Scuba/Snorkeling in Cuba
Viva la Scuba!
Cuba may have been restricted politically and economically for the past 50 years, but its borders have remained open to wildlife. Cuba has one of the last remaining healthy ecosystems in the Caribbean. While diving, you will see pristine coral reefs, chilling shipwrecks and a plethora of colorful fish!
While many islands in the Caribbean have poisoned or paved over their ecological riches on land and in the sea in pursuit of a growing tourist industry, Cuba’s wild landscapes remain unspoiled. Today, about 22% of Cuban land and 25% of its marine habitat is protected by law. The Cuban government has also imposed laws that limit fishing in the waters surrounding Cuba making it an ideal place to dive.
Although the main draw for this trip will be your underwater adventures, we have included many land-based activities so that you can experience Cuba’s vibrant culture. Join us on this amazing adventure as we explore Cuba both on land and at sea.
The trips offered above fall under the United States Department of Treasury’s guidelines for legal travel to Cuba for American citizens.
*Participant number is limited to 10 per trip and is on a first-come, first-served basis.*
Day 1 : Havana
Welcome to Cuba! Today you arrive in Havana and settle into your guesthouse accommodations in the city. You will have some free time to walk around Havana and then later that night, you will meet for dinner at a local paladar, a privately owned restaurant, and a great example of Cuba’s incremental shift to a more free-market economy. After dinner, for those who are interested, let’s head to the Buena Vista Social Club for some live music and dancing.
- Activities : Free time, Buena Vista Social Club at own expense
- Meal : Local paladar dinner
- Accommodation : Casa Particular
Day 2 : Havana
Riding around in a classic car as you take in the sights and sounds of Havana is a must. You can take your pick of which car to cruise in. How about a cherry red ’59 Thunderbird? You will ride in your cars to Revolution Square and then to the outskirts of Havana to the home of the famous artist Jose Fuster. Fuster has made his entire home and much of the surrounding neighborhood into a work of art using mosaic tiles. Now referred to as Fusterlandia, it is a unique work of public art with over 80 houses decorated with ornate murals and domes to suit the personality of each of Fuster’s neighbors. You will be able to meet with Fuster’s family who now is in charge with the upkeep of his home and new projects in the neighborhood and discuss their art projects as well as view the gallery in Jose Fuster’s home.
After the drive, you will head to the Old City. Havana’s Old City is one of the best preserved colonial cities in all of the Americas, and was designated a World Heritage Site in 1982. The streets are lined with colonial architecture, 16th century fortresses and countless churches. The guided walking tour of Old Havana will take you to La Catedral San Cristobal de la Habana, the Palacio de los Marqueses de Aguas Claras and the Plaza de Armas. You will stop for lunch along the way and after lunch, you will have free time to relax and check out Havana on your own. Your guide can point you in the right direction on what to do and see based on your interests.
- Activities : AM – Classic car tour, Old Havana walking tour; PM – Free time
- Meals : Breakfast, Lunch (Dinner not included. Leader will recommend a local paladar.)
- Accommodation : Casa Particular
Day 3 : Havana to Bay of Pigs (Travel time approximately 2.5 hours)
Depart for the infamous Bay of Pigs and later that day, go diving and snorkeling where the landing of the U.S.-sponsored counter-revolutionary exile militia occurred in 1961. Besides being a prominent place in the history of Cuba, it is a wonderful spot for diving and snorkeling.
About 30 meters from the shore, see a striking underwater rock wall that is lost in the depths of the water and covers the entire coast from Playa Larga to Playa Giron. We will have one dive today and thereafter we will head to our homestay.
After the dive in the morning, we will visit a small museum that recounts the events of the conflict that occurred, which resulted in the first defeat of a U.S-backed takeover in Latin America. The museum is very interesting and well worth the stop. It takes only 30 minutes to walk through it, but is very interesting and gives a different perspective on what happened compared to what we were taught in our history books. The museum is just a 5 minute walk from our homestay as well, so you can explore the museum at your leisure.
- Activities : AM – Transfer to Bay of Pigs; 1 shore dive at Bay of Pigs, Bay of Pigs Museum; PM – Free time
- Meals : Breakfast
- Accommodation : Casa Particular
Day 4 : Bay of Pigs to Cienfuegos (Travel time approximately 1 hour)
Today we will do two more dives in the surrounding area of the Bay of Pigs. The first one will be a wall dive and then a wreck dive at Jaruco, a ship that sank in 1984.
After diving and snorkeling we will get some lunch and head for Cienfuegos, known as the “Pearl of the South”. It is a city founded by the French, which lends it a distinctly European flavor. It boasts a wide Parisian-style boulevard and elegant colonnades. After checking into our casa particular, we have the rest of the evening at leisure.
- Activities : AM – 2 shore dives at Bay of Pigs; PM – Transfer to Cienfuegos; Free time
- Meals : Breakfast
- Accommodation : Casa Particular
Day 5 : Cienfuegos to Trinidad via Guajimico (Travel time approximately 2 hours)
In the morning we will head to the city center of Cienfuegos for a short walking tour of the city. After our walking tour, let’s hit the open road towards the city of Trinidad. Along the way, we will stop at the less visited, small village of Guajimico. Here, we will do a boat dive and this dive will offer an excellent opportunity to see an abundance of both coral and fish. The town’s name in the language of the aboriginal inhabitants means “the place for fish.” The dive at Guajimico is a favorite among many with its underwater canyons and a plethora of coral and sea life. It is also a favorite spot among snorkelers as well. After the dive, it is only a short 30 minute drive to Trinidad, which is famous for picturesque buildings and cobblestone streets. Later that evening, let’s head to Casa de la Musica for some live music and mojitos…also popular because you can use wifi cards here!
- Activities : AM – Orientation walk of Cienfuegos, 1 boat dive; PM – Transfer to Trinidad; Casa de la Musica
- Meals : Breakfast
- Accommodation : Casa Particular
Day 6 : Trinidad (Playa Ancón)
After breakfast, make we’ll make our way to Playa Ancón for two boat dives along an immense coral reef. The reef houses more than 40 species of corals and sponges with unimaginable colors and forms as well as a multitude of reef fish. Snorkelers can hop on a small catamaran from the beach to your snorkel spots and then come back and enjoy one of the most pristine beaches in Cuba, Playa Ancon! In the afternoon, we will go on a walking tour of the city of Trinidad. This beautiful colonial city is home to numerous churches, many beautiful colonial buildings and a plethora of art galleries. After the walking tour, you will have some free time to explore the city. Trinidad has many live music venues, so if you’re feeling up for it, check out the cave disco!
- Activities : AM – 2 boat dives at Playa Ancón; PM – Trinidad walking tour, Free time
- Meals : Breakfast
- Accommodation : Casa Particular
Day 7 : Trinidad to Havana (Travel time approximately 5 hours)
In the morning, we will say goodbye to Trinidad and head back to Havana with a quick stop for lunch along the way.
Once in Havana, you will have some free time to freshen up before heading to our last dinner together in Havana. Afterwards, we suggest enjoying a final fun-filled night of music and dancing!
- Activities : AM – Transfer to Havana; PM – Free time, Farewell dinner
- Meals : Breakfast
- Accommodation : Casa Particular
Day 8 : Havana Departure
Say adiós to Cuba and head back to your home.
- Activities : AM – Free time (depending on departure time)
- Meals : Breakfast
* Itinerary subject to change
Regular Season 8-day Tours
$2,900 – Scuba
$2,700 – Snorkel
I’m a single traveler. Will I be charged a single supplement?Accommodation is on a twin share basis and if you are traveling on your own, you will be sharing a room with another traveler of the same gender. If there is an odd number of group members and you have a room to yourself, you do not have to pay the single supplement. If at any stage during the tour, you wish to have a room to yourself, the tour leader can arrange this per your request. You will be charged the difference in cost. This is subject to availability.
Upon booking, if you decide that you would like a single room throughout the tour, you can purchase the “single supplement”. The single supplement fee for this trip is priced at $475. If you would like your own room throughout the tour, you can purchase the additional single supplement at check-out.
- 7 nights accommodation in casa particulares (double occupancy)
- Private Cuban guide throughout tour
- Private Divemaster throughout tour
- Private transportation in an air-conditioned vehicle
- 6 dives with a certified divemaster(s) with NEW equipment imported from Europe
- Activities as noted in the itinerary
- Meals as indicated in the itinerary : All breakfasts, 1 lunch, 1 dinner
What is not included :
- 7 lunches, 7 dinners
- Airport arrival transfer
- Alcoholic beverages
- International flight and tourist card
Airport pick-up in Havana is not included in the trip cost. If you would like to purchase airport pick-up in advance with us, the cost is $70 one way for a group of 1-3 people maximum. To purchase airport pick-up in advance, please see the below link.
* For more information about flights, please refer to the tab labeled ‘Flights & Visa’.
Each of our groups have a maximum of 10 travelers plus a local Cuban guide. We try to price our trips very reasonably while taking into consideration the small group sizes.
When tour group sizes increase to 15-30 travelers, the general ambiance of the trip is less authentic and travelers tend to be less able to integrate into a society. Large tour groups also generally have less authentic contact with the locals. The more people in a tour group, the more the group experiences their own culture rather than the one of the country they are visiting.
Small group sizes are beneficial because they tend to allow for easier transport and communication. They are more mobile and can be more easily integrated into a social scene in Cuba. A small group traveler is also less likely to be treated as a tourist ready to be exploited for his/her money. Additionally, small groups are more flexible as travel plans can be more easily changed or altered en route. If the group discovers a special event or festival in Cuba that they would like to attend, and this is not covered by the original tour itinerary, it is possible to change the itinerary. A small group size also means that travelers will receive more individual attention from their tour guide. As a small group, it is easier to come to an agreement and for the tour guide to alter the reservations.
Small groups are low impact in Cuba because they don’t introduce a large number of foreigners to a local scene where they can have adverse impacts on the local society and other travelers. For example, a large tour group can take up all the seats on a local bus or book out an entire restaurant forcing locals and other travelers away from their preferences.
Should you run out of cash while in Cuba, there is NO way to get more. You will not, in any case, be able to withdraw money from an ATM using any American card. Western Union and other wiring services take a very long time to reach the receiver in Cuba.
This means that you should bring more cash than you expect to spend. It is always better to have extra cash on hand rather than run out and have no way to get more. A large number of travelers to Cuba from past trips wish they had brought more spending money for souvenirs.
Many travelers have told us that they found Cuba to be a lot more expensive than other developing countries they have visited. In Cuba, be prepared to pay as much for food and services as you would in a ‘developed’ Western country. The unexpected higher prices are mainly due to the government placing large taxes on anything considered “non-essential” or tourism-related as well as the artificial exchange rate for the CUC. The trade embargo placed on Cuba by the United States also has effect on prices as well. Cuba is a unique case and it is not as cheap as one might assume. Most visitors find it much more expensive than they anticipated.
Every traveler is different and therefore money spending will vary. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to budgeting for drinks, shopping and tipping.
If you tend to purchase many souvenirs or if you enjoy spending a lot on big nights out, we recommend that you take more than the estimated amount we listed below.
The most popular item to buy in Cuba is cigars. On average, a box of 25 high-quality cigars will cost approximately $200 USD. You can also buy single cigars, which vary greatly in price and can cost between $10 – $25 USD.
Another popular item to buy in Cuba is the artwork and the prices vary greatly depending on the size and the art piece. Expect to pay anywhere between $40 – $300 USD for most art pieces.
An estimated total to bring for expenses is between USD $500-700. WE HIGHLY ADVISE BRINGING MORE MONEY THAN YOU EXPECT TO SPEND IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY.
At the end of the trip, if you are satisfied with the service that you received from your Cuban guide and driver, you are more than welcome to tip them.
You are welcome to tip according to what you feel is appropriate, but below are some suggested amounts.
Cuban tour guide/divemaster : $30 – $80
Cuban driver : $5 – $10
Havana guide: $10 – $20
1 Cuban Convertible Peso = .87 cents USD (*Please note that this is subject to change.)
For international exchange purposes, 1.00 Cuban Convertible Peso = $1.00 USD. Note that on top of the 3% currency exchange fee, there is a 10% fee charged when exchanging US dollars, so you will only receive 87 centavos CUC for one US dollar when exchanging currencies.
All other currencies (Euros, Canadian dollars, British Pounds) only have a 3% exchange fee.
There are two official currencies in Cuba : the Peso Convertible (CUC) and the Cuban Peso (CUP or Moneda Nacional – M.N). The exchange rates of these currencies are fixed by the Cuban government and are liable to change at any time.
Tourists use Convertible Pesos (CUC) and Cubans use Cuban pesos (CUP). As a tourist, you will be quoted for everything you purchase in Convertible Pesos (CUC).
In Cuba, there are official government exchange houses called CADECA. These can be found in every reasonably-sized city and also at the airport. We suggest exchanging most of your currency at the airport for the sake of convenience. There are CADECAs in some of the bigger hotels and also near the accommodation in Havana. All exchange houses and hotels offer the same rates, so there is no need to shop around for the best rate. Be sure to count the money you receive from the CADECA, as staff have been known to short-change tourists.
You can either exchange your money at the airport or you can exchange money at a CADECA near your casa particular. If you are taking your own taxi to the casa particular, you will need to exchange money at the airport.
Exchange counters accept all denominations, but we recommend bringing 100 dollar bills. Make sure that the bills are in relatively good shape with no tears and limited wrinkles.
At the end of your trip, you can exchange your money back to USD at the airport. You cannot exchange pesos outside of Cuba, so you can either exchange back to another currency in Cuba at the airport or spend the rest on souvenirs at the airport. When you exchange back to your local currency, you will be charged a 3% fee.
Many travelers ask about bringing Euros or Canadian dollars to Cuba as these currencies do not have an additional 10% exchange fee like the USD. Remember that all foreign currencies in Cuba are subject to the 3% currency exchange fee. Your home bank may also have supplementary currency exchange fees, so it is up to you to check with your bank and inform yourself of the exchange rate, which you can find online.
Please understand that we do NOT advise travelers on what currency to bring with them to Cuba and it is the responsibility of the traveler to decide on his/her own. Please weigh the pros and cons of exchanging to another currency on your own by checking with your bank and the exchange rates online.
Upon arrival in Havana, you will need to get a taxi as there is no public transportation from the airport to the city. A taxi will cost around 25 – 30 CUC and will take approximately 45 minutes from the airport to your accommodation. This is not included in trip cost and will be an out of pocket expense. To pay for a taxi, you will need to exchange your cash to CUC at the airport. Don’t worry though, you will get a lot more details about taking a taxi in your pre-departure notes, which you will get approximately 1 week before your trip start date.
While in Cuba, all of your major transfers from city to city will be provided for you and are included in the trip cost. You will travel in a mini-bus from city to city. The transport is air-conditioned with a small cooler on the bus to store water.
As of recently, there is no longer a quota on souvenirs purchased while in Cuba. Now you can bring as many cigars and rum that you can fit in your suitcase! Be sure to keep in mind your airline luggage weight restrictions when purchasing souvenirs.
Update : As of December 1, 2016 most American phones should work in Cuba (with the exception of Metro PCS). When you land in Cuba you should get a text message from your provider telling you the rates. For most American phones, the rate is $3 – $4 a minute and 50 cents per text message. Data on your phone will not work in Cuba.
Your Cuban guide’s telephone number will be given to you approximately 5-10 days before your trip. This number can be given to your family in the unlikely case of an emergency. We ask that your family members and friends do not call the Cuban tour guide just to “touch base”. We have your emergency contact number and should any urgent situation arise, we will contact them immediately. Please do inform your family and friends of this since they will almost certainly get worried if they don’t hear from you.
Internet is quite hard to come by in Cuba, so please be prepared to only have 1~2 chances, if any, to use the Internet. It is important that your family and friends do not expect for you to call them via video chat platforms such as FaceTime and Skype because these programs don’t often work in Cuba. Internet is accessible in your free time at bigger hotels, but because of high demand and weak connection, usage can be quite difficult and frustrating.
Additionally, Internet can be accessed at specialty telecommunication stores in the form of ‘wifi cards’. They can be used in a few public squares and parks in Cuba. Do not expect high-speed Internet connection in the public wifi spaces. You may not even be able to get a connection at all, so once more, please make sure that your family and friends aren’t expecting an email or video chat from you everyday while on the trip. The Cuban people have lived without the Internet most of their lives, so you can survive 8 days, we promise!
If you want to use the Internet, you can go on your own to a wifi/Internet space. Remember that it is not guaranteed to work even when purchased. Your Cuban guide will be able to point you in the right direction.
Helping the Cuban People
Most Cubans are happy to receive gifts from foreign visitors even if they are items that you might throw out at home. Below are some suggestions that are highly appreciated :
- Sports equipment – soccer balls, baseballs, tennis balls, pumps for the balls, etc…
- Slightly used clothing especially name brand items (Adidas, Nike) for both men and women.
- Toiletries – scented lotions, perfumes, body spray, etc…
Although they are usually most happy to receive them, it is not necessary to bring gifts for your host families. They are a bit more well-off than other families in Cuba and will be happy enough with just your friendly presence. Often, the host families employ people to help them do the work in the house. As much as anyone you will meet, these employees are very suitable and deserving recipients for any gifts you may bring because they typically get paid around $10 a month for their part-time work.
We tend to discourage travelers to hand out gifts to random people on the street. Thus, we think it is a great idea to give gifts spontaneously to people who treat you with respect, don’t ask for anything, who are poorer than the average Cuban, and/or with whom you have some sort of positive interaction. Cubans are not necessarily ashamed to receive money as a gift. This is also an appropriate way to help somebody, especially if they have provided you with a service that you value.
Be mindful of your baggage weight limit when bringing gifts or you may end up paying a lot in excess baggage fees.
Some travelers from our past trips were disappointed that they could not find people to give their gifts to while traveling in Cuba. Remember that we will not be going to any particular ‘spot’ to hand out the gifts you brought, so we advise you to look on your own for people who would appreciate your gifts. As stated above, the workers at your casa particular, not the owners, are not very well-off and would be great recipients. They tend to be mostly female and will graciously accept anything you offer them.
What to Bring
You will be on the move a great deal, so our advice is to pack as lightly as possible. We recommend a duffel bag or backpack (whatever you find easiest to carry) or a reasonably-sized suitcase with wheels. Expect to have to carry your own luggage, up and down stairs, and on cobblestone streets. The driver will usually help with the luggage, but please keep that in mind at the end of the trip when tipping.
Recommended items for this trip are :
- Mosquito Repellent (DEET strength)
- Toilet Paper (although you can also buy in Cuba) and wet wipes/hand sanitizer
- Diarrhea/constipation medicine
- Bathing Suit
- Towel (for after diving/snorkeling)
- Flip flops
- Walking shoes (sneakers)
- Booties (optional but at the Bay of Pigs it is rocky at the waters edge)
- Mask, snorkel and fins with carrying bag
- Dive certification card (required)
- Dive log book (optional)
- Small day pack or across the shoulder bag for the day
- Phone (for flashlight purposes) or an actual flashlight (at night there is not much street lighting)
As far as clothing goes, bring lightweight, breathable clothes. Jeans are not recommended.
The waters surrounding Cuba are very warm, so you don’t need a wetsuit even in the winter months. Many people do prefer to wear a wetsuit, so feel free to bring your own. The dive masters will have wetsuits of all sizes for you to use.
Your BCDs and regulators will be provided to you by your divemaster. All equipment is new and imported from Europe. If you have your own and prefer to use them, you are welcome to bring them with you.
If you are a snorkeler, make sure to have a shirt that covers your back and shoulders as you will be near the surface of the water and the sun will be hitting your back, which can result in severe sunburn. Thus, bringing something to wear that covers your back is best. You can use a wet suit that the divemasters will have available for you.
Equipped and staffed dive centers in Cuba are located throughout the country and Cuban dive safety is paramount. Bilingual dive instructors are certified by international agencies including the American Canadian Underwater Certification (ACUC), the Confederation Mondiale d’Activites Subaquatiques (CMAS), Scuba Schools International (SSI) and more. PADI (US-based) does not operate in Cuba, but PADI certification is accepted in Cuba.
The centers have fast, modern dive boats for swift access to the sites and all have on-board oxygen and VHF communications.
Most dives will be between 15-25 meters.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, know your own comfort level. Do not dive deeper than you are certified to dive and signal to your divemaster, dive leader or dive buddy immediately if you are not feeling comfortable.
You will be prepped before each dive about the depth, current and visibility of the dive.
Can I go if I am not Certified?
Yes, you can. All of the areas we go to are great for snorkeling as well as other water activities.
Unfortunately, we cannot offer diving courses on the trip at this time. If you are interested in getting certified before going on the trip, contact us directly and we can arrange for you to arrive in Cuba before the trip start date to get certified. Again, please contact us directly for details.
If you need a refresher course, we suggest doing so before your trip, but if it is not possible, we can arrange one for you at our first dive site. This will be an out-of-pocket expense and you will be doing this separately from the group.
The cost for the refresher course is $90 CUC and can be paid directly to the dive master in cash.
Protecting Mother Nature
Cuba has ‘opened up’ for Americans and many are flocking there in droves to see the amazing culture and its pristine nature reserves. When diving, please remember not to step on or touch any coral. We also encourage our divers to limit the amount of plastic water bottles used by pooling their money together and buying big jugs of water from which they can refill their water bottles regularly on the mini-van.
We at Globe Drifters have spent much time researching both land-based and live aboard scuba experiences in Cuba. Cuba is a fascinating culture and we want everyone to be able to experience this, which would not be possible if the trip were on a live-aboard boat. We have opted to combine water and land-based activities so that you can see the amazing culture and have more interaction with the Cuban people and still get time underwater.
At most casa particulares, you can have items laundered for a fee depending on the quantity, but on average it will cost approximately 5 CUC per load depending on the size. You can also opt to bring a small amount of laundry detergent and do your own laundry in the sink.
If you want to give laundry to your casa particular to wash, make sure to give to them in the morning as it takes about 24 hours to dry.
Although your trip will include many activities, we try to make sure that you have ample free time in the late afternoon and evening to participate in optional activities such as live music venues or dance lessons. These activities can be arranged (and paid for) locally in cash. The tour leader is always looking for new cool things for you to do and will help arrange these activities for you. You can decide what you want to do up to the last minute, so there is no need to book ahead.
Cuba Diving Information
The coral reefs, sea grass beds and mangroves in Cuba are among the most intact marine ecosystems in the region. Nearly 100 of the world’s 500 shark species are found around Cuba.
Cuban diving waters are pristine, with very little pollution or coral destruction, perfectly preserved, and providing an underwater paradise of more than 50 species of corals and 200 species of sponges. With average normal visibility of 30 to 40 meters, divers will find an abundance of hard corals such as brain, pillar, staghorn and elkhorn, and among the soft corals, spectacular gorgonians, sea fans and plume worms. Barrel and tube sponges, sea urchins, spiny lobsters, coral shrimp and crabs are also widely present.
Dozens of species of fish, including brilliant tropical species, swim among the reefs in undulating schools or wait in solitary patience for their next morsel. Moray eels peek out from their caves, an occasional squid or octopus drifts by, and not-to-be-feared sharks, barracudas and rays often appear. Many sites include diving to wrecks and in caves of the marine platform. Night diving is available for an additional cost if you are interested.
The Cuban government is currently developing new measures to both protect the most vulnerable species and guard against overfishing of all shark species in Cuban waters.
Cuba is not like ‘home’
Cuba is an exotic place that Americans have been prohibited from going to and this is what draws many of us there. We are excited to see a country that has been frozen in time, so to speak. Because it has been frozen in time, you might experience and find some of the following things uncomfortable :
- No toilet seats on many of the toilets
- No toilet paper in many public bathrooms or toilet paper for purchase from the bathroom attendant (small change is appropriate as a tip)
- Toilet paper goes in the trash bin and NOT into the toilet itself
- Minimal water pressure in showers and sinks
- Scarcity of basic things such as batteries and chargers
- Scarcity of brand name products
- Hard to find and expensive Internet
- Lack of air conditioning in many restaurants and public buildings
You may or may not experience none to all of these things, but please remember that there is an embargo still in place and access to materials is low.
Food and Drink
Many travelers are pleasantly surprised at the quality and variety of food that can be found in Cuba. Beans and rice are the staples, along with cucumber, tomato and cabbage as conventional ingredients for a Cuban salad. Chicken and pork are the most common meats served in Cuba. However, fish and a surprising variety of delicious seafood are also very frequently offered.
Fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season include : mango, pineapple, papaya, guava, coconut, orange, grapefruit, breadfruit, corn, an assortment of sweet potatoes, bananas and enormous avocados, as well as many other tropical fruits.
Coffee and chocolate are both produced in large quantities in Cuba and the quality of coffee is generally considered excellent, although some visitors find it too strong for their liking.
Breakfast is included everyday on all of our trips in Cuba. It is an especially wholesome and filling experience at the homestays (casa particulares). The breakfast varies from house to house and typically includes coffee, milk, fruit juice, bread, eggs (or omelette), and fresh fruit.
Cubans are gradually becoming more aware of vegetarianism. Many of them are aware of its existence, but do not quite understand the reasoning behind it. The belief that to eat well means eating meat is still firmly embedded in the nation’s consciousness. However, through the influence of tourism, more and more vegetarian options are to be found on restaurant menus in Cuba and the cooks in the homestays are now quite accustomed to providing vegetarian meals. Therefore, it is not too difficult to get a vegetarian meal in Cuba. Although, you generally won’t find much variety and you may get tired of being offered the same (i.e. rice, beans, omelet and salad) everyday.
There is little problem maintaining a strict gluten-free diet in Cuba. This is mainly because the food in Cuba is very natural (there isn’t much processed food available in Cuba). This is especially true in the homestays where there is also the additional advantage of being able to order specific meals and give the cook instructions about what you can and cannot eat. The guides are informed about gluten intolerance and to know which ingredients to instruct the cooks to avoid.
Rum is the base ingredient for the world famous Cuban cocktails including the daiquiri, mojito, Ron Collins, pina colada, and cubata. Excellent draught beer is available everywhere in Cuba as well as local soft drinks.
Most of the food you will have at paladares is limited to what is produced locally and what is in season. The U.S. relies on mass imports and industrial farming to provide us variation in food year round. In Cuba, you will be offered what is in season. If it is avocado season, you will be frequently offered avocados. If it is guava season, you will eat a lot of guavas, and so on. It is quite a treat to eat local and organic food. Monsanto and other U.S. pesticide and GMO corporations are not allowed into Cuba due to the embargo, so think of how fresh the fruits and veggies will taste! Also, the meat is all grass-fed and free range. In Cuba, there is no industrial farming in which the livestock are pumped full of antibiotics or mistreated. Cuban pigs can lay on their backs and play in the mud!
Agua, por favor
Due to the tropical climate, you will find yourself drinking a lot of water. The tap water in Cuba is not drinkable and while many Cubans drink filtered tap water, most visitors stick to bottled water.
In order to alleviate the growing trash epidemic, we ask that you bring a water bottle with you on the trip. On the bus, we suggest pooling your money to purchase large jugs of water that can be stored and cooled in the mini-bus, so that you can refill your water bottle while we travel around the island.
Safety in Cuba
Cuba is one of the safer countries in which to travel. This is, in no small part, due to the swift and severe penalties handed down for even minor crimes. Stealing from a tourist is one of the more serious crimes for which lengthy sentences can be given. There is also a high concentration of police in the cities, especially in tourist areas. Police in Cuba are very well-paid compared to most Cubans, so they are not too prone to corruption. Also, there is no known terrorist threat to Cuba.
However, crimes against tourists, can occur in Cuba, so it is advisable to take general precautions just as you would do when traveling in any other country. The areas considered to be less safe in Cuba are Central Havana and Santiago de Cuba, especially late at night where pick-pocketing in crowded areas and bag-snatching have been known to occasionally occur. Violent crimes are virtually unheard of as well as armed robberies and hold-ups.
Although Cuban have the basics such as food, housing, health care, and education, the majority are very poor in comparison to any tourist. It is advisable that while in Cuba, and a basic courtesy, not to flaunt your wealth excessively and announce yourself as a potential target. Other precautions we recommend while traveling in Cuba would be not to carry lots of unnecessary cash around with you in the street, and when going somewhere late at night, not to carry external bags, to travel as a group of two or more, and take a taxi. If you keep in mind these basic safety precautions, you most certainly will have a very enjoyable and safe visit to Cuba.
Cuba, as a general rule, is much safer than any major American city.
Our Cuban guides are hand-picked for their expertise and are an excellent resource for questions about Cuban society, history, and culture. Your Cuban guide will work to ensure that each individual has the most rewarding experience possible. Like local friends, our guides show you the real Cuba by providing direct access to the people and places most tourists never discover.
Plugs and Voltage
Most places have only 110V (60Hz), and some have both 110V and 220V (60Hz). At most accommodation and throughout Cuba, an American outlet is present, so you will NOT need an adapter.
The airlines approved by the U.S. government for flights to Havana are American, JetBlue, Southwest, Delta, United, Alaska, and Spirit.
Most airlines can provide you with a round-trip flight from your home city to Havana with a connecting flight.
Below is information on flights in and out of Cuba. The information provided below is for informational purposes only and we are not responsible for the accuracy of this information. We will not be held responsible if the information below is not up-to-date and it is the responsibility of each traveler to contact the airline for questions and accuracy of information.
*For detailed information on visas, mandatory Cuban medical insurance, etc., please call the airline with which you would like to fly.
American Airlines :
United Airlines :
JetBlue Airways :
Ft Lauderdale (FLL), JFK, Orlando
Delta Airlines :
JFK , ATL, MIA
Alaska Airlines : Flights start Jan 5. Tickets on sale now
Southwest Airlines :
Spirit Airlines :
**Please do not book any flights until you receive a confirmation from us which will be sent to you approximately 24 hours after paying your deposit.
In the waters that surround Cuba, water temperatures hover between 73° and 86° Fahrenheit ( 23°-30° Celsius) with horizontal visibility varying from 20 to 30 meters. This remains pretty consistent year round. However, the water temperatures can dip to slightly colder temperatures in the months between December and February.
Summer in Cuba is from June to August. Expect high humidity with the occasional afternoon shower. The afternoon thunderstorms are short, but intense and they usually roll in late in the afternoon and last for around 30 minutes. Then, it is sunny skies again. Summer is one of the most festive times of the year in Cuba with carnival being held in many cities and festivals throughout the island. This is also holiday time for the Cubans, so there are many social occasions. Summer is also a tourist high season because it coincides with the holiday season in Europe. Hotels, flights, and tours are often fully booked well in advance and prices can be higher than during other times of the year.
December, January, and February are the coolest months of the year in Cuba where the average maximum daily temperature is around 77° Fahrenheit and an average of 65° at night. During these winter months in Cuba, occasional cold fronts can make their way down from North America, during which, for a period of a couple of days, temperatures at night can drop to around 55° Fahrenheit in some places. Rain may or may not accompany these cold fronts.
The hurricane season is from July to November with September and October being the months with the highest probability of hurricane activity. Unlike tornadoes, hurricanes can be forecast well in advance, so you will know if one is approaching before departing. Many hurricanes change course very frequently, so their course can a bit unpredictable and whether or not they will hit Cuba may be announced only a few days before whether or not they will hit Cuba.
Maps of current tropical storm activity in Cuba can be seen on the following websites :
Christmas and New Year are the times of peak tourist activity in Cuba, in which hotels, flights, and tours can be fully booked well ahead of time. Prices for accommodation and tours can also increase in price markedly during these times. Our tour prices increase during the months of December and January.
IMPORTANT: The surge in tourism in Cuba has created a strain on the infrastructure, including on the casa particulares. Replacement parts for basic things such as TVs, air-conditioning units, cars, etc…are hard to come by and if a replacement part is needed, Cubans have to improvise with whatever they have. They cannot simply order it on Amazon. Please understand that things might break and there is not usually an ‘easy’ way to fix it. There is still an embargo placed on Cuba and although it has opened up for tourism, Cuba still does lack in some basic needs. Cuba has never seen such a surge in tourism in more than half a century and are ill-equipped to handle such a demand, especially with the embargo still in place. Please come in with an open mind and we will always try our best to make sure everything is in working order.
For most travelers, the guesthouse (casa particular) accommodation is a major highlight of their visit to Cuba. The guesthouses provide a great opportunity for travelers to interact with everyday Cubans.
Our travelers consistently rate the casas, as more comfortable than 4-star hotels in Cuba. They provide a very different experience than staying in hotels. The rooms are basic but all very comfortable and clean and the families in Cuba will try to make you feel at home as much as possible.
While every family and every casa in Cuba is unique with slightly different levels of comfort, the bed & breakfast-style houses we use in Cuba on our tours are much nicer than the average Cuban dwelling. The casa particulares are a form of accommodation for foreigners in Cuba that is legal and formalized, and the rooms for guests are required to meet a certain standard of comfort for the house to obtain a license to rent. The fee that the owners of the houses in Cuba pay to the government for this license is quite substantial.
All rooms have air-conditioning and a private bathroom. Most casa particulares do not provide shampoo or soap and although some might provide it, it would be best to be prepared with your own. Also, a hair dryer will not be provided in the accommodation, so if you need one we suggest bringing with you.
Guests are served breakfast every morning at the casa. The breakfast usually includes eggs and bread, fruit, fresh fruit juice (i.e. guava, papaya, mango), coffee and tea. The families will try to make you feel at home as much as possible. Most Cubans are very friendly and love to talk to guests. In some houses, the family members speak English quite well, while in others they are practiced at communicating with their non-Spanish speaking guests simply by gesturing and smiling. Overcoming these communication challenges is seen by most as part of the fun!
Generally, the group will split up into different homes with between 1 and 4 group members in each home. We use a number of different houses depending on the group size. Most homes in Cuba that are licensed to rent rooms to tourists as a casa particular, typically have 2-4 rooms for guests. However with the recent change in laws, some homes now have up to 10 rooms.
For our tour groups, we chose one house as a “Base House” or (central house) which typically has more rooms and a nice area for the group to meet. We use this house as an arrival and departure point for the group and as a meeting point for any excursions or activities with the tour leader. Tour participants are distributed to different casas situated within a short walking distance of the Base House. Family members from those houses collect tour participants from the Base House. Typically between 1 and 4 group members will stay in each casa.
All accommodation on our tours in Cuba is based on a twin-share arrangement. This means that there will be two people per room and if you join the tour as an individual, you may be sharing a room of two beds with another member of the same sex from the group unless you paid the single supplement or you are going with someone with whom you requested to share.
– If there is no one to share with, you end up with a room to yourself, but you will not be required to pay a single supplement.
– If you would like to guarantee yourself a single room throughout your tour, you can purchase the single supplement. The single supplement for this trip is $475. You can purchase the single supplement at check-out.
If you would like to see examples of what a casa particular looks like, please see below :
Due to the nature of this trip, we require purchasing travel insurance for your trip to Cuba. We work with Travelex as our insurance provider. You can click on the link below to get a quote.
All U.S.-based flights going into Cuba usually include the cost of Cuban basic medical insurance in the ticket price which is required by the Cuban government. If you would like additional coverage such as trip cancellation, evacuation or medical care outside of Cuba, you would need to buy additional insurance.
When obtaining insurance for Cuba, you will be asked a few questions :
- Name of traveler(s)
- Date(s) of Birth
- Dates of travel
- Primary traveler’s phone number, address, city, state, zip
- Reason for Travel – Support for Cuban People (515.574)
- Name of Travel Agency /Service Provider – Globe Drifters, Location Number 05-1327
You can also shop around on the internet for a provider that fits your needs.
Once you obtain any insurance, please print out your policy and bring it with you on the trip.
There are no required vaccinations that Cuba requires you to have prior to visiting. Below is a link to the CDC website with more information about what vaccinations the United States recommends for travel to Cuba.