The Havana Jazz Festival Tour commences with the arrival of our group flight from Florida. As tour participants disembark the plane at Havana’s José Martí International our airport concierge greets you and takes you through a rapid immigration line. You’re assisted in locating your luggage, and then pass through an expedited customs lane. In the airport arrivals lobby you receive a warm welcome from your Cuban guide, North American tour leader and bus driver.

Hop aboard our modern air-conditioned tour coach, and on the way to your hotel relish views of one of the oldest and most stunning cities in the New World. During our many excursions around the capital, and beyond, your guide provides historical commentary on all points of interest.

Upon arrival at your hotel located in the heart of Havana's cultural district, you receive fast check-in with assistance from your guide. This is a good time to exchange some money into Cuban Convertible Pesos, or collect your pre-ordered money package. Hotel staff receives you with a welcome drink for you and your tourmates while your luggage is being delivered to your room.

After having settled in and had a chance to rest and freshen up, enjoy a first taste of island cuisine at a group arrival dinner prepared by the hotel’s restaurant chef. Afterwards your tour leader may have some fun evening activities to suggest, time permitting.

Greet the day with tasty breakfast served at your hotel.

Lay of the land. Morning visit to the Maqueta de La Habana Vieja [Scale Model of Old Havana] to learn about this nearly 500 year old community and its plans for the future. It’s a 1:500 scale model of Old Havana complete with an authentic soundtrack replicating a day in the life of the city. It’s incredibly detailed and provides an excellent way of acquainting yourself with the city’s original core.

Ernest Hemingway described Havana as the "Paris of the Americas." He was alluding to its incredible architecture, arts, and of course the city’s engaging outgoing people. We’ll have a chance to share this impression on a walking tour of four historic plazas that make Havana unique in the western hemisphere. These plazas contain the largest collection of Spanish colonial-era architecture in the world, and as such, have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You’ll witness Cathedral Square, the most beautiful 18th century colonial plaza on the island. Named after the masterpiece of Cuban baroque architecture the Catedral de San Cristóbal de la Habana it was built by the Jesuit order.

Next we’ll visit Plaza de Armas [Square of Arms], an ancient military parade ground for Spanish soldiers, surrounded by such impressive buildings as Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, former seat of colonial government. Today the building houses the Museum of the City. Palacio del Segundo Cabo [Palace of the Second Lieutenant] dates from 1770. Today it is home to the Instituto Cubano del Libro [Cuban Book Institute] and the Galería Raúl Martínez (famed poster artist). We’ll inspect Museo de Artesanía at Castillo de la Real Fuerza, the oldest remaining fortress built by the Spaniards in the West Indies.

We will continue onto San Francisco Square, one of the oldest plazas in the historical quarter. The square is christened after the magnificent Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco de Asís dating from the 16th century. The basilica is a striking example of Cuba baroque architecture.

And, finally we’ll visit Plaza Vieja, the only civic square of colonial times. In contrast to the churches and government buildings of the previous squares, opulent aristocratic 17th century mansions surround Plaza Vieja.

Lunch is held at Antiguo Almacén de la Madera y el Tabaco. It’s a huge open-air affair with several barbecue grills, and a brewery on site! Everyone loves the food and especially the beer made on premises. There are three flavors: light amber lager, medium ale, and dark stout ale with a slightly smoking taste. The beer is served in giant 6-liter carafes. You dispense at much as you like right at your table. The facility is a former abandoned warehouse and factory that sits on pilings in the middle of Havana harbor. The renovation work is world class and this joint would be super popular if located in any major city. We’ll take a tour of the brewery led by the brewmaster. The place holds 500 people, all thirsty. The brewery is necessarily very large. The house dish is “chuleta de puerco a la cerveza” (beer marinated pork chop). The menu also includes grilled seafood, barbecued and grilled meats, brochettes and escabeches (fish in seasoned marinade), as well as sandwiches and hamburgers. Kids and vegetarians have their own special menus.

Now we explore Havana’s famed arts and crafts mall Centro Cultural Antiguos Almacenes de Depósito San José. This marvelous restoration of an old dock warehouse has resulted in a gigantic market exhibiting the wares of hundreds of Cuban artists and craftspersons.

Return to hotel to freshen up.

Group welcome dinner at Restaurante El Templete. This bayside fish restaurant is the latest addition to the city's list of upscale eateries. Basque chef Arkaitx Etxarte does delightful things with seafood. It sits near its namesake temple that marks the spot where the city of La Habana was founded in 1519. Overlooking the harbor, it features two dining spaces: an outdoor alfresco area accommodated under a large awning, and a pleasant indoor dining room with starched tablecloths, fine wine glasses and cutlery. The quality of the food lives up to its upscale decor. Shrimp and lobster are the main cast on menu’s seafood entrées.

ESPECIAL! Behold a most dramatic ceremony – El Cañonazo – the Firing of the 9PM Cannon at the Fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña where Ché Guevara established his headquarters after the Revolution came to power in 1959 – four hundred years after the fortress was built. El Cañonazo is an enchanting colonial reenactment dating back to 1519 when the city of Havana was enclosed by a tall thick rock wall to ward off attacks from pirates and the English. The cannon firing signaled the closing of the city gates for the night. If you were outside at the time, you were in "vedado" or the forbidden zone. Today Vedado is an important cultural hub and elegant modern Havana neighborhood.

After breakfast we begin a day excursion to the amazing Las Terrazas region just one hour to the west of Havana. Once mired in poverty and completely deforested as a result of centuries of charcoal production for coffee processing and cooking, Las Terrazas today is a vibrant self-sustaining eco-community.

Located in the Sierra del Rosario mountain range Las Terrazas spans the provinces of Artemisa and Pinar del Río. Tour the rural village called Rancho Curujey and enjoy a welcome cocktail while learning about this self-sustaining community's successes in reforestation, historical preservation, environmental balance, and a good life. Next, meet with local artists and craft workers in their homes and studios. We'll visit a local school and talk with its teachers and students. Later we'll walk the incredible ruins of a French Coffee Plantation built in 1801 worked by African slaves.

Enjoy lunch at an open-air restaurant specializing in traditional country cuisine – La Casa del Campesino – ever popular with tour participants and locals alike. The eatery is located on the fresh water shore of the Río San Juan making it lush tropical paradise. We'll meet the environmental scientists and technicians responsible for the restoration of the jungles and forests of Las Terrazas and learn the principles, approaches and practices that combined serve to sustain the region. This jungle-like forest area offers an opportunity for birding and plant identification.

We return to our hotel and freshen up, followed by an unscheduled dinner (not included in tour cost). Your guide and tour leader will suggest eateries. It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet local Cubans. Later we’ll join with new Cuban friends to explore the city. Depending upon game and performance schedules we'll attend a Cuban baseball event or spend an evening with members of the Buena Vista Social Club.

Greet the day with tasty breakfast served at your hotel. Then examine Cuba's greatest visual masterpieces spanning three centuries at Havana’s museum of modern art – Palacio de Bellas Artes. Sections are devoted to landscape, religious subjects and narrative scenes of Cuban life. A gallery devoted to the 1970s displays the latest generation of Cuban artists whose works reflect the strong symbolic imagery prevalent in recent decades. Together the exhibits account for the richness of the island's Spanish, French, Chinese, African and Aboriginal cultural roots. During this excursion you’ll meet and chat with museum staff and perhaps local artists.

Set within a beautiful 17th century mansion, El Santo Ángel restaurant connects with the magical historical atmosphere of Plaza Vieja. Its stately inner courtyard is lined with plants to which many native and migratory birds flock. Its menu features new Cuban dishes and superb international entrées. There are always authentic live Cuban musicians to provide spice for your meal.

Return to your hotel to freshen up.

Breakfast is served in your hotel.

We’ll visit the Colibri recording company [Hummingbird productions] and Abdala music studio where the great musicians of Cuba (and many from Latin America) record their songs. Colibri is the production arm of the Cuban Institute of Music, which hosts the Havana Jazz Festival. Colibri produces new music including son, bolero, country music, Latin jazz, danzon, la trova, ritual songs, rumba, choirs, vocals, instrumental and other rhythms. Colibri is charged with rescuing and preserving recordings of past Cuban performers and composers. Abdala was built in 1998 and has grown into a world-class studio. The project has hands-on support from renowned troubadour Silvio Rodríguez. We’ll meet and talk with the staff, engineers and recording artists. We’ll learn the intricacies of sound recording, tour the facilities, and as a special gift receive a digital CD and a welcome cocktail.

Arts and dining tour highlight. We’ll feast on a delicious lunch hosted by José Fúster, one of Cuba’s most important ceramists and painters, at his whimsical studio in Jaimanitas, just outside of Havana. Fúster is known as the Picasso of the Caribbean and his art is acclaimed internationally. His artistic mission has been the rehabilitation and decoration of the village of Jaimanitas where he lives. Fúster has decorated over 80 houses with ornate murals and domes to suit the personality of his neighbors. Nowadays, Fúster’s art is a cherished part of Cuban culture and joins the rank of other public artworks such as that of Gaudi in Barcelona or that of Brancusi in the Romanian city of Targu Jiu. He supports his community project through the sale of his paintings and ceramics.

Return to hotel to freshen up.

Jazz Festival stellar opening ceremony. We're off by coach to the big event! Tonight you'll experience the incredible sounds and melodies of world jazz greats. You'll be part of a tradition spanning more than three decades that has served as a launching pad for young musicians who've gone on to fame and notoriety. Cameras and videos are welcomed to capture memories of this grand occasion.

Greet the morning with a hardy breakfast at your hotel.

In preparation for this morning’s activity, check out this riveting British Broadcasting Corporation feature from Around the World in 80 Gardens on urban organic farms in Havana including a walk-through of Vivero Organopónico Alamar by fab host Monty Don.

We’ll visit the UBPC Vivero Organopónico Alamar, 15 km (9.3 miles) east of Havana. It’s one of the most successful urban organic farms in Cuba raising ornamental plants, medicinal herbs, and sprouting millions of seedlings for neighboring private and collective farms. Established in the early 1990s by a dozen people, the Alamar cooperative now has over 400 members who together supply a vast range of healthy, organic vegetables to nearby communities.

Produce is raised employing the ancient practice of permaculture. No chemical fertilizers or pesticides are allowed. Instead, only natural biological methods are employed to nourish the soil, frustrate pests and conserve water. The result is increased rate of yield and reduced costs.

We have a special lunch arrange for you at Ajiaco paladar [private restaurant]. It’s considered one of the best private eateries in Havana and ranks tops on TripAdvisor’s restaurant list. Hands down it’s a Cuban dining highlight. It’s located off the beaten path in the sleepy romantic coastal fishing village of Cojímar (the setting for Ernest Hemingway’s "The Old Man and the Sea"). Ajiaco is noted for fantastic service, atmosphere and scrumptilicious authentic Cuba cuisine. Organic produce and other ingredients are supplied by Vivero Organopónico Alamar and other nearby private gardens to give every dish an delightfully fresh aromatic flavor you’ll always remember.

Now we’re off to visit Finca Vigía [Lookout Farm] where North America’s literary bard Ernest Hemingway spent twenty-one of his most important and productive years adding to the building blocks of English literature. Claimed by both the United States and Cuba as their native son, it was Hemingway himself who declared the island his true home. His house has been preserved just as it was when Hemingway lived in it. You’ll see his weird eclectic personal objects, thousands of books, manuscripts and photographs, as well as some animal trophies he bagged on his safaris to even more exotic places than Cuba.

Return to your hotel and freshen up. The balance of the afternoon is free for you to explore the city and meet new Cuban friends.

Dinner tonight is not included in tour cost. Your guide can suggest special private eateries for you to explore.

Greet the day with tasty breakfast served at your hotel.

Morning is free to explore the city with your tourmates and new Cuba friends.

Lunch is not included in tour cost.

This afternoon we’ll enjoy a performance of Sabado de Rhumba. Every Saturday afternoon from 3pm to 6pm the Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba hosts the weekly Sábado de la Rumba, a mesmerizing show of Afrocuban religious and secular dance and drumming at El Gran Palenque in Vedado. It is virtually impossible to stop your body from beginning to sway and your feet moving to the rhythm of the congas. There’s no age limit and the dance floor is open to all. Visitors, whether from the island or from overseas, who are introduced for the first time to Afrocuban rhythms are guided by members of the dance company.

Return to hotel to freshen up.

Dinner is not included in tour cost.

Tonight you'll experience the incredible sounds and rhythms of world jazz greats. Pick your venue and hop into a taxi to celebrate. Group transportation is not provided this evening as there are too many different activities.

Greet the day with tasty breakfast served at your hotel.

Morning is free to explore the city with your tourmates and new Cuba friends.

Lunch is not included in tour cost.

We’ll visit Callejón de Hamel (Hamel Alley) to see the artwork of famed Afro-Cuban Artist Salvador González and for a chance to see some Rumba performances.

Return to your hotel to freshen up.

Farewell dinner at Restaurante Paris Patio.

Jazz Festival gala closing pageant. We're off by coach to final event of the 31st Havana International Jazz Festival! Don’t be late for the bus.

 

Breakfast at our hotel is followed by packing and checking-out of your hotel for transfer to Havana’s José Martí International airport for your flight home.

Keep in touch with your new Cuban friends – exchange email addresses! Bring some business cards to pass out. Take pictures and keep a journal. Upon your return, we'll post them on this website for all to see and enjoy.

We'll miss you and hope you will return soon! In Cuba we say: A true friend remembers the song in your heart when you have forgotten the lyrics.

Cuba travel is a challenge. Our staff and Cuban partners work super hard to make your tour unfold seamlessly despite Third World conditions on the island. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Flexible travelers understand this is part of their Cuban adventure.

Tour cost based on double room occupancy (sharing a double room during tour).

Tour date Cost Comments Availability
Jan 14 to Jan 22, 2018 $ 3558 $ 2959
Five-star Hotel Habana Libre
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Tour meals at your hotel and at fine restaurants
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Breakfast
Lunch
Dinner
  • Premium access jazz passes for all Jazz Festival events, valued at $250
  • Small group size, usually sixteen or fewer guests, never more than twenty-four
  • US Department of the Treasury authorized people-to-people Cuba travel
  • Havana airport and hotel transfers on tour start and end days
  • Quality Cuban hotels
  • An expert English speaking guide and tour leader throughout the program
  • Luxury air-conditioned bus and professional driver (bottled water on the tour bus)
  • All activities, entrance fees, services, speakers and meetings in tour itinerary
  • Flexible monthly tour payment options
  • Emergency telephone and internet access to America from Cuba
  • Cash advances for participants facing money problems while in Cuba
  • Participants become Club Cubano alumni and receive future tour discounts
  • Ongoing support from our US and Cuban staff before, during and after travel