Global Adventure - Dayhike and Explore the National Parks, People, Food, and Culture of Cuba

Trip

Global Adventure - Dayhike and Explore the National Parks, People, Food, and Culture of Cuba

Exciting 15-day dayhike & naturalist trip through the best of Cuba’s national parks, nature reserves, and world heritage sites. With music everywhere, meet the warm, friendly Cuban people where they live while staying & eating in homestays, hike lush green Viñales valley as well as the mountains of Topes de Collantes, visit several UNESCO World Heritage sites, go birdwatching, delve into the diversity of Cuba’s flora and fauna, explore open water-carved karst caverns & waterfalls, understand Cuban history from the people themselves, take a cooking class, learn about breeding endangered crocodiles and more. All with transport via private minivan taxi and accompanied by a 24/7 English speaking guide and, for local excursions, Cuban guides. This trip complies with Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which is part of the US Treasury Department, for travel under the category of Support for the Cuban People. This category is intended to direct the economic activities of U.S. travelers to primarily benefit the private sector in Cuba as well as engage in meaningful interactions with individuals in Cuba. For this reason, many expenses of this trip are directly paid by participants to their Cuban host or provider. This itinerary provides a full-time schedule of activities, as required by OFAC. NOTE: The Member Fee ($3700) is for the deposit only and participants are also required to pay directly for all lodging and food expenses in Cuba. See Leader Notes below for full trip price details.

  • Tue, Nov 19, 2024 — Wed, Dec 4, 2024
  • Global Adventures Committee
  • Global Adventures, Day Hiking, Naturalist
  • Adults
  • Moderate
  • Moderate
  • Mileage: 57.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 4,300 ft
  • Pace: 0.75-1.5mph (for animal watching, pace is slow)

Arrive Miami FL on Tues, Nov 19 (Day 0), stay at hotel arranged by Trip Leader (see below) or arrange your own accommodations. Wed Nov 20 (Day 1), arrive Miami International Airport with ample time for 9am airline check-in. In order for group to arrive together for pickup and transfer at Havana airport, the group will travel together on the same flight MIA→HAV. Trip Leader will provide airline booking information for MIA→HAV flight. Airfare is not included in trip cost. Information will be provided to help participants fill out the necessary forms for US citizens to legally travel to Cuba, legally enter Cuba and to comply with OFAC rules while in Cuba and after returning home. As long as traveling with the group, airport transfers in Havana via private minivan taxi are included.  See Itinerary Highlights section for more information.

For the night of Tues, Nov 19: To facilitate airport check-in 3 hours before departure time on Nov 20, Trip Leader reserved hotel rooms for group use near the Miami airport. Breakfast included and up to 3 people can share a room (separate beds). For your Nov 19 arrival to this Miami hotel: free airport shuttle, or  if walking, access via lighted, paved walkways for safer, after-dark arrivals. For your Nov 20 departure from this hotel to airport: either free shuttle or 10 min walk to station for 4 min lightrail ride to airport. Staying at this hotel is optional, cost is not included in Trip Cost. Contact Trip Leader if interested.

Itinerary Highlights:   (subject to change as needed based on local conditions, see Expectations for Travel in Cuba section. Pay attention to the numbered notes in parentheses.):

Day 0 (Nov 19):  Arrive Miami. Stay at hotel arranged by Trip Leader or arrange your own accommodations (price not included).

Day 1: Welcome to Cuba! At Havana airport, greeted by our 24/7 English-speaking guide and transferred by private minivan taxi to our respective homestays, casa particulares(1), in Old Havana with time to get to know our Cuban family hosts. Then, group welcome dinner(2,3) and briefing from our guide.

Day 2: Havana. Morning private guided walking tour(4) with our English-speaking guide amongst the labyrinth of streets of Old Havana(4), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to be enchanted by secrets of this lived-in museum of buildings dating back to the 16th century and charm of its residents. In the evening, a cooking class. Optional Excursion: With our English-speaking guide, join an afternoon private group salsa dance class and listen to Cuban music. For this option, you must make your own arrangements with our Guide prior to trip departure. Cost is $25/pp and payment direct to Guide. Trip Leader will provide contact info for the Guide for you to make these arrangements.

Day 3: Enroute to Viñales. Morning presentation about Cuban conservation efforts and sample of Cuban coffee along the way. Tour of el Jardín botánico Orquideario Soroa(4) with collection of endemic orchid species. The garden also has many species of other ornamental plants, trees, and flowers that represent the national flora of several countries. Here Cuban orchids are being studied with a view to possible re-introduction and augmentation of naturally occurring populations. Afternoon tour with local speleologist at Cuevas de Santo Tomas (Cave of Saint Thomas) to view the cavern’s remarkable variety of karst landscape.

Day 4: Viñales. In Viñales National Park, hike a part of the Los Acuaticos trail (9.25 mi, 900’ gain) through verdant landscape to an iconic viewpoint of the valley, descend again and continue hike through the valley, visit some tobacco farmers and returning late afternoon to Viñales.

Day 5: Viñales. Visit to a tobacco fermentation factory to observe the fascinating tradition of the first steps of making a Cuban cigar and learn from the farmers about processing of tobacco leaves.  Afterward, birdwatching(5) in a special mogote ecosystem with a local expert to view endemic birds and with luck get a close look at Cuba’s national bird – the Cuban Trogon - draped in blue, red, and white (the colors of Cuba’s flag) with a fancy layered tail. Then, continue hiking hidden paths over a low ridge into another section of the Viñales valley (route TBD, up to 5 mi, 500’ gain).

Day 6: Playa Larga. Transfer via our private minibus taxi to the Bay of Pigs (up to 7-hour drive time). Visit museum at Central Australia(4) an historic sugar factory complex later chosen to be the Revolutionary Armed Forces Headquarters during Commander-in-chief Fidel Castro’s presidency. Visit Criadero de Cocodrilos facility(4) for guided tour that takes us through the breeding stages as well as the program’s roles in the conservation of the endangered Cuban crocodile.

Day 7: Playa Larga. Majority of this day is for birdwatching(5) at the Ciénaga de Zapata National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Here we may hope to hear the zunzuncito (Cuban Bee Hummingbird) and maybe glimpse this marvel, the world’s smallest bird. A specialized, local birdwatching guide will be with us all day. In the afternoon, visit to Cueva de los Pesces for wading or just observing the fish from above(6). Then, short visit to Playa Giron museum(4) to see the documentary which gives the Cuban perspective on the famously failed U.S. invasion.

Day 8: Cienfuegos. Transfer via private minivan taxi to Cienfuegos, a UNESCO World Heritage site, for private walking tour of this 19th century French settlement in Spanish territory and peninsula (5 mi, ~300’ gain). Late afternoon sunset boat tour of harbor and bay. 

Day 9: Trinidad. Early morning trip to Guanaroca Lake(4) for flamingos and other birdwatching via boat (rowed by local boat person). Afternoon: Walking tour of Trinidad(4), a UNESCO World Heritage site, where early 18th century buildings marked by Andalusian and Moorish influences blend harmoniously with elaborate 19th-century architecture.

Day 10: Topes de Collantes. Start at coffee center/museum to learn coffee boom/bust history from locals. Then, hike with local guide in Topes de Collantes (4 mi, 1100’ gain), a nature reserve park in the Sierra Escambray Mountain range, to Hacienda Codina, with interpretive stops, birdwatching and also spy interesting insects and gastropods, walk through la Batata (open-ended cave) if you brought your water sandals, arrive at Hacienda Codina for an authentic Cuban meal. Stay overnight & sleep on open-air veranda or in tent at Hacienda Codina (air mattresses and 1-2 blankets provided). Participants carry only day packs and leave main luggage at Trinidad homestay.

Day 11: Topes de Collantes. Short transfer via Russian jeep (an adventure in itself) to the next portion of our hike; then, hike mostly downhill to Hacienda Gallega in Guayanara National Park (5 mi, +750’, -2000’) to arrive at the hacienda, have lunch; then, walk to aquamarine waterfall and Deer Lagoon.

Day 12: Enjoy a free day in Trinidad on your own or do some activities together. Guide can provide recommendations. On this unstructured day, participants are not required to stay in a group with the Guide. Possible Optional Excursion: catamaran trip to Cayo Blanco or Cayo Leguano for snorkeling, exploring and beach time. You must make your own arrangements with our Guide prior to trip departure. Trip Leader will provide contact info for the Guide for you to make these arrangements.

Day 13: Trinidad. Morning walking tour of 2 former haciendas and Valle de los Ingenios(4), a UNESCO World Heritage site, more than 50 sugar mills were in operation here at the industry’s peak in the 19th century, and thousands of slaves working in the mills. The former plantations, mill buildings, other facilities and archaeological sites represent the richest testimony of the Caribbean sugar agro-industry of the 18th and 19th centuries, and of the slavery phenomenon associated with it.  Afternoon hike in Valle de los Ingenios (5 mi, 750’ gain) amongst the fields, railway lines. Lunch is provided at one of the haciendas.

Day 14: Havana. Drive back to Havana in our private minivan taxi, 5.5-hour drive time, not including lunch stop. Farewell group dinner in Old Havana.

Day 15: Havana. After breakfast, transfer via private minivan taxi to Havana airport.

 (1)Casa particulares (homestays) throughout this trip are paid by each participant directly to their host. Payment to be made in USD. See Trip Price Detail section.

(2)To the extent possible, lunches and dinners will be eaten together as a group. Breakfasts are taken at the homestays.

(3)All meals, including breakfasts, are paid by each participant directly to their host or provider/restaurant. Payment to be made in USD.  See Trip Price Detail section.

(4)Entry fees and/or photography fees not included. Participant pays directly to venue provider. See Trip Price Detail section.

(5)Participants are required to bring their own binoculars suitable for birdwatching. This is “required equipment” for this trip.

(6)If you wish to view the fish underwater, you can bring your own mask and snorkel or make your own arrangements with the Trip Guide. Trip Leader will provide contact info.

 ABOUT EQUITY AND INCLUSION: As part of creating a mental and emotional safe experience on this Global Adventure, trip leader will adhere to the Mountaineers justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion policies and expectations. Participants will be expected to be familiar with and also adhere to these policies and expectations. These can be reviewed here.

ABOUT COVID:  Participants must be fully vaccinated against Covid to participate in the trip.  Participants will be expected to practice conservative Covid behavior before and during transit to the trip, including masking and avoiding crowded indoor spaces whenever possible.  Participants will be expected to carry Covid self-tests on the trip and use them if they experience any symptoms commonly related to Covid.  Before rejoining the group, participants testing positive for Covid will need to leave the group and quarantine at their own expense for at least 5 days (Day 1 is the first full day after the day symptoms started) and be symptom free (without the use of fever-reducing medication). The rest of the group will follow CDC and WA Health Dept recommendations regarding hygienic practices following exposure to Covid, as explained here

Time of Year:   November is Cuba is the beginning of the dry season. Expect sunny, humid weather, temperatures in the 70s and 80s and the possibility of showers or storms.

Lodging:   All accommodations are in homestays (casa particulares) with Cuban host families (1). Rooms have ensuite bath and air-conditioning. Our group will be in casa particulares which are within walking distance of one another. Cost of lodging is not included, see Trip Price Details for information.

Food:   Cuban cuisine represents the melting pot of the island’s Spanish to African influences. Rice, beans, plantains, chicken and pork are staple foods prepared in delicious ways. Seafoods will be available in some locations. Due to need to avoid exposure to unsterilized water, we will eat only cooked foods. Expect no uncooked vegetables and little or no fresh fruit (unless sterilized). It will be difficult or impossible to accommodate special dietary needs.

Leader’s Experience:   Roseanne Lorenzana (r4seattle@gmail.com) has been active with the Mountaineers for several decades, is a leader for hiking, snowshoeing, urban walking and naturalist trips, as well as instructor for wilderness navigation, conditioning hiking series and basic snowshoeing. For friends, family and a non-Mountaineers hiking group, she has planned and lead trips to Portugal, Azores, Australia, Vietnam, Thailand, Guatemala, Belize, South Africa, Argentina, Ecuador, Galapagos, Patagonia and Antarctica. Our 24/7 English-speaking guide is Marcel Breedveld, a licensed tour leader since 1992 and Director of Latin America Journeys Guru. He is specialized in hiking and walking in Latin America with extensive experience arranging Cuban trips for US clients that comply with US regulations. Latin American Journeys Guru is not a tour company and only provides tailormade travel for its clients.

Expectations for Travel in Cuba: After decades of US sanctions and an economy that often struggles, infrastructure is generally not well maintained. Power outages are not uncommon. Buildings are in need of paint and repair. Air conditioning can break down. Hot water and water pressure can be minimal.  Internet access is slow/sporadic and hard to find. Although there are internet cafés, visits may not easily fit our itinerary. Best to plan to take a break from the internet while in Cuba. Things happen more slowly than in many parts of the world due to the limitation of resources. The Cuban government controls almost everything. All these issues may result in modification of some intended activities. It is strictly a cash economy and efforts that we may take for granted, in Cuba, will likely require cash payment. Scarcity of resources means prices are not low. All that said, we will find warm, friendly Cuban people very happy to see you, fantastic scenery and natural landscapes, a rich historical culture and a nature setting that has nonetheless flourished in Cuba’s isolation. To enjoy this trip, plan to leave your usual expectations at home and bring an attitude of flexibility, gratitude and understanding.

Participant Requirements:   Must be a current Mountaineers member with an up-to-date waiver on file.  This outing includes a full schedule of activities requiring daily walks or hikes, including birdwatching. During the schedule of activities, all participants must stay together as a group. As a partial naturalist trip, considerable time will be focused on birdwatching and other fauna/flora and all are expected to participate.  Participants must be able to hike up to 2 days in a row for distances up to 9.5 miles per day on tropical forest trails which may have uneven tread, roots or mud. Water crossings may be ankle to calf deep, and submerged or mossy rocks may be slippery. The Cuevas de Santo Tomas excursion requires ability to safely navigate steep ladder-like wooden steps and wearing a provided helmet. Walking tours in towns, cities or parks are up to 2-4 miles a day on a combination of cobblestone, some of which may be loose, and dirt paths including navigating high curbs, uneven steps, and stairs without railings. Activities also include getting in/out of a minivan taxi and getting on/off boats. Participants need to be in good aerobic condition, show proven ability to hike and walk multiple days in a row and demonstrate participation in a fitness/training program adequate to prepare for this trip. To participate in this adventure, participants must have travel insurance that provides international medical and evacuation coverage in addition to what their at-home insurance provides.  Participants must obtain a Cuban visa and also comply with the OFAC requirements for US citizens traveling to Cuba. The later involves keeping a travel diary to document meaningful interactions and support for the Cuban people plus retaining this diary along with all receipts for a period of 5 years.

Pre-Trip briefing: Participants are required to attend two pre-trip briefings in which everyone on the roster participates at the same time. At least one of these briefings will be in-person and held at a Seattle location.

Trip Price Detail:    $3,750 for 8 participants, $3,850 for 7 participants, $4,350 for 6 participants. Trip is cancelled if there are less than 6 participants (incl trip leader).

INCLUDED: 24/7 tour English-speaking guide & their providers services (access to their Cuban network of providers, travel design, bookings and administration), private minivan taxi and local transfers with licensed, professional drivers, petrol, local guides, birdwatching guides, private walks/tours as mentioned in itinerary, Day1&15 airport transfers if traveling with the group, Day5 tobacco factory tour, Day8 Cienfuegos boat tour, Day10 overnight at Hacienda Codina, Days10-11 two lunches, 1 breakfast and 1 dinner, Day11 Russian jeep transfer, Day13 lunch at hacienda.

EXTRA PARTICIPANT EXPENSES NOT INCLUDED IN TRIP PRICE:   Estimated ~$2805, including:  Airfare (~$900), Transportation to/from Seattle airport (~$100), Miami Day 0 lodging (~$95-$120 depending on # of participants in shared lodging reserved by Trip Leader. Participants may also find their own lodging), MedEvac travel insurance (~$100), Cuban visa ($100), Cuban lodging(1) (~$325 twin-share), Food(3) (~$675), Entry fees and/or photography fees(4)(~$80), Use of toilet facilities when away from lodging (~$30), Sanitized drinking water (~$75), Tips (~$300 optional but highly recommended).  

Registration Instructions:

How To: (1) Complete & submit online application...do NOT request permission at this point; (2) Leader will contact you to arrange in-person interview; (3) If accepted, leader's permission to register will be received; (4) Pay deposit within required timeframe; (5) Payment of deposit automatically adds you to the roster.

Leader approval is required before registering. Please complete and submit the application form at the button below. Trip leader will make final roster decisions based on information on the application, the applicant’s in-person interview (required), fit with the trip requirements, capabilities to safely achieve the most strenuous hike parameters, expectations and style of trip. The date of application will not be used in the decision. After you have received the leader’s approval, open the trip listing and click on REGISTER.  After clicking on this button, the website will send you to a shopping cart where you will need to provide a credit card to pay the deposit the of $3,700. To hold your space on the roster, the deposit must be paid within 4 days of being notified of acceptance.  As soon as you have registered, please also complete and submit the Trip Agreement and Release forms at the buttons below within 2 weeks of paying the deposit. Final payment is due by 5pm on Sept 11, 2024.

APPLICATION

TRIP AGREEMENT (review at any time, but only sign after you have paid the deposit)

RELEASE (to be completed after you have paid the deposit)

SUPPLEMENTAL INFORMATION (To be completed 14-21 days before departure)

Trip Deposit & Final Payment Information: Unlike other Global Adventures trips where the deposit is 50% of the trip price, for this trip the required $3,700 deposit is higher due to a unique payment structure to comply with relevant regulations and contract requirements. Therefore, please pay careful attention to the cancellation policy in the following section. For this reason, we strongly recommend purchasing travel insurance that will cover trip cancellation. Emergency med-evac travel insurance does not include trip cancellation. Here’s a link to read about types of trip cancellation insurance, the limitations for types of claims and reimbursement rates (LINK).  The final payment (due 5pm, Sept 11) will be based on the final roster: 8 participants, final payment=$50; 7 participants, final payment=$150; 6 participants, final payment=$650.

Cancellation Policy:

  • If you cancel before 5pm, Sept 11, 2024, your refund amount will depend on our ability to replace you on the roster, and if we cannot, then the amount will depend on non-refundable expenses incurred and commitments involved at the time you cancel so that no one else on the roster incurs an increased cost due to your cancellation(a). If your place is taken by a new person, the expenses incurred could also be refunded after the new person has made final payment. (a)This may mean your refund can not be calculated until the trip has concluded and total trip costs are determined.
  • If you cancel after 5pm, Sept 11, 2024, no refund. Total amount is forfeited.
  • In all cases, there is a $100 Mountaineers administration fee.
Route/Place

Dayhike and Explore the National Parks, People, Food, and Culture of Cuba


Roster
Required Equipment

Required Equipment

Participants must bring their own binoculars suitable for birdwatching. Example of binoculars suitable for birdwatching include those with 7X or greater magnification.  After payment of your deposit, the leader will send participants a series of letters or emails with information about how to prepare for a successful outing including recommended gear, maps and other references.

 

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