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Testimonial:
“Thank you for such a wonderful trip. This was a once in a life time trip and something I will remember always! This trip was perfectly organized with well-balanced activities and free time.... I have nothing more to ask for to make the trip better. I made so many friends and the guides were good, fun and friendly and made us laugh and enjoy ourselves all the time. I definitely recommend you to all my friends. Great job.”
Rasa G, Schenectady. NY
**See More Testimonials
Print Itinerary
Cuba: Classic Group Tour - Licensed & Approved for US Citizens

GEC Trip Type: GROUP TOUR

*Solo Travelers: You're in luck! Free roommate matching provided - unless you'd prefer to purchase a single room.

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TRIP DESCRIPTION:

The group will travel:
- December 8 - 14, 2019
- February 16 - 22, 2020

NOTE FOR US CITIZENS: GECtravel is Fully Licensed & Approved by the US Government’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) to offer this group trip to Cuba for US Citizen Travelers under the people-to-people educational category. Please see the “Important Information” section at the bottom of this page for more details about US Citizen travel to Cuba.

Join the group as we explore the undiscovered beauty of Cuba on this GEC Best of Cuba group trip.

We’ll explore the island in an effort to engage with the everyday person and support the people and small private businesses in Cuba. We’ll take a ride in a privately owned classic Cuban car, meet local artists and everyday Cubans, take a salsa dance lesson, learn about Cuban cuisine along with a local farmer's market visit, learn to make your own Mojito, witness the beauty of Cuba’s colonial architecture and stunning landscapes, see the Bay of Pigs, visit locally run cigar and rum businesses, and so much more!

FLIGHT RECOMMENDATIONS: Please see the "Important Information" section at the bottom of the page for recommended flights to/from Cuba.

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GET THE SCOOP! Want to see what previous travelers are saying about GEC? Check out our Testimonial Page.

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Make Friends. Travel the World. With over 100,000+ members across the US and Canada, GEC is the largest and fastest growing adventure travel club in the world! GEC is a unique and exciting social travel club open to anyone interested in traveling to exciting destinations around the world with other like-minded adventurers. Membership is free... just sign up for a trip and you are a member!


Places Visited:

Group Tour to Cuba, Havana, Trinidad, Santa Clara, Cienfuegos, Bay of Pigs, Cuban Classic Car Experience, Local Farmers Market Visit, Salsa Dance Lessons, Cigar Factory, Havana Rum Museum, Museum of the Revolution


Trip Itinerary:
B: Breakfast | L: Lunch | D: Dinner

Brief Itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive in Havana. Group Orientation. Dinner & Cultural Salsa Dance Lesson (D)
Day 2: Local Farmer's Market Visit. Mojito Making Lesson. Cuban Cooking Lesson. Walking Tour of Havana. Sunset Classic Car Ride. (B, L)
Day 3: Santa Clara. Trinidad. Casa de la Musica (B)
Day 4: Trinidad. Valley of the Sugar Mills (B)
Day 5: Cienfuegos, Bay of Pigs Museum, Havana (B)
Day 6: Havana City Visit & Classic Car Experience. Farewell Dinner (B, D)
Day 7: Trip Ends (B)


Detailed Itinerary:

Day 1
Arrive in Havana. Group Orientation. Dinner & Cultural Salsa Dance Lesson (D)


FLIGHT RECOMMENDATIONS: Please see the "Important Information" section at the bottom of the page for recommended flights to/from Cuba.

Arrive in Havana, Cuba. If you purchased airport transfers from us (very highly recommended), you are met and greeted at the airport and transferred to the group hotel. Airport arrival instructions will be emailed to you as part of the comprehensive Pre-Departure Dossier we will send you about 3 weeks in advance of the trip.

The trip officially begins with an early evening group orientation meeting held at the hotel (details provided before departure). Here you will have a chance to meet your GEC Local Guide, as well as all of your fellow travel companions for what is sure to be the beginning of many great friendships!

Tonight, we will organize a special welcome dinner. Along with dinner you will have the opportunity to meet with a local dance instructor who will introduce you to the basics of Cuban salsa, a dance of national pride. Cuba is abundant with music, something you will encounter throughout your trip.

Overnight Havana


Day 2
Local Farmer's Market Visit. Cuban Cooking Lesson. Mojito Making Lesson. Walking Tour of Havana. Sunset Classic Car Ride. (B, L)


This morning we will participate in an authentic local cooking class. Here is your opportunity to interact with the locals, while preparing traditional Cuban dishes that can be enjoyed with a roof-top view of the city. First we’ll visit a local market where we will source ingredients directly from local farmers and merchants, then we’ll move on to a local kitchen where you will participate in preparing local dishes under the tutelage of a local chef. Here is will you will also learn how to make your own Cuban mojito at the bar!

After lunch, it’s time to really get to know Havana, and the heart of Havana is its Old Town; the village that essentially gave birth to the modern city. The best way to see this sumptuously beautiful district is on an Old Havana Walking Tour. Your guide will be with you every step of the way, encouraging you to interact with locals while sharing the deep history of this historic city. Like much of the New World, Havana was once a walled fortress, although the growth of the city meant that it would soon need to sprawl beyond these original boundaries. There’s an abundance of cultural riches on offer, and you’ll walk past the El Capitolio, the Museo de la Revolución, and the Gran Teatro Habana. This Old Havana Walking Tour also takes in some of the most stunning squares you will ever see – the Plaza de Armas, Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza San Francisco de Asis and Plaza Vieja. There is much to see on the walking tour, and you’ll think that the beauty of Havana has been squeezed into a relatively compact area. There’s a great deal of people watching and interacting to be done too, as you get to know the people who make up this vibrant city.

You will then visit Havana’s largest arts and crafts market is the Almacenes de San José at the Port of Havana. Built in 1885 (subject to being open), this mammoth and ornate warehouse now serves as a cultural centre with art exhibitions, theatrical performances and recreational activities. Its most significant contribution is undoubtedly the handicrafts on sale. Unlike other Latin American countries, Cuba does not have a strong tradition in producing handicrafts. It is therefore really surprising to see how Cuban artistic handicraft has developed over the last three decades.

Next your guide will arrange a classic convertible car to take you to El Morro Fort and El Cristo de La Habana. This is the perfect opportunity to interact with the owners of these cars, learn a little more about Havana's turbulent history and to take some impressive photos of the city and iconic Malecon as the sun sets.

Overnight Havana


Day 3
Santa Clara. Trinidad. Casa de la Musica (B)


Our first stop today on our way to Trinidad is Santa Clara. Rather unsurprisingly, there are many tributes to the Cuban Revolution in Santa Clara, and while it’s a troubled past, the events here are what led to the ultimate victory in the struggle and led to the formation of post-revolution Cuba. The town is extremely significant, and while it’s not as visited as Havana, its place in modern Cuban history cannot be denied and conversations with the locals is always interesting.

Contemporary Santa Clara is a beautifully maintained city, an important commercial hub and home to one of Cuba’s largest universities (giving the whole town a youthful and energetic vibe), but is probably best known as the resting place of Che Guevara. It was Che Guevara who led the revolutionary forces in that final victorious battle. Naturally we will take you to see his final resting place. The Che Guevara Mausoleum and Memorial was originally intended as a memorial, as Guevara’s final resting place was still a mystery when it was constructed. He was executed in Bolivia in 1967 and his body was placed in an unmarked grave beside a military landing strip, where it would remain for 30 years. Upon its discovery, his remains were transferred to Santa Clara and interred in the memorial that bore his name. There is also an interesting museum, and here you will learn and talk with the locals about how Guevara played a pivotal role in the demise of the dictator Batista, the rise of Fidel Castro, and the impact it has had on Cuba.

Now it is onto the favorite destination of many a traveler to Cuba. Trinidad was founded in 1514 by Diego Velázquez and is considered a jewel in Cuban colonial architecture. The town is sublimely beautiful and (much like Havana’s Old Town) the area has been maintained as a result of its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Here we will take a guided walk around the town, and you will come to understand why the term “living museum” is often used when it comes to describing this part of Cuba. It really is like time has stood still here. To live in Trinidad was once a symbol of prestige, even given its isolated nature (before highways and mass transit). This prestige came at a cost, and this cost was carried by the efforts of the thousands upon thousands of slaves who worked the sugar plantations at the adjacent Valle de los Ingenios during the early 19th century. The wealth of the town came from this sugar, and while the town lost some of its sheen in the subsequent decades after the abolition of slavery, it has retained its distinctive grace.

While its former key industry is but a distant memory, Trinidad has slowly found a new identity, much of which is based upon the number of visitors who are drawn to its narrow streets and preserved colonial architecture.

During today’s walk with your guide, you will visit some of the town’s museums and have the opportunity to talk with the locals about daily life in modern Trinidad.

Your time in Trinidad would not be complete without at least one evening sitting on the steps outside the open-air Casa de la Musica. Every night the area beside the Cathedral in Plaza Mayor comes to life with a live salsa band and it’s a great opportunity to talk to the local people about their love of music and how it’s so ingrained and part of the Cuban culture. There is no cost (although tipping is generally encouraged), the drinks flow freely and inexpensively, and this all takes place under a beautiful, balmy, starry sky.

Overnight Trinidad


Day 4
Trinidad. Valley of the Sugar Mills (B)


This morning you will have a guided walk of the city with your GEC Local Cuban Guide that covers the main points of interest and introduces you to the people and culture of this amazing city.

During your walk, you will stop at the Casa Templo de Santería Yemayá and should a local priest be around you can talk to the priest to learn more about the Santeria religion. Your GEC Local Cuban Guide will also take you to a family run pottery factory that has been handed down for many generations.

Afterwards you will set-off to visit the Valle de los ingenios. The ruins of dozens of ingenios (small 19th-century sugar mills), including slave quarters and manor houses, are scattered throughout this valley. The royal palms, waving cane and rolling hills are timelessly beautiful. The prime sight is Manaca Iznaga, an estate purchased in 1795 by the dastardly Pedro Iznaga, who became rich by trafficking in slaves.

Overnight Trinidad


Day 5
Cienfuegos, Bay of Pigs Museum, Havana (B)


Today we will travel back to Havana via stops in Cienfuegos and the Bay of Pigs.

While it was primarily the Spanish who settled Cuba, there were other European powers that made their mark, and this is particularly obvious when you see the rich French-influenced architecture of Cienfuegos. A number of French settlers influenced the development of the city, many of whom came to Cuba after being dissatisfied with their fortunes in other French territories in the New World. Founded in 1819 by Don Luis de Clouet, Cienfuegos largely managed to remain free of pirate attacks (although this was primarily a matter of chance) allowing the settlement to prosper unhindered.

Here you will have the opportunity to take some time to explore the wide streets and promenades, visit Parque Jose Marti and enjoy a walk along the Malecón, the longest promenade on the island (which is not to be confused with the Malecón which snakes along the waterfront in Havana) and talk with the locals of this marvelous town.

Next stop on the itinerary is the Bay of Pigs. There has been much turmoil in Cuba’s history, the majority of which is hard to spot since it took place in areas that now seem to be the definition of tranquility. One such place is the infamous Bay of Pigs/ Playa Girón, which is long associated with the USA’s first military failure in Latin America. The natural beauty of this area is stunning with cave systems, coral formations and an abundance of sea life making it a must for local snorkelers, divers and ocean lovers alike. There is also a small museum to visit that shares some of the history of the area.

Following our educational visit to the Bay of Pigs, we will make our way back to Cuba’s capital city.

Overnight Havana


Day 6
Havana City Visit & Classic Car Experience. Farewell Dinner (B, D)


Cuba is a country of indulgences, and today you will familiarize yourself with one of two of these indulgences in particular. When anyone mentions Cuba, two of the first things that come to mind are cigars and rum, immortalized by the American writer Ernest Hemingway who lived nearby.

There is a rich cultural tradition when it comes to producing the world’s best cigars and rum, and on this tour you will gain an insight into just why these famous exports are so intertwined with Cuba and talk with locals who center their lives and living around them.

We’ll start with the Havana Rum Museum. If you think this museum looks palatial, you are correct since it’s housed in a converted old palace. Here you will have the chance to learn about the rum making process, talk with the people behind the production of it, and even do some tastings.

The next stop, should time permit and it being open, is the Partagas Cigar Factory where a local expert will talk us through the mystique behind the Cuban cigar. We’ll witness expert local cigar makers in action in the factory and see the amount of effort, care and tradition that goes into making these Cuban treasures (even non-smokers will find this tour very interesting).

The early part of our afternoon will be occupied by Havana’s Museum of the Revolution, where not only will the locals talk to you about its impact on Cuban society, but even the building in which it’s housed has a story to tell. This grand building, deliberately impressive in scope, was the Presidential Palace prior to the Cuban Revolution. After the government was overthrown in 1959, the building was home to the government and the Council of Ministers until 1965, when it hosted the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba. In 1974, it became a museum dedicated to the Cuban Revolution, and two years later, it witnessed the approval of the 1976 Constitution. It was awarded national monument status in 2010.

As an alternative you might choose to visit the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Arte Cubano). This is where the crème de la crème of Cuban art is proudly displayed (and the museum exclusively displays Cuban art). Works are displayed in chronological order starting on the 3rd floor and are surprisingly varied. This ordering allows you to easily take in the development of Cuban art throughout the centuries. Amongst others, you will see the works of Guillermo Collazo, considered to be the first truly great Cuban artist. There is also Rafael Blanco, with his cartoon-like paintings and sketches; along with Raúl Martínez, a master of 1960s Cuban pop art; and the Picasso-like Wifredo Lam.

The later part of our afternoon brings us to one of the absolute highlights of the trip; a ride in one of Cuba’s classic cars that parade through the streets of the city. With a local driver/owner behind the wheel and telling stories of life in Havana, we’ll be whisked out of Old Havana, past the Colon Cemetery, Revolution Square, the once affluent Miramar district, and a wonderful drive down the Malecon (ocean front avenue) with your local driver.

This evening we will organize a special farewell dinner for you. We will also arrange tickets to La Taberna in the heart of Havana’s Old Town. La Taberna offers the best traditional Cuban music as popularized by the Buena Vista Social Club and a great place to socialize with the locals.

Overnight Havana


Day 7
Trip Ends. (B)


Today your GEC group trip officially ends in the morning after breakfast. If you purchased airport transfers through us, then you are picked up at the hotel at the appointed time and transferred to the airport.

FLIGHT RECOMMENDATIONS: Please see the "Important Information" section at the bottom of the page for recommended flights to/from Cuba.



Important Information



This is a GEC small group trip that is open for anyone to join. You can sign up as a solo traveler* OR join with a spouse, friends or other family members. All are welcome!
*Solo Travelers: You're in luck! No mandatory single supplements. We provide free roommate matching - unless, of course, you'd prefer a single room which you can purchase during checkout.


This tour requires a total minimum group size to run. Please DO NOT purchase your airfare or any personal travel requirements until you receive a written confirmation of guaranteed departure.

Prices are based on double occupancy in twin rooms. If you would like your own room (where available), please choose the optional single room supplement at check out. If you do not mind being paired up with a roommate of the same gender, then the single supplement does not apply. See note on Accommodations below.

FLIGHT RECOMMENDATIONS: There are only a few US airports you can fly out of to go to Cuba. We recommend the following flights both for timing and so that you can arrive and depart with other group members (we will put you in touch anyone on your same flight into Cuba about one week before departure).

TO CUBA, we recommend:
-- American Airlines
-- Flight # 2705
-- Depart Miami (MIA) at 10:40am
-- Arrive Havana (HAV) at 11:50am

FROM CUBA, we recommend:
-- American Airlines
-- Flight # 2678
-- Depart Havana (HAV) at 09:00am
-- Arrive Miami (MIA) at 10:20am

Important Flight Note: you must arrive on Day 1 and Depart on Day 7. Arriving a day early or departing a day late is not allowed as US rules require you stay on itinerary at all times.


Cuba Visas: a Cuba Visa/Tourist Card is required for entry into the country, as well as a valid passport. Visas can be purchased from the airline when you purchase your flight from the US to Cuba. For U.S. Residents and flight flying out of the US and into Cuba, the airline will provide Visa details, as each airline’s process is slightly different. Please be sure to check with the airline or with the Cuban Embassy in the country of your residence/citizenship for requirements.

Cuban healthcare is nationalized and as such, each person is required to purchase Cuban Health Care Insurance before entry into Cuba is allowed. The airline will typically take care of this as part of your Cuba flight booking. Please be sure to confirm this with the airline. Please note, Cuban Health Care Insurance is different from our required “Medical, Evacuation & repatriation travel insurance” and is also different than traditional Travel Insurance, which is highly recommended.

Accommodation: The emerging status of Cuba's tourism industry is one of the primary reasons people choose take this amazing adventure. However, this authenticity and emerging status, coupled with US regulations on where US citizens can stay and what we can do, means that Cuba's tourist infrastructure and the accommodations that we use tend to be very limited and basic. Accommodations are in Casa Particulars, Cuba’s version of a Bed and Breakfast. Casa Particulars are basic in nature, yet charming in their authenticity. Casas are also very small family owned places (sometime just a few rooms), so the group will likely be split into two or more Casa’s, but all in close proximity. This is a very common way to travel in Cuba. Casas do not have elevators and can be several stories high, so you must be comfortable and agreeable using stairs multiple times a day and carrying all of your own luggage up and down the stairs. Rooms in most casas typically have their own bathroom, however they are local people’s homes so there is always the possibility of having to share bathroom facilities with other guests. Rooms vary in size, style, quality, views, etc. from Casa to Casa (and even within the Casa). All rooms, roommates, etc. are assigned randomly, so please only book this trip with the understanding that you will NOT be able to have a choice or preference of rooms or Casas.

Important OFAC Compliance Notes for U.S. Residents:

  • Under the new US Govt. rules, individual US citizens are prohibited from traveling to Cuba on their own for travel, however group travel with a licensed and authorized US based tour company IS allowed.
  • GECtravel is Fully Licensed and Authorized by the US Government’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) to provide “People-to-People” group tours to US Citizens.
  • Furthermore, to satisfy your obligation to maintain a record of your travels for AT LEAST 5 YEARS, GECtravel will electronically maintain on your behalf, and in accordance to OFAC rules, all of your record-keeping obligations that document your travel, itinerary and your compliance to the regulations, so that you do not have to take on that burden.
  • Please note that this fully-guided group trip will take place under GECtravel’s General License as issued by the US Government’s Office of Foreign Asset Control’s (OFAC) and as permitted pursuant to “people-to-people exchanges”. Individual travel to Cuba under the “people-to-people exchanges” category is no longer permitted and as such US citizens MUST travel as part of a licensed group.
  • These US regulations further require that all group members must stay on a full-time scheduled itinerary of educational exchange activities that are intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, support the private small business sector in Cuba, promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities, channel economic activities away from the Cuban military, intelligence and security services, and that will ultimately result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba.
  • As such, these regulations require that everyone in the group maintain the scheduled itinerary and stay with the group at all times. Group members CANNOT skip scheduled activities in lieu of free time.
  • If you do not agree to stay on schedule and/or to the premise of these requirements, regardless of your country of citizenship, then please do not book this trip.
  • Please see OFAC’s FAQ Page, section II Travel (page 5, sections 15, 16 & 17) for recent information pertaining to People-to-People educational activities.
  • Please also see OFAC’s Cuba Sanctions Resource Center for complete details about travel to Cuba and the associated regulations.


  • Trip ID: NA1253
    PRICING
    Departure Dates:

    Local Fee
    $100.00
    Airport Greet and Transfer in Havana (start/end of trip)
    $59.00
    Optional Add-Ons
     
    OPTIONAL: Single Room (choose only if you want your own hotel room)
    $489.00

    Price Includes
    • Small group tour of Cuba
    • Fully licensed and authorized by US Govt. for US travelers
    • Expert Guide from arrival to departure in Cuba
    • Cultural Visits to Havana, Trinidad & Cienfuegos
    • Bay of Pigs Visit
    • Classic Car Experience
    • Visit to learn about the Santeria religion
    • Casa la Musica Cultural Experience
    • La Taberna/ Buena Vista Social Club performance
    • Make Your Own Mojito Experience
    • Learn about Cuban cuisine along with a local farmer's market visit
    • Cultural Salsa Dance Lesson
    • Visit to the Partagas Cigar Factory (subject to being open and time permitting)
    • 6 nights lodging in family owned Casa Particulars (Cuba’s version of a B&B)
    • Meals as indicated in the itinerary
    Price Does Not Include
    • International airfare (see "Important Information" section below)
    • Meals and beverages not indicated
    • Travel medical insurance (details)
    • Cuban Health Insurance (see “Important Notes” section below)
    • Cuban Visa/Travel Card (see “Important Notes” section below)
    • Local fee
    • Personal expenses & tips
    • Optional activities
    Accomodation Included
    • 6 nights lodging in family owned Casa Particulars (Cuba’s version of a B&B)
    Transportation Included
    • Private Vehicles
    Seasonal Info
      Cuba’s weather is a constant Caribbean warm with a dry and a rainy season. May through October see the highest amount of rainfall (approximately 10 days per month), whereas November through April seeing about 6 days a month and are also the lowest relative humidity months. Temperatures average about 80F (27C) during the day to 70F (20C) at night.


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