The group flight arrives in the afternoon and we transfer to our hotel. Those on Land Only arrangements should join us at the hotel in the evening.
We start our exploration of Havana in vintage American cars, driving in style past Revolution Square and along the sea boulevard to the famous old town. Our adventure continues on foot so that we can experience the heart of this vibrant city, renowned for its history and culture. Havana is simply bursting with energy! We'll stop amidst live music for a typical Cuban lunch of rice, black beans and chicken, pork or fish. Vegetarians should try the dish 'tamal en cazuela', a local speciality made of polenta. Save some room though - this afternoon we'll be visiting the very popular Museo del Chocolate! The delicious aroma will draw anyone with a sweet tooth inside. Chocolate addicts amongst us may welcome some exercise afterwards as we stop in Plaza Vieja, a popular spot for local children to play games and football. Adults can enjoy a drink from Havana's own microbrewery as they watch the world go by from the restored old square. Later on we'll have some time to relax at the hotel and enjoy a swim in the pool.
This morning we set off for Viñales Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with palm trees and tobacco farms - some of the most impressive scenery in Cuba. Huge limestone karsts (sheer-sided, flat-topped hills, also called mogotes) rise from the valley floor, riddled with caves and covered in forest. Thought to date back to the Jurassic period, these mogotes are found in just a handful of places around the world. We'll walk through the impressive stalactites and stalagmites of Cueva del Indio before arriving at an underground river where we board boats to explore deeper into the unique cave system. Emerge from the underworld and into the stunning valley to take in the scenery by foot. Our next stop is at a huge mural on the side of one of the mogotes, the 'Mural de la Prehistoria', said to depict the theory of evolution. Later we drive half way back towards Havana, stopping overnight at our hotel in the Cuban countryside.
A short drive brings us to Las Terrazas in Sierra del Rosario. The area suffered badly from deforestation, but following the Revolution a community led replanting scheme was initiated and vast pines, cedar and eucalyptus trees now grow on the terraces. The reforestation has been so successful that the area is now a haven for migrating birds from the north along with the Cuban national bird, the Tocororo. See if you can spot it! Also look out for numerous species of orchids and Cuba's national flower, the mariposa. There's a lake where you can go boating, a wonderfully clean river and plenty of natural pools and waterfalls for a refreshing dip. Children will no doubt love the zip-wiring adventure, an 800 metre course stretching through the trees and over the lake (this activity is optional at a cost of CUC 25 per person). There are several options for lunch (own expense) at one of the community restaurants. At the end of an action packed day we'll return to our hotel.
An early start this morning as we drive to Guama - Cuban crocodile country! The Crocodylus Rhombifer is listed as an endangered species, but a breeding programme set up by the government in the 60's has helped lift it from the threat of extinction - we'll visit the breeding centre and see the unique Cuban crocodile. This afternoon we take a speedboat across Laguna del Tesoro (Treasure Lagoon) to reach our island hotel for the night. There's time here to relax and enjoy the pool or the walkways that have been built on stilts above the lagoon. Please note that occasionally we may stay in Playa Larga if there are problems with overbooking at the hotel in Guama.
Wave goodbye to the island as we return to the mainland this morning by speedboat. Our journey continues to Cienfuegos, stopping on the way for a swim and lunch at Caleta Buena - a great spot on the coastline renowned for its excellent snorkelling. It's here that an underground river meets the sea and a natural pool has formed, which is full of tropical fish. At Cienfuegos, known as the 'Pearl of the South', we'll have a stop in the city before we carry on to today's final destination, Trinidad.
Trinidad was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 and is perhaps the best-preserved colonial town on the island - the cobbled streets and horse drawn transportation will whisk you back to colonial times. This is a city with real character, where live Cuban music can often be heard filling the tiny streets. There are many interesting museums housed in old colonial buildings, including the Museo Romantico where we'll stop this morning to see the way people used to live. The afternoon is free for you to explore at your own pace, browsing for local handicrafts and souvenirs or simply relaxing.
We'll start this morning at El Cubano Park for a gentle nature walk to see the many birds, flora and fauna famous to this area. Along the way we'll come across a crystal clear natural pool at the bottom of a waterfall - the perfect spot to cool down! Continuing our journey on towards Santa Clara, we make a stop at Sancti Spiritus, a small colonial city with a similar vibe to Trinidad. Our hotel tonight is in Santa Clara, the location of the last battle of the Cuban Revolution before Fidel Castro took Havana. It was here that the now iconic Che Guevara and his troops ambushed a train carrying arms to Santiago de Cuba - a major turning point in the Revolution.
Today we'll learn about Cuba's revolutionary past during a sightseeing tour of Santa Clara, visiting the armoured train museum and mausoleum, the final resting place of Che Guevara and his comrades who died in Bolivia. At the museum there's a large statue of Che Guevara, erected as a monument to mark the 20th anniversary of his death and his services to the Revolution. Our knowledgeable guide will make every effort to describe historical events in a way that is engaging for children and adults alike. Following this we make our way towards Cuba's coastline, where the golden beach awaits us for rest and relaxation.
The whole day is free to enjoy the idyllic coastline. We stay at a resort in Jibacoa that is very popular with Cuban's who come to relax in the simple hotels dotted along the coast. The hotel that we stay in has cabins set in well tended tropical gardens, full of local bird-life and within easy reach of the beach. There are plenty of optional activities available to book locally - hire snorkeling or diving gear to explore the coral reef, or rent pedalos if you are feeling active. The hotel operates an all inclusive basis, serving simple pasta, salads, chicken, fish or pizza dishes from the pool bar and restaurant. The food is well prepared and fresh although relatively simple - we recommend that you also try one of the local paladars for a meal during your stay.
A free morning before we check out of the hotel.