Cuba holiday, small group tours

“Travel across the island on this Cuba holiday, staying with local families, and experiencing coffee plantations & culture, nature walks & nightlife.”

Highlights

Havana | Tours in classic cars | Vinales & tobacco plantations | Cayo Levisa | Soroa | Bay of Pigs | Playa Larga | Playa Giron | Cienfuegos | Trinidad | Sierra Escambray | Santiago de Cuba | Baracoa | Cacao plantation | Optional: snorkelling, diving, birdwatching, catamaran tour to Cayo Leguano, salsa classes and more

Description of Cuba holiday, small group tours

Discover the real Cuba on our Cuba small group tours, with activities including walking in the mountains, salsa classes, scuba diving, snorkelling, horseback riding, learning Spanish, catamaran trips – and enjoying the vibrant, salsa-infused nightlife. This beautiful island is ringed with coral reefs and clear blue water that laps the sandy beaches. But Cuba is not just another Caribbean island; the energy and creativity of its people lend it a unique vibe, and life here is celebrated with humour and passion. Away from the historic towns and cities, there are pristine natural landscapes – this is one of the Caribbean’s most fascinating and seductive destinations.

This small group holiday to Cuba is a round trip of the island accompanied by an experienced tour leader throughout. You’ll start in Havana, where you’ll be staying in a boutique homestay, and cover the island mainly by private minivan, staying in family-run casas particulares (homestays) along the way which gives a real insight into daily life. We’ll stop at the beaches along the way to cool off or snorkel in the crystal clear waters.

This 19-day Cuba small group holiday has fixed departure dates. However, if you are travelling in a group with at least four people, we can run this as a private departure with a tour leader on the dates of your choice. We can also adapt this itinerary for two or more people – with or without a guide, and with a driver or as a self drive holiday. You will be joined by local guides at each location.

These holidays all introduce you to a Cuba where little has changed over the decades. Your guide will take you out on day walks to meet local people, and at night they will accompany you to the bars to enjoy live salsa music – or wild dancing. In the Sierra de Escambray, you can experience Cuba’s subtropical forests, waterfalls and coffee plantations. In Baracoa, meet local cocoa and coconut farmers on a walk through the stunning landscape. These are easy walks at a relaxed pace, although following rain the mountain paths may become slippery, making the walks a little more difficult.

Your tour leader can help you organise activities including horseback rides, salsa dancing lessons and cookery classes. You can also visit some of the best paladares – local restaurants – to enjoy traditional dishes such as lobster, vegetarian meals or just a really good mojito. Your guide can also organise trips to make the most of the Cuban nightlife. Chatting with the families in the casas particulares will improve your Spanish, and there are plenty of opportunities to meet Cuban people.

The tour leader for this Cuba small group holiday has been leading trips since 2001 and has led over 40 during that time. Your leader is an expert on Cuba’s rich culture and natural history, and feels Cuba is like a family – you’re sure to feel the same as you make new friends and share stories across the island. You’re bound to receive invitations to dance, to listen to music and join in local events along with your guide.

Our groups include solo travellers, couples, friends and families – with children of all ages welcome. Free time is factored in to relax, explore the towns or organise additional activities.

We can tailor the itinerary in each destination to your own interests, options include:

- Guided city tours
- Cycling (day trips or a full itinerary)
- Hikes (Vinales, Soroa, Sierra Escambray, Zapata, Sierra Maestra, Mil Cumbres, Baracoa)
- Horse riding
- Jeep safaris
- Bird watching (in Vinales, Zapata National Park, Sierra Rosario – with the option of staying in a mountain lodge in Vinales to spot 20 endemics)
- Cenote trail in Zapata
- Catamaran trips to tropical cays
- Scuba diving at various locations around the island, including Maria la Gorda and Jardines de la Reina
- Cave tours in Vinales
- Cooking classes in Havana and Trinidad
- Reservations at top restaurants
- Shows including Buena Vista Social Club, the National Theatre and Tropicana
- Spanish courses
- Salsa or drumming classes in Havana and Trinidad

The homestays (casas particulares) can be arranged with Spanish, salsa or cooking teachers so you can start learning right away. We also offer adapted versions of this trip with extensions for scuba diving or beach stays on the main island or smaller cays. For keen hikers, we can organise 10, 12 or 15 day coast to coast treks through the Sierra Escambray.

The Cuba small group tour uses a private minivan to travel between destinations. This gives us plenty of flexibility each day as well as getting us off the main roads and to travel through lesser visited areas. For our private departures, there are a number of transport options and prices will be adjusted accordingly:

- Rental car with either a driver or self drive.
- Public buses for longer journeys, with taxis for shorter stretches.
- Private taxis, or minivans for larger groups. Public buses can still be used on longer stretches to reduce costs.
- Vintage cars can be used for day excursions or for longer journeys; these can carry two to three passengers with luggage.

For each of these options, it is possible to have a guide travelling with you throughout the trip – although the most popular option is for a guide to meet you in each location. We only use official, licenced guides; their accommodation, meals and drinks are included in the quoted price but tips are extra.

Another way of exploring Cuba is by bicycle. In order to cover as much as possible of Western, Central and Eastern Cuba, our cycling tours make use of the regular bus and/or minivan taxi transfers on the longer transfers – leaving you to cycle the most interesting stretches. On tailor made cycling tours you’ll need to bring your own bike, and we will design the day to day itinerary together with you. As of 2017, there is a new Cuba by motorbike tour, travelling around Western and Central Cuba on Harley Davidsons accompanied by an English speaking guide and a technical support team. The tour takes 10 days, with 1-9 travellers per group.

Day-by-day itinerary

Day 1:Arrive at Havana airport and be transferred to your boutique homestay in the old town.
Day 2:Guided walking tour of central Havana in the morning, followed by an optional group salsa class or a tour of the wider city in a classic American car.
Day 3:Travel to Vinales. Afternoon tour to a tobacco fermentation house and cave of Santo Tomas.
Day 4:Excursion to the tobacco plantations in the valley, with free time in the afternoon to enjoy a horseback ride to a cave and waterfall, cycling or a tour to an organic farm. Alternatively, the group can opt for a full day tour of Vinales and the surrounding area with tobacco farms and caves.
Day 5:Full day on Cayo Levisa, a beautiful tropical island within easy reach of Vinales where you can snorkel, dive or simply relax on the white sand beach. Tailor made options can skip this excursion to have an extra day in Baracoa and visit Humboldt National Park.
Day 6:Travel to Soroa. Free day which you can spend visiting the waterfall or art gallery. Dinner as a group.
Day 7:Full day excursion. Trek with a local bird watching guide and medicinal plants expert, take a coffee break with a coffee farmer and then have lunch with a Cuban family who live in the tropical forest.
Day 8:Travel to the Bay of Pigs, stopping on the way for a couple of hours snorkelling or diving at Cueva de los Peces and to have lunch. At Playa Larga, the casas particulares are situated right on the palm tree-lined beach.
Day 9:At Playa Giron, you’ll visit the museum to learn about the 1961 invasion then head to Cienfuegos for a guided tour, lunch and visit to a botanical garden. We’ll also take a break to swim at the beach on the way to today’s final destination, Trinidad.
Day 10:This morning, you’ll join a local guide for a three-hour cultural tour of the stunning, UNESCO-rated city of Trinidad.
Day 11:Leave the city today to head into the Sierra Escambray mountains. You’ll visit a coffee museum and hike to the gorgeous Hacienda Codina, a former Spanish coffee-growing ranch. There is time to swim along the way, and explore the Batata Cave. After lunch, you can take a botanical walk before rewarding yourself with a refreshing cocktail at the hacienda. Return to Trinidad.
Day 12:Choose whether you’d like a free day to explore Trinidad and its surroundings, or take a day trip to Cayo Leguano (not included in advertised price) to spend the day snorkelling over a reef and around the island’s mangroves. There is plenty of wildlife on the island as well as in its coral reef; keep an eye out for iguanas, birdlife and endemic hutia tree rodents.
Day 13:Take a comfortable public coach to Santiago (12hrs). Your casa particular has a lovely rooftop garden in the colonial city centre. Have a mojito or two with dinner.
Day 14:Today’s guided tour of Santiago includes the Morro Fort and its photo-worthy views over the Caribbean. Santiago is famous for its steamy nightlife; tonight you can enjoy the Afro-Cuban vibe and salsa of the famous Casa de la Trova as well as the Casa de las Tradiciones.
Day 15:Drive over the tropical mountains to Baracoa with a stop on the way to cool off with a swim in the Caribbean near the historical landing site of José Marti.
Day 16:There’s plenty to keep you busy around Baracoa. Walk into the tropical rainforest and see the giant royal palms, passing by the flat topped El Yunque Mountain. Visit a cacao plantation and refuel with a coffee break at a local farm. You can cool off after lunch with a swim in the river, before taking a rowing boat downriver until it emerges at the sea. You’ll be joined by a local guide throughout.
Day 17:If you’ve ever wondered where exactly chocolate comes from, all will be revealed today with a tour of a cacao plantation and chance to meet the families who turn the beans into chocolate. Stop at a beachside fishing settlement for lunch then row into the Yumuri Canyon. Your transport today is a classic American car.
Day 18:Free morning – if you like, you can spend it at Maguana Beach. Travel back to Santiago with a beach stop on the way, arriving in time for your late flight back to Havana.
Day 19:Free time before your flight home to wander round Havana, visit museums or do a spot of last minute craft shopping. Transfer to airport..

Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

01273 823 700

Check dates

2016: 16 Dec
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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Cuba holiday, small group tours

Environment

The program offers lots of adventure in the countryside and mountains with day walks, water- and beach activities. This Cuba group tour is designed and offered by guides who are certificated in the field of ecological tourism and have been guiding in the Caribbean & Latin America for many years. This Cuba group tour of 12-19 days gives a unique insight into the Cuban culture and nature. On our Cuba tours all walks are guided by local guides and organized by local organisations that respect and take care of nature. Your tour leader and local guides have an extensive knowledge of fauna and flora. As on Cuba a green pharmacy has been developed in the last decades you also may learn a lot about medicinal properties of Caribbean plants. A holiday to Cuba off the beaten tracks with local guides brings income to local Cuban people and their families. By making use of ecological responsible excursions during your travel on Cuba, you support the people to continue with taking care of their natural reserves.

Community

1) Roundtrip over Cuba from West to East, with expert tour leader and mainly private minivan transfers, staying in boutique homestay in Havana at beginning and end and the rest casas particulares to connect with the real Cuban life. Private Minivan transfers with your own driver have as great advantage that we will make beach & snorkeling stops along the way, that we can enjoy more of the real Cuba and that we have more freedom than with a regular bus trip. This trip can also be done all in style with American oldtimers out of the 50's on one stretch of the itinery or through the whole of Cuba with private operating drivers who were able to maintain their family car in a good state.

2) This group trip is exceptional in that we stay at homestays as a group, separated over different homes. It gives you more insight into the real Cuban life, an opportunity to improve your Spanish and access to excellent Cuban home cooking. We always dinner together at the casas particulares one or two nights to support the families and share this moment together in the cosy ambiance of a Cuban home. The income to the Cuban families goes directly into the Cuban society and support a whole family.

3) We work at all locations with local guides, some are working for the state some have started their own micro-enterprise which is allowed since 2011. They bring in their knowledge and Cuban feeling and form part of the Cuban experience. In two opportunities we work with guides who started their own business, they can tell us about the changes Cuba is going through and they can only survive as they are exceptional guides and contracted by us. In all cases a tip is essential to support the local guides and their families with their daily living.

4) We visit two times local mountain schools, besides being an interesting and beautiful experience to see al these children we can leave a donation for the school, teachers and kids. When we visit farmers during your excursion, we ask participants, if appropriate, to donate luxury articles like ballpoints, soap and shampoo, buy some coffee, handicraft and/or leave a donation. At Baracoa in East Cuba we collect clothes, shoes and toiletries to donate to a Cuban organization, which supports people from the countryside with no resources. You can also leave clothes, mountain shoes, toiletries or other articles with your local guides after the excursion.

5) Your tour leader has guided around 40 trips over Cuba the last 12 years and is an expert on nature and culture of this fascinating island in the Caribbean. Cuba has become like a family for your guide and it is not unlikely that you might experience the same. It is a special opportunity to travel with your guide and to be invited to take part in the Cuban rhythm of life on all parts of the island! This trip is for all ages from young to old, families with children, couples and singles alike. We have several free days and the program can always be modified to specific needs and wishes on location between the traveling moments
Your guide is also a certified PADI Advanced Open Water Diver and can help you with all your questions about diving in Cuba. He supports several families with children with clothes, medicaments, books, second hand luxury articles, purchases of their handicrafts, and donations for constructing materials and improving their housing.

6) With booking whether a group or individual Cuba tour you receive a Cuba Manual with all kind of information on Cuba, esp. handy for the individual traveler.

Reviews of Cuba holiday, small group tours

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
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 01 Apr 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Visiting Santa Clara and seeing the Che Guevara Mausoleum and statue.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Book all buses in advance. Having someone to pick you up from the bus station is also preferable as the amount of people waiting outside can be intimidating.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


We only stayed in Homestays with local Cubans. This definitely gave the trip an
authentic feel.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


10/10. Absolutely perfect. I had wanted to vising Cuba from being a little girl. Marcel was the only tour operator who listened to what I wanted and helped me to create the tour I wanted. It was a dream come true.

Read the operator's response here:

When customers travel by regular bus Viazul, we take care of all bus tickets and they will receive them on the briefing in Havana. When they also book homestays – casas particulares via us, we take care that the families, or a personal driver of the family waits for them with a name board and takes them to the homestay. Customers receive a worked out itinerary with all addresses and programme information. In this way it is pretty easy on the bus stations: you see someone with your name board, you give a sign that you have arrived, you pick up your luggage and you double check the name of the family who is waiting for you and you are on your way.

Reviewed on 10 Apr 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Hard to pick out a most memorable part of our holiday. We were bowled over by the variety of experiences, landscapes, music and architecture Cuba has to offer. If pushed I would say that Trinidad is the stand out location in Cuba - you feel as if you've travelled back in time. The city is over 500 years old and is just beautiful. Not to be missed.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


We stayed only in Casa Particulares. In general they were great, enabling us to meet local people and gain from their knowledge of the area. The food was also much better in the Casa's than in state restaurants where service is poor and the food even worse.

If you are going to use Casa's you need to realise that they can be very basic.
We knew this before we embarked on our trip but even so we were surprised by just how basic some Casa's were.
"All Casa's are basic - but some are more basic than others."
However they can also be extremely good. Stand outs for us were:
Cienfuegos - Hostal Colonial (Myriam y Gladys Fernandez Portillo
Havana - Casa Ana y Surama (truly magnificent 3rd floor apartment)

Marcel at was excellent. Lots of useful information and advice. Our contact whilst in Cuba, was also superb.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


We hope so. We paid Casa owners directly and mostly ate with them which put much needed CUCs in their pockets. We mainly used private Taxis and local guides so I'm sure we did our bit to improve the lives of local people.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


We really enjoyed this holiday. We had a fantastic range of experiences and met some wonderful people. We've travelled extensively, but Cuba is pretty much a unique destination. If you do visit Cuba don't make the mistake of thinking that it is just a beach destination. Havana is amazing and the rest of the island has so much to offer. Architecture, history, landscape and fantastic music. The people are wonderful. We never once felt threatened or uncomfortable. Try it. You wont regret it!

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