HAVANA, CIENFUEGOS, TRINIDAD & SANTA CLARA
Immerse yourself in Cuba’s culture and local life with this unique program! As more and more travelers flock to this once-forbidden destination, the costs of travel to Cuba has increased year over year, making it difficult for many travelers to visit this incredible destination.
With this program, you’ll have the opportunity to stay in Casas Particulares or private homes belonging to local families. The Cuban government first allowed Cuban families to register their home as a privately owned business in 1997 – a huge first step toward economic freedom. Our smarTours destination expert has scoured Havana and Cienfuegos for the best Casas Particulares and handpicked our featured casas based on factors like privacy, location, and more – bringing travel to Cuba within reach and offering a unique and intimate travel experience!
JUST IN: Cruises to Cuba can no longer operate, but smarTours People to People Programs for 2019 and 2020 are officially authorized. Under the new regulations, pre-existing reserved people to people programs to Cuba are protected, so we can offer you our full range of Cuba programs- from our culturally immersive and experience-rich Cuba Up Close to our inclusive multi-city Best of Cuba and our exciting new launch of Cuba Highlights for 2020! Due to increased demand, there are limited spots left for 2019 and 2020, so book today!
- 1 night in Miami
- 3 nights in Havana
- 3 nights in Cienfuegos
- Ernest Hemingway’s home (La Finca Vigia)
- Traditional Cuban cooking/cocktail class
- Jose Fuster’s home and art gallery
- Visits with several unique Cuban community projects and musical groups
- Fine Arts Museum
- Callejon de Hamel
- Classic car ride
- Benny More Art School
- Walking tour of colonial Trinidad
- Julio Munoz
- Che Guevara Memorial
- Round-trip international airfare from Miami
- Airfare taxes, fees & fuel surcharges
- Health insurance in Cuba (mandatory)
- Cuban Visa (for US Citizens) & Cuban Departure Tax
- Intra-Cuba ground transportation and transfers
- Pre-night in Miami Airport Hotel
- Accommodations at handpicked Casas Particulares
- 16 meals: 7 breakfasts (B), 6 lunches (L), and 3 dinners (D)
- Comprehensive Support for the Cuban People experiences and cultural tours including admission fees, following U.S. regulation CFR 515.574
- Experienced Cuban English-speaking guide and a USA Tour Director throughout
Click the Day by Day itinerary above (or swipe on mobile devices) to see the experiences that await on each day of your tour.
Pre-Night in Miami
Your unforgettable Cuba vacation begins today with a night in Miami. After independent check-in at your hotel, join your US Tour Director for an orientation meeting!
Miami / Havana
This morning, you’ll grab a quick breakfast before heading to the airport for your short flight to Havana, the largest and liveliest city in Cuba (and the Caribbean). With over 500 years of fascinating and tumultuous history, Havana was once a slave port for the Spanish and a gambling capital for the US mafia. Despite ups and downs, Cuba’s capital has emerged at the forefront of modern Latino culture.
Upon arrival in Havana, you’ll be greeted by your English-speaking Cuban guide and taken to Ernest Hemingway’s house (Finca Vigia or “lookout…
After breakfast this morning, meet your group for a walking tour of Old Havana! Marvel at the spectacular colonial baroque architecture while learning more about the history of this magnificent capital city from a local expert. Visit a graphic artist’s workshop where artists prepare plates and prints as well a local Rations Store. During your touring, you’ll have the opportunity to meet and interact with artists and entrepreneurs along the way! After, visit a local community project and meet its creator: the visionary entrepreneur, Pepito. His aim is to help at risk Cuban youth by…
After breakfast, visit a cigar factory to learn about one of Cuba’s most recognized industries. You’ll interact with the factory workers, witness a rolling demonstration, and see how famous Havana Cigars are made. Next, enjoy a tour of the Fine Arts Museum, or Museo de Bellas Artes, where you’ll see stunning art & sculpture pieces on your guided tour with an opportunity for open questions about the museum and their work. After lunch at a local restaurant, visit the art and cultural project, Callejon de Hamel. Continue to the Artisans Market Almacenes de San Jose where you’ll…
Havana / Bay of Pigs / Cienfuegos
This morning, depart vibrant Havana for Cienfuegos and Trinidad with an important stop at Playa Giron to visit the Bay of Pigs Museum along the way. The Bay of Pigs, known as Invasion de Bahia de Cochinos, was a CIA-sponsored counter-revolutionary attack by the US government in 1961 that was rebuffed by the Cuban armed forces led by Fidel Castro, leader of the revolutionary left-wing government. At the museum, you’ll see the Cuban perspective on the conflict and will have the opportunity for questions and discussions.
You’ll continue on towards Cienfuegos, a historic city on the…
Cienfuegos / Trinidad / Cienfuegos
After breakfast this morning, drive to Trinidad, a quaint yet much- heralded town. Considered one of the best-preserved cities in the Caribbean from the time when sugar cane dominated the region, Trinidad is as charming as it is old, and there’s no better way to see this historic town that with a walking tour including one of the city’s museums, and the woodcarvers’ workshop with the opportunity to interchange with the workers! You’ll also enjoy an Afro-Cuban musical performance and exchange with the Congos Reales before your lunch with live music. After lunch, visit the home and…
Enjoy breakfast, and then depart for the Benny More Art School where students learn music, dance and art! Here, you’ll have the chance to interchange with students and professors. Visit the Trazo Libres community art project and learn about hteir work with the community, and then continue to at El Largato. Enjoy a brief walk to the restaurant as you pass by a unique avenue with homes and architecture influenced heavily by the style in found in Louisiana at the time. The balance of the afternoon is at your leisure to explore Cienfuegos independently. Enjoy a farewell dinner at a local…
Cienfuegos / Santa Clara / Miami
Depart this morning after breakfast for Santa Clara where you’ll visit the Che Memorial. Here you will be able to view the final resting place of one of the most infamous historical figures. Loved and revered by many, and a figure of controversy for others. After, visit with the Abuelos de Fiesta which is a community project that works directly with local senior citizens. Here, you’ll meet with seniors and learn more about life for seniors in Cuba. Enjoy a light lunch before boarding your return flight to Miami. Your memorable Cuba vacation comes to an end as you arrive back in…
Casas particulares are private homes which locals rent to travelers. Each casa particular below has been hand-picked by our smarTours destination experts. These casas are completely private (homeowners do not live in the casa). Your stay in a casa particular will be a unique opportunity to connect with the Cuban people. Your kind hosts are happy to prepare breakfast for you, tidy up each morning, and answer any questions you might have about their home.
While staying in each casa, you can expect your bedroom to come with amenities like hot water, air conditioning, a safe with personal key, soap, towels, and hair dryers. Some casas also come with flat screens in the bedrooms! Laundry services are available at each of these casas, typically at a cost of 1 CUC per load.
Crowne Plaza Miami International Airport Hotel
950 NW 42nd Avenue
Miami, FL 33126
Your Host: Esther
This spacious and clean casa boasts three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and an enclosed sun room. You may share a bathroom with another bedroom occupied by smarTours guests.
Your Host: Giselle
This beautiful casa is located in a building with elevators and features three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and an enclosed sun room. You may share a bathroom with another bedroom occupied by smarTours guests.
Your Host: Alexander
This lovely casa has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, features an open balcony with seating and stunning views of Havana, and a unique bar area. You may share a bathroom with another bedroom occupied by smarTours guests.
Your Host: Glenis Maria
This beautiful casa has four bedrooms and four bathrooms, and has two open areas including a courtyard at the entrance of the house and a backyard area. You may share a bathroom with another bedroom occupied by smarTours guests. Breakfast can be served inside or outside at your preference.
Your Host: Kenia
This charming casa has four bedrooms, four bathrooms, and a beautiful open terrace with views of the bay and the Malecon of Cienfuegos. This casa also shares space with a lovely restaurant. You’ll enjoy a completely private bathroom at this casa.
Your Host: Osniel
This enchanting casa has won multiple awards on Trip Advisor with its beautiful french architecture and beautiful lobby. This casa has six bedrooms, six bathrooms, and a terrace overlooking the bay complete with a bar. You’ll enjoy a completely private bathroom at this casa.
NOTE ON TOURISM INFRASTRUCTURE
Please note that the tourism infrastructure in Cuba is more limited than what you might be accustomed to. You can expect slightly lower standards at the hotel properties with fewer amenities. On occasion, it may be necessary to make changes to the itinerary while the tour is in progress due to circumstances beyond the control of smarTours and our local partner. Please keep this perspective in mind in advance of and during your tour to this very special country.
PRE-NIGHT IN MIAMI
You will check in independently at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Miami International Airport, where you may check in as early as 3pm. The address for the hotel is 950 NW 42nd Ave. (Le Jeune Road), Miami, Florida, and the phone number is (305) 446-9000. The orientation briefing will take place at 8pm at the hotel. Your Tour Director will hand out required documents for your trip and provide you with other important information in advance of your travel to Cuba.
Your flights from Miami to Cuba and back are on the following airlines with the corresponding schedules. At your orientation meeting in Miami the night before your flight to Cuba, your Tour Director will advise you about the schedule for the following morning. There will be shuttle transportation from your hotel in Miami. Please note that flight schedules are subject to change without prior notice.
|Departure||Airline||Depart Miami||Arrive in Miami|
|All Dates||American Airlines||9:30 am||7:30 pm|
If you are planning to catch a connecting flight after you return to Miami, please make sure you allow sufficient time for clearing immigration and customs. We recommend at least 3 ½ hours.
ADVANCE SEAT ASSIGNMENT
The airline operating the chartered flights does not accept advance seat assignment. Actual seat assignment will be provided at the airport. Please note that smarTours is not involved with your seat assignments.
PASSPORT, VISA, AND OTHER DOCUMENTATION
The following documents and steps are required for legal travel to Cuba sponsored by smarTours under a general license for Support for the Cuban People (CFR 515.574), where each traveler follows a full-time schedule of activities involving meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba. The following information applies to U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens, except for Cuban-born U.S. citizens.
1. If you have not already done so, make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months after the date of return.
2. Please fill out and return an original copy of the “Certification of Travel to Cuba” by mail no later than the final payment due date 90 days prior to departure. Please fill out your name, date of birth, phone number, and address, and then sign and date right below the line stating “I certify that the above information is true and correct.”
3. Cuba also requires the purchase of mandatory health insurance (known as Asistur), which has been included in this package and covers basic medical needs if required during your trip.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR CUBAN-BORN US CITIZENS
Cuban-born U.S. citizens require the following documents depending on when they departed Cuba. (1) Those who departed Cuba prior to December 31, 1970: PE-11 visa (allow 6 weeks to process) or a Cuban passport (allow 4 months). (2) Those who departed Cuba after January 1, 1971: Cuban passport (allow 4 months). We recommend that Cuban-born U.S. citizens who have previously been rejected for a Cuban visa do not reapply, as repeat rejection is likely and trip cancellation fees will apply.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION REGARDING LEGAL TRAVEL TO CUBA
Although it is not legal to travel to Cuba for “tourist activities,” travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens is permitted for certain types of activities as identified by the U.S. Treasury Department in the Cuban Assets Control Regulations. smarTours sponsors an authorized form of travel following a general license for people-to-people travel (Educational Activities – CFR 515.565), where each traveler follows a full time schedule of activities involving meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba to learn about their unique culture. For more information about the rules governing travel to Cuba, please visit the following link:
DAILY JOURNAL REQUIREMENTS
OFAC requires that travelers to Cuba maintain a daily travel journal during their trip. This journal will serve as documentation that your trip to Cuba was consistent with the requirements of the Support of the Cuban People license. You must keep your journal and a copy of your certification form for a minimum of five years after the trip.
Your final instructions and travel tips will be sent to you 7 – 10 days before the scheduled departure of your tour.
The temperature in Cuba ranges from the mid 60’s to high 70’s in January and February, high 60’s to low 80’s in March, April, November and December, low 70’s to mid 80’s in May and October, and mid 70’s to high 80’s in September. Rainy season runs from May to October.
Immunizations are NOT currently required; however, you should consult your personal physician, local public health authorities or the Center of Disease Control (CDC) as to their suggestions.
COMMUNICATING WHILE IN CUBA
U.S. cell phones do not work in Cuba, and access to Wi-Fi is extremely limited, except that most hotels have business centers with a computer or two. You may wish to make calls from the hotel room or business center, but you should expect calls to cost approximately $2.50 (or more) per minute. You should also expect to pay $10-15 per hour for Wi-Fi.
CREDIT CARDS, ATM MACHINES AND LOCAL CURRENCY
Until recently, U.S. credit cards and debit cards were not permitted in Cuba. Although the guidelines are changing and certain credit cards/debit cards will be accepted over time, we continue to recommend that you plan to bring as much cash as you think you will need for the duration of the trip. As for currency, the Cuban Peso (also known as “Moneda Nacional”) is the official currency. However, the Convertible Cuban Peso (CUC) is the currency that most tourists use. You can exchange your money to convertible pesos at airports, hotels, banks, and exchange offices. Please note that exchanging U.S. dollars into CUC is subject to a 13% fee, whereas exchanging Canadian dollars, Euros, and other currency is not subject to this fee. Please also note that you will not be able to exchange torn or ripped bills.
You may dine at either the hotels used on this tour or other nearby restaurants recommended by your guide. Average cost for dinner (excluding drinks) in a local hotel is about $20-25 per meal per person.
According to new U.S. regulations, you may now bring back $400 USD worth of goods for personal use, of which $100 USD can be in the form of tobacco and alcohol products.
Each passenger may bring one piece of checked-in luggage not to exceed 44 pounds and one carry-on piece not to exceed 18”x10”x8”. Please also note that there is a $25 fee per checked bag imposed by the airlines and should be paid directly by you at the airport in Miami. This fee applies on the flight from Miami to Cuba only.
Meet Jorge, a smarTours employee and our Cuba destination expert! Jorge has over 6 years experience working in travel to Cuba and has visited Cuba five times!
Why should travelers consider Cuba?
Cuba is truly a unique destination. The cliche line of “a land stuck in time” is very true. As soon as you step off the plane and you soak in the warm sun, you can immediately tell that this country has more to offer than meets the eye. From a sociological standpoint, it’s amazing to see how people have persevered in a country that has been in an economic embargo for the better part of 5 decades. The ingenuity and drive of the Cuban people are truly inspiring. They are also some of the nicest and most caring people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. The culture of Cuba has so much to offer; food, music, dance, art, & classic cocktails are just a few of the experiences that are part of this tour. Our Cuba Up Close program has been carefully crafted to include not only the main attractions Cuba has to offer but also an immersive experience which will allow our travelers to gain a better understanding of the everyday Cuban people, as well as a chance to experience a special culture on their own. The goal is to have our travelers return home feeling that they have just had a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I believe Cuba can deliver on all fronts.
What was your experience like staying in a casa particular? How does it compare to staying at a hotel in Cuba?
I’ve been to Cuba plenty of times and I’ve had the pleasure of staying at great hotels such as the Melia Cohiba, the Parque Central & the Hotel Nacional. However, my best experience was when I went down with my wife in the summer of 2017. We stayed at this very nice Casa Particular in Central Havana near the Capitolio, not only did the Casa have every single amenity I could want or need, but it also provided us with a very unique and personalized experience. I was greeted on my first day by the owner and her whole family, they immediately made us feel at home. Every morning our host would come to our apartment and make us a traditional home-cooked Cuban breakfast. It was much better than anything I could have purchased on the street or that I’ve had at any hotel. Staying in an apartment instead of a hotel allowed us to feel as if we were part of the everyday fabric of life. It added an extra depth to our experience that isn’t truly felt when staying at a hotel. Since then, my in-laws and a few friends have traveled down to Cuba and when they asked me if they should stay at a hotel or Casa, my response was always the same — Casa, hands down!
How did you pick the casas?
The process which we employed in picking a Casa involved almost 4 months of planning and two trips down to Cuba. First we selected a central location which would allow our groups to be near most of the attractions in each of the cities they were visiting. Then we had to decide which amenities were must haves, then it came down to finding suitable locations which fit all of our criteria. Our final list consisted of over 20 Casa. I personally traveled down to Cuba and inspected each and every single Casa. I tested the quality of their AC, the water pressure in the showers, down to the softness of the bed sheets. Each of the properties has safe boxes for each of our travelers, as well as English speaking hosts. We also chose locations which did not have the owners/hosts living in the apartments. This would add an extra and necessary level of privacy which in my opinion truly enhances the experience. From all the Casas I saw, we selected the very best in each city as the best options for our guests. Each casa has been vetted carefully and I’m extremely confident that while these are not hotel rooms, that our guests will be just as pleased with the quality of the rooms at the locations we’ve selected.
What advice do you have for someone considering travel to Cuba? What should they consider?
My biggest advice would be to travel with an open mind. Leave all preconceived notions of Cuba at home, and experience the country with your own eyes, ears, and nose. Everything about the country is surprising in the best way imaginable. Like any place on earth there is the bad that comes with the good, but to truly learn about a country and culture you need to immerse yourself in it. Our program focuses on these day to day experiences that don’t gloss over the reality of living in Cuba. With that being said, we’ve added some truly magical and can’t-miss experiences to the itinerary as well. In short, be open-minded and be ready for an adventure!
Any final notes you’d like to share?
Our team and myself put a lot of work and consideration in developing this program. One of the reasons we chose to do Casas was because the price to travel to Cuba has gone up considerably in the last few years, and for many, it means that they cannot afford a trip to this magical island. In creating a program such as this, we once more open the doors of possibility to most people. I hope that our clients take this opportunity and sign up to see one of my favorite destinations on the globe. For me personally, visiting Cuba has been one of the most transformative experiences of my life and I wish to share that feeling with hundreds if not thousands of our passengers.
Meet Jorge, our Cuba destination expert! Jorge has over 6 years experience working in travel to Cuba and has visited Cuba five times!
Is travel to Cuba legal?
YES! Under the new regulations, travel to Cuba is legal under 12 different categories of pre-approved travel that are available to all US citizens. Our smarTours programs adhere fully to the legal requirements for group travel following the US regulation CFR 515.565 (b)
What documents do I need to travel to Cuba?
Passport, OFAC Affidavit and Visa — all supplemental documents will be provided by smarTours as part of our full service.
I was born in Cuba, can I participate in one of your tours?
Yes, you can travel on our tour to Cuba. Cuba considers all people born in Cuba, regardless or current nationality to be Cuban citizens. You will need either a valid Cuban passport or HE-11 visa prior to entering Cuba if you were born in Cuba and left Cuba prior to December 31,1970. If you were born in Cuba and left Cuba after January 1,1971, you will need to obtain a Cuban passport regardless of holding US citizenship and a US passport. You don’t have the option of applying for an HE-11 visa. If you were born in Cuba please notify our reservation agents immediately since attaining either the HE-11 or Cuban passport takes several months. We cannot assist with this process but we can put you in contact with a Cuba Service company that will help in acquiring the proper documentation needed for legal travel.
How much money should I bring to Cuba?
We would recommend about $100 dollars per day. You will probably want to budget more if you are considering purchasing art, souvenirs, cigars, rum, or other gifts. If you are planning on taking part on optional excursions or nighttime activities then budgeting more is always best.
Can I use my credit/debit cards in Cuba, will there be access to ATMs?
No, American credit cards cannot be used in Cuba and there are no ATMs either. Please bring as much cash as possible to cover any emergencies while in Cuba. Access to money while in the country will be very difficult. Please note that the current fee for exchanging money in Cuba is 13% i.e. for 100USD you will get 87 CUC. You can exchange money at the airport, as well as all major hotels.
Will I have access to the internet while in Cuba?
Access to the internet in Cuba has been made easier over the last several years. Most hotels & casa particulares will have Wi-fi available, and there are hot-spots at popular locations such as the Malecon. However, the access is very limited and you will need to purchase an internet card that will give you access to a designated amount of internet use. In most cases you will not be able to connect to the internet during your daily activities.
Can I use my cellphone in Cuba?
Yes, most US carriers do work in Cuba. Please contact your cell phone provider to ask about their daily talk and text rates.
Do I need to tip while in Cuba?
Yes, tipping is not required but it is considered customary to do so. Tipping has been included into your tour price when traveling with smarTours so you will not need to worry about tipping unless you go out on your own.
Is Cuba safe?
Very! Cuba is one of the safest nations in all of Latin America. Cuba boasts an almost non-existent crime rate & drug trade. As with all places you do need to be careful and conscious of your surroundings. We recommend leaving valuables such as your passport, visa, laptops in a safe and only carry what you need for the day. Overall Cuba is a very safe destination!