Why we love this trip:
- A comprehensive full day tour of Havana will give you the lowdown on this beguiling capital city.
- You’ll get to visit the final resting place of revolutionary Che Guevara, interred near Santa Clara in a specially constructed mausoleum and museum.
- You can choose to explore the historic Valley of the Sugar Mills in Trinidad, the centre of the world’s sugar production during the eighteenth century and to visit Cuba's best south coast beach - Playa Ancon.
- Get an insight into the world of cigars, seeing how tobacco is cultivated in Viñales and visiting a cigar factory in Havana.
- Always looking to give you as authentic an experience as possible, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in Cuba’s music and dance scene while on your 8 Day Private Cuba tour.
- See the colourful streets and work of prominent and emerging Cuban artists in the Callejon de Hamel area.
- Receive a guided orientation walk to get your bearings at each destination you visit.
- Experience true Cuban hospitality at wonderful specially chosen upgraded family-run casa particulares (Cuban bed and breakfasts) or historic hotels.
Is this trip right for you?
We believe our 8 Day Private Cuba tour gives the right balance of informative cultural experiences and periods of relaxation, giving you the freedom to explore on your own without missing out on vital sights of interest. Being a private tour means you’ll never feel lost in the crowd as your local Cuban guide shows you around and the tour can travel at a pace suitable to your fitness levels.
Estimated travel times:
Cuba is the Caribbean’s largest nation, and our 8 Day Private Cuba Tour aims to show you as much of the island as possible. However, we will never rush you, and longer journeys between destinations will include stops for a bit to eat or to stretch your legs and take in your beautiful surroundings. The sorts of travel times you can expect are detailed below:
- From Havana to Viñales: 3 hours
- From Havana to Trinidad (via Santa Clara): 5 hours
- From Trinidad to Cienfuegos: 1 hour
- Cienfuegos to Havana (via Bay of Pigs): 4 hours
To download our Cuba drive times map (click here).
All private transportation is included between destinations and for any activities/ excursions included in your itinerary that require transportation to and from the activity. Any extra transportation requirements can be organised through your Cuban guide and paid for locally in Cuba.
You will be driven from destination to destination in comfort, using private air conditioned transport, so you’ll be able to sit back, relax, and let someone else deal with the driving.
Spending money on tour:
Everyone spends money at different rates, and in addition to that, many of your major expenses such as accommodation, transport between destinations, airport transfers, your guide and two lunches are already included. You’ll therefore need enough money to cover the rest of your meals, drinks, tips and souvenirs. If there’s the possibility you’ll book onto an optional extra excursion you might want to bring some additional money for that too. All in all, we recommend bringing between 50 to 60 CUC per person per day. The CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso) is valued 1:1 with the US$ (not taking into consideration exchange fees and penalties).
Bienvenido! Welcome to Cuba. It doesn’t matter what time your flight arrives into Havana since we deliberately keep the first day of your 8 Day/ 7 Night Private Cuba tour relaxed and flexible. We’ll arrange your airport transfer and one of our representatives will meet you at the airport before whisking you to your accommodation in Havana.
Havana is the ideal starting point for our 8 Day Private Cuba Tour as is it representative of the country as a whole mixing a faded grandeur of its colonial architecture with lovingly maintained buildings that have seen better days. There’s so much life here, and if you’ve ever read anything about Havana, you’ll notice that the word “vibrant” is used a lot. You’ll soon see that it’s a highly accurate description of the Cuba capital.
Founded way back in 1514 as a trading port, it was subjected to regular pirate attacks. You can still see a number of fortifications built to defend the city during its tumultuous four centuries of history that saw it become one of the largest cities in the Americas. The city was also briefly part of the British Empire when the Royal Navy captured it in the 1760s, although they were happy to trade the city for the then Spanish territory of Florida less than a year later.
With pirate attacks, various wars and revolutions, as well as the infamous US trade embargo, Havana has taken quite a beating over the centuries. Tourism has been a driving factor in the city’s ability to stay afloat and maintain its beautiful buildings, although this beautification is less evident the further you venture from Old Havana and into the streets of the Vedado and Miramar neighbourhoods, where Havana’s wealthy used to live. After the revolution, such ostentatious privilege was frowned upon and the mansions fell into disrepair. Many of these grand buildings are now being repurposed and being turned into cultural hubs and restaurants.
Havana’s dining scene has also recently undergone revolution. Prior to 2010, the vast majority of restaurants were run by the state, resulting in platefuls of uninspired mess masquerading as food. Once the hospitality industry was deregulated, the restaurant scene flourished with family-run paladares popping up all over the city, and has quickly become world class. Chefs are now able to innovate and make use of local ingredients with utterly delicious results.
Your local Cuban guide will visit your accommodation to introduce themselves and to answer any questions you might have about the itinerary as outlined. Subject to you arrival time, your guide will take you on an orientation walk of the local area. Your guide will also arrange a classic convertible car to take you to El Morro Fort and El Cristo de La Habana. This is the perfect opportunity to learn a little more about Havana's turbulent history and to take some impressive photos of the city and iconic Malecon as the sun sets. If you arrive too late to do this activity on Day One, it can easily be incorporated into Day Two's schedule.
You will then have the opportunity of an optional evening meal with your guide at one of Havana’s paladares, and a first chance to experience the capital’s nightlife if you’re still feeling fresh.
‘B’ denotes breakfast, and ‘L’ lunch, in the descriptions of the following days.
Your guided foray to see Old Havana this morning is on foot, so after your hearty Cuban breakfast we recommend pulling on a pair of good walking shoes. As part of the tour you will visit La Catedral San Cristobal de la Habana (described by the novelist Alejo Carpentier as ‘music set in stone’) and famous landmarks such as the Palacio de los Marqueses de Aguas Claras (now home to a restaurant) and the Plaza de Armas, complete with a statue of Manuel de Cespedes, one of the leaders of the independence movement. You will also have the opportunity to admire the exteriors of two of Havana’s best museums – the Museo de la Revolucion and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.
Your Old Havana walking tour continues to take in the Central Park, the Opera House, the Capitol Building, the former Bacardi Building, and the former Presidential Palace. The focal point of the Old Havana Walking Tour will be exploring Old Havana's most beautiful squares - the Plaza San Francisco de Asis, Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza de Armas, before finishing at Plaza Vieja. Naturally, there will be plenty of opportunities for photos, as well as the chance to sit in the shade with a cooling drink. Lunch is also included today at a authentic family run restaurant that offers traditional local cuisine.
When you are ready from lunch you will take to the streets once more, but this time in one of the capital’s world renowned classic cars, as the driver directs you around the most famous areas of Havana including Havana Vedado, the Malecon, Revolution Square, the stunning neighbourhood of Miramar and the famous cemetery of Colon. Look out for other vintage cars as you do so. There are thousands of these cars on Cuban streets and they’re a necessity as well as a novelty. After the US put a stop to imports, it was financially difficult for Cuba to import vehicles from other parts of the world, and so the cars that were already in the country had to stay maintained and road ready.
As the day draws to an end on your 8 Day Private Cuba Tour, you will visit the Hotel Nacional in the Vedado neighbourhood for a drink (included) and a wonderful view of the Malecón as the sun goes down. However, if you would prefer, you can instead choose to take to the dance floor with a salsa lesson, or learn how to make the perfect mojito on one of Havana’s roof-tops.
You have a few options in the evening. You might want to visit one of Havana’s jazz clubs, such as the delightfully named Vixen and the Crow. Located on La Rampa, you enter through a British red telephone box before descending into the tight, smoky basement. The freestyle jazz here is second to none, and in the past has hosted such big names as Chucho Valdés and George Benson.
Just three hours from Havana are the lush foliage covered hills that surround the utterly charming little rural township of Viñales. Viñales has one of the most breath-taking locations of anywhere in Cuba, and reliant on agriculture for a large sector of the local economy, it’s where the country’s famed cigars begin their journey, courtesy of the sweeping tobacco fields that surround the town.
Your guide will take you on a walking tour of Viñales township and the surrounding farmlands by foot or by bicycle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999 in recognition of the areas traditional farming practices and architectural legacy, followed by lunch at the Finca Agroecologica El Paraiso organic farm. You’ll see how tobacco is farmed, and witness a cigar rolling demonstration – one of the highlights of our 8 Day Private Cuba tour. The rich sweet scent of the leaves in the drying house is a memory that will stay with you for a long time, as will the views from the lookout point at Los Jasmines.
While in the national park you’ll also get to see the 120 m long mural de la prehistoria painted over one of the park’s magote hills by artist Leovigildo Gonzalez Morillo.
Your evening back in Havana is left free for you to take in some of the capital on your own, though of course your guide will be happy to give you recommendations of where to eat or dance the night away, and will be happy to make bookings on your behalf and host you of requested.
While tourism is vital for the Cuban economy, the country also has profited from its two most famous exports – rum and cigars. On day four of your 8 day Cuba tour you will get up close and personal with these well-known indulgences.
Your guide will pick you up from your accommodation and take you to the Partagas Cigar Factory to learn more about the cultural significance of Cuba’s cigars. You’ll then visit the Havana Rum Museum, housed in a grand former palace. There are plenty of tastings for the curious, and you can even buy some to take away with you. But if you don’t fancy drinking, you’ll still get a lot out of this visit.
Not interested in rum or cigars? That’s OK. We can arrange a number of other activities this morning including a ‘Farm to Table Cooking Experience’ or a visit to Havana’s local beach – Playas del Este.
Once you have had the chance to find yourself lunch, you have the choice of three different activities for the afternoon. Our first choice is to pay a visit to the Museo de la Revolucion, housed in Batista’s presidential palace. While inside you’ll see exhibits dedicated to the revolutionary period, behind the building you’ll find the Granma yacht which brought Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, and his brother Raul (the current Cuban president) to Cuba for the revolution from Mexico. The engine of the U2 American spy plane shot down during the Cuban Missile Crisis is also on display.
Alternatively, your guide can take you to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes – or Museum of Fine Arts. Established in 1913, the museum displays art from the colonial period of the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries right up to more contemporary times.
Finally, you might prefer to visit Hemingway’s former residence, finca vigia. On the outskirts of the capital, the farm was the Nobel Prize winning American author’s home for three decades, and has recently been extensively renovated by the Cuban government. A key part of the author’s life, it was here that he wrote both For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea.
After your choice of visit above it will be time to explore Havana’s art scene with a visit to Callejon de Hammel, a brightly coloured alleyway in central Havana where many of the city’s established and emerging artists work. Your 8 day private Cuba group tour allows you to visit various studios and watch the artists at work, and hear them talk about how their country’s history has influenced their work. Your itinerary also includes any artistic events that are being staged in the city at the time of your visit.
In the evening your guide can arrange for tickets and transfers to the Tropicana Cabaret (cost not included in your tour), Cuba’s oldest and most prestigious cabaret, set over lush tropical gardens in Havana’s Marianao neighbourhood. This iconic venue has been delighting crowds since 1939 and you really should join them.
Santa Clara was the site of the vicious last battle of the Cuban Revolution. Extensively damaged, buildings were replaced in an eclectic style, making for a truly unique cityscape as well as a place of profound beauty.
Given the town’s importance to the success of the revolution, it is no surprise the communist authorities decided that the city should become the final resting place of Che Guevara. Bizarrely for such a famous man – whose face is seen on tee-shorts throughout the world – his body was only discovered in 1997, in Bolivia, where he had gone to further the revolutionary cause. Shipped to his adopted home (Guevara was born in Argentina) his purpose built mausoleum and museum is a fitting, if lovingly austere, tribute to one of the hero of the revolution.
After Santa Clara, your 8 Day Private Cuba Tour will take you to the sun-drenched streets of Trinidad, a living museum stuck in the time of Cuba’s first War of Independence when local sugar plantations were devastated by fire. Modern intrusions are a rare sight and it’s possible to imagine yourself transported back to that time. Here you have almost two full days to explore Trinidad and its surroundings. After your induction walk around the town, your guide will make a number of suggestions regarding the best optional activities to do at the time of your visit. Time seems to have stood still in Trinidad, and you will have plenty of time to fully enjoy this experience. Taking part in a tour of the township, you will see the Cantero, Canchanchara, Palacio Brunet, Plaza Mayor, Museo Romantico, and a pottery workshop among other sights.
You’ll return to Plaza Mayor later, since this is where you’ll find Trinidad’s Casa de la Musica, somewhere to keep salsa dancing until your feet hurt. If you’re a bit shy to give salsa a go at first in front of the locals, then consider enjoying a reasonably priced mojito (or two) first to give you some much needed courage!
Your time in and around Trinidad is all about creating memories that will linger forever, and to do that, you have another choice of activities to decide upon today. You will certainly never forget taking in the panoramic views of the Valle de Los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills), a valley near Trinidad that was once the focal point of Cuba’s sugar production. There are dozens of disused sugar mills in the area, including plantation houses, slave quarters and even towers. It’s a wonderfully eerie experience to walk amongst the remains and imagine what life was like here when Cuba was the world’s largest producer of the sweet stuff.
As slavery was made illegal and the former slave workers were freed, many of the once captive men and women spread out across Cuba, giving the country its distinctive Afro-Caribbean culture which has been mixed with the country’s Spanish heritage to create the Cuba as we know and love it today.
You can also choose between a Salto del Caburni waterfall trek or heading to the perfect sands at Playa Ancon. The waterfall trek to Salto del Caburni is one of Cuba’s most popular outdoor excursions. At a relatively easy 7 km round trip, it will get you up close and personal with the amazing scenery of Parque Natural Topes de Collantes. It winds its way downhill through lush tropical forest, rock outcrops and canyon-like cliff faces for 3.5 km. There you’ll come across the fantastic meandering path of the 70m high waterfall complete with a natural swimming pool at its base where you can relax and cool off before the return trip.
The beautiful ribbon of white sand at Playa Ancon on the Sancti Spíritus iridescent Caribbean shoreline is often touted, with good reason, to be the finest arc of beach on Cuba’s southern coast. If the day is hot, remember to bring sun cream as well as your swimsuit, so you can enjoy the inviting azure sea without worry.
Back in Trinidad, your guide will take you for an evening of fantastic Cuban entertainment. The Palenque de los Congos Reales is a performance space, bar and nightclub that is a must for music and dance fans. Formed from an open patio in Trinidad’s ‘music alley’, it has a lively range of arts on show that include salsa, son (Cuban pop music), and trova (a traditional form of poetical singing), and that’s before the rumba drumming begins at 10 pm!
Today your 8 Day Private Cuba tour will see you visit Cienfuegos and the Bay of Pigs on your way back to Havana.
An intriguing city, Cienfuegos was settled by French migrants that came to the island to seek their fortune, rather than the Spanish like much of the rest of the island. As a result, Cienfuegos has an ambience and architectural style all of its own. The French influence becomes obvious whether you are looking at the street names or the architecture that will surround you. The city’s historic areas are also better preserved than those of many Cuban cities since Cienfuegos was generally bypassed by the pirates that plied the Caribbean Sea in favour of larger more lucrative targets.
Your guide will lead you on an exploration of the wide streets and promenades, so you can take in the Parisian feel for yourself, which ends overlooking the ocean but also takes in the seafront Malecon, Terry Theater, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Ferrer ́s Palace, former City Hall, Marti Park and the city’s triumphal arch.
After a break for a lunch of your choosing, you’ll leave Cienfuegos behind and make the short drive to the Bay of Pigs. If the name of the Bay of Pigs (Playa Girón in Spanish) rings a bell, it’s probably because this bay was the location for the US’s attempted but ultimately unsuccessful takeover of Cuba with an army of anti-Castro Cuban exiles. The area’s brutal history is in stark contrast to its current peace and beauty, and you’ll be able to see just what happened here in the fascinating local museum dedicated to the events of the invasion.
The bay is another place to have your swimsuit ready. The water here is warm and clear, and the impressive underwater visibility coupled with the abundant underwater life make this a top spot for snorkelling too. Once you’ve – reluctantly - left the water, it’s time to make your way back to heavenly Havana.
Day Eight of the tour is time to say goodbye, with no scheduled activities, but plenty of chances to explore the city at your own leisure depending onto your scheduled flight time. Should you find yourself with some free time, your guide will obviously give you suggestions about what to do, and help you make any arrangements. You could, of course, simply perch yourself in one of Havana’s sublime plazas and watch the world go by. Please download our ‘To do in Havana’ brochure for more information about the options available to you.
When the time comes around, we’ll arrange transport back to the airport to catch your departing flight.
* Please note that some activities are not available on certain days of the week or times of the year. Where this occurs, your guide will offer a selection of alternatives for your consideration or might re-arrange the order of the activities.
Your 8 Day Private Cuba Tour includes being picked up at Havana’s José Martí International Airport and delivered to your accommodation in the city. Your transfer back to the airport on your departure is also included.
Your evenings in Havana:
For your evenings, we leave the itinerary flexible. You guide will be able to organise you transfers and tickets to the best of Havana's nightlife including the Tropicana Cabaret, world-famous Buena Vista Social Club at La Taberna, Parisien Cabaret at Hotel Nacional, Cannon Shooting Ceremony, Gran Teatro Habana, and Vixen and Crow Jazz Café to name just a few.
You can learn more about the evening options available to you by downloading our 'Things To Do in Havana Brochure here.
Not quite what you looking for?
Please note that it is possible to modify the activities and excursions included as part of this tour. For more ideas about what you might like to do in Havana during the day and in your evenings, please download our ‘Things To do in Havana’ brochure here.
A note about our restaurant choices for your tour:
We like to include a range of different restaurants (paladares) that showcase the best of Havana's burgeoning private restaurant scene. Your guide will also help select the best restaurants for the tour based on consultation about your tastes and dietary requirements. Some of our favourite restaurants include Mercaderes, Café Laurent, O'Reilly 304, Alta Habana, Vista Mar, El Cocinero and El Atelier.
Accommodation on tour:
This tour is priced to stay in upgraded Casa’s/ B&B’s. The upgraded Casa’s we have hand selected are more expensive than the standard Casa’s you will find in Cuba. They are run more like your traditional B&B’s but still offer a unique cultural experience. While they shouldn’t be compared to modern Western hotels, the rooms will have air-conditioning, private en suite facilities, hot and cold water and have generally been recently renovated to a beautiful standard.
Cuba’s accommodation is very special. Until recent regulatory changes, it wasn’t possible to stay anywhere but a government owned and run hotel. But all that has now changed and a growing number of casas particulares, bed and breakfasts owned and run by ordinary families rather than the government, are opening up.
This change allows visitors to stay in a more welcoming environment than most hotels are able to offer. You’ll have privacy while still being able to interact with the locals as much as you want. You will truly be made to feel welcome, and might just forget that you’re a paying guest and not a long lost member of the family.
Not sold on staying at a Casa?
That's OK, we can certainly look to upgrade your accommodation to a 4* or 5* property, depending on your budget.
It is worth noting some accommodation providers are to be found in older buildings without elevators. If you believe that your physical capabilities will make it difficult to climb stairs, simply let us know. We will be able to find you a suitable alternative.