April sun in Cuba
"Experience Cuba Tours exceeded our expectations, providing a comprehensive tour of Old Havana and close surrounds. Our guides were extremely engaging and erudite young men and related well to both age groups. Both shared an expert knowledge in Cuban history, politics, culture, architecture and music, were very easy going and were able to determine our tastes and cater to our interests extremely well.
Experience Cuba is an exceptional company that due to their personal connection go out of their way to cater for your needs but also ensure that you experience the real Cuba."
Tour Itinerary Highlights
Arriving in Havana. “Even the way people walk down the street has rhythm".
“Even the way people walk down the street has rhythm,” says Zoe, an art and photography teacher.
“There’s just Cuban music everywhere. It starts spilling out of the cafes at 7am and carries on in the bars and the restaurants until after midnight. The musicians are amazing.”
Amazing enough to get the whole family on the dance floor.
The family’s photo albums overflow with musicians on street corners, in cafes and hotels plucking harps, strumming pink guitars, flicking double basses and keeping time with bongos and maracas.
The music was all part of the romance of a visit to Cuba that Louise had always imagined. “My dad was a fan of socialism and Fidel and Che. It’s been a lifelong dream to go; I had this romantic idea of Cuba but it’s so much more than I imagined.”
The family spent their first night in a Spanish colonial apartment in Old Havana. “It was on the top floor with high ceilings and a wraparound balcony,” remembers Louise. “There was a beautiful dining room with furniture made by the owner’s grandfather. Music was coming out of the bar below, and we followed it for mojitos, Cuba Libres and a simple dinner of baked chicken.”
Old and Modern Havana
“The guides brought so much knowledge that we wouldn’t otherwise have got”
“We woke with the music,” says Louise. “Then the owners arrived to cook us a breakfast of fresh fruit, eggs and coffee. It was just magic.”
Breakfast was followed by a walking tour of Old Havana in the company of Experience Cuba Tour guide, Alejandro, who just happens to be civil engineer and architect volunteering with a co-op to restore the crumbling buildings of Old Havana.
“Every day the guides brought so much knowledge that we wouldn’t otherwise have got,” says Max. “Alejandro pointed out the restorations that were being done in the traditional method, with pulley systems built out of windows to haul up wheelbarrows.”
The afternoon took the family into the modern part of Havana in a classic convertible.
“They call them Frankenstein cars,” says Max. “The sanctions meant they couldn’t get parts, so there’s a real art to keeping them on the road. Across the road from our apartment they were making car doors. The lights would dim as they drained power for the tools. Wherever you go in Cuba, they’re doing whatever they can whenever they can. It’s not a nine-to-five city.”
An exclusive tour of Hemingway’s house, Finca Vigía.
A highlight of the family’s Hemingway day was an exclusive tour of Hemingway’s house, Finca Vigía. “That’s the sort of thing we were offered because we weren’t part of a busload of tourists,” says Max. “We had an exclusive insight, and we learned a lot about Hemingway and his connection to Cuba.”
A Personal Adventure
A day exploring the city of Havana and a meeting with El Caballero de París
Having got their bearings of Havana, the family choose to spend the fourth day exploring the city on their own. Their wanderings took them to the Almacenes San José Artisans' Market. Cass and Zoe loaded up on art that now hangs in their home in Goolwa, South Australia. Louise treated herself to some peal and silver earrings and a bracelet fashioned from 1952 coins.
The family also passed the El Caballero de París (the Gentleman from Paris), a statue of an articulate Spanish drifter. Before he died in 1985, the “Parisian” Gentleman himself roamed Havana in a cape, making gifts of his drawings to strangers. The beard of the bronze statue is polished gold by those who stroke it, because it is said that so doing will bring you back to Havana.
Mariel: a Taste of Cuba
Visiting a local family, enjoying good food, drink and Cuban hospitality.
Anyone reading our reviews on TripAdvisor will know that our signature excursion attracts rave reviews. For our founder, it’s a highly personal experience because Mariel is her home town.
“We visited a family, who told us straight away, ‘My house is your house’,” says Louise. “Then he opened a bottle of special cider and the day took off from there. We talked through lunch and dinner, snacked on homemade plantain chips.”
Music again played its part; this time with Zoe sharing some of her favourite Australian bands on Spotify.
“It was like hanging out with your own family,” says Zoe. “The father showed us his mango tree, which has been in the family for generations. We helped in the kitchen, and we shared their dinner table. They taught us dominoes — there are a lot of rules. We drank rum and mojitos; and it felt like we’d known them all our lives.”
Return from Mariel
Exploring more of Old Havana, art and salsa dancing for the whole family.
A short but pleasant drive home to Old Havana then a day to revisiting what seem by now old haunts in the local neighbourhood, including favourite cafes and stuffed bookshops.
More art for Cass and Zoe; more salsa dancing for the whole family.
Rum and Cigars
“It’s like a wine tasting but with cigars,” says Louise of their cigar factory tour.
“It’s like a wine tasting but with cigars,” says Louise of their tour of the cigar factory.
“The cigar sommelier shows you how coffee and rum change your palate. You start with coffee then you smoke this cigar — they taught you how to light it — then a sip of rum which coats your tongue and it tastes different. Apparently, the cigar puts a lining on your tastebuds so you can theoretically drink more rum.”
This tour included:
- Transfers from and to Havana airport on arrival and departure.
- Transport/transfers in cars and minivan.
- Private self-contained apartment, “casas particulares” (privately owned by Cuban family).
- Daily breakfast.
- Daily bottle of water per person.
- Local tour guides throughout the tour.
- Travelers Information Package with lots of practical advice (PDF).
- Cuba Tourist Map, advised by MINTUR, Minister of Tourism in Cuba (hard-copy) on arrival in Cuba.
- DK Eyewitness Travel Top 10 Cuba with a pull-out map (hard-copy). Allow 4 weeks for delivery. Available only to residents of Australia and New Zealand.
- ECT personnel tips and gratuities.
- Old Havana guided walking tour.
- Havana Classic/Vintage convertible car ride (1 hour).
- Hemingway Tour, visit to Finca La Vigia (entry fees included).
- Mariel: A taste of Cuba Tour.All meals and drinks of this day included.
- Rum and Cigar Tour.
- International flights.
- Travel insurances (required to participate in our tours).
- Visas and passport fees. Visas can be arranged for additional costs and subject to our Terms and Conditions.
- Additional meals (except daily breakfasts and the meals in Mariel Tour).
- Drinks (except bottles of waters as stipulated in the itinerary).
- Additional optional activities not specified in the tour. They can be added, incurs surcharges.
- Tips and gratuities (except Experience Cuba Tour personnel).
Low season (15th of March to 14th of November):
- One person, one room: price on request
- Two people, one room: price on request
- Three people, two rooms: price on request
- Four people, two rooms: price on request
- Five people, three rooms: price on request
- Six people, three rooms: price on request
High season (15th of November to 14th of March): price on request
- It is an exciting time in Cuba with rapidly changing legislation and local conditions. Cuba has seen a massive increase in tourism, which has put a strain on local tourist infrastructure. While we will strive to operate our tours as closely to published itineraries as possible, conditions often change from one day to the next, and minor tour modifications may be necessary with no advance notice.
- Casa Particulares can refer to home-stays, B&B’s, guesthouses, self contained apartments or entire villas. They are family run businesses that are legal and formalised to provide accommodation to foreigners in Cuba. Though much nicer than general Cuban homes they can seem a bit rustic and simple compared to what most international travellers are used to back home.
- Cuba as a developing country is subject to power outages and it is common to have low water pressures in the showers and sinks.
- If understanding and expectations are kept in check staying at Casa Particulares is a very personal and pleasurable way to accommodate yourself in Cuba.
- The transport system in Cuba is in many ways different to anywhere else in the world. We (Experience Cuba) are restricted in a large way by the local transport laws. We use privately owned transport with approved licences to provide taxi services to tourists and the state-owned transport services of TRANSTUR, the only inter-provincial taxi provider in Cuba. The privately-owned transports vary between classic vintage cars (hardtop and convertible) and more modern models of cars, all in good condition. It is not law in Cuba for cars to be fitted with seat belts and neither is it against the law to use a mobile phone while driving. This is not condoned or encouraged by Experience Cuba but when travelling to other countries it is customary to abide by the local laws.
- While it is hard to know what every individual’s expectations might be, we do remind travellers that Cuba is in most respects a third world country and as such considerations should be made and understood.
Do you have any questions? Let's get in touch.
Whether you want inspiration and guidance in planning your next Cuban adventure, or need help with an existing booking, please feel free to get in touch.