With the long-awaited dawn of a new era of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, Grand Circle Foundation is proud to introduce a new 13-day journey revealing the sweep of this once-forbidden Caribbean island’s scenic landscapes, colonial charm, and cultural diversity. Witness the winding lanes of colonial gem Camaguey, the magic of Spanish-influenced Remedios—and the electricity of Havana, a vibrant city with a revolutionary past and a bright future. And immerse yourself in Cuban culture during stops at schools, homes, farms, and artist workshops—while dining in family-run paladares and casas particulares. Join us on this new People-to-People program and experience the wonders of Cuba on the brink of historic transformation.
After arriving in Miami today and transferring to your hotel, enjoy the night on your own. (Please note: No meals are included while you are in Miami).
This morning meet with members of your group for a Welcome Briefing and what to expect for your flight to Camaguey this afternoon. Upon arrival in Camaguey, we’ll clear Cuban Immigration and Customs and be met by our Cuban Trip Leader after exiting the airport terminal. Then, we’ll transfer to our hotel, where we’ll have a Welcome Briefing before checking in. Founded as a port town in 1514—and the sixth of Cuba’s original seven villas—within 14 years Camaguey was moved inland. The labyrinthine streets and narrow squares were originally meant to confuse marauding pirates (the notorious privateer Sir Henry Morgan once sacked Camaguey), and during our stay, we’ll view the city’s lovely mix of colonial homes and plazas in its well-preserved historical center, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We’ll enjoy a brief orientation walk of the area before dining together at one of Cuba's many small family-run restaurants known as paladares that feature authentic home cooking in an intimate setting.
After breakfast, we’ll take advantage of the local transport—bici-taxis—to help us better navigate the twisting lanes of Camaguey, making several stops on our Cuban version of bicycle rickshaws to mingle with locals at markets and shops. Since Camaguey is home to one of Cuba’s most vibrant artistic and cultural scenes, we’ll make several stops at local galleries and studios to admire the artistic works of this city of “tinajones,” the famous large red pots found outside homes, which are a symbol of the city. Our discoveries include the life-like bronze sculptures by Cuban artist Martha Jiménez featuring locals at work and rest, and a visit to the home of famed leather sculptor "Pepe." And after witnessing the elegant colonial beauty of Plaza San Juan de Dios, we’ll also visit the workshop of Magdiel Rosales, a notable local artist. Afterwards, we take a walk through Ignacio Agramonte Square, a stunning park built in glistening marble, once the site of executions. Then, we continue our artistic journey visiting the home of Joel Jovel and Ileana Sanchez. two of Cuba's foremost contemporary painters.
We’ll have a short break for lunch in a local paladar, then visit the Jose White Conservatory, a renowned historic music school on the outskirts of the city. After some free time, we enjoy dinner together at another local paladar.
We begin our day with a visit to the En Dedans Dance Company. En Dedans, a French term meaning “inward,” features dance movements in which the leg moves in a circular direction from back to front. We’ll be treated to a private rehearsal of this unique merging of contemporary dance with neoclassical ballet. Then we head to the Casanova Pottery Studio, home of the prominent local artist Carlos Alberto Casanova, where we’ll have an opportunity to try working the pottery wheel. Then, we’ll journey outside the city to visit Zaragozano Ranch, a family-run working ranch. We’ll sit down with the ranch hands to a home-cooked family meal: a traditional pig roast, complete with twice-fried plantains and rice and beans.
We'll take a tour of the property to meet cows in the Milk Station, see the blacksmith, veterinarian, and the rest of the ranch—this is a great time to practice your Spanish. After saying goodbye to our new ranch friends, enjoy free time and dinner on your own this evening. Make sure to ask your Trip leader about other great paladares to visit.
We depart Camaguey and head to the charming town of Santa Clara. After a long ride, we’ll enjoy lunch at the local paladar, Casona de Jover, then tour the town’s Spanish architecture in the city square, where we will meet locals and chat with them about their daily life. Then, we visit the Che Guevara Mausoleum and Museum, a chance to meet with Cubans and learn how they view one of their national heroes.
Ernesto “Che” Guevara was an Argentine revolutionary who played a major part in the Cuban Revolution and became a global celebrity. While a controversial figure, Guevara is revered in many Communist and Latin American countries, Cuba included. Santa Clara is the sight of the last battle of the revolution, forcing the U.S.-backed dictator Fulgenio Batista to flee into exile. The museum and mausoleum houses Guevara’s ashes and artifacts of his life from childhood to his revolutionary end in Bolivia in 1967.
Then we continue on our overland journey to Remedios. We have some time to freshen up before dining at a local paladar, La Piramide.
Today you’ll discover Remedios, one of Cuba’s oldest settlements founded in 1513. The tranquil town’s colonial core is Plaza Martí, a compact central square that is home to a late 18th-century church, Iglesia de San Juan Bautista, whose interior features a baroque altar clad in gold, and a clearly pregnant Madonna statue that is said to be the only sculpture of its kind in Cuba. Remedios is also renowned for hosting Las Parrandas, a lively series of street parties and religious carnivals that take place throughout the holiday season—and we’ll learn much more about Las Parrandas during a visit to the workshop of someone who specializes in producing the colorful carrozas, or floats, that are an integral part of this longstanding annual tradition.
We'll have lunch at our hotel and then visit with Father Mykael or some of the local parishioners at San Juan Bautista, otherwise known as "Iglesia Mayor."
After that, we’ll spend some time at the “Driver’s Bar,” where we'll meet with members of an old car club. Then, we’ll enjoy some free time before gathering together for dinner at Paladar La Estancia.
This morning, we'll drive to the town of Camajuani, where we'll visit the Tabacuba tobacco factory, and meet some of the workers and see them roll cigars by hand. After leaving Camajuani, we’ll continue to Caibarién, a small coastal town noted for its fishing fleet, fresh crabs, and sandy beaches. First, we’ll visit a local home and meet the family who lives there. After an included lunch at a local paladar, En Familiar, we’ll go to a community art project called SOS Mas. We’ll return to Remedios this afternoon, where we’ll enjoy some time at leisure and have dinner on our own.
This morning, we leave Remedios for Matanzas, a provincial capital noted for its culture, Afro-Cuban folklore, and hillside setting overlooking the Bay of Matanzas. Known as the “Athens of Cuba,” Matanzas maintains a proud cultural legacy of prominent poets, writers, artists, and musicians. En route, we’ll stop in Jovellanos, a town in Matanzas province, for a visit to Finca Luna. There, we’ll enjoy a traditional family-style Cuban lunch featuring many ingredients produced right at the farm. We’ll also tour the farm and get to interact with the owners and some of the farm staff. After lunch, we’ll continue to Matanzas, where we'll stop to visit the oldest continuously utilized baseball diamond in the Western Hemisphere—Palmeras de Junco. And while we’re here, we’ll learn about the country’s unquenchable passion for baseball by meeting with a local ball player who is a member of the Cuban Hall of Fame. Later this afternoon, we’ll check in to our hotel in Varadero, where you may enjoy an included dinner at your own leisure.
This morning is at leisure to explore on your own or to relax and take advantages of the facilities of our hotel. Later this morning, we'll enjoy salsa lessons and learn how this fiery dance plays a role in Cuban culture. Then, after a quick lunch at the hotel, since Matanzas is the birthplace of Regla de Ocha—the African-rooted religion better known as Santería—we’ll visit a local Santería practitioner in her home. Following this visit we begin our overland journey to Havana, the vibrant Cuban capital. Upon our arrival, we'll check into the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, an historic hotel overlooking the harbor with views of Havana’s picturesque sea wall, the Malecón, and El Morro Fortress. Later this evening, we’ll have dinner together at a local paladar, Al Carbon. After our meal, we can speak with the owners about the difficulties in starting a private business in Cuba.
Our first full day in Havana begins with an information lecture and discussion at our hotel about the Revolution and its effects on the Cuban arts, followed by a visit with the Malpaso dance company, one of the many dance companies based in Havana—but one of the few private dance companies in Cuba. After watching a private rehearsal, we’ll enjoy a discussion with members of the company. Then, we’ll learn about one of Cuba’s national pastimes—the game of dominoes. After a brief introduction to the rules of the game at Club Melen, a private restaurant located in the Miramar section of Havana, we’ll have a light lunch with the local Cuban dominoes players, before we try our luck playing the game with them. Then, we’ll return to our hotel.
This evening, we’ll learn about the current Cuban jazz movement from members of the William Roblejo's Trio jazz band, followed by dinner at a paladar in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood.
Today begins with a discussion about the history of Cuban music led by Alberto Faya, a professor, researcher, and award-winning musician. Then we visit the iconic El Cristo statue, which has been a symbol of faith in Havana since 1953.
We visit the farm of a local paladar before having lunch. Afterwards, we walk through Revolution Square, a place of incredible importance for the Cuban people and government. This is the place where Fidel Castro addressed the Cuban people many times, and the José Martí Monument overlooks it all. José Martí was one of the first important figures concerning the Cuban revolution for independence from Spain. A writer, journalist, and publisher, he is considered the “Apostle of Cuban Independence.” The memorial was built by the dictator Batista, and the Communists kept it because of their equal reverence for Martí.
Then we visit the Angeles del Futuro, a community-action initiative that trains young people in acrobatics and circus arts. We’ll enjoy a lively demonstration from these skilled performers. Afterward, we return to the hotel and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure. Dinner is on your own this evening.
After breakfast, we’ll have a discussion with Jorge Mario, a Cuban economist who lives in Havana. Then, we’ll walk through the historic streets of Habana Vieja (Old Havana). Lovingly restored to its full historic splendor, the entire neighborhood of Old Havana has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After our walking tour, you’ll have free time to explore the colonial streets of Old Havana with lunch on your own—perhaps check out the fare at Sloppy Joe's, the legendary hang-out of Ernest Hemingway that first gained popularity with U.S. tourists during the Prohibition years of the 1920s and early 1930s. Until the Cuban Revolution, the iconic bar was frequented by many celebrities, including Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, and Nat King Cole. Or you can visit one of the many local paladares and cafés featuring live bands playing music.
For our final night in Cuba we’ll enjoy dinner at a paladar situated in a restored colonial mansion, tucked into the residential neighborhood of Vedado. We’ll enjoy a farewell ceremony with drinks, exchanging stories and reflecting on the experience of the last week and a half.
Today, we board our flight back to Miami.
Please note: This is a representative itinerary. Features are subject to change as availability is controlled by the Cuban government. While this is the itinerary that we strive to follow, due to local circumstances (such as moveable holidays, museum/site closing days, and weather conditions), it is important for you to understand that we may not always be able to follow this plan in the exact order. The sequence of places visited may vary.