The Just 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.

We’ll have lunch at the breezy rooftop garden restaurant of Hotel Ambos Mundos in Old Havana. It has an incomparable view of the city and tasty eats. It was here that literary titan Ernest Hemingway lived between 1932 and 1939. It is where he penned the Spanish Civil War epic "For Whom the Bell Tolls" chronicling his collaboration with Spain’s socialist freedom fighters in the battle against fascism. His suite has been left intact and serves today as a tiny yet very popular museum.

Return to hotel to freshen up.

Fabulous group welcome dinner at one of Havana’s most popular restaurants: El Aljibe. Always filled with clued-in locals and foreign diners having the time of their lives. Barbecued chicken served in bitter orange and lemon sauce is the house dish. Your pollo is served with black beans, rice, tostones and ensalada – a resplendent all you can eat delight.

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.

Breakfast is served in hotel this morning.

Followed by a private guided tour of the Palacio de Bellas Artes [Palace of Fine Arts] dedicated exclusively to housing Cuban art spanning three centuries. 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. Notable works include those of René Portocarrero and Wilfredo Lam.

Lunch today is on your own.

Return to youy hotel to freshen up

Dinner tonight is not included in your tour cost. Tour participants will be advised of Havana's best restaurants for every taste and budget.

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.

Following breakfast in hotel, we visit the astonishing Museo de la Revolucion y Memorial Granma (Museum of the Revolution and Granma Memorial). It is the former presidential palace and was once home to US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. The marble staircase and the magnificent upstairs ceiling mural tell one story while galleries, with displays of items from colonial times to the present, tell another; the contrast is effective. Photographs of tortured revolutionaries, maps tracing the progress of the war, the bloodstained uniforms of rebels who fell in the 1953 Santiago de Cuba Moncada Barracks attack, and photos of Fidel and Ché complete a comprehensive tour of the Revolution's history. In the garden is the Granma Memorial – the Yacht Granma in which Fidel Castro and 81 other rebel combatants returned to Cuba from exile in Mexico in 1956 to launch the Revolution. Bought from an American, the 38-ft craft designed to carry 25 passengers nearly foundered during the weeklong crossing. It eventually ran aground at Oriente Province in eastern Cuba two days behind schedule. Castro's forces were ambushed and only 16 survived. Also in the garden are various vehicles used in the liberation movement, including a Russian tank used in the Bay of Pigs Invasion and a turbine from a U-2 spy plane downed during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

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.

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.

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.

Breakfast is served in hotel this morning.

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.

Lunch is not included in tour cost.

Return to hotel to freshen up.

Farewell group 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.

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 16 to Jan 22, 2018 $ 3288 $ 2889
Hotel Nacional de Cuba
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Jan 16 to Jan 22, 2018 $ 2898 $ 2499
Hotel Capri
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Tour meals at your hotel and at fine restaurants
  • Premium access jazz passes for all Jazz Festival events, a $250 value
  • Small group size: There will be more than 100 people joining this tour. Participants will be split into groups of 24 or fewer. As a result day-to-day activities will vary to avoid congestion at smaller venues and eateries
  • Certificate of Legal Cuba Travel in compliance with US Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control regulations (OFAC) section, 1 C.F.R. § 515.565(b)
  • 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
  • Modern air-conditioned bus and professional chauffeur
  • Bottled water on 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