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Cuba Today: People and Society—Havana and the Countryside

Program Number: 20610RJ
Start and End Dates:
1/6/2013 - 1/13/2013; 12/21/2015 - 12/29/2015; 12/23/2015 - 12/31/2015; 1/9/2016 - 1/17/2016; 1/14/2016 - 1/22/2016; 1/16/2016 - 1/24/2016; 1/18/2016 - 1/26/2016; 1/20/2016 - 1/28/2016; 1/21/2016 - 1/29/2016; 1/23/2016 - 1/31/2016; 1/25/2016 - 2/2/2016; 1/27/2016 - 2/4/2016; 1/30/2016 - 2/7/2016; 2/4/2016 - 2/12/2016; 2/6/2016 - 2/14/2016; 2/8/2016 - 2/16/2016; 2/10/2016 - 2/18/2016; 2/11/2016 - 2/19/2016; 2/13/2016 - 2/21/2016; 2/15/2016 - 2/23/2016; 2/17/2016 - 2/25/2016; 2/18/2016 - 2/26/2016; 2/20/2016 - 2/28/2016; 2/22/2016 - 3/1/2016; 2/24/2016 - 3/3/2016; 2/25/2016 - 3/4/2016; 2/27/2016 - 3/6/2016; 3/3/2016 - 3/11/2016; 3/5/2016 - 3/13/2016; 3/7/2016 - 3/15/2016; 3/9/2016 - 3/17/2016; 3/10/2016 - 3/18/2016; 3/12/2016 - 3/20/2016; 3/14/2016 - 3/22/2016; 3/16/2016 - 3/24/2016; 3/17/2016 - 3/25/2016; 3/19/2016 - 3/27/2016; 3/24/2016 - 4/1/2016; 3/26/2016 - 4/3/2016; 3/31/2016 - 4/8/2016; 4/2/2016 - 4/10/2016; 4/7/2016 - 4/15/2016; 4/9/2016 - 4/17/2016; 4/13/2016 - 4/21/2016; 4/14/2016 - 4/22/2016; 4/21/2016 - 4/29/2016; 4/23/2016 - 5/1/2016; 4/28/2016 - 5/6/2016; 4/30/2016 - 5/8/2016; 5/4/2016 - 5/12/2016; 5/5/2016 - 5/13/2016; 5/7/2016 - 5/15/2016; 5/11/2016 - 5/19/2016; 5/12/2016 - 5/20/2016; 5/18/2016 - 5/26/2016; 5/25/2016 - 6/2/2016; 6/15/2016 - 6/23/2016; 6/22/2016 - 6/30/2016; 9/7/2016 - 9/15/2016; 9/12/2016 - 9/20/2016; 9/14/2016 - 9/22/2016; 9/19/2016 - 9/27/2016; 9/21/2016 - 9/29/2016; 9/26/2016 - 10/4/2016; 9/28/2016 - 10/6/2016; 10/3/2016 - 10/11/2016; 10/5/2016 - 10/13/2016; 10/10/2016 - 10/18/2016; 10/12/2016 - 10/20/2016; 10/17/2016 - 10/25/2016; 10/19/2016 - 10/27/2016; 10/24/2016 - 11/1/2016; 10/26/2016 - 11/3/2016; 10/31/2016 - 11/8/2016; 11/2/2016 - 11/10/2016; 11/7/2016 - 11/15/2016; 11/9/2016 - 11/17/2016; 11/30/2016 - 12/8/2016; 12/5/2016 - 12/13/2016; 12/7/2016 - 12/15/2016; 12/14/2016 - 12/22/2016; 12/21/2016 - 12/29/2016; 12/26/2016 - 1/3/2017; 12/28/2016 - 1/5/2017;
Duration: 7 nights
Location: Cuba
Price starting at: $3,995.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: ; Independent City Discoveries
Meals: 18; 6 Breakfasts, 6 Lunches, 6 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

In the heart of Havana, take an insightful look at music, arts, dance, baseball and private enterprise in Cuba today, viewed through the lives of everyday Cubans. Spend a day in beautiful landscapes of Vinales, to meet tobacco growers. Meet with Afro-Cuban dancers, artisan farmers and vivacious seniors in the Matanzas region. Enjoy a beachfront location in Varadero.


• Meet Cubans engaged in private enterprise, including a joint venture Cuban-American company.
• Attend a rehearsal by a Cuban dance company and speak with the dancers, and explore Ernest Hemingway’s farm, Finca La Vigia.
• Enjoy interactions with a local Community Arts Project, an organic farmer and a Cuban baseball player.

Activity Particulars

Walking and standing up to 2 hours / one mile at a time with high sidewalks and cobblestones. Participants must be able to walk unassisted.

Round-trip charter flight from Miami to Cuba is included.

Due to the nature of this program, listening devices are not available.

Date Specific Information

1-9-2016, 1-14-2016, 1-16-2016, 1-21-2016, 1-23-2016, 1-30-2016, 2-4-2016, 2-6-2016, 2-11-2016, 2-13-2016, 2-18-2016, 2-20-2016, 3-10-2016, 3-12-2016, 3-17-2016, 3-19-2016, 3-24-2016, 3-31-2016, 4-2-2016, 4-7-2016, 4-9-2016, 4-14-2016, 4-21-2016, 4-23-2016, 4-28-2016, 4-30-2016, 5-5-2016, 5-7-2016, 5-12-2016

On this program date, we are pleased to include upgraded accommodations on the Executive Floor of the Hotel Nacional in the program price.

2-25-2016, 2-27-2016, 3-3-2016, 3-5-2016

On this program date, we are pleased to include upgraded accommodations on the Executive Floor of the Hotel Nacional in the program price.


On this program date, we are pleased to include upgraded accommodations on the Executive Floor of the Hotel Nacional in the program price.

Itinerary Summary

Arrival Miami, Fla., 1 night; flight to Havana (Cuba), 5 nights; coach to Varadero, 2 nights; coach to Havana for flight to Miami.

Arrival Miami, Fla. 1 night
Flight to Havana (Cuba) 5 nights

Prepare for your experience to Cuba during orientation in Miami. Engage with Cubans in private enterprise including a joint Cuban-American publishing company. Delve into Cuba’s art history as you explore the Havana Museum of Fine Arts for added insight. Meet children in a special needs community center. Learn about Cuban music history with a musicologist. Enjoy expert-led excursions showcasing the beauty of Old Havana. On the outskirts of Havana, explore Ernest Hemingway’s farm, Finca La Vigia, where the Nobel Prize-winning author lived with his third wife Mary for over 30 years. Walk the grounds to see his writing studio, swimming pool and fishing boat, Pilar, featured in his novel “Islands in the Stream.” Spend a day on the famed Tobacco Route in the Vinales Valley, punctuated by unique karst formations and meet the growers of the island’s best tobacco.

Coach to Varadero 2 nights
Flight to Miami for departure

Meet with locals for lessons in traditional Cuban dances: Salsa and Danzon. Visit an organic farm owned by an artisan family and enjoy a performance of Afro-Cuban dance.


It's a time of rapid change on the island of Cuba. After decades of restrictions, dynamic Cubans seize new opportunities created by pro-free-enterprise reforms. Havana’s “yank tanks” (classic American cars) are increasingly joined by late model imports. Literacy and health care statistics outpace many developed countries. At the same time, some Cubans still lack access to goods as basic as toothpaste. It’s a fascinating moment to discover Cuba and meet with its people as they look to the future.

Miami: Hotel near airport. Havana: Historic landmark hotel on the Malecón. Varadero: Oceanfront hotel.
Meals and Lodgings
   Hotel Nacional de Cuba
  Havana, Cuba 5 nights
   Meliá Las Americas
  Varadero, Cuba 2 nights
 Hotel Nacional de Cuba
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: Located in the center of the city, the hotel stands on a hill just a few meters from the sea, which offers a great view of the Havana Harbor, seawall/malecon, and the city. The Hotel Nacional de Cuba was declared a National Monument and was inscribed in the World Memory Register.
  Contact info: Calle 21 y O, Vedado, Plaza
Havana,  10400 Cuba
phone: + 53 7 836 3564 al 67
  Room amenities: Air conditioning, safe, radio, TV, minibar, phone, hairdryer
  Facility amenities: 3 Restaurants, swimming pool, bar, 24 hour room service, business center with computers that have internet access (open from 9:00AM-7:00PM). The hotel has unreliable WiFi service. There is internet service at the hotel however, it is very expensive and very slow. The Hotel Nacional de Cuba charges 2.5 CUC’s for 15 minutes of internet access. PLEASE NOTE: If you exceed that time and use 16 minutes, you will be charged for two(2) 15-minute intervals.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Meliá Las Americas
Type: Resort
  Description: Located beachfront on Varadero Beach, near the the Plaza America Convention Center. Five-Star All Inclusive Resort with 340 rooms.
  Contact info: Crta. de las Morlas, Cuba.
Varadero,   Cuba
phone: +011+53- 45- 66- 7600
  Room amenities: Air conditioning, coffee maker, safety deposit box, pillow menu, health center nearby, clothes hangers in the bathroom, temperature control, 20 volt outlet, plug for electric shaver in the bathroom, full-length mirror, rooms for smokers and non-smokers, breakfast table and chairs, minibar, assorted minibar, umbrella, iron and ironing board, door with peephole, hair dryer, 24-hour room service, telephone, terrace or balcony, satellite TV, golf course and garden view
  Facility amenities: Craftworks, boutique, trips and optionals desk, foreign currency exchange, internet connection (additional cost), reception desk, art gallery, rooms for smokers and non-smokers, hammocks, mini market, laundry and dry cleaning services, fax service, 24-hour medical service, taxis, gift shop, private transfers in cars (upon request), 24-hour room service Restaurants: Il Limoncello, La Arcada, La Robleza BBQ, La Terraza, Sakura Health and Beauty: Cardiovascular equipment, gym, whirlpool, massages, beauty parlor, sauna Pools: hammocks, towel service, lounge chairs service
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
The program begins with a morning flight from New York to Miami and then a chartered flight from Miami to Havana. You will be staying at Hotel Nacional de Cuba that night.
  End of Program:
The program ends with a group transfer to the Havana airport for the charter flight to Miami in the afternoon and onwards to New York. You will be staying at Meliá Las Americas the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. Elderhostel is licensed under the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) under the U.S. Department of Treasury for participants to travel to Cuba on a Road Scholar program. Participants will receive a copy of this license prior to travel to Cuba. In addition to the Health and Safety forms, each participant is required to submit an Affidavit of Participation, Charter Reservation Form, and a clear copy of the passport picture information page prior to departure. These forms are at the end of the First Information Packet and must be completed, signed, and submitted to Road Scholar eight weeks before the program start date. IMPORTANT NOTE: Any participant born in Cuba, regardless of current nationality, must advise Road Scholar immediately as additional forms and costs may be required.
  Parking availability:
There is parking available at the JFK airport, please consult their website at
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
To Start of Program
  Location:  Havana
  Nearest highway: Cuba’s national highway, the Autopista.
  Nearest airport:  Havana International Airport
  Transportation to site: Individual arrivals to the LGA airport. Parking and ground transportation are available. Please consult the LGA airport website for more information:
  From End of Program
  Location:  Varadero
  Nearest airport:  Havana Airport
  Transportation from site: A group transfer from the hotel in Varadero to the Havana airport for our return charter flight is scheduled for all participants.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Fly to Havana, Cuba / Check into Hotel Nacional
(Sunday, January 6)
 Lunch: Lunch on your own at the MIA airport.
 Afternoon: Individual arrivals to the LGA airport. The flights are scheduled to depart at 7:00 AM and 7:55 AM to Miami (PLEASE NOTE: Flight times are subject to change). Upon arrival in Miami, check-in to the charter flight to Cuba. Upon arrival in Havana, enjoy a welcome greeting by an experienced bilingual Cuban Guide, who will be with us for the entire program. Check into hotel.
 Dinner: Late dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: Evening at leisure
Accommodations: Hotel Nacional de Cuba
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Dance rehearsal / Plaza Vieja (Old Square) / Expert Presentation on dance
(Monday, January 7)

Note: This day will require walking over cobblestone and uneven streets in Old Havana.

 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet at the hotel.
 Morning: Enjoy a driving excursion through the city. People to People Connection: Next, engage with a dance group and see their rehearsal before taking some time to talk with the dancers and learn about their training and careers.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: After lunch, enter Old Havana to explore the city's intimate beauty and history. In Plaza Vieja (Old Square), discover the finest examples of restoration, which also serves as the market square. Then, explore Camera Obscura which allows for a unique view of Old Havana. People to People Connection: Meet with a local dance instructor and learn about the history of dance in Cuba, and explore the various styles and learn why Cuba has such a rich tradition of dance.
 Dinner: Dinner at a local restaurant
 Evening: Evening at leisure.
Accommodations: Hotel Nacional de Cuba
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Plaza de Armas (Arms Square) / Cuban Art / Artist Studio / Artist Collaborative dinner
(Tuesday, January 8)
 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet at the hotel.
 Morning: Enter Old Havana to experience the city's historic beauty and focus on the oldest part of the city at the Plaza de Armas (Arms Square). See the Greek-Roman ‘El Templete' site of the first Mass and town council meeting in 1519. Also, learn about the city's restoration project of its plazas and squares while discovering how and who funded this renovation. Next, visit the City Museum, which was once the Governors palace. People to People Connection: Explore the Havana Museum of Fine Arts, while a local Art Historian discusses the history and evolution of art in Cuba, and the style that has made Cuba a favorite of the art world.
 Lunch: Lunch in Old Havana at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: People to People Connection: Meet and have authentic dialogues with a group of local contemporary artists from the Artist Collaborative at their studio to learn about their work and lives. Enjoy a guided exploration of the historic Hotel Nacional. This sprawling property includes a Hall of Fame featuring pictures and folklore about its many famous past guests: Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Jack Nicholson, Eva Gardner, John Wayne and many, many more.
 Dinner: People to People Connection: Meet with an artist collaborative based in Havana, and join these members for a dinner reception in your honor. Meet each artist and enjoy some time to talk about their art, work, and life in Cuba.
 Evening: After the reception, enjoy your evening at leisure.
Accommodations: Hotel Nacional de Cuba
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Expert Presentation on Cuban music / Senior Community Center / Plaza de Catedral (Cathedral Square) / Cuban Choir
(Wednesday, January 9)
 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet at the hotel.
 Morning: This morning, learn about the interesting and different styles and types of Cuban music. People to People Connection: Next, engage with members of a senior community center to learn about the work done by the charity that runs the center. Then, enjoy some time with our host over snacks and drinks to play cards and dominos or just chat about family (PLEASE NOTE: We recommend that you bring postcards of your town with landmarks that you can leave as gifts. These can also be used as great conversation starters. Though, this is the only stop where donations can be dropped off, Road Scholar does make a financial contribution to the center on your behalf. Please consult the list in the information packet for suggested items). After interactions with the seniors, talk with artists and craftsmen at the San Jose Feria Market to learn about the artists and their creations.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: After lunch, discover Plaza de la Cathedral (Cathedral Square), in Old Havana, which has boasted an interesting history (PLEASE NOTE: If the Cathedral is open, we will take this opportunity to visit the inside, though, open hours are often changed). People to People Connection: Next, meet with members of a choral group to discuss and learn about Cuban music as they take us on a musical journey through the various musical styles of Cuba. Each song is meant to highlight a style which can generate enlightening conversations.
 Dinner: Dinner at a local restaurant.
 Evening: Evening at leisure.
Accommodations: Hotel Nacional de Cuba
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Danza Combinatoria / Art Education
(Thursday, January 10)
 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet at the hotel.
 Morning: People to People Connection: This morning, interact with an emerging dance troupe of renowned dancers from the Danza Combinatoria, and enjoy unique interactions (PLEASE NOTE: This activity may be substituted with another performing art group).
 Lunch: Boxed lunch with the performance group; this is a unique opportunity to have intriguing conversations.
 Afternoon: People to People Connection: After lunch, learn about art education in Cuba today, and meet with students and faculty at an art school. This is a rare occasion to talk directly with students and faculty about thier lives and education.
 Dinner: Dinner on own in Havana. Explore one of the many paladars (home hosted meals) that offers a unique opportunity to meet face-to-face in much smaller groups with local Cubans. This is also an opportunity to go into Old Havana and explore the culinary selection available. A list will be provided of good choices and the Cuban Guide can help make recommendations on site.
Accommodations: Hotel Nacional de Cuba
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 6: Drive to Matanzas and Varadero/ French Pharmacy/ San Severino Fortress / Danzon
(Friday, January 11)
 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet at the hotel.
 Morning: Check out of Hotel Nacional and board the coach to begin the drive to Varadero. On the way, discover the famous French Pharmacy known as La Botica Francesca, founded in the late 1800's by the Triolet family. See some of the items that would have been found during this time period which are housed in this museum: hand painted porcelain vases, medical recipes, old bottles and jars, medical instruments, labels, mortars, scorpion oil and other seemingly ancient pharmaceutical items. Then discover the San Severino Fortress, built in 1734, it was used to protect the city from pirates and offers a unique view of Matanzas Bay.
 Lunch: Lunch at hotel.
 Afternoon: People to People Connection: Learn about the history of the most traditional Cuban dance, Danzon. Here you will see how the dance is performed, and perhaps get to try it out yourself, if you'd like.
 Dinner: Dinner at hotel.
 Evening: Evening at leisure.
Accommodations: Meliá Las Americas
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Committee of Discourse and Reconciliation / Orphanage
(Saturday, January 12)
 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet at the hotel.
 Morning: People to People Connection: Meet with members of the Committe of Discourse and Reconcilation to learn about the work they do in peace-building and conflict transformation. Next, meet with workers at a local orphanage to learn about their outreach with children in their local community.
 Lunch: Lunch at the hotel at leisure.
 Afternoon: Enjoy the afternoon at leisure to prepare your bags and rest.
 Dinner: Farewell dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: Evening at leisure.
Accommodations: Meliá Las Americas
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Return to US
(Sunday, January 13)
 Breakfast: Breakfast boxes at the hotel.
 Morning: Check out of the hotel very early and drive to the Havana airport for flight to LGA. Your flight is scheduled to arrive in Miami at 5:30 PM (PLEASE NOTE: Flight times are subject to change. Charter flight times will be confirmed in the Final Information Packet which is normally sent approximately 4-5 weeks prior to departure. (PLEASE NOTE: The flights from Miami to LGA are currently scheduled to depart at 8:40 PM and arrive into LGA at 11:25 PM.
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

A Simple Habana Melody, From When the World Was Good

Author: Oscar Hijuelos

Description: An unlikely love story and lyrical tribute to Latin music by the author of Mambo Kings.


Author: Pierre Hausherr (Photographer), Francois Missen

Description: With full-page photographs, introductory essays on history, architecture, music, food and more, this oversized, illustrated paperback by Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Francois Missen and photographer Pierre Hausherr captures the spirit of Cuba, its people, nature and culture.

Cuba and Its Music, From the First Drums to the Mambo

Author: Ned Sublette

Description: A thorough and entertaining history of Cuba and its music by the popular radio producer, music historian and cofounder of Cuban record label QbaDisc.

Cuba, Art and History from 1868 to Today

Author: Natha Bondil (Editor)

Description: With ravishing color reproductions of murals, posters, paintings and photographs, this magnificent book documents the history of art in Cuba from independence.

Cuba, What Everyone Needs to Know

Author: Julia Sweig

Description: Director for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, Sweig traces the geography, history and identity of Cuba in this admirably succinct history of the island nation and its role in world affairs.

Culture Smart! Cuba

Author: Mandy Macdonald

Description: A concise, well-illustrated and practical guide to local customs, etiquette and culture.

Havana Map

Author: Cognoscenti

Description: A colorful map of the city center of Havana.

Havana, A Cultural and Literary Companion

Author: Claudia Lightfoot

Description: An illuminating guide to the city, its history and geography, as the inspiration for writers, artists, musicians and intellectuals.

Havana, History and Architecture of a Romantic City

Author: Maria Luisa Lobo Montalvo, Hugh Thomas (Introduction)

Description: This magnificent history of Havana, featuring 480 color illustrations, shows the city and its growth from Spanish colony to independence.

Inside Havana

Author: Julio Cesar Perez Hernandez

Description: This handsome book showcases the diverse architecture of Havana, from modernist masterpieces to splendid baroque palaces and traditional businesses such as the Partagas cigar factory, one of Havana’s oldest and finest. With expert writing by Hernandez and rich color photographs by Gianni Basso.

Moon Handbook Cuba

Author: Christopher P. Baker

Description: Baker's comprehensive, indispensable guide leaves no stone unturned, covering the natural, cultural and political life of the island with style.

New Art of Cuba

Author: Luis Camnitzer

Description: A survey of Cuban art since 1981, all by young artists who have come-of-age since the revolution, and revised to reflect more recent developments Twenty-four new color plates augment the 200 black and white illustrations.

Our Man in Havana

Author: Graham Greene

Description: The classic story of a British vacuum cleaner salesman who gets accidentally drawn into cold war espionage with disastrous results.

The History of Havana

Author: Raphael Hernandez, Dick Cluster

Description: Co-authored by a Cuban and an American, this multi-faceted history of the city looks at culture, art, politics and economic development.

The Old Man and the Sea

Author: Ernest Hemingway

Description: Hemingway's brief story of a fisherman who after 84 days with no luck finally makes a big catch is also an affectionate portrait of life in Cuba. It won the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Trading with the Enemy

Author: Tom Miller

Description: Miller captures the openness, sensuality and pride of Cuba and the Cubans in this eloquent account of entertaining travels in Fidel's Cuba.

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