Art, Culture, and People of Cuba

Art, Culture, and People of Cuba

Immerse yourself in the culture, art, history, and people of Cuba. Authorized by a U.S. Department of the Treasury general license, this People-to-People education exchange program is brimming with opportunities to discover Cuba through its artists, musicians, religious leaders, teachers, students, and more. While marveling at Cuba’s opulent colonial architecture, vintage automobiles and vibrant countryside vistas, you will learn first-hand the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of Cuban people working to improve their lives and enhance their society.

Trip Itinerary:

November 11 Miami, FL

Crowne Plaza Miami International Airport Arrive in Miami, Florida. (This program begins in Miami, where accommodations are included. Transportation to Miami is not included.)

Upon arrival in Miami, you may contact the Crowne Plaza Miami International Airport to arrange pickup from the hotel shuttle.

The rest of the day is at leisure.

Cuba Briefing
We invite you to attend a short briefing about the check in procedures for your Cuba flight. An airport representative will be available to answer any of your questions and to share information about your trip. Please try to arrange your flights and transfers in order to arrive at the hotel prior to this meeting.

Accommodations – Crowne Plaza Miami International Airport

November 12 Depart Miami/Havana, Cuba

Take the hotel shuttle to Miami International Airport and check in for your flight to Havana, Cuba.

Upon arrival at Havana José Martí International Airport, proceed through immigration and customs.

Transfer and check in to the Hotel Mercure Sevilla. Located in the heart of Habana Vieja, this property features Moorish architecture and pretty city views from the 9th-floor bar.

Discovery: Welcome to Cuba!
Join your group and Travel Director for an orientation walk along Paseo del Prado, a promenade that serves as the dividing line between the neighborhoods of Habana Vieja and Central Havana. Stroll near the Malecon, a seaside haunt for Havana’s locals, and visit Parque Central.

Tonight, kick off your Cuban adventure during a Welcome Dinner at La Moraleja, one of Cuba’s oldest and finest paladares. Discover the tastes of Cuban food, which are created with classic Caribbean ingredients and elements from Spanish, Arabic and African cultures. Ubiquitous to Cuban cuisine are black beans and white rice; fried pork, chicken and slow-roasted meats; and viandas, or root vegetables. Caffeine lovers will delight in a Café Cubano or café con leche, strong coffee drinks that are usually served pre-sweetened.

Accommodations – Hotel Mercure Sevilla
Meals – Dinner

November 13 Havana

Enjoy a breakfast buffet at your hotel each morning.

Discovery: Historic Havana.
Spanish colonists founded Havana’s historic district, Habana Vieja, in 1519. Here, cobbled plazas teem with locals arguing about baseball. Men play dominos, and flea markets hawk art, used books and local souvenirs. Enjoy your first taste of this unique UNESCO World Heritage site. Take in the sights of Plaza de Armas, the city’s oldest square, and see the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, residence of the colonial Spanish governors. Admire the 19th-century Fountain of Lions in the historic Plaza de San Francisco, see Plaza Vieja and discover Havana’s busiest shopping street, Calle Obispo. This pedestrian-only thoroughfare has many state-run shops, restaurants and cuentapropistas. Meet these entrepreneurs, who have turned sidewalks and open spaces into showrooms for their wares.

Enrichment: Urban Planning and the Architectural Challenges in Havana.
Meet Cuban architect Miguel Coyula and join a discussion about contemporary city planning in the Cuban capital.

Dine on local specialties for lunch at El Templete.

Discovery: Revolutionary History and a Cultural Visit.
Cuba’s museums offer insight into the country’s unique political and revolutionary history as well as ones dedicated to its artists and dancers. This afternoon, visit the Museo de la Revolución to see extensive exhibits of Cuba’s storied history, including the Bay of Pigs and the Declaration of the Socialist Character of the Revolution. Then visit the Casa de la Cultura, a children’s cultural center, and share experiences with the staff and children.

Share the day’s favorite experiences during dinner at a local paladar. A paladar is a privately owned and operated restaurant. During a period of reform in the 1990s, many Cubans were allowed to open their own restaurants. Each paladar, Spanish for palate, offers a unique setting and menu.

Accommodations – Hotel Mercure Sevilla
Meals – Breakfast, lunch and dinner

November 14 Havana

Discovery: Cuba’s Classic Convertibles and Dance.
The streets of Havana are filled with vintage American convertibles. These 1950s classics, imported before the U.S. trade embargo began in 1960, still run because of the ingenuity of their owners. There are approximately 60,000 vintage cars in Cuba, and although they may be a hodgepodge of hand-built, improvised parts, most of them are still on the road today. Climb aboard and enjoy a drive through Havana’s historic quarter in these Cuban icons. (Don’t forget your camera!)

Continue to a contemporary dance studio where sensual hip sways, hypnotic sashays and infectious rhythms are ingrained in everyday life. Engage in a discussion with these talented specialists, talk about their professions and experiences, and see a rehearsal.

Pause for lunch at a local paladar.

Discovery: Higher Education.
Enjoy a tour of the University of Havana, located in Havana’s Vedado district. Established in 1721, it is Cuba’s oldest university. After seeing the campus, discuss Cuba’s opportunities for higher education with a school representative.

Enrichment: U.S. and Cuban Relations.
Join a University of Havana professor for a discussion about the U.S., Cuba and the Cuban economy.

Enjoy dinner at La Barraca at the landmark Hotel Nacional. Built in the early 20th century, this grand property is a popular stay for illustrious guests, visiting dignitaries and Cuba’s elite.

Accommodations – Hotel Mercure Sevilla
Meals – Breakfast, lunch and dinner

November 15 Havana

Discovery: Cuban Cigars.
Cigars and Cuba are synonymous. Their enduring liaison became known to the world soon after Columbus landed in Cuba in 1492 and subsequently introduced cigars to Europe. Learn more about their legacy and glimpse this famous industry during a visit to a cigar factory. Meet the workers and learn about their work and experiences.

Discovery/Enrichment: Contemporary Art in Cuba.
Continue to the National Museum of Fine Arts to see its collection of Cuban art featuring Cuban artists from the 17th century until today. As you walk through the museum, join a discussion about contemporary Cuban artists and their work. Wilfredo Benítez of the nonprofit arts advocacy group, the Ludwig Foundation, will lead the talk.

Discovery: Inside the Artists’ Studio.
Cuba’s art scene reflects a diverse menagerie of African, North and South American, and European cultures and influences. Discover this vibrant and thought-provoking art culture during a visit to Casa Fuster, the home and studio of Cuban painter and sculptor Jose Fuster. Join a discussion with a local artist about his work and the obstacles to opening a private studio, and learn more about the new opportunities for artists in Cuba.

Enjoy a group lunch at Casa Fuster.

Discovery: Meet the People of Santa Venia.
Visit La Quinta Santa Venia, a private home for senior citizens. Talk with the nuns who work at the home, and exchange personal stories with the residents.

Discovery: A Lesson in Afro-Cuban Dance.
Back in Havana, discover the delights of Afro-Cuban dance from various local dancers, including Noel Santovenia Alonso, Marco Hernandez Suarez, Maria Yudith Cruz Reinoso and Yadira Cabrera Echevaria. These dancers were all born and raised in Havana and dancing has been a part of their lives since their childhood. Each has been a part of several dance troupes and studios since they were young children, and they now teach tango and salsa. You may even try a few steps yourself!

Tonight, savor a delicious dinner at La Foreste.

Accommodations – Hotel Mercure Sevilla
Meals – Breakfast, lunch and dinner

November 16 Pinar del Rio

Discovery: Rural Cuba.
Venture outside Havana to the beautiful countryside and the Sierra del Rosario mountain range on the western part of the island. Here, the cadence of daily life is a little bit slower. Straw-hatted farmers drive oxen-drawn carts and rickety bicycles through tobacco fields, and families converse on front stoops. Your scenic drive takes you through rural communities and past tobacco plantations to Las Terrazas, a model socialist community established in the 1980s. Pay a visit to a local elementary school and chat with the teachers and students. Take a walk through the community, savor a cup of delightfully strong Cuban coffee and browse through a local art studio.

Lunch is served at El Romero, an eco-restaurant that prepares dishes with locally and organically grown vegetables.

Enjoy a discussion on Cuba’s agricultural industry led by Tito Gudas, the restaurant’s chef. Visit the organic vegetable gardens and meet the community’s gardeners.

Discover your own dining pleasures during dinner at leisure. Your AHI Travel Director will be available to offer suggestions on dining choices. Perhaps enjoy a refreshing mojito, rum or no-nonsense Cuba Libre.

Accommodations – Hotel Mercure Sevilla
Meals – Breakfast and lunch

November 17 Havana/Cienfuegos

Discovery: Hemingway’s “Lookout Farm” and Sugar Cane.
Depart Havana for Cienfuegos. En route, visit La Finca Vigia, or “lookout farm,” the storied home of author Ernest Hemingway. The famed writer purchased the property in 1940 and lived there for twenty years with his wife, Martha. Then visit Australia, a former sugar cane factory. After being introduced by Spanish conqueror Diego Velázquez, Cuba became the world’s largest exporter of sugar in the 19th and 20th centuries. See this retired factory, and speak with former workers and mechanics to learn about their experiences.

Relax during a group lunch at a local restaurant.

Discovery: Introducing Cienfuegos.
Take a walking tour of Parque Martí, the city’s main square. See the cathedral built in 1819 and admire its French stained-glass windows and striking red bell towers.

Check in to Hotel Jagua.

Enjoy dinner at Jardin de los Laureles.

Accommodations – Hotel Jagua
Meals – Breakfast, lunch and dinner

November 18 Trinidad/Cienfuegos

Discovery: Trinidad and Local Life.
Explore the city of Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage site. In Plaza Mayor, see the Iglesia de la Santísima Trinidad, Cuba’s oldest church and the Museo de Arquitectura. Stroll past the Museo Romántico de Artes Decorativas, which holds a collection of 19th-century furnishings and china. At a local home in Trinidad, meet the Mata family and learn about typical Cuban life.

Savor a buffet lunch at the Plaza Mayor.

Free Time: Enjoy time at leisure to make your own discoveries near Plaza Mayor.

Discovery: An Evening of Music in Cienfuegos.
Visit the Teatro de Cienfuegos and watch a foot-tapping musical performance by renowned musicians. Afterwards, meet the members of the ensemble and learn about their music and training.

Gather with your travel companions for a Farewell Dinner at El Lagarto. Meet the owners of this paladar, Maylin Cruz Garcia and Antonio “Tony” Lleonart Ordones, and discuss their experiences.

Accommodations – Hotel Jagua
Meals – Breakfast, lunch and dinner

November 19 Depart for Miami/Arrive in Gateway City

Discovery: Cuba’s Education.
After breakfast this morning, visit a maternity home, and speak with the medical staff about Cuba’s health care system.

Transfer to the airport for the return flight to Miami.

Meals – Breakfast

NOTE: Itinerary schedule may change due to local conditions. Many excursions in this program involve an element of walking.

The general license for this program, administered by the U.S. Department of the Treasuryís Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), requires that People-to-People educational exchange travelers participate in a full-time schedule of activities that will result in meaningful interaction with the Cuban people, and imposes on AHI the obligation to ensure that participation. By registering for this program, you certify that you will adhere without deviation to the program itinerary. OFAC may require you to provide a report about the educational exchange activities, and requires that you maintain copies of your records relating to this Exchange for a period of five years. Operated in accordance with regulations issued by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Treasury Department. This exclusive program, developed by AHI International Corp., opens the door to a neighbor country long closed to American travelers. It is designed to promote People-to-People contact and cultural exchange.



We experienced all aspects of life in Cuba in an enjoyable way.

- Linda Johnson, 2017

I never thought I’d get to visit Cuba in my lifetime, it was great!

- Gail Ladwig Drown, 2017

This was a wonderful trip to Cuba! I would recommend traveling with the U of I travel program to all my friends and family.

- Karen Ciolino, 2017

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