People to People

Our program offers a fascinating opportunity to interact with the Cuban people

People to people

Most kind of licenses given out by OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control, or basically the American Government) are so-called People-to-People licenses (P2P). The philosophy behind these trips is to bring the American and Cuban peoples into contact with one another without intervention of their governments. So the purpose is not solely that Americans pay a visit to ordinary Cubans but also that they exchange experiences with them about their own lives. And all this should be to the benefit of all.

In practice P2P tours visit local schools and health institutions, visit artists, community projects, rehearsals of performing arts or lectures on specific subjects by specialists. These visits are well coordinated so the people involved are welcoming them properly and time is spent to the visit by people in charge. It is possible in some cases to bring donations but most visits are beneficial to the organizations visited so there is no need to feel awkward or indebted.

Find below a classical Havana-Trinidad P2P program.  

People to People Program Havana-Trinidad

Day 1:  Miami - Havana

9:30AM:  Depart Miami on World Atlantic Airlines #K8 426

10:30AM:  Arrive Havana, Cuba

Upon your arrival in Cuba you will first go through Immigration and Customs. The immigration officer will ask you to present your passport and Cuban visa. If you’re holding a US passport, a Cuban Immigration Officer will then stamp an entry approval on the visa, and give it back to you. The visa officially authorizes your entry into Cuba and serves as a “stamp” in your passport..   The visa card must be surrendered upon your departure from Cuba so be sure to keep it someplace safe during your stay in Cuba.

Collect your luggage and proceed through Cuban Customs which can, but rarely does, involve a luggage search and wait for the remainder of the group outside the customs area where your guide is waiting to greet you outside the terminal. 

Transfer directly to Old Havana and begin your sightseeing of Cuba’s capital by first visiting the Plaza de la Revolucion followed by the Christopher Columbus Cemetery.

Enjoy your first lunch at La Barca Restaurant located along the Malecon in Old Havana.

After lunch enjoy a leisurely orientation stroll with your guide through the vibrant cobblestone streets of Old Havana (Habana Vieja) as you immerse yourself in the colors and sounds of Cuba which surround you.

Explore the used Booksellers Market, a cross-cultural treasure trove for readers of every genre. Meet local independent booksellers and engage in friendly conversation with Cuban readers about popular Cuban and American literature.

Now that you’ve had a taste of what lies ahead during your visit to Cuba, it’s time to check in to your hotel.  After a time to unpack and a well-deserved rest we attend a brief orientation meeting to review your travel itinerary and the documentation procedures for re-entry into the USA.

Welcome dinner at the hotel this evening.

Accommodation: Hotel Parque Central. Lunch & dinner provided.

Day 2:  Havana, Alamar & Cojimar.

This morning, drive to Finca Vigia, Ernest Hemmingway’s Cuba retreat befote continuing on to  Cojimar, the fishing village that was the setting for The Old Man and the Sea. Then drive to the District of Alamar on the outskirts of Havana. Started as an expansive social housing project in the 1970’s, these Soviet-style pre-fabricated concrete apartment blocks are now home to hundreds of thousands of Cubans.

Among the buildings in Alamar are community gardens, called Organoponicos, where residents grow fruit, vegetables and herbs for their own consumption and local sale. Similar to co-op and community gardens in the United States, these Organoponicos facilitate community development and offer Alamar’s residents access to fresh produce. Enjoy a visit to one of these Organoponicos, which few visitors to Cuba have the opportunity to do.

Lunch today is at the “Papa” Hemingway’s favorite restaurant in Old Havana, La Bodeguita del Medio.

We continue with a visit to the colorful Callejon de Hamel, one of the shortest but most interesting streets in Havana. Here you will discover how the African Cuban religion of Santeria, a fusion of African belief systems like spirit worship and Christianity, is portrayed in street art and music. Meet with artists, including Salvador Gonzalez Escalona (when in residence), whose prolific murals that adorn the neighborhood reflect the culture and religious beliefs of this area.

Evening is at leisure.  Dinner not included.

Accommodation: Hotel Parque Central. Breakfast & lunch provided.

Day 3:  Havana & Las Terrazas.

 Depart for Las Terrazas in ARTEMISA Province, a “must see” in Cuba and known worldwide for its magnificent scenic beauty.

Las Terrazas was founded shortly after the Cuban Revolution in 1959 as a model community, where local farmers, known as campesinos, moved closer together in order to help each other overcome the hardships of sleeping in huts with thatched roofs, of living without electricity and of living without local schools or medical services.

First a brief stop at the Clinica Las Terrazas to learn how medical services are handled in rural Cuba. Cuban locals visit this small, multi-purpose center for medical advice, often non-traditional and homeopathic, and referrals to larger medical centers in the city, dental care by the area’s sole dentist, and even a haircut by the town hairdresser, with whom the space is also shared.

Continue to the kindergarten of the community. After a tour of the facility conducted by the director and teacher, discuss early childhood education in Cuba and the USA with school staff. Then, enjoy a brief presentation by the children.

At our next stop, we’ll visit the oldest member of the community, Maria. She is the sole proprietor of the town’s only coffee shop, Café Maria, where she and her family have been welcoming visitors for years to enjoy the “best coffee in the country.” Discuss coffee culture in Cuba and throughout the world and how cafes act as places for social interaction.

Las Terrazas is now part of UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserve, much of it reforested coffee plantation. Real reforestation began in the late 1960s by the local farmers (campesinos) who were concerned that their land had been degraded by former French coffee barons.

Visit the art studio of Lester Campa when he is in residence.

Now you’re in for an authentic, country-style Cuban lunch prepared and served outdoors at a local farmhouse near Las Terrazas.

Enroute back to Havana after lunch we have the distinct pleasure of visiting “Fusterlandia”, the home and surrounding neighborhood of “The Picasso of the Caribbean”, Jose Fuster. Starting with a small wooden home as his canvas, Mr. Fuster has turned his dream into reality and transformed not just his own home but the entire neighborhood into a unique and colorful artistic landscape. Using the money he makes from selling his artwork, Jose adorns the community with sculptures and mosaics galore.

This evening we have dinner at a  private restaurant located within walking distance of our hotel:   Ivan Chefs Justo.

Accommodation: Hotel Parque Central. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Day 4:  Havana, Cienfuegos, & Trinidad.

Shortly after breakfast this morning we depart Havana and drive along Cuba’s “autopista” highway to the town of Cienfuegos.  We explore the town’s main square, the Punta Gordo Peninsula, and a Cuban ration store where we meet the store manager who explains rationing and Cuba’s two currency system.

Enjoy a lunch at Palacio del Valle overlooking the Bay of Cienfuegos.

This afternoon we visit the Benny More School of Art  (or a local community project if the Art School is not available).  Benny More was from Cienfuegos and is known as Cuba’s most famous singer.

We continue on  to the charming old Spanish colonial town of Trinidad.   Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, Trinidad is one of the best preserved towns in all of Latin America.

Dinner this evening is at a local Paladar (in-home restaurant) within walking distance of our hotel: Paladar Villalba.

Accommodations: IBEROSTAR TRINIDAD.  Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Day 5:  Trinidad.

After breakfast this morning we visit the Casa del Alfarero, a pottery house that was founded and and has been managed by the Santander family for generations.  You will learn the process of ceramic production and have the opportunity to create a piece of your own.

Continue to one of Trinidad’s many “Casas Particulares” (bed and breakfasts), where you’ll enjoy a tour and a discussion with the owners.  Learn how bed and breakfasts are one of Cuba’s new entrepreneurial opportunities in a society where the state typically owns most enterprises.  Ask questions and share insights about U.S. businesses, including the ever popular bed and breakfasts that are ubiquitous in the U.S.

Continue to Templo de Yemaya where a Santeria Practitioner, along with some of the religion’s devotees, explain the basic principles of Santeria.  Discuss the role of religion and religious organizations throughout both Cuba and the US.

Lunch today is at the beautifully restored Hacienda de Manaca Iznaga, located in the heart of the Valley de los Ingenios, a series of valleys once known as a Cuba’s center for sugar production. Built in the late 1700s, the mansion displays an exhibition of paintings depicting the lives of slaves on sugar plantations.

After lunch learn, through the stories of local families, about the region’s harsh past where great fortunes were made on the backs of African slaves, and where many descendants of the Afro-Cuban slaves still reside.

Dinner this evening is in Paladar Solananda for a home cooked meal. Meet the multigenerational family members and get an intimate look into local Cuban daily life while enjoying one of the best meals you’ll have in Cuba!

After dinner (optional and on your own) feel free to join Cubans at either Casa de la Musica or Casa de la Trova for a community block party, a celebration where locals from all walks of life and generations come to eat, drink, dance the salsa and rumba, build friendships, and discuss neighborhood matters.  Enjoy the celebration, regarded as one of the best experiences of the trip, and engage in discussions with the locals about community life in Cuba and the US.  It’s an easy walk or taxi ride back to your hotel.

Accommodations: IBEROSTAR TRINIDAD. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Day 6:  Trinidad – Sancti Spiritus - Santa Clara & Havana.

After breakfast, we continue on to the picturesque town of Sancti Spíritus, one of the original seven cities founded in Cuba by the Spanish five centuries ago, and home to Cuba's oldest church, the Parroquial Mayor.

We continue to Santa Clara where we enjoy a special visit to the Santa Clara Music and Performing Arts School, with dance, theater and music performances by the students.  Participate in a discussion with faculty and students about the role of music and education in the USA, and the impact of music on Cuban life and its importance in education in Cuba. Should this school not be available, or in session, during your trip, an equally enjoyable and interesting visit to another community project will be substituted.  Time permitting we stop at the Che Guevarra Museum and Mausoleum.

Lunch will be served buffet style in the Los Cayenes Hotel in Santa Clara.

After lunch, return to Havana arriving late this afternoon.

This evening we take a short stroll to a privately owned restaurant for dinner (El Guijones).

Accommodations: Hotel Parque Central.  Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Day 7:  Havana.

Begin our day with a visit to a primary school (ages 5-12) located in Old Havana. Interact with the children in their classrooms and participate in a discussion session with some of the school’s administrators and teachers about Cuba’s education system and how it compares to that of the United States. (It would be a nice gesture to bring school supplies, or even some children’s clothing articles, to leave as gifts to the school).  We continue with a visit to the University of Havana Central Campus to learn more about Cuba’s higher education system. 

Lunch at  El Aljibe Restaurant in Miramar.  El Aljibe is famous for its farmer style atmosphere and delicious chicken.

This afternoon we visit the artist studio project La Lavanderia and the Artisans Market which is located on the Malecon in Old Havana..   There should be time to explore Old Havana a bit on your own if you like after the visit to the Artisan’s Market.

After some well-deserved ‘down time’ at the hotel, join your fellow travelers at the farewell dinner, served in a privately owned restaurant, Casa Vieja in Old Havana. Be sure to wear your dancing shoes as you enjoy live, traditional Cuban Buena Vista-style music and salsa dancing.

Accommodation: Hotel Parque Central   Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Day 8:  Havana - Miami  (Breakfast provided)

Today, bid farewell to Cuba as you transfer to Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport and check-in for your charter flight back to Miami. Adios Havana! Your guide will meet you in the lobby of your hotel after you check out this morning and assist with your transfer to the airport.