you.
  • A stop at Lolo’s gallery – his unique and powerful ceramic work will move you in more than one way.
  • In Cienfuegos, visit the home of Cuban native artist Roberto Gil Esteban. Enjoy a relaxed home-based exchange with Roberto and fellow Cienfuegos-based artists Carlos Alberto Cáceres and Cenia Gutiérrez Alfonso
  • In Holguin City, visit Cusa: an artist who has a very interesting technique mixing painting with with bones. The symbolism in his work is fascinating. You can also stop at Papiro, a printer where books and other materials area created out of fibers that they obtain from recycled paper and fabric.  It is a very rustic process using equipment that dates from the 19th century
  • Visit the secret and secluded fishing village of Gibara to explore the Museum of Natural History and the city’s many art galleries, among them the art gallery by famous painter Cosme Proenza, from Holguin.
Here’s How to Design a Tour of Cuba was last modified: September 29th, 2016 by Cuba Journal