Join Cuban Pioneers for our classic annual trip, joining in the Cuban celebration of May International Workers’ Day, by far the biggest celebration in Cuba, something like a Soviet-era parade with a good dose of Latin American carnival spirit!
If you’ve already seen May Day in the DPRK, then this is something completely different! The whole of Havana (and Cuba) takes the day off, and you’ll join them cheering through the streets, listening to Latin-themed revolutionary music extolling the greatness of Fidel, Raúl and Che, while the ruling Communist Party elite wave down at us from the podium. This is the most memorable time to be in Cuba, and a truly amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience. We will also visit the towns of Cienfuegos and Trinidad, as well as the Che Mausoleum in Santa Clara.
The tour is accompanied by Cuban Pioneers’ local Cuban guide, as well as a western guide, and we also incorporate the much more relaxed environment that Cuba offers us by giving ample time for free exploration as well as providing a great chance to party the night away as much as you wish. As with all tours we can offer excellent discounts for YPT members, old customers, and group bookings. Nothing stays the same forever, and Cuba is changing rapidly day by day, so see it with Cuban Pioneers now! And if that is not enough for you, Cuban Pioneers have a special two-day extension, where you’ll visit some very unusual Communist/Soviet locations (such as the secret site of the nuclear missiles during the Cuban missile crisis) before heading to the countryside where you can explore Viñales, one of the most picturesque areas of the island, in group B.
Arrive at your own leisure and transfer from Jose Martí International Airport to the Vedado part of Havana.
You can take a regular taxi for around $25, or Cuban Pioneers can arrange a 1950s convertible to pick you up for $50, true Cuba style!
On arrival at the casa, your guide will show you to your homestay (all have A/C and hot shower). You will have some free time to relax, or join the group at a nearby bar for drinks and to talk about the upcoming tour.
The group assembles at around 8 pm for our introduction into the contemporary night scene of modern Havana.
We head for dinner at Cafe Laurent, one of the oldest, and we feel best private restaurants, with a range of options to fit all budgets
You’ll finish the night with the group in classic Cuban style by grabbing a carton (or two) of rum, and going to people watch on the Malecón – Havana’s famous seawall, known as the “sofa of the city”
Overnight in Vedado, Havana
Wednesday 1st May 2019 – International Workers’ Day (May Day)
#TRIP HIGHLIGHT# It’s party time, so we have breakfast at 6 am before leaving at 6.30 am sharp!
You’ll head to the outskirts of the Plaza De Revolución where the festivities will be starting to begin to soak up some atmosphere and get ready for the start of the parade
The actual parade starts at around 7.30 am, where we will join around a million Cubans parading through the plaza in a quintessentially Cuban fusion of fiesta and old-school communist procession. We’ll get a wave from the top leadership of Cuba, including the former president Raúl Castro, the new one Miguel Díaz-Canel, all in time for the playing of the Internationale!
You’ll have lots of chances to take photos of the many delegations taking part in the parade, before finish up at the baseball stadium (previously visited by Obama), where we’ll meet our bus and head to Old Havana
Lunch in old Havana
We head for a relaxed walking tour of Old Havana which includes various churches and some of the best Spanish colonial era architecture available anywhere in the world, including our favourite, the Bacardí building (with the Bacardí bat).
No trip to Old Havana would be complete without the bucket list trip to Hemingway’s favourite bar, El Floridita, the birthplace of the daiquiri cocktail (trying one optional).
You can head back to the casa for some rest and a change after the early start, or if you’re still going strong, enjoy for some beers on the Malecón.
In the evening, you can enjoy dinner at the famous Soviet-Cuban fusion restaurant, one of the legacies of Cuba’s cold war past, complete with borscht, perogi and more Soviet propaganda than you can shake a stick at
Drinks in Havana
Overnight in Havana
Thursday 2nd May 2019
Early morning the group departs for the historic city of Cienfuegos
On the way to Cienfuegos we stop off at a few places of interest such as the Australia Sugar Mill, which is where Fidel commanded activities during the Bay of Pigs invasion.
Depending on timing you can take a look at a crocodile farm with a chance to feed the ‘friendly’ reptiles and even have photos with them (optional extra charge)
Once reaching the Caribbean coast we travel along the picturesque Bay of Pigs past the site where the landing of counter-revolutionary exile militia occurred in 1961.
You’ll visit the museum here that recounts the events of this conflict which resulted in the first defeat of a US-backed takeover in Latin America. There are some beautiful places to stop for a swim along the way including a sinkhole which resembles a huge natural tropical fish tank, so make sure to pack your swim wear. SCUBA diving and snorkeling are optional activities here.
We take our lunch Cuban-style by the beach, before carrying on the journey to the city of Cienfuegos.
On arrival, you’ll check in with your host family, before heading out for a gentle stroll to dinner.
Cubans are known to be very proud people, and the citizens of Cienfuegos call their town La Perla del Sur (the pearl of the south). Founded by the French, Cienfuegos’ appeal lies partly in the European flavour of its colonial hub, with a wide Parisian-style boulevard and elegant colonnades, and there is an ambiance to inspire Cuba’s most celebrated Son singer to write the words “Cienfuegos is the city I like best”.
We head for dinner at a Cuban family restaurant that is very unpretentious and serves great Cuban food. One of our favourite places to eat!
Night out drinking on the Malecón (sea wall), or if you’re truly thirsty, in the bars and clubs of Cienfuegos.
Overnight in Cienfuegos
Friday 3rd May 2019
Fresh breakfast in casa
You’ll join the group for a guided walking tour of the city, visiting some of the buildings which will give you a taste of how life was for the great and good of society in the colonial period. You’ll also be able to see some modern-day Cuban shops, comparing those selling imported goods in hard currency with those selling locally-made items.
You’ll have a chance to drink a cocktail and take in the view on the roof of Palacio de Valle, one of the most outrageous examples of architectural extravagance in Cuba.
Depart Cienfuegos for Trinidad, about a 90 minute drive.
The city of Trinidad is noted for having been a centre of wealth built on slave plantations growing sugar cane, but then becoming almost ‘frozen’ in time around the late colonial period, having been cut off by the war of independence.
On arrival we’ll stop for lunch at a trendy pizza restaurant whilst your guides arrange your casa.
After checking in to our rooms in we head out for a walking tour of this historic town, including the old town centre, an official cigar shop. We finish off with another classic revolutionary museum, this time with a great view and a refreshing breeze, before heading for some refreshments, where you can try the local speciality cocktail, the Canchanchara.
We take some time to relax and get changed before heading out for the evening.
We head to a top restaurant called La Redacción which serves contemporary fusion cuisine.
The nightlife in Trinidad is probably the most accessible and intense in all of Cuba, with numerous live music venues and many dance performances every day of the week, all amongst the enchanting setting of old colonial buildings and cobblestone streets.
Overnight in homestay
Saturday 4th May 2019
In the morning, we head to the Valle de los Ingenios, the valley of the sugar mills, where the wealth of Trinidad came from in the 1800s.
In the afternoon, we take a horse-riding trip to a beautiful waterfall where you can swim in the natural pool, and have a cool drink! If you don’t fancy horse riding, we offer free time to explore the city, or we can arrange an optional salsa lesson.
In the evening, we head for one of the highlights of the trip – sunset and a lobster BBQ on the beach.
At night, we head to one of our favourite places in the world, the infamous cave nightclub (one of the most legendary in Cuba) for a night of debauchery.
Overnight in Trinidad.
Sunday 5th May 2019
After breakfast we’ll travel to the city of Santa Clara, which was a key city in the triumph of the Revolution (3 hour drive).
We stop at a family-owned tobacco farm where you can see the first steps in the process of making the world’s most best cigars. You can also sample the coffee which grows on the farm. This is a very uniquely Cuban experience.
Upon entering Santa Clara there is a huge statue of Ernesto Che Guevara, beneath which is the mausoleum where his remains are buried, as well as seeing the museum that is dedicated to this most iconic of all revolutionary figures.
We stop at one of the highlights of Santa Clara, the armoured train that Che derailed during the final battle of the revolution, which not only makes for a great picture stop, but if you like Che hats and t-shirts this is Che heaven.
Santa Clara is a nice town to spend the evening in, so after dinner you can head to El Mejunje, a famous local cultural centre with live music, comedy, and cabaret which is very popular with young Cubans.
Overnight in Santa Clara
Monday 6th May 2019
We head back to Havana in the morning, stopping at the open-air October Crisis museum overlooking Havana bay, featuring Soviet nuclear missiles (thankfully now inert!) of the period in 1962 and the Cuban Missile Crisis when the world came closer than ever to the brink of nuclear war.
Lunch in city
In the afternoon, we have a city tour of Old Havana, including the Plaza de las Armas, where the city of Havana was founded almost 500 years ago. We visit the famous Museo de la Revolución where you’ll be able to learn more about the revolution and its history.
Visit to the Havana Club Museum of Rum! Free samples available.
We head back to our casa to freshen up for our last night in Havana.
For dinner, we get ourselves all presidential by heading to one of the restaurants where the Obamas dined. We will be taking a leisurely one hour stroll to the restaurant, or for those wanting to pimp it up a bit we offer optional hire of one of Fidel Castro’s Soviet era limousines.
Farewell drinks, with optional nightclub activities if you’ve still got the energy!
Overnight in homestay.
Tuesday 7th May 2019
Group A: End of tour! You can leave your things at the homestay whilst you either wait for your flight, or go exploring the city further. Cuban Pioneers can arrange an optional private taxi to the airport for you if you wish.
Group B: We aim to leave at 10.00 am, depending on Cuban bureaucracy!
Our first stop is Lenin Hill, which is where the first ever statue of Lenin was erected in the world following his death.
Lunch at a Cuban style street restaurant
#TRIP HIGHLIGHT# You’ll now get to visit the incredibly secret bunker where the Soviet Union stored the nuclear weapons that precipitated the Cuban Missile Crisis. This site is of huge historical significance and was only recently discovered. This is not on the tourist trail and you can ONLY visit here with Cuban Pioneers.
We now visit the former Soviet embassy, a huge example of socialist architecture.
We now take the 2-3 hour scenic drive to Viñales. On arrival, we check into our casa before heading out for dinner and drinks in this formerly sleepy town that whilst still relaxing now has a bustling nightlife.
Overnight in Viñales
Tuesday 8th May 2019
In the morning, we head to the prehistoric wall for some amusing photos before heading over to a tobacco farm for a chance to see the process of cigar making, as well as have a try of the produce.
Another great reason to come to this farm is for the stunning views of the surrounding rolling hills that you get from here
Lunch at farm accompanied by great views.
Viñales is famous for its stunning caves, with a number being big tourist attractions. We avoid them like the plague, grab our local guide and head to a cave that is (currently) relatively unknown. It takes half an hour’s hike, and then heading through the cave network with lights before we hit the swimming part of the adventure. Truly stunning, so don’t forget the go-pro!
We head back to the casa for a shower before heading out to a great vantage point to enjoy our last sunset with a cocktail as a group.
We finish our last night in Viñales where you’ll be able to enjoy an authentic home-cooked Cuban meal at our casa.
Drinks and conversation in the rocking chairs on the patio to end your last evening with us in Cuba.
Overnight in Viñales.
Wednesday 9th May 2019
Breakfast at the casa.
We take the 3 hour leisurely drive back to Havana and for those not joining us in Colombia the end of the tour.
Cuban Pioneers can arrange extra accommodation in the same Casa, or ongoing transport to the airport should you need it.
– Transport to complete the itinerary
– Breakfasts for each day of the tour, except the arrival day and all lunches (excluding arrival and departure day)
– Local English-speaking guide and experienced, western Cuban Pioneer guide throughout
– All entrance fees as per itinerary