Escorted by: A Hogle Zoo Staff Member
Dates: May 11-19, 2017
Cost: approximately $6,595 Per Person, Double Occupancy, from Miami.
Departure City: Miami
(Other Departure Cities Available Upon Request)
For more information call (801) 584-1737.
Days 1 ~ Thursday ~ May 11
Arrive in Miami today and meet with the rest of the group at your hotel. Get to know your fellow travelers tonight over dinner, and get any last-minute instructions and travel documents on your upcoming adventure to Cuba.
MIAMI MARRIOTT. (D)
Day 2 ~ Friday ~ May 12
Miami / Havana
Return to the airport early this morning for your short flight to Cuba. Arrive at the José Martí International Airport in Havana where your Classic Escapes representative is waiting to greet you. Cuba is a mystical place. Blocked from the outside world, Cubans have managed to create a vibrant culture out of humble ingredients. It’s a place with warm and friendly people who approach life with a dramatic flair and an ability to dance and sing even in the most difficult times. The people of Cuba are passionate, idealistic and at the same time dreamers.
Start your trip in magical Havana, a city suspended in time with classic cars driving past colonial houses, with local Habaneros dancing to the rumba beat and cigar smoke filled wood-lined bars. Havana was “founded” by Spanish colonialists in 1514 as San Cristóbal de la Habana and was located on the southern coast of the island. The settlement had to be moved several times due to mosquito infestations and in 1519 was moved to its present northwestern location because of the natural bay, which now hosts Havana’s harbor. The new location was a great site for a port city and also allowed easy access to the Gulf Stream, the main ocean current that navigators followed when traveling from Europe to the Americas.
The first thing you’ll notice in Havana is that the streets are filled with colorful and bright vintage “Old Styler” American cars. Enjoy a panoramic overview of Havana on your stop at the Revolution Square. Located in the modern political and cultural center of Havana, Revolution Square is presided over by a 357-foot tall tower with an elevator to take you to the top for spectacular views of Havana. The 59-foot statue of José Martí, the leader of the Cuban independence movement back in 1895 as well as a gifted poet and journalist, fronts the government palace. Take a group photo under the iconic mural of Che Guevera, the first Minister of the interior appointed by Fidel Castro, before you leave.
Continue to the Museum of Natural History at the very center of Havana. The museum features four exhibitions each with a different focus: mammals, birds and reptiles of the world; history of the Earth; Cuban life and nature; the Almiquí show room, and the Colibrí games room. Not only a repository for antiquities and wildlife specimens, it is an institution with strong ties to Cuba’s leading cultural and scientific institutions and the general population through its scientific and educational outreach work.
After lunch at La California paladar, take a trip back in time and walk in the shoes of one of the world’s greatest writers as you drive ten miles east of Havana towards the small, working-class town of San Francisco de Paula to visit Hemingway’s legendary farm house, Finca Vigia. The Cuban people have always respected the famous writer’s choice to live in a modest town, amongst the people he fished with. After Hemingway’s death in 1961, the Cuban government took ownership of the property and after years of neglect, restoration and preservation work finally began. Finca Vigia is now a museum with Hemingway’s library of 9,000 books, stuffed heads and the typewriter he used to compose many of his masterpieces, all laid out just as they were when he was alive and living in Cuba. Here, Hemingway wrote two of his most celebrated novels: For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. A Movable Feast was written there as well.
Your home for the next three nights is the Hotel Saratoga, one of Havana’s most elegant hotels, offering ample accommodations and top notch service. The hotel is near many cultural destinations, including the Capitol building and Havana’s exquisite opera house. The rooms, designed by European consultants, are simple, spacious, elegant, and comfortable. The ultra-modern bathrooms have all the expected amenities. It has a Mudejar-inspired restaurant, a Maugham-ish courtyard bar and the city’s best rooftop pool. Tonight enjoy a special dinner in Café Elite to celebrate your arrival in Havana.
Overnight at the HOTEL SARATOGA or similar. (L,D)www.hotel-saratoga.com
Venture off to discover Havana Vieja, the old part of the city with some of the most stunning Spanish colonial architecture in the world. The old city was declared a UNESCO Heritage of Mankind Site in 1982. Continue with your educational overview of the City and its people by visiting some of the city’s iconic sights, including: Capitolio, Obispo Street and the Cathedral Square. During your journey, interact with a local historian/architect, such as Daniel de la Regata, duties permitting, who will talk about the changes that Old Havana has faced, both good and bad, and give you an overview as to where they get the funding to restore the old buildings and the challenges with receiving supplies.
Also visit a Graphic Arts Studio for an overview of the importance of art in Cuban life through interactions with students and staff. Learn about the training it takes to become an artist including the different techniques used. You will see old printing machinery being used and learn about challenges in getting necessary art supplies and materials. Travelers can discuss their arts experiences in the US, from different schools and programs offered to stores where supplies are readily available. The interaction will consist of understanding the techniques of graphic art as well.
After lunch, venture off to the Botanical Gardens of Havana located nine miles from the city center, where many species of indigenous tropical flora, as well as some international, are exhibited. The garden boasts a considerable collection of palms representing all Cuban species and many from the world’s tropical regions. Visit the amazing green houses with displays of cactus, ferns and many other families of plants. Among the main attractions at the gardens are the Japanese Garden, the ecologic restaurant, the greenhouse, and the exhibition of succulent plants. After your visit you will see that despite revolution and economic hardship, botanical gardens, organic farms, private gardens, and agriculture have thrived in Cuba. At the Gardens, the naturalist and his gardening staff (some of whom are students at the University of Havana) will discuss the importance of certain native plants and their efforts to preserve them. They will interact with the group and talk about different community projects available to children and adults alike. Feel free to share your gardening experiences and to offer ideas on similar projects back in the US.
Continue to the nearby Cuban National Zoo which differs from others around the world. A generous variety of animals from different parts of the world are featured here, some of which move freely in special areas that mimic their natural habitats. On a simulated safari, visitors can observe them from special buses that drive around the zoo grounds. You will get a chance to meet with the zookeepers and scientists and visit the onsite breeding facility for lions. Resident scientists will share success stories in the field, the variety of available government programs and how local volunteers are used. This is an opportunity to discuss the different programs that are offered in our zoos back home. This arranged encounter should prove to be very meaningful learning experience.
After sunset, board your antique cars for dinner at La Fontana.
Overnight at the HOTEL SARATOGA. (B,L,D)
Day 4 ~ Sunday ~ May 14
Following breakfast at your hotel, head to Las Terrazas, a community in Mayabeque Province just 45 minutes from Havana. Las Terrazas National Park is a paradise for nature lovers, where habaneros head for a breath of fresh mountain air. As you drive toward Las Terrazas you will see the landscape quickly transform from the urban Havana to lush green countryside, dotted with brightly colored houses, toiling farmers and grazing cows. Hiking trails, small lakes, waterfalls, sulfurous springs and colonial-era coffee estates await exploration. Visit the former coffee plantations, reminders of the once flourishing coffee trade in the area. You will gain an insight into how the Cuban farmers were able to produce coffee in spite of only having very basic tools. You will have time for a walk around the town to meet the friendly locals and visit the woodwork and pottery studios that are open to the public.
Las Terrazas is an ideal place to enjoy outdoor sport activities (optional, at an additional cost). A host of activities await you, such as easy hiking trails, horseback riding rowing on the lake and fishing. For the adventurous there is also a zip line, Canopy Las Terrazas, which crosses the lake into the trees. You’ll enjoy the fantastic sight of the beautiful environment of Las Terrazas community from above.
It is also a superb place for birding and for seeing the Cuban Trogon (also called tocororo) which is the national bird of Cuba because its colors mimic the colors of the Cuban flag. Other birds sought after are the Yellow-headed Warbler, the Red-legged Warbler and the Cuban Tody.
Several well-known Cuban artists are based at Las Terrazas, including Lester Campa, whose work has been exhibited internationally. Lester Campa is a political artist, his subject the politics of the environment. Las Terrazas has a store that sells original art on recycled paper and silk-screened T-shirts. Profits support a collective of local artists organized by Mr. Campa. You will enjoy lunch at “Casa del Campesino” and coffee tasting at a local café before heading back to Havana in the late afternoon feeling truly inspired.
Return to Havana and enjoy a cultural visit to the Gaudi inspired neighborhood of a mosaic tile artist Jose Rodriguez Fuster. His work has been exhibited all over the world, so it is a wonderful privilege to visit the extraordinary home of the “Picasso of the Caribbean” and see his work. He has turned his entire neighborhood in a fantasy land “Fusterlandia”. The entire area surrounding José Fuster’s studio and home is decorated in Fuster’s unique style of mixing painting and ceramic and it is utterly surreal. The community art project now incorporates over 50 houses in the neighborhood in which the residents have allowed Fuster to use their homes, walls, and benches as an artists’ canvas. The neighborhood was not created for tourism, and is still functional predominantly on a civilian level. Fuster’s work beautifies the streets, and generates money.
Dinner at paladar Mediterraneo Havana.
Overnight at the HOTEL SARATOGA. (B,L,D)
Days 5 ~ Monday ~ May 15
Havana/Cienega De Zapata/Cienfuegos
Today’s drive takes you south-east of Havana towards the Peninsula de Zapata. Walk through Cienaga de Zapata Natural Reserve, the largest swamp in the Caribbean area, which stretches over to the south coast. A national park and a wildlife reserve, it is on the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve list. It is one of the most important ecosystems in Cuba and features spectacular flora and fauna species, native residents and migratory. Mangroves, marshes, and woodlands are home to a wide variety of birds, including two found nowhere else: the Zapata Wren and the Zapata Rail.
Visit Criadero de Crocodilos, a huge crocodile farm. Interact with breeders and scientists of the research facility and learn about this breeding facility for the Rhombifier (the endangered Cuban Crocodile) and the Acutus (the threatened American Crocodile) species of crocodiles, and a sanctuary for sixteen species of endangered reptiles. The farm began operating in 1960 by a government ministry to preserve these species which had become endangered due to indiscriminate hunting, and to provide employment for local residents. The farm has more than 100,000 reptilian residents, kept in a variety of pools. You can observe them from a viewing platform that overlooks the farm.
Continue your journey via Bay of Pigs, where each spring millions of land crabs pour out of nearby swamps and into the shallow waters to breed. The bay holds historic significance as the site of the failed invasion attempt in 1961 by the U.S. against the Cuban revolution.
Lunch at Casa Enrique, a private house, and trade stories with the owners and learn of their many talents. Family owners can give an in-depth view of owning a private business in Cuba, both the challenges and benefits.
Arrive in Cienfuegos, once Fernandina de Jagua, which was awarded the title of “city” in 1880, and in July 2005, its Historic Center became a World Heritage Site. Cienfuegos has also been known as the Pearl of the South, and others have called it la Ciudad de las Cupulas (the City of Domes), for the amount of buildings whose towers end in domes. Appreciate the neoclassical architecture as you walk down the boulevard, visiting Palacio del Valle, Marti Park, Tomas Terry Theater and the cathedral.
Jagua Hotel is located in the well-known residential area of Punta Gorda, in the southern city of Cienfuegos. Hotel Jagua opened as the first hotel in post-revolutionary Cuba. The hotel’s mid-20th century architecture style features large, bright airy spaces. Rooms are spacious with balconies offering beautiful panoramic views of the bay. The hotel also has a pool and spacious pool-deck, a delightful place to relax after a busy day. Two gift shops, a pharmacy, small gym, buffet-restaurant and ample parking are also offered.
Overnight at HOTEL JAGUA or similar (B,L,D) http://www.hoteljagua.com/
Days 6 ~ Tuesday ~ May 16
Your day begins with an excursion into the Escambray Mountain range and El Cubano Park, where you will take part in a river walk with ample opportunities for bird watching. A compelling narrative on the local flora and fauna from an experienced nature guide accompanies the walk. Afterward, you will have lunch at a rustic restaurant within the park.
Leave the park and motor your way to Trinidad and Casa del Alfarero where potter Chichi Santander and his family have been crafting beautiful and nationally recognized works of pottery for generations. You will meet with the family and they will demonstrate their throwing techniques that inform the various shapes and sizes of their pieces. Trinidad is a haven for many other artists and you will have time to visit their studios as you walk around historic Trinidad and visit with artists in their own galleries.
Trinidad’s Historical Center is your next destination. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, the city center is an architectural treasure trove of 18th and 19th century buildings that rim the Plaza Mayor. Many of these expansive edifices are the remnants of the once flourishing sugar trade, fueled with cane harvested from the nearby Valle de los Ingenios. The sugar barons are gone but their beautiful homes remain. You will arrive back in Cienfuegos in time for a succulent Cuban dinner.
Dinner at the local restaurant D’Carmelina.
Overnight at the HOTEL JAGUA. (B,L,D )
Day 7 ~ Wednesday ~ May 17
Cienfuegos/Santa Clara/Cayo Santa Maria
Your first stop of the day is at the 232 acres botanic garden, just 10.5 miles east of Cienfuegos, one of Cuba’s biggest gardens. Today, the garden is run by the Cuban government and is a really fine showcase for what grows in the tropics. It houses 2000 species of plants, including 23 types of bamboo, 65 types of fig and 280 different palms (purportedly the greatest variety in one place anywhere in the world). The botanic garden was founded in 1901 by the American sugar baron Edwin F. Atkins, who initially intended to use it to study different varieties of sugarcane, but instead began planting exotic tropical trees from around the globe. It became a center for tropical plant research back in the early 1900’s, and had strong links with Harvard University during the first half of the 20th century, as a result of a meeting between Edwin Atkins and Harvard professors.
Continue with your drive to Santa Clara City located in the heart of Cuba. Founded in 1689, this vivacious city is remembered throughout history for the Battle of Santa Clara in 1958. As the Batista regime fell so did Cuba’s guerrilla revolutionary, Che Guevara. Visit the monument of Che at the Plaza de la Revolucion Ernesto Guevara, where the remains of Che and his comrades who fell in Bolivia have been interred at this site. The Che Guevara Monument confirms that El Che, “the man of the people”, is no longer a person but an icon.
You will have lunch at a community center for the elderly. The center offers classes on all types and activities from dancing, to playing dominos, various sports, sewing, and aerobics. Time permitting, you can share a game of dominos with the community members over discussions about each other’s lives, families and pass times.
Depart for Cayo Encenachos, an island located north of the main island of Cuba in the “Jardines del Rey “(King’s gardens) archipelago. Your home for two nights is the hotel Iberostar Ensenachos, an all-inclusive resort located on a private key and facing two dazzling white sand beaches, Megano and Ensenachos. The nearby Cayo Santa Maria National Park is home to flamingos, herons, cormorants and many other birds. Crystal clear waters, perfect for bathing and watersports, soft white sandy shores and offshore reefs teaming with marine life make impressive dive sites among these cayos. Enjoy various cuisines at the resort’s several restaurants featuring Italian, Asian, and international cuisine as well as fresh seafood and local delicacies.
Overnight at the HOTEL IBEROSTAR ENSENACHOS. (B,L,D)
Days 8 ~ Thursday ~ May 18
After your trek amongst the flora and fauna of the cayos, drive to Caibarién for lunch at El Curujey. Known for its beaches that resemble stretches of refined sugar, Caibarién was a mill town where raw cane was processed into granulated sweetness. You will visit the now defunct mill and gain insight into how the sugar industry, and its eventual diminution, has affected Cuba over the last 50 years. This tutorial on the impact of the sugar industry on this island nation continues when you make your way, aboard a vintage steam train, to Remedios. During this trip into the past, the crew will highlight the importance of trains and its attending rail system to the sugar industry.
In Remedios meet up with the local priest who provides many programs to the community, free of charge. He involves the entire community to make their lives better, not just through religion but through activities, sports and hobbies. Take part in, or observe, one of these activities to gain understanding of the importance of this community effort.
In the evening, share your favorite stories while attending your farewell dinner at the hotel.
Overnight at the HOTEL IBEROSTAR ENSENACHOS. (B,L,D)
Days 9 ~ Friday ~ May 19
Enriched with the beauty and soul of Cuba and its people, return to Santa Clara for your flight back home via Miami. (B, Meals Aloft)
DEPOSIT: $1,000 per person, due at time of booking
Reservations must be accompanied by the guests’ full name.
FULL PAYMENT: Due 95 days prior to departure.
In the event that reservations must be cancelled, refunds will be made according to the following schedule:
As many advance logistical arrangements have been made prior to the operation of these trips, we must adhere to the cancellation policies. We strongly suggest guests purchase trip cancellation insurance.
* All prices, inclusions and dates may be subject to change due to circumstances beyond our control.
For more information about the Zoo’s Travel Program call 801.584.1737 or email the Zoo’s Travel Coordinator.