This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
Tailor made holiday
This trip is run by a company which specialises in only Central and South America holidays. It can be tailormade to create a unique holiday for your individual requirements by travel experts with intimate knowledge of the destination. The length of stay, standard of accommodation and even the itinerary can all be amended and tailored to suit your preferred style of travel and budget. Quality and value are the hallmark of these trips.
Responsible tourism: Cuba tailor made holiday, nature and culture
Travel and tourism can both benefit and damage the environment, the economy, the social structure, culture and communities in any country. We know how mass tourism, unrestricted hotel building, poorly devised tours and environmentally destructive activities can bring money flooding in and governments have, in a spirit of short termism, been tempted to accept them. But experience teaches us that in the long term this sort of uncontrolled activity can be detrimental to the country's development, and we endeavour to do nothing to encourage it.
Cuba has been on the tourist map for some decades now, and many of the trips offered there are package holidays where visitors stay in fully inclusive hotels, often owned by multinationals. These do provide employment but much of the profit is syphoned off back to the chain’s home country and does not filter down to the community. The buildings are also frequently huge edifices designed without any reference to the natural or urban environment and without demonstrating any attempt to complement the landscape. The popular beach resort of Varadero was for many years virtually off-limits to Cubans, and tourists inhabited a sterilised ghetto. You don’t stay there on this holiday.
While it is true that your inclusive hotel on Cayo Santa Maria is one of the Spanish Melia chain, this hotel group takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously. In November 2009, the Institute of Responsible Tourism, endorsed by UNESCO, granted Meliá Hotels International certification as a Biosphere Hotel Company. This status is granted to companies which foster the social, cultural, economic and environmental development of the regions where they operate.
Other accommodation we have chosen for this economical holiday is locally run and has plenty of character; the Palacio del Marques de San Felipe in Havana is a refurbished historical property rescued from a neglected state, and the Hotel la Union in Cienfuegos has been transformed from a dilapidated mansion to a boutique-style hotel.
You will stay at La Moka Eco Lodge in Las Terrazas, which has developed as a self-sustainable community project to include one of the nicest lodges in Cuba. Rather than change the ethos of the project, the establishment of the lodge has given the residents more resources to enhance and grow the experiment. Complejo Turistico Las Terrazas is located in an area of 5,000ha, in which a plan for sustainable rural economy is being developed based on the rational use of natural resources for tourism. The buildings of Las Terrazas Community have been designed to blend with their surroundings. You will be benefitting them by staying there and even more so if you treat yourself to their coffee and contract their local guides.
You will visit the wildlife-packed Serra del Rosario Biosphere reserve and the Rancho Curujey where you will learn about the area’s sustainable development project.
Consistent with our aim of providing you with a street-level, nose-to-the-ground holiday you explore Havana’s and Cienfuegos’s historical centres on foot, and you’ll cycle through the Viñales Valley, thereby helping to conserve Cuba’s limited energy resources. You spend a couple of days based at Trinidad, Cuba’s well conserved UNESCO World Heritage Site, to give you a greater understanding of Cuba’s history.
Standard package holidays suit some tastes but we prefer to encourage you to enjoy a more authentic experience. This is especially valid in the case of Cuba, with its unique and fragile society, nowadays in flux, always in danger of unpredictable transformation. Go now, and you will be able to evaluate close up this extraordinary socio-politico-economic situation your selves. We have no idea how long it will last.
Many companies offering tourist services in Cuba are established in and work out of Havana. Not only are they less familiar with other parts of the islands, they send their guides and transport out from the capital. Our operator has close connections with local communities, and recruit guides and other staff within the towns and regions which you will visit. This has the added advantage of helping in a small way to put a brake on the flight of talent to Havana, means that much needed revenues stay in situ, and breadwinners can stay close to their families. A further beneficial result is that we are able to offer a broader range of excursions and activities outside the capital, which is very innovative.
Cubans are friendly and curious, most speaking at least a little English, and interacting with them is most rewarding. Our walking tour in Havana and cycling tour in Viñales open up the opportunity to converse with local people as well as to get to know your Cuban guide, who will give you interesting insights into daily life in Cuba as well as its revolutionary history
We also encourage you to eat in paladares, family run restaurants in private homes, where happily the standard of cuisine will often be higher than at a formal restaurant.
Many of the guides contracted by our local operator are supplementing income they are earning as workers in the Arts sector. Our salsa guide in Santiago gives lessons to help supplement her Cuban income. In addition to this she will introduce you to the best local places to dance and listen to Cuban music.
Guides may take you to visit small retail outlets and workshops where you can buy items with Cuban pesos, rather than mass produced items restricted to the tourist currency CUC and dollar sector.
Reviews of Cuba tailor made holiday, nature and culture
You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays.
I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
It was OK
A bit disappointing really
Reviewed on 22 Oct 2016 by Rachel Bastin
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
Havana - wandering the streets of the old town.
2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
I would advise booking directly with a local Cuban tour operator, rather than using an international travel company who uses their own local representatives. The local owner operator that we went with for the first week of our trip was excellent, highly professional and provided an outstanding level of service and fantastic local knowledge. It made our holiday. The second week that we booked through an international company was double the price, incredibly expensive for what we received, all the tours were "add ons", did not provide a genuine Cuban experience (staying in international hotels and all-inclusive resort) and no English speaking guides or drivers were provided, despite the glossy brochures suggesting otherwise.
3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
Apart from 2 nights in an lovely local casa, I do not feel that the holiday benefitted local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation.
4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
Read the operator's response here:
Thank you for your review though we are sorry you found your holiday to be disappointing overall. It was also very unfortunate that your arrangements to Eastern Cuba were curtailed as a result of Hurricane Matthew which hit the country the day before you were due to travel to Baracoa. As you know all flights to the East were suspended and regrettably Hurricane Matthew did cause much destruction to coastal areas there. This was documented in the Miami Herald at http://www.miamiherald.com/news/weather/hurricane/article106110412.html
As was discussed with you on the ground, in these extraordinary circumstances we did need to change your itinerary at short notice to an alternative coastal destination away from the path of the hurricane. Although this was arranged at no extra cost to yourself, I realise the alternative services were a different style to those we had originally booked over the three affected nights. I can assure you that we would always take into account the wishes of our customers and not readily propose all-inclusive type resorts, though I am sorry that on this occasion the emergency situation meant that the holiday could not be provided as had been planned. On a more positive note, I am pleased that you enjoyed your stay in Havana and at the local casa particular we had arranged prior to these unforeseen and unwelcome changes to your itinerary. Cuba is a truly fascinating country and I do hope that you do still retain some fond memories of your visit.