Tour introduction and overview of activities

November 2015 marks the seventeenth anniversary edition of the Jo Jazz festival [El Joven Jazz Cubano]. It is a competition and celebration by and for waves of young musicians breaking into the Latin jazz and global music milieu.

We warmly invite you to join us in Havana for the Jo Jazz festival. Mingle with the next generation of mellifluous talent fueling the island’s pulsating rhythm engine. You will meet budding prodigies penning and performing melodies that rock our world.

Zesty, vivacious and exuberant, the Jo Jazz festival’s verve and bravado is a hallmark island event. It’s a melodious jamboree attended by celebs and jazz aficionados who flock to legendary Havana like pilgrims to Mecca.

It’s a must attend gala for music lovers, musicians, and talent scouts from American and beyond. As an official partner and sponsor Cuba Explorer delivers nine unforgettable days in safe friendly Cuba. You relish stellar tuneful times on the isle of music – a special place where your dreams can and do come true.

Second-to-none is how our guests describe the Jo Jazz festival, the tour, and Cuba Explorer’s comprehensive services and activities. We’re focused entirely on you for nine warm days hand-in-hand with the kind animated people of Cuba.

Welcome to the Jo Jazz Festival Tour! We invite you to call, chat, or email us with your inquiries. We are here for you to make it happen.

Cuba’s big! Its land mass is 42,426 square miles – about 80 percent the size of Alabama. Cuba is nearly as large as Louisiana, and larger than Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Ohio or Indiana. Altogether it’s bigger than Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont combined.

Day 1 – Sunday :: Say hello to the city of music

  • Arrival at Havana’s José Martí International airport
  • Expedited immigration and custom service
  • Meet your tour leader, guide and bus driver
  • Transfer to the historic Hotel Nacional de Cuba located in the heart of Havana's cultural district
  • Check-in to your hotel and enjoy a welcome cocktail with tourmates
  • Time to settle in to your room and freshen up
  • Group arrival dinner with your guide and tourmates
  • Free time to explore the local entertainment scene and make new Cuban friends, your guide will keep you posted on entertainment options

Day 2 – Monday :: Old Havana, architecture, history and art

  • Breakfast at hotel
  • Visit La Maqueta, a scale model of Old Havana
  • Guided walking tour of the four historic plazas of Old Havana
  • Welcome lunch at Antiguo Almacén de la Madera y el Tabaco restaurant and a tour of its beer making facility
  • Explore Havana’s famed arts and crafts mall Centro Cultural Antiguos Almacenes de Depósito San José
  • Return to hotel to freshen up
  • Group welcome dinner at Restaurante El Templete specializing in delights from the sea
  • ESPECIAL Attend El Cañonazo, the 9 PM Cannon Firing Ceremony attended by Cubans and foreign guests
  • Free time to explore the local entertainment scene and make new Cuban friends, your guide will keep you posted on entertainment options

Day 3 – Tuesday :: Amazing nature trip to stunning Las Terrazas

  • Breakfast at hotel
  • Morning departure to Las Terrazas eco-community
  • Meet with local artists and craft workers in their homes and studios
  • Visit a local school and talk with its teachers and students
  • We’ll walk the incredible ruins of a French Coffee Plantation once operated by African slaves
  • Meet environmental scientists and technicians responsible for the restoration of the jungles and forests of Las Terrazas
  • Lunch at the open-air restaurant Casa del Campesino to sample countryside cuisine
  • Time to swim in the fresh waters of the Río San Juan, don't forget your swim suit
  • Return to Hotel Nacional de Cuba to freshen up
  • Dinner not included, this evening you are free to investigate Havana’s stellar private eateries
  • Free time to explore the local entertainment scene and make new Cuban friends, your guide will keep you posted on entertainment options

Day 4 – Wednesday :: Cuban art at is best

  • Breakfast at hotel
  • Tour Museo Bellas Artes showcasing 300 years of Cuban masterpieces
  • Lunch at Old Havana’s Restaurante Santo Ángel, in Plaza Vieja
  • Return to your hotel to freshen up
  • Dinner not included, this evening you are free to explore Havana’s stellar private eateries
  • Free time to explore the local entertainment scene and make new Cuban friends, your guide will keep you posted on entertainment options

Day 5 – Thursday :: Music studios, Cuban artist José Fúster, Jo Jazz Fest Welcome

  • Breakfast at hotel
  • Visit Colibri recording company and Abdala studio where the island’s great artist produce their music, including Nat King Cole and the Buena Vista Social Club
  • We'll feast on a delicious lunch hosted by renowned Cuba artist José Rodríguez Fúster at his magical home and studio in Jaimanitas
  • Return to your hotel to freshen up
  • Dinner not included, this evening you are free to examine Havana’s stellar private eateries
  • Jo jazz Festival stellar opening ceremony (transportation INCLUDED)

Day 6 – Friday :: Urban farm, Hemingway haunts, Jo Jazz Fest

  • Breakfast at hotel
  • Visit the UBPC Vivero Organopónico Alamar, a giant farm cooperative producing a range of healthy organic vegetables
  • Lunch at five-star rated El Ajiaco Paladar [private owned restaurant] in Cojímar
  • Tour the village of Cojímar, a small fishing community of east Havana and the inspiration for Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”
  • Tour Finca Vigía [Lookout Farm] where literary titan Ernest Hemingway wrote for twenty-one years
  • Return to your hotel and freshen up
  • Dinner not included, this evening you are free to enjoy Havana’s stellar private eateries
  • Jo Jazz Festival performances (transportation NOT included), taking place at several different venues around the city

Day 7 – Saturday :: Afrocuban dance, Havana discovery day, Jo Jazz Fest

  • Breakfast at hotel
  • Morning is free to explore the city with your tourmates and new Cuba friends
  • Lunch not included
  • This afternoon we’ll take in a performance of Sábado de la rumba in Vedado
  • Return to your hotel to freshen up
  • Dinner not included, this evening you are free to eat at Havana’s stellar private restaurants
  • Jo Jazz Festival performances (transportation NOT included), taking place at several different venues around the city

Day 8 – Sunday :: Inner city music engine, Jo Jazz Fest finale

  • Breakfast at hotel
  • Morning is free to wander the city with your tourmates and new Cuban friends
  • Lunch not included
  • Visit Callejón de Hamel and witness a monster mesmerizing neighborhood rumba jam and dance party that will knock your socks off
  • Return to your hotel to freshen up
  • Farewell group dinner at the new Restaurante París Patio, in Cathedral square
  • Jo Jazz Festival gala closing pageant (transportation INCLUDED)

Day 9 – Monday :: Say goodbye to Cuba – for now

  • Breakfast at hotel
  • Departure to José Martí International airport
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 meals at your hotel and at fine restaurants
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Breakfast
Lunch
Dinner
  • Small group size, usually sixteen or fewer guests, never more than twenty-four
  • Certificate of US Department of the Treasury (OFAC) authorized people-to-people Cuba group travel
  • VIP airport welcome for Tampa arrivals: expedited immigration and customs, and luggage assistance
  • Havana airport and hotel transfers for Tampa and Miami arrivals 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
  • Round trip air from Tampa is $569, and from Miami is $599 (except during December holidays when airfares are higher). Cost includes US taxes, Cuban tourist visa, Cuban medical insurance, and for most flights Cuban airport departure tax
  • If arriving from cities other than Tampa or Miami, or coming early and departing later, Cuban airport transfers are not included. Cost is $35 each way for up to two people
  • Gratuities for tour guide, bus driver, chambermaids, restaurant staff, porters
  • Optional travel interruption and cancellation insurance. See USI Affinity Travel Insurance Services