Your short flight from Miami to Varadero will last just under an hour, and upon arrival you’ll meet your Cuban Tour Guide and local expert, who will accompany you throughout your 4-night journey. After collecting your bags and exiting customs, travel together to the sea-flanked peninsula of Varadero. Arrive to your hotel and be assisted check in and some time to relax. To celebrate your first night in Cuba, meet with local dancers at the hotel poolside for an interactive salsa lesson and especially the Cuban style of salsa which is distinctive in of itself. This evening you will have dinner at a local Paladar (privately owned restaurant). (D)
Start the day with a nice breakfast (hosted at Melia Marina Varadero hotel just a 5 minute walk away) and depart for the town of Matanzas about a 1 hour drive from Varadero. Matanzas is known for its rich history, Afro-Cuban community, and calm seaside demeanor. Visit the city’s well known Music and Art School and interact with the students and teachers there who will share their dreams and routines with you. Afterwards, go to the art gallery and workshop Lolo which offers a variety of pieces by talented Cuban artists of the region. The works embody the culture, strength, and heart of these artists against all odds. Have lunch at a nearby hotel restaurant for an introduction to both traditional and contemporary Cuban cuisine. After lunch enjoy a leisurely walk at the Callejon de las Tradiciones which is a colorful neighborhood established by the Afro-Cuban citizens which reflects their past as well as their struggles and spirit. These urban blocks aim to preserve and enforce the roots and traditions inherited by the people since the days their ancestors were introduced to Cuba as colonial era slaves. Return to Varadero and enjoy dinner at your leisure tonight. (B, L)
Take in a delicious breakfast, then depart for Havana, the incredibly vibrant capital City of Cuba. Be sure to have put on your walking shoes for a tour with your local guide through Old Havana to learn about the recent restorations and the historical importance of many of its glorious buildings, many dating to colonial times. Visit the 4 major squares in Havana: Plaza Vieja, Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza de Armas and Plaza San Francisco. Lunch awaits you at a typical Cuban “paladar”, or privately-owned restaurant, in the historical center of the city. As the perfect touch to your time in the city, be picked up and transported by a vintage American car for a panoramic journey! Interact with your drivers to learn about the challenges as well as interesting ways they’ve been able to maintain these vehicles throughout the years. Have some time to explore the San Jose Craft Market to meet local artists and artisans, and discover for yourself how remarkable a variety of crafts are made in Cuba, followed by some moments to interact with the locals on your own. Then, it’s off to the Jaimanitas neighborhood which is home to Jose Fuster’s house to enjoy the art all around you in the form of tiny ceramic mosaics. He is known as the “Picasso of the Caribbean”. Drive back to Varadero in the late afternoon with a stop at Bacunayagua Bridge for sweeping views of the Yumuri Valley, time permitting. Enjoy dinner on your own this evening. (B, L)
After breakfast, begin your roadtrip across the island towards the Bay of Pigs along the southern coast, about 3 hours away. On the way, stop by the Guama Crocodile Breeding Center in the Zapata swamp area where there are thousands of 16 different species of crocodiles to marvel at. Learn about the regional flora and fauna, and about Cuba’s unique biosystems. At Playa Larga you’ll have lunch at “Casa Enrique” which is owned by a local family. Learn about their story and enjoy some typical Cuban fare served family style here. Then, your destination will be the famous Bay of Pigs and the on-site museum which commemorates and recounts the conflict between Cuba and the USA in 1961. On the drive back to Varadero, you will admire the beautiful landscapes and villages along the way. A wonderful farewell dinner will satisfy you at the “Casa Dupont” Restaurant which is hosted inside the grand Varadero Golf Club. (B,L,D)
This morning your driver and Cuban guide transfer you to Varadero International Airport where you will board your flight back to Miami*. Your brief introduction to Cuba and your Varadero Getaway program ends here, taking home many memories and wonderful experiences of this colorful place! Buen viaje! (B)