Cuba: Historical, Cultural & Eco-Immersion Expedition
July 24th – August 9th, 2018

Day 1: Arrival: Welcome to Havana! July 24th, 2018

At the Airport Jose Marti in Havana, we will be greeted by our local guides. This afternoon we will orient ourselves to the city of Havana. After dinner at a Paladar, the Cuban term for a local family-run restaurant (as opposed to a state-run business) we will travel to the Morro Fortress to enjoy the Cannon Ceremony, an old Havanan tradition that marked the closing of the walls of the city.  There are many differences between Cuban and American cultures, and part of the orientation will be to discuss, as a group, noticeable differences in the way Cubans spend their free time together. This will also give us the opportunity to set the tone for the trip and get to know each other a little better.

Important Themes:

  • Your guides will introduce the Story Approach and the teaching themes that will cohesively link together the incredible wealth of information you will learn on the trip.
  • Your group will be introduced to the Expedition Mentality, our nuanced strategy for creating the strongest possible group culture.
  • OuOur first nightly circle and bandana ceremony will reinforce the Expedition Mentality and set the tone for the best possible experiential learning tripDaily life in Cuba: what to expect.
  • Daily life in Cuba: what to expect

Day 2: Modern History of Havana July 25th, 2018

This morning, enjoy breakfast and fresh coffee before we head to Fusterlandia, an ongoing project first hatched 20 years ago. On this art project, you will enjoy sculpture and – above all – mosaic tiles of every color and description, beautiful spiraling walkways, rippling pools and sunburst fountains that make Gaudí’s Park Güell look positively staid.

Over half the neighborhood has been given similar artistic treatment from street signs to bus stops to the local doctor’s house. Lunch will be at a local restaurant. After lunch we will learn about modern Havana by visiting Miramar and Vedado, Havana University, and Plaza de la Revolution. This is where most political figures, including Castro, address the public. We will then ride the American Old Cars by Malecon towards Old Havana. Finally, in the historic center of Havana we will visit the Four Plazas of Old Havana, Hemingway’s room at Ambos Mundos hotel, and the City Museum. After some free time in the Craft Market, we return to the hotel to get ready for dinner.

Important Themes:

  • Cuban Art and Architecture through changing times
  • Modern Cuba versus Old Havana
  • Cultural heritage preservation: the need is now

Day 3: Havana – Zapata Wetlands/Bay of Pigs July 26th, 2018

This morning after breakfast we will depart to Cienaga de Zapata Biosphere Reserve (also known as Montemar National Park) that has been declared the best-preserved wetlands in the Caribbean. It boasts 900 different plant species, 175 species of birds, 31 species of reptiles and over 1000 species of unique invertebrates, an ecological treasure.

Afternoon guided hike in one of the many park trails, where you will have the chance to see many unique species of birds native only to Cuba- including the world’s smallest hummingbird, the Bee Hummingbird.

Important Themes:

  • The importance of wetlands
  • Conservation areas. 
  • Endemic Species in Cuba

Day 4: Bay of Pigs July 27th, 2018

Today we will have the chance to enjoy some of the water adventures available in the Bay of Pigs area. See the rich underwater life populating the Bay of Pigs, explore the underwater caves at Cueva de los Peces, go snorkeling in the shallow waters at Punta Perdiz or enjoy the calm waters at the quiet Caleta Buena.

Important Themes:

  • Life in a rural Cuban village
  • Flora and Fauna of Cuba

Day 5: Bay of Pigs – Cienfuegos – Trinidad July 28th, 2018 

After breakfast, we will visit Playa Giron museum. This is a fascinating museum, full to overflowing with photos for those who don’t read Spanish, and we will gain a unique perspective from this important historical site that is a little off the beaten track.
After this visit, we continue on to Cienfuegos, known as “the South Pearl,” the only city that was founded by French colonists.

After a delicious lunch in Cienfuegos, we depart for Trinidad. In the afternoon we visit the city: Plaza Mayor, a perfect place for people watching. We learn the art of pottery at the Pottery House, visit the Municipal Museum “Cantero Palace” or the Romance Museum, a former sugar baron’s mansion, which offers a peek into Cuba’s rich colonial past. Trinidad was declared World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 1988 and we will discover why.

Important Themes:

  • History of US involvement in Cuba
  • Bio-diversity and the unique Cuban landscape
  • Colonialism in Cuba: conceptions from different perspectives

Day 6: Topes de Collantes   July 29th, 2018 

We will start our day with a drive out to Topes de Collantes, located in the Sierra del Escambray which is Cuba’s second-largest mountain range. Topes de Collates has caves, rivers, canyons, waterfalls, grottos and crystal clear water. We are picked up in a specialized truck to travel one of the paths. The opportunity to enjoy the flora and fauna of this area of Cuba is unmatched during this drive. We enjoy a nature hike with local experts, who help us spot the famous Tocororo Trogon, the cuban national bird. After lunch, we will visit “El Manantial” Farm to learn about organic farming and sustainability practices. Here we will meet Oscar and Aray who will show us how their dream of a sustainable living is becoming a reality. Enjoy a cup of coffee we learn about sustainable construction and how they built their own house, and eat fresh produce from their farm.

Important Themes:

  • Comparing forms of agriculture
  • Flora and fauna of Cuba
  • Geography of Cuba: Environment shaping culture

Day 7: Trinidad July 30th, 2018

After breakfast, we have some time to explore Trinidad and meet some locals as we seek to learn more about every day life in Cuba.

Mid morning, we take a cooking class with local chefs- we try our hand at making classic Cuban dishes – “Moros y Cristianos”, “Pollo en Cazuela”, “yucas con mojo” and get to taste our handiwork! After lunch we depart for Ancon Beach, which is one of the most beautiful beaches in the area for some afternoon sun. In the evening, we get moving as we enjoy the orchestra that plays dance music every night in the city plaza.

Important Themes:

  • Slavery in Cuba and the Caribbean
  • Social, Economic, and Environmental History of Sugar cane in Cuba.
  • The history of the Sugarmill Valley.

Day 8: Trinidad to Camaguey  July 31st, 2018

Today we will start our journey driving from Trinidad to Camaguey, on our way, we will stop in the beautiful city of Santi Spíritus visiting the Parroquia Mayor, one of the most important sights in Santi Spitirus. After lunch we will continue our Journey to Camaguey. Upon arrival we relax and explore town before dinner.

Important Themes:

  • Religion in Latin America and Cuba
  • Architecture in Cuba
  • History of Baseball in Cuba, and the Sancti Spiritus Gallos

Day 9: Camaguey Aug. 1st, 2018 

After breakfast we will enjoy a city tour of this amazing city where we will explore some of the most beautiful churches in Cuba, as well as the Plaza de San Juan de Dios and Ignacio Agramonte Museum.

Important Themes:

  • Communism and impact on religious practice
  • Family structure and life in Cuba
  • Cuba’s relationship with it’s Latin American neighbors

Day 10: Camaguey to Holguin Aug. 2nd, 2018

Today we will leave behind Camaguey and head to the charming city of Holguín, known for its proliferation of parks. Spend the afternoon enjoying the vibrant atmosphere of the city and learning about it’s history.

Late afternoon, visit the Hill of the Cross (Loma de la Cruz), Cuba’s largest stairway. A 458-steps climb takes you to the top of the Loma de la Cruz, a symbol of this colourful villa and one of its main attractions. Considered a ritual and an unavoidable adventure for those who visit the city, such climb is rewarded with a spectacular view of the city. (You can also get to the top by car if you want to avoid the climb but still enjoy the view).

Important Themes:

  • Rural Tourism
  • Importance of parks in a city
  • Cuban daily rituals and rhythm of life

Day 11: Holguin  Aug. 3rd, 2018

This morning, we head to Cayo Saetia, where we will enjoy a Cuban safari. Preserved as a virgin area, the park stretches for 42 square kilometers with forests that are home to a wide variety of animal species, such as white-tail deer, buffaloes, ostriches, peacocks, zebras, antelopes and hundreds of birds.

After lunch, jeep transfer to Pinares de Mayarí, located in La Mensura National Park which is 680m above sea level. We will look for the flora and fauna of the park that includes the national Bird of Cuba. We will hike along a trail finishing up with a swim in a beautiful pond. This national park is also home of several endemic species of plants and birds that we will try to spot along the way. As we drive we will be able to see the local school, and the majestic Nipe Bay, which is one of the biggest around the world. We also have the chance to visit Salto del Guayabo, a 100 meter high waterfall and the tallest waterfall in Cuba

Important Themes:

  • Valuing Nature: Human conceptions of and interactions with nature
  • Ecosystem services: what do we get from nature?
  • Strategies for conservation: how does Cuba work to preserve natural areas?

Day 12: Holguin to Santa Clara Aug. 4th, 2018

This morning we will visit an organ Factory, which is the only mechanical music organ factory in Cuba. This small company produces six organs a year, as well as guitars and other instruments. If we are lucky we may hear one of the eight professional organ groups that exist in Holguín.

In the afternoon, we head to Santa Clara province to start our way back to Havana.

Important Themes:

  • Small trade: obstacles and opportunities in a Communist economy
  • Coastal communities
  • Musical instruments of Cuba

Day 13: Santa Clara to Havana Aug. 5th, 2018

After breakfast, visit Santa Clara city and its Mausoleum, as well as the Armored Train Memorial. Here we will learn more about the executed marxist revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara. After some free time at the Central Park, we have lunch. Drive back to Havana. Dinner at a local restaurant or Paladar.

Important Themes

  • Che: Icon of the Revolution
  • Local perceptions of the revolution and Cuban government
  • Freedom of expression: liberty and constraints for Cuban citizens

Day 14: Havana – Las Terrazas –  Puerto Esperanza Aug. 6th, 2018  

After an early morning breakfast, departure to Las Terrazas eco-community, located an hour west of Havana in the
Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve. Las Terrazas is located in an area of around 5,000 hectares, in which a project of sustainable rural economy is being developed, based on the rational use of its natural resources for tourism.

We will visit Lester Campa’s home-studio. Campa’s work features the fecund landscape of Las Terrazas with its flowing waters, soaring Royal Palms, and beautiful forests.

Lunch is at one of the restaurants in Las Terrazas.

Early afternoon, continue driving to the northern coastline of Pinar del Rio. Lodging at Casas Particulares in the small fishing town of Puerto Esperanza.

Important Themes

  • Strategies for sustainability
  • Community involvement: working towards a better future
  • Resourcefulness: making the most of limited resources and opportunities

Day 15: Puerto Esperanza Aug. 7th, 2018

After breakfast, we will visit Los Alevines Lake on Tiki Farm, where you can sample various delicacies from the famously sweet waters of the lake such as shrimps, catfish, fingerling and more.

You will have the chance to enjoy a horseback ride, taste local fruits and refresh yourself with coconut water. We will enjoy a delicious lunch at Finca El Tiki.

Free afternoon to learn more about Puerto Esperanza Community Project. Visit a local artist and enjoy some typical dances at the Salon Comunal. Dinner at a local restaurant.

Important Themes

  • Cuban education system
  • Career opportunities in Cuba
  • Arts and culture in daily Cuban life

Day 16: Puerto Esperanza- Havana Aug. 8th, 2018

After breakfast, depart to Havana. On the way, we visit Santo Tomas Cave -the most extensive cave system in Cuba. There areover 46km of galleries on eight levels, with a 1km section accessible to visitors. There’s no artificial lighting, but headlamps are provided for the 90-minute guided tour. Highlights include bats, stalagmites and stalactites, underground pools, stunning rock formations and a replica of an ancient native Indian mural.

Lunch is at Agroecological Farm “El Paraiso” with a great view of the valley. Depart to Havana and dinner at a Paladar. Lodging
at Casa Particular.

Important Themes

  • Island Life: the impact of Cuba’s geographical setting and geologic makeup on the environment and human history of the island
  • Eco-Tourism in action
  • Regional differences in Cuba

Day 17: Home with Inspiration! Aug. 9th, 2018

After a quick breakfast at our hotel, we depart for the airport to board our flight home. We return filled with inspiration and memories to last a lifetime of our wonderful Cuban Expedition.

Program Cost: $4895 per person, all inclusive land cost 

  • Includes all lodging, meals, activities, in-country transportation, local bi-lingual guides, emergency medical insurance
  • Does not include international flight, gratuities, incidentals, activities not listed in itinerary
  • * Minimum of 5 participants required for program to run