Travel to Cuba and experience the enthralling history of this seductive Caribbean island. Then see forests, fauna and fireworks on the Costa Rican adventure

Cuba's imminent political and cultural change makes it something to experience now before it evolves. Wander through Havana’s glittering colonial architecture, soak up the clear mountain air among Soroa’s vibrant mountain orchards, relax on Playa Ancon’s vast white beaches and admire Trinidad’s unrivalled ambience. Then onto the jewel of Central America, Costa Rica's environment is world-renowned for being diverse, vibrant and healthy. Visit San Jose’s colonial streets; La Fortuna’s hot springs and volcano; Monteverde’s cloud forest; and Manuel Antonio’s turquoise seas. From old cars to fragrant cigars then onto intense volcanic landscapes and superb Pacific beaches, this Cuba and Costa Rica Discovery is a perfect combination of differences.
 


Start
Havana, Cuba
Finish
San Jose, Costa Rica
Countries
Costa Rica, Cuba
Style
Comfort
Code
QVKCC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why we love this trip

  • A guided walking tour of  Old Havana sheds lights on the difference between the lives of city and rural life in Cuba

  • Take in all the colours and aromas of Soroa, the stunning valley area known as the 'rainbow of Cuba'

  • Stroll along the rural dirt roads of Vinales as tractors, vintage cars and horse-drawn carriages pass you by

  • Experience the diversity of Costa Rica's environment

  • Lay back and relax in La Fortuna hot springs

  • Spot wildlife in the lush Monteverde cloud forest

Is this trip right for you?

  • Cash is difficult to access in Cuba. Credit cards (not debit cards) are essential – ideally multiple credit cards from several different banks.

  • Luxuries such as air conditioning, and even kitchen sinks, are often scarce. Part of the experience here is learning to appreciate everyday Cuban resourcefulness.

  • There's plenty of time to eat the delights of the sea, but it's good to keep in mind that accompaniments are not as expansive as in another countries, due to limitations on imports

  • Internet access can be hard to come by, and when it's available it's often unreliable and expensive. This is, on the other hand, a great opportunity to take a break from modern devices and have a true holiday.

  • Cuba is different and that’s what makes it such a fascinating destination. You will find that things don’t always go according to plan or work the way they do back home. Regulations concerning foreigners and currency may appear strange to you, buses and planes often run late and sometimes the water in your bathroom can run cold and the electricity fail. In order to get the most out of your holiday, a degree of patience, good humour and understanding is a definite advantage. Cuba may not be wealthy in a monetary sense, however if you approach your holiday with an open and enquiring mind, the warm welcome you receive from Cubans will ensure you a rich and rewarding holiday experience.

  • Some included activities such as the hikes in the Monteverde Cloud Forest and Manuel Antonio NP can be quite strenuous.

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Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2017 to 31 December 2017. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2018 - 31 December 2018

Bienvenido a Cuba! A complimentary arrival transfer is included with your trip. Please ensure you provide your flight details to your booking agent at least 14 days prior to travel so the transfer can be organised. If you arrive early, please note most activities in Cuba can only be booked through the tourist desk in the lobbies of the larger hotels or direct with the venue. Otherwise, there are plenty of good museums to check out, including the Museo de la Revolucion and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.

There will be a welcome meeting at approximately 6pm this evening. Please expect a letter in your room or a phone call on Day 1 from your leader to confirm the time and place of your meeting. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. The briefing is generally followed by an optional group dinner.
Accommodation
  • Premium guesthouse (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Havana - Buena Vista Social Club - CUC30
  • Havana - Cigar factory tour - CUC12
  • Havana - La Cabana Fortress canon blast ceremony - CUC8
  • Havana - Baseball game (Oct - Apr) - CUC3
  • Havana - Tourist bus day pass - CUC5
  • Havana - Ernest Hemingway tour - CUC70
  • Havana - Morro Castle - CUC3
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
The transfer driver will have the address of your Premium Guesthouse. Please see "Joining instructions" for more information about exiting the arrivals hall and connecting with your arrival transfer representative. 

If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time for the meeting, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the base guesthouse so they can contact the leader.
Enjoy a walking tour of Old Havana, a perfect first taste of the city. Your local guide will show you the cathedral, Plaza de Armas, San Francisco de Asis, Plaza Vieja and Central Park. The entrance to the Camera Obscura is included. Later you'll make the drive to Soroa, a lush enclave nestled in a beautiful valley. You'll stop in for lunch and tour the orchid garden there. Continue to lovely Vinales, where tobacco and agricultural fields lie side by side and limestone outcrops dot the landscape. The scenery here is some of the most picturesque in Cuba. There are many ways to take it all in, including cycling, walking through tobacco fields and hiking to mountain caves (all optional activities).
Accommodation
  • Standard guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Havana - Guided walking tour of Old Havana
  • Havana - Camera Obscura entrance
  • Soroa - Orchid garden tour
  • Vinales - Orientation Walk
Optional Activities
  • Soroa - Hike to waterfall - CUC3
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Special Information
There are currently no Premium guesthouses in this area so you will be staying in a Standard guesthouse. Please be aware the comfort levels are much less in these rural towns than in the cities. Please see the accommodation section of this document for more information about what to expect.

Also note that Cave visits will require sturdy footwear, as they can involve walking across slippery rocks.
A walking tour of the farmlands and crops is included today. Learn more about the simple lifestyle here and see first hand the farmers who grow tabacco for some of the most expensive cigars. 

Vinales is a small and charming rural village. It's probably the easiest place to mingle with locals in Cuba, who are very sociable. Many of them love nothing better than to drink rum and dance the night away. An informal salsa lesson is included so you are confident to be involved. There are only three bars in this town, so you probably won't find yourself getting lost! Later head to an ecological farm for an included dinner. 

 
Accommodation
  • Standard guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Vinales - Guided valley walking tour
  • Vinales - Informal Salsa lesson
Optional Activities
  • Vinales - Santo Tomas cave visit & return taxi - CUC35
  • Vinales - Palenque Cave - CUC1
  • Vinales - Cueva del Indio (Cave visit with boat trip) - CUC5
  • Vinales - Live music venues - CUC2
  • Vinales - Bicycle hire (per day) - CUC5
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Head towards Cienfuegos today, it is a long travel day. You will be stopping via the Bay of Pigs to learn more about the learn about the botched US Military counter-revolutionary invasion in the Giron Museum then stop at the bay itself, for a swim in the crystal clear water or simply enjoy the stunning surroundings.
Then the short drive to your destination for the night, Cienfuegos. This is the gem of the south, a seaside town of relaxing streets and dazzling buildings that strike a beautiful pose by the water. You will enjoy a photo stop at Palacio del Valle, which is Cienfuegos' architectural pride and joy. Learn more about its history as you take in the beauty of its intricate carvings of Venetian alabaster. If you haven't done so already, perhaps try some Cuban coffee while you're here – it's served black, strong and super sweet.
Accommodation
  • Premium guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Bay of Pigs - Visit & swim
  • Cienfuegos - Orientation Walk
  • Cienfuegos - Visit to the Palacio del Valle
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today you will board the bus for a short drive to Trinidad. There's no doubt it's one of Cuba's alluring destinations, a great place to wander around, with almost every scene offering a photo opportunity. Watch as locals casually smoke their huge cigars on the doorsteps of their homes, and hear the old Chevrolets rumbling by. Kick things off by strolling along the cobbled streets and marvelling at some of the colourful colonial architecture on display (this town was put on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1988 for good reason). During your orientation walk you visit the Santeria Priest to learn more about the unique religion followed in this area. At some point, your group can decide when they want to schedule their informal Spanish class.
Accommodation
  • Premium guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Trinidad - Orientation walk
  • Trinidad - Santeria Priest Visit
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Enjoy a day of free time. There are some great Spanish-style churches to see, and nearby is the Valle de los Ingenios, where sugar plantations stretch out as far as the eye can see. For some seaside fun, head down to Playa Ancon and stroll its long stretches of white sand. You can go for a snorkel too. Just be careful when you're in the water, as sea urchins can be a problem here. Back on the land, you can go cycling or hiking. If you rent a bicycle, be careful on the cobblestones, and remember your bike will be of the vintage variety. The trekking is great in the Sierra del Escambray, the local mountains. A folklore dance and music show in one of the open-air venues is highly recommended – a great chance to immerse yourself in Cuba's African, French and Spanish-influenced music and dance culture.
Accommodation
  • Premium guesthouse (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Trinidad - Salsa Dance Lesson - CUC8
  • Trinidad - Live music venues - CUC5
  • Trinidad - Musical instrument lesson (guitar, double bass, tres, percussion - per hour) - CUC10
  • Trinidad - Bicycle rental (full day) - CUC5
  • Trinidad - Ancon beach shuttle bus - CUC4
  • Trinidad - Cayo Blanco island catamaran cruise - CUC45
  • Trinidad - Train ride (Steam train replica with electric engine) - CUC10
  • Trinidad - Trek to El Nicho Waterfall (taxi, entrance fee & guide) - CUC27
  • Trinidad - Massage - CUC25
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
On your way back to Havana, you'll stop in at Santa Clara to visit the Che Guevara mausoleum and memorial. In the museum you can get a rare insight into the legacy of the revolutionary leader, with some interesting ephemera and artefacts on display – letters, firearms, even medical devices. Upon arrival in Havana, stop by Revolution square and then take a stroll around the grounds of the infamous Hotel Nacional. Then prepare for a final night of celebrations. 
Accommodation
  • Premium guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Santa Clara - Visit to Che Guevara Mausoleum and Museum
  • Havana - Visit to Plaza de la Revolucion
  • Havana - Visit to Hotel Nacional
Optional Activities
  • Havana - Jose Marti Memorial Tower - CUC2
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Travel to Costa Rica. Although the flight is not included, an airport arrival transfer is included. Please provide your flight details at the time of booking, or at a minimum 15 days prior to travel. Once you have provided your details a transfer representative will be booked to meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel.

Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm on Day 1.

Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. The new leader will be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information once again at this meeting.

Following the meeting, there is generally an optional group dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Costa Rica’s capital sits in the centre of a lush, wide valley which has a comfortable subtropical climate. The streets of the town are laid out along a grid iron pattern, with avenidas running east to west and callés running north to south. Many of the most interesting buildings are in the region of Avenida Central – the Teatro Nacional is an elaborate confection of marble staircases, statues, frescoes and mirrors.

There are a number of interesting museums in the city; the Museo de Oro has a good collection of golden pre-Columbian figurines. The Mercado Central is the main market which dates back to 1881 – there are some good food stalls here as well as countless artefacts for sale.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Orientation walk
  • Complimentary Airport Arrival Transfer
Optional Activities
  • San Jose - Poas Volcano National Park (half-day tour) - USD55
  • San Jose - Poas Volcano National Park, Doka Coffee Tour & La Paz Waterfalls (full-day tour) - USD120
  • San Jose - Irazu Volcano, Ososi Valley & Lankester Botanical Garden (full-day tour) - USD90
  • San Jose - Butterfly farm - USD27
  • San Jose - National Museum - USD12
  • San Jose - Gold Museum - USD11
  • San Jose - Jade Museum - USD10
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
A scenic drive by private minibus takes us to La Fortuna (approx 4-5 hrs).

La Fortuna is a small town situated just a few minutes away from Costa Rica's most famous volcano - the majestic Arenal. The views here are spectacular as the volcano is reflected on the lake for postcard perfect photos. Besides the panoramic views the town offers a range of other activities such as the 70 metre high La Fortuna waterfall, stunning lush forest, rare plants, animal watching and watersports on the lake.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • La Fortuna - Hot springs
Optional Activities
  • La Fortuna - Arenal hanging bridges - USD65
  • La Fortuna - Rio Celeste Safari Float tour - USD70
  • La Fortuna - La Fortuna Waterfall - USD10
  • La Fortuna - Nature hike around Arenal Volcano - USD50
  • La Fortuna - Tabacon Hot Springs (entrance, dinner and transport) - USD99
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today is free for optional activities. Take a trip to the volcano, visit La Fortuna waterfall or take a canopy tour for a bird's eye view of the forest. Otherwise head out into the beautiful surrounds and explore by bike.

In the evening we include a visit to one of the hot springs in the area. Surrounded by lush foliage and naturally heated by the volcano, the springs are the perfect way to relax.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Travel by shared minibus and boat to the cool cloud forests of Monteverde (approx 4 hrs).

Monteverde was founded as an agricultural community in 1951 by a group of North American Quakers; they cleared virgin forest to create verdant pastures ideal for dairy farming. These environmentally aware settlers were conscious of the danger that unrestricted settling and farming could cause to this precious habitat. Consequently they established a small privately-owned wildlife sanctuary, which has since grown to become the internationally-renowned Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. These forests are similar to rainforests, but instead of relying on rain for essential moisture, adequate water comes from the semi-permanent cloud that covers the region. It is lush and full of wildlife. This is truly a nature lover's paradise. More than 2,000 species of plants, 320 bird species and 100 different types of mammals call Montverde home. Be sure to keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal, one of the most elusive birds in the world.

In the afternoon, your leader will take you on a walking tour through the protected reserve.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Monteverde - Cloud Forest hike
Optional Activities
  • Monteverde - Suspension bridges tour - USD35
  • Monteverde - Zip lining - USD45
  • Monteverde - Night walk - USD35
  • Monteverde - Coffee & Chocolate tour - USD35
  • Monteverde - Butterfly garden and insects farm - USD30
  • Monteverde - Serpentarium - USD15
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today you can choose from some great optional activities. Explore the forest canopy on a combination of suspension bridges and platforms built in the cloud forest. Another option is the Monteverde Butterfly Garden and the Hummingbird Gallery, a must for those with a penchant for these winged, coloured jewels of the forest.

At night you can choose to enjoy a night hike in Monteverde, hiking at dusk in the forest. Some of the wildlife you might see include porcupines, toucans and other sleeping birds, owls, agoutis, coatimundis, snakes, walking sticks, tarantulas, katydids, and an array of other cool insects. Of course, there are no guaranteed sightings, so don't expect all these creatures to be waiting just for you! Typically though this time of transition into night offers a good opportunity to view nocturnal mammals as well as diurnal animals as they prepare for night.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Travel by private minibus to Manuel Antonio National Park (approx 4-5 hrs). Situated on the Pacific Coast, the area of mangrove swamps and beaches now known as the Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio was first documented by Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon in 1519 during his (unsuccessful) search for the Fountain of Youth.

Long, white beaches extending around the headland of Punta Catedral are set against an evergreen forest backdrop that grows right up to the high-tide line. Incorporating 12 small islands scattered just off the coast where migrating whales can sometimes be observed, the park is home to hundreds of mammal and bird species in a region of lagoons and fertile mangrove swamps.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Manuel Antonio National Park - entrance
Optional Activities
  • Manuel Antonio - Surf/boogie board rental - USD10
  • Manuel Antonio - Mangrove tour by kayak (with lunch) - USD80
  • Manuel Antonio- Sunset sail - USD75
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Your time here is your own to enjoy some of Costa Rica's finest beaches or you can enjoy some of the fine hiking trails through the tropical forest.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
We'll spend the morning in Manuel Antonio before returning to San Jose and your centrally located hotel. You can enjoy one last night out to celebrate the end of your journey.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

15 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 2 dinners

Transport

Private vehicle, Shared vehicle, Boat

Accommodation

Premium Guesthouse (5 nights), Standard guesthouse (2 nights), Hotel (8 nights)

Included activities

  • Havana - Guided walking tour of Old Havana
  • Havana - Camera Obscura entrance
  • Soroa - Orchid garden tour
  • Vinales - Orientation Walk
  • Vinales - Guided valley walking tour
  • Vinales - Informal Salsa lesson
  • Bay of Pigs - Visit & swim
  • Cienfuegos - Orientation Walk
  • Cienfuegos - Visit to the Palacio del Valle
  • Trinidad - Orientation walk
  • Trinidad - Santeria Priest Visit
  • Santa Clara - Visit to Che Guevara Mausoleum and Museum
  • Havana - Visit to Plaza de la Revolucion
  • Havana - Visit to Hotel Nacional
  • Orientation walk
  • Complimentary Airport Arrival Transfer
  • La Fortuna - Hot springs
  • Monteverde - Cloud Forest hike
  • Manuel Antonio National Park - entrance

Dates & availability

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Important notes

COMPLIMENTARY ARRIVAL TRANSFER
An airport arrival transfer is included. Please provide your flight details at the time of booking.
 
NON-INCLUDED FLIGHT:
The international flight between Havana and San Jose on day 8 of this itinerary is not included in the price of this trip.

COMPLIMENTARY MID-TRIP TRANSFERS
A departure transfer to Havana Airport & an arrival transfer in San Jose is included. Please provide your flight details at the time of booking or at least 14 days prior to travel so the transfer can be organised.

SINGLE SUPPLEMENT:A single supplement is available on this trip.

CUBA
There are unprecedented changes happening in Cuba right now. It is an exciting time but it also means some patience and understanding is required for the heightened demand of infrastructure, accommodation and crowds.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.