Tag Archives: Cuba

Travel To Cuba


By Virtuoso Air, Auto & Insurance | 29-Sep-2016 | Article #35601

The U.S. government does not currently allow Americans to visit Cuba strictly for tourism. U.S. citizens are permitted to visit Cuba if they fall under 12 approved categories, including family visits, educational activities and public performances or exhibitions. Additionally, anyone entering Cuba on a U.S. carrier is bound by those same restrictions, whether or not they hold U.S. citizenship. That means customers flying to Havana on Alaska Airlines must be authorized under one of the 12 approved categories – whether or not they hold U.S. citizenship.

  • Family visits
  • Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
  • Journalistic activity
  • Professional research and professional meetings
  • Educational activities
  • Religious activities
  • Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
  • Support for the Cuban people
  • Humanitarian projects
  • Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
  • Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials
  • Certain authorized export transactions

Additional Information:

  • In order to travel to Cuba, all passengers must have a valid visa and health insurance.
  • US credit and debit cards do not work in Cuba, so passengers will need to bring cash.
  • Internet and mobile phone service is limited

NOTE: Travelers NEED to make sure they bring enough cash for the entire duration of their trip. Without cash, travelers will be unable to pay for essentials such as lodging, food, and car rentals

To learn more about traveling to Cuba, call our Cuba specialist, Andrew Seligman or your Santa Barbara Travel Advisor

Andrew Seligman

Andrew Seligman

Phone: 805.969.7746

Montecito Office

Santa Barbara Travel Bureau
1485 East Valley Road #9
Montecito, CA 93108

Advisor Profile

Heart of Cuba 2017 Itinerary


Below please find the day-by-day itinerary for this expedition. Unless otherwise noted, daily excursion options are included in the cost of the trip. In the spirit of our expeditionary style of travel, this tour may deviate slightly to take full advantage of encounters with the destination and its people, culture, and wildlife.


February 9, 2017

Miami, Florida

Depart on your independent flight and arrive in Miami. Transfer to the Sheraton Miami Airport Hotel for a welcome reception and special presentation by your expedition leader. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.

February 10, 2017

Miami / Santa Clara, Cuba / Cienfuegos


Photo by Rich Pagen

Return to the Miami Airport for your charter flight to Santa Clara. Visit the Che Memorial, then transfer to colonial Cienfuegos—a World Heritage Site—on Cuba’s southern coast. Enjoy lunch at a bayside restaurant before checking in to Hotel La Union. This afternoon explore the historic center of town with its neoclassical architecture, the legacy of French immigrant settlers. Enjoy a performance by the Cienfuegos Choir before dinner in a lovely garden setting.



February 11, 2017

Cienfuegos / Trinidad / Topes de Collantes

Cuban Local

Photo by Rich Pagen

Drive southeast to colonial Trinidad, a World Heritage Site, founded in the early 1500s. Over lunch in a paladar, a privately owned family-run restaurant, you’ll have the opportunity to hear the stories of Cuban daily life and visit local homes. As you explore the center of town, enjoy personal exchanges with shop owners, meet the artists and potters at Casa Del Alfarero Santander, and listen to live, authentic Cuban music in a popular club. Drive into the cool mountains of Sierra de Escambray for a two-night stay at Hotel Los Helechos in Topes de Collantes National Park.


February 12, 2017

Topes de Collantes National Park

Laced with rivers and photogenic waterfalls, this 12,500-acre park is also a wonderland of lush forests and tropical botanicals. For those interested, begin your day with a birding walk around the grounds. After breakfast, enjoy an off-road adventure through Topes de Collantes. Join a local naturalist for a forest walk and watch for such avian species as Cuban trogons and West Indian woodpeckers. Savor a traditional roast pig lunch at a farm, and a rich Cuban brew in a nearby coffee house. On the way back to your hotel, visit the Museum of Contemporary Cuban Art.


February 13, 2017

Trinidad / Bay of Pigs / Zapata Wetlands

Cuba Under Sail

Photo by Rich Pagen

Travel westward to the infamous Bay of Pigs on the border of the Zapata Peninsula. Join local farmer, Orlando Ramirez, for a hike to observe the endemic bee hummingbird, the world’s smallest bird. At Playa Giron visit the Bay of Pigs Museum, which offers the Cuban perspective of the historic events. This evening, discuss the importance of the Zapata Wetlands—a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the largest wetlands in the Caribbean—with the director of Zapata National Park. Dinner and overnight at the Hotel Playa Larga.

February 14, 2017

Zapata Peninsula / Boca de Guama / Viñales

The ecosystems of the Zapata Peninsula are home to more than 900 botanical species; 171 bird species; and 31 species of reptiles, including crocodiles. Early this morning join naturalists in a search for the endemic Cuban green woodpecker and the colorful Cuban parrot. Continue to the Korimakao Project, which nurtures the talents of some of Cuba’s finest musicians, dancers, and artists, and present a gift of art supplies to director Hilda Tamayo. At Boca de Guama learn about Cuban crocodile conservation efforts during a boat excursion on Treasure Lake, then drive to the Viñales Valley in Pinar Del Rio Province, stopping to visit a local tobacco farming family to witness the process of creating Cuba’s legendary cigars. Check in to Hotel Las Jazmines for the next two nights.


February 15, 2017


Explore the World Heritage Site of Viñales Valley, punctuated with mogote—karst outcroppings. In a huge limestone cave board a boat for a ride on the interior river. At lunch savor vegetables grown at an organic farm while meeting the family responsible for the land; afterwards, walk an easy trail to look for the endemic Cuban solitaire. In the small town of Viñale visit a private botanical garden, then browse a local bodega where residents shop with their ration books. This evening’s restaurant is located at the colorful Mural de la Prehistoria.


February 16

Viñales / Soroa / Las Terrazas / Havana


Photo by Rich Pagen

Drive into the mountains of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Sierra Del Rosario, to visit the lush orchid gardens of Soroa, accompanied by local botanists. Watch for such bird species as great lizard cuckoos and Cuban grassquits. In nearby Las Terrazas, learn about daily life from the farmers and business owners of this planned eco-community. Continue to the outskirts of Havana to pay homage to Ernest Hemingway at his remarkably preserved home, Finca Vigia, and discuss his life with Cuban Hemingway experts. Follow oceanfront Malecon Avenue and see famed Revolution Square before arriving at Hotel Melia Cohiba, where you will spend the next three nights.


February 17, 2017

Begin your exploration of authentic Old Havana, a World Heritage Site, at the Belen Convent to learn about neighborhood social projects and enjoy personal exchanges with senior citizens and children participating in program activities. Walk the historic streets, stopping to visit local artists in their studios and at the Havana Library, to present a gift of children’s books. After lunch mingle with the locals in an art market along the harbor. This evening, you have the option to watch a show by the famed Buena Vista Social Club at nearby Café Taberna.

February 18, 2017


Meet with staff from the Antonio Nunez Jimenez Foundation for Nature and Humanity to learn about its mission of environmental education and protection of Cuba’s delicate ecosystem, particularly the coral reefs. After lunch in the garden of the iconic Hotel Nacional visit the Museum of the Revolution, housed in the former presidential palace. Gather for a final trip recap, then enjoy a special farewell dinner.

February 19, 2017

Havana / Miami, Florida

Transfer to the airport for your charter flight to Miami, and connect with your independent homeward flight.

Would you love to hear more?

Contact our Cuba expert, Andrew, by calling 805.969.7746 or emailing him directly at

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Tips for Visiting Cuba

Cuba, the tropical paradise frozen for so many years in the 1950’s, is quickly thawing.  With the U.S. and Cuba restoring diplomatic relations, now is the time to see the country before it changes.

As mentioned in an earlier blog post, cruise ships and tour groups travelling to Cuba must tailor their itineraries to adhere to the regulations of the ‘people to people ambassador’ program allowed by the U.S. government.  This means no lazy days (although under this program your nights are free) – any travel itinerary to Cuba will have a robust itinerary of cultural experiences.  It’s important to realize that going to Cuba will not necessarily be a ‘vacation’ but more an adventure, where you will be touched by the destination and its people.

Many people, in fact, consider Cuba a highly emotional destination.  If travel is all about new discoveries and expanding your horizons, then Cuba represents a perfect opportunity to do that.


Even though travel regulations have been relaxed, Americans must still participate in a 'people to people ambassador' program sanctioned by the U.S. government.

Even though travel regulations have been relaxed, Americans must still participate in a ‘people to people ambassador’ program sanctioned by the U.S. government.


The people to people experiences will feature Cuba’s culture, lifestyle and personalities, and include opportunities for U.S. visitors to meet with Cuban citizens from many walks of life.  For instance, LaTour’s nine-day Hello Cuba itinerary provides an immersive experience.

One traveler on this tour, Phil Marzullo, described some highlights of his trip, “On my tour, we visited a middle school outside Havana, an attended a music and dance performance by the students.  Another day, we visited a dance studio and took salsa lessons from professional dancers.  We also met with university students, learned about a community service project run by artists and musicians, (and) visited a senior center”…. ”These visits”, said Mazullo, ‘taught us a lot about the spirit and resiliency of the Cuban people”.

When traveling to Cuba, it is important to find a trustworthy, operator with experience in the country.  With so many complicated regulations or possible on-the-ground changes, you should also look for on-the-ground support.  For instance, some tour operators can offer meals in one of Cuba’s paladares.  These are restaurants run out of a private home.  In addition to having better food, the paladares often inspire intense discussions with local entrepreneurs.

 Paladares are privately owned restaurants, often run out of a private home. These are authentic, Cuban establishments where you get to meet local entrepreneurs.

Paladares are privately owned restaurants, often run out of a private home. These are authentic, Cuban establishments where you get to meet local entrepreneurs.

Want to know more about visiting Cuba ?  Then give Santa Barbara Travel a call.  We can let you know about the many opportunities for traveling to this dynamic destination.

Ernest Hemingway lived for almost 20 years in Cuba.  You can visit his private home, Finca Vigia.

Ernest Hemingway lived for almost 20 years in Cuba. You can visit his private home, Finca Vigia.

Cuba – What’s the Scoop?


With the announcement earlier this month that Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise ship company, has received approval from the US government to operate cruises to Cuba as a provider of ‘cultural exchange programs’, we’ve been getting a lot of calls from clients. Many want to go to Cuba soon, before it completely opens up and becomes too touristy.

It’s important to note that, even with the normalization of relations with Cuba, US citizen travel to the largest island in the Caribbean must still fall within 12 categories of authorized travel. These include educational activities, humanitarian projects, or ‘people to people’ programs. Travel just for tourism is still off-limits to Americans – so no lounging on the beach with your mojito allowed quite yet.


Carnival‘s approval falls under the ‘people to people’ program section. It’s cruises won’t begin until May, 2016 and will not use Carnival ships. Instead, it’s ‘fathom‘ brand will launch one cruise every-other week with a 710-passenger ship called Adonis, currently operated by P&O Cruises.

Other operating details, such as specific sailing dates, have not yet been finalized. Prices for the 7-day Cuba cruise start at $2,990 per person. This fare includes meals on the ship, and some cultural immersion activities on land. Reservations are being taken for this cruise now. Because details of the cruise are not yet finalized, deposits are (for the moment) fully refundable.


Can’t wait till next May to see Cuba? One option is International Expeditions, which has a long-standing ‘people to people’ ground tour. They have already added a new, small ship cruise itinerary to their program. The Panorama, a 48-guest, three-masted yacht, will sail Cuba’s Western coast on 10-day sailings scheduled for December 17, 2015, January 28, March 10 and April 7, 2016.

International Expeditions'  48-passenger yacht has 10 day sailings around Cuba's Western coast

International Expeditions’ 48-passenger yacht has 10 day sailings around Cuba’s Western coast

Another possibility is sailing with long-time Cuba expert Alexander+Roberts. Their 210-passenger ms Saint Laurent sails completely around the island on a 10-day, round-trip Miami voyage. Sailings already have detailed itineraries, and are scheduled and being booked now for 2016 cruises on February 29, April 5, April 15 and a special, New Year’s voyage on December 30.

Passengers on the ms Saint Laurent will explore 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, plus rarely visited ports.

Passengers on the ms Saint Laurent will explore 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, plus rarely visited ports.

If you’d like more information about any of these cruise sailings, ground tours with a wide variety of themes, or even biking expeditions around Cuba, give us a call at Santa Barbara Travel Bureau.