You walk down a narrow cobblestone street, smelling the Caribbean air, as you hear the faint sound of music from off in the distance. But you truly know where you are when a car passes by…one from 1950.
Welcome to Cuba, where the capital city of Havana and gorgeous countryside make for a fascinating trip. The island’s natural beauty, interesting history, fantastic music, welcoming locals, and more have captivated Americans for decades. But ever-changing U.S. government regulations for traveling there have led to a lot of confusion about what constitutes a legal visit.
Fortunately, it’s still possible for Americans to travel to Cuba legally. One way is by booking a tour with Friendly Planet, which was among the first U.S. tour companies to be awarded a license for educational tours here back in 2011. While the “People to People” license was eliminated in June, Friendly Planet maintains other licenses allowing for legal travel. Plus, their legally sanctioned tours put you in direct contact with locals—an unforgettable experience that’s an essential part of every Friendly Planet tour. Here’s how to do it.
What kind of traveler goes to Cuba? The country has beautiful beaches, but it’s not the place to go loll on a beach—after all, if the goal is simply to unwind, the Caribbean has plenty of places that are easier to get to. Cuba also has a burgeoning private restaurant scene, but if that’s your focus, you can find other islands with great food. And while there are beautiful hotels and a well-established homestay network, you wouldn’t come here for accommodations alone.
The differentiating factor for a visit to Cuba is witnessing the optimism of the Cuban people. Despite having little in the way of material goods, they still love life and still create and enjoy amazing art, music, and dance. Meeting Cubans where they live, work, and play is an immersive experience that truly gives you a sense of their life—and an admiration for their perseverance.
Travel with Friendly Planet and you’ll have lots of opportunities to interact with Cubans. You may meet up-and-coming Cuban artists in a private studio; visit the fascinating Afro-Cuban neighborhood of Regla; meet talented local fashion designers and woodcraft experts at their home workshop; join Cubans for a neighborhood block party; or watch a rehearsal by one of Havana’s well-known dance companies.
Your Tour Options
Friendly Planet’s Authentic Havana tour includes 5 days visiting Havana, Regla, Alamar, and Cojimar. Highlights include exploring Old Havana’s architecture, learning how Cuban masters hand-roll cigars at a famous factory, visiting the Afro-Cuban neighborhood of Regla, meeting young Cuban artists in a private studio, and walking in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway at Finca Vigia. Accommodations, in a casa particular—a Cuban bed and breakfast—give you another chance to talk with locals about their lives.
Spend 7 days in Havana, Regla, Alamar, Cojimar, and Viñales on the Authentic Havana & the Scenic Viñales Valley tour, which includes all of the above, plus the opportunity to explore the breathtaking landscapes and tobacco farms in Viñales and discovering the specialized care taken to breed horses at La Guabina. Accommodations in Havana are in a casa particular; you’ll move to a superior hotel in Viñales.
Captivating Cuba includes 8 days in Santa Clara and Sancti Spiritus, Trinidad, Varadero, Alamar, Cojimar, and Havana. Highlights include exploring the charming Spanish Colonial towns of Sancti Spiritus and Trinidad, learning about Afro-Cuban religion, meeting a fashion designer and woodcraft expert at their home workshop in Varadero, walking in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway at Finca Vigia, and taking a ride in classic cars to a workshop where antique treasures are maintained. Accommodations are in approved superior hotels.
What Else To Know
With the new rules, it’s never been more important to travel to Cuba with a tour operator that has deep experience in the country. Over the years, Friendly Planet has sent thousands of Americans to Cuba on small, intimate, and immersive group trips. They have the knowledge, experience, and relationships to ensure that your trip conforms to the law, while offering unique and inspiring encounters with the people of Cuba that would be very difficult to arrange on your own.
Also, Friendly Planet specifically designs its trips to include opportunities to support the privately owned businesses and entrepreneurs that are just beginning to flourish in Cuba. They’ve built many relationships among Cuban community groups, artists, architects, farmers, and others who offer valuable experiences for travelers; these experiences are arranged with the individuals and benefit them directly.
Plus, when you travel to Cuba with Friendly Planet, you won’t have to worry about government formalities, visas, accommodations, or other logistical arrangements. All packages include nonstop, round-trip flights from Miami; mandatory Cuban health insurance; Cuba entrance visa; departure tax; and a U.S. Treasury Department License Certification and Authorization letter, which are all mandatory for Cuba travel.
Explore Friendly Planet’s Cuba itineraries and book your trip today!