Tour introduction and overview of activities

“Can’t wait to see you in January 2018 in Cuba for the 33rd edition of the Havana Jazz Festival.” – Jazz master and living legend Chucho Valdés, President of the Havana Jazz Plaza Organizing Committee that hosts the Havana Jazz Festival.

“Can’t wait to see you in January 2018 for the 33rd edition of the Havana Jazz Festival.” – Jazz master and living legend Chucho Valdés, President of the Havana Jazz Festival organizing committee.

You stay in the historic five-star Meliá Hotel Tryp Habana Libre (formerly the Havana Hilton) while enjoying hot, throbbing, live Latin rhythms morning, noon and night on the ultimate Latin jazz and Cuban culture dream tour.

Sensuous Cuba is a nation of intense rhythms, colors, emotions, aromas and flavors. What travelers remember most is its ubiquitous pulsating music – and the passionate friendly islanders who make and revel in it.

This is our 11th year helping Americans experience the world’s best jazz in the exotic Caribbean capital of Havana, Cuba. During the 33rd edition of this globally renowned celebration of Latin and American jazz you’ll rub shoulders with jazz greats from scores of nations.

The Havana Jazz Festival Tour is designed for participants to get an overview of island culture, history, and nature. You’ll enjoy best seats at all jazz festival performances and venues with your premium Festival passes, valued at $250. You’re treated as a VIP when traveling with us. You deserve it!

Cuba’s big! Its land mass is 42,426 square miles – about 80 percent the size of Alabama. Cuba is nearly as large as Louisiana, and larger than Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Ohio or Indiana. Altogether it’s bigger than Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont combined.

Day 1 – Sunday :: Say hello to the city of music

  • Arrivals at Havana’s José Martí International Airport
  • Collect your luggage and proceed through Cuban customs to the arrivals lobby
  • Consider purchasing Cuban Convertible Pesos at the airport exchange bureau (CADECA), or later at your hotel
  • Our airport concierge or your tour guide will arrange tour bus or private taxi transfers from the airport to Hotel Habana Libre located in El Vedado, the heart of Havana's cultural district. Your hotel check-in is pre-arranged, you simply present your passport
  • Time at hotel to settle in and freshen up
  • Group arrival dinner with your guide and tourmates at hotel
  • Free time to explore Havana’s vibrant nightlife and make new Cuban friends. We’ll keep you posted on evening entertainment options

Day 2 – Monday :: Old Havana, architecture, history and art

  • Greet the day with tasty breakfast served at your hotel
  • Followed by a private walking tour of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We’ll visit four historic plazas that make Havana unique in the western hemisphere. Together they contain the largest collection of remaining Spanish colonial-era architecture in the world
  • Cathedral Square, the most beautiful and private 18th century colonial plaza on the island. Named after the masterpiece of Cuban baroque architecture, Catedral de San Cristóbal de la Habana was built by the Jesuit order
  • Square of Arms, an ancient military parade ground for Spanish soldiers, surrounded by impressive buildings such as:
    • Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, former seat of colonial government. Today the building houses the Museum of the City
    • Palacio del Segundo Cabo [Palace of the Second Lieutenant] dates from 1770
  • We continue onto San Francisco Square, one of the oldest plazas in the historical quarter. The square is named after magnificent Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco de Asís dating from the 16th century. The basilica is a striking example of Cuba baroque architecture
  • On to Plaza Vieja, the only civic square of colonial times. Absent are churches and government buildings. The plaza is surrounded by opulent aristocratic 17th century residences
  • Welcome lunch at Antiguo Almacén de la Madera y el Tabaco. It’s a huge open-air affair with several barbecue grills, and a brewery on site! Everyone loves the food and especially the beer made on premises. There are three flavors: light amber lager, medium ale, and dark stout ale with a slightly smoking taste. The beer is served in giant 6-liter carafes. You dispense at much as you like right at your table
  • Visit Centro Cultural Antiguos Almacenes de Depósito San José. This marvelous restoration of an old dock warehouse has resulted in a gigantic market fair exhibiting the wares of hundreds of Cuban artists and crafts workers. It’s an amazing shopping opportunity for memorable Cuban gifts and souvenirs
  • Return to hotel and freshen up
  • Welcome dinner at Restaurante El Templete. This bayside fish joint is on the Havana’s list of upscale eateries. It sits near its namesake temple that marks the spot where the city of La Habana was founded in 1519. Overlooking the harbor, it features two dining spaces: an outdoor alfresco area accommodated under a large awning, and a pleasant indoor dining room with starched tablecloths, fine wine glasses and cutlery
  • Evening highlight. We witness a most dramatic ceremony – El Cañonazo – the Firing of the 9PM Cannon at the Fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña. This enchanting colonial reenactment dates back to 1519 when the city of Havana was enclosed by a tall thick rock wall to ward off attacks from pirates and the English. The cannon firing signaled the closing of the city gates for the night
  • Free time to explore Havana’s vibrant nightlife and make new Cuban friends. Your guide will keep you posted on evening entertainment options

Day 3 – Tuesday :: Amazing nature trip to stunning Las Terrazas

  • Greet the day with tasty breakfast served at your hotel
  • Tour highlight. Now for a day excursion to the amazing Las Terrazas region just one hour to the west of Havana. Once mired in poverty and completely deforested as a result of centuries of charcoal production for coffee processing and cooking, Las Terrazas today is a vibrant self-sustaining eco-community. Located in the Sierra del Rosario mountain range Las Terrazas spans the provinces of Artemisa and Pinar del Río. We’ll visit the rural village called Rancho Curujey and learn about this self-sustaining community's successes in reforestation, historical preservation, environmental balance, and a good life. Later we'll walk the incredible ruins of a French Coffee Plantation built in 1801 worked by African slaves
  • We’ll enjoy lunch at an open-air restaurant specializing in traditional country cuisine – La Casa del Campesino – ever popular with tour participants and locals alike. The eatery is located on the fresh water shore of the Río San Juan making it lush tropical paradise. This jungle-like forest area offers an opportunity for birding and plant identification
  • Return to hotel and freshen up
  • Dinner not included. This evening is free for you to explore Havana’s stellar private eateries. Your guide will provide a list of this month’s ten best restaurants
  • Free time to explore Havana’s vibrant nightlife and make new Cuban friends. Your guide will keep you posted on evening entertainment options

Day 4 – Wednesday :: Cuban art, Jazz Fest OPENING GALA

  • Breakfast at hotel
  • We’ll examine Cuba's greatest visual masterpieces spanning three centuries at Havana’s world class museum of modern art – Palacio de Bellas Artes. It’s exhibits display the richness of the island's Spanish, French, Chinese, African and Aboriginal cultural influences. Notable works include those of René Portocarrero and Wilfredo Lam
  • Lunch at La Moneda Cubana, a small private rooftop eatery located in the heart of Old Havana overlooking the Cathedral Square. It’s named after the original owner’s passion for old coins, moneda national [Cuban coins]. Its authentic cuisine adheres to traditional recipes prepared with seasonal vegetables, meat, fish and seafood
  • Return to your hotel and freshen up. Your afternoon is free to explore the city
  • Dinner not included. This evening is free for you to explore Havana’s stellar private eateries. Your guide will provide a list of this month’s ten best restaurants
  • Havana Jazz Festival OPENING GALA (transportation INCLUDED)

Day 5 – Thursday :: Music studios, Fusterlandia, Jazz Fest events

  • Greet the day with tasty breakfast served at your hotel
  • We’ll visit the Colibri recording company [Hummingbird productions] and Abdala music studio where the great musicians of Cuba (and many from Latin America) record their songs. Colibri is the production arm of the Cuban Institute of Music, which hosts the Havana Jazz Festival. Colibri produces new music including son, bolero, country music, Latin jazz, danzon, la trova, ritual songs, rumba, choirs, vocals, instrumental and other rhythms. Colibri is charged with rescuing and preserving recordings of past Cuban performers and composers. Abdala was built in 1998 and has grown into a world-class studio. The project has hands-on support from renowned troubadour Silvio Rodríguez. We’ll meet and talk with the staff, engineers and recording artists and learn the intricacies of sound recording
  • Arts and dining tour highlight. We’ll feast on a delicious lunch hosted by José Fúster, one of Cuba’s most important ceramists and painters, at his whimsical studio in Jaimanitas, just outside of Havana. Fúster is known as the Picasso of the Caribbean and his art is acclaimed internationally. His artistic mission has been the rehabilitation and decoration of the village of Jaimanitas where he lives. Fúster has decorated over 80 houses with ornate murals and domes to suit the personality of his neighbors. Nowadays, Fúster’s art is a cherished part of Cuban culture and joins the rank of other public artworks such as that of Gaudi in Barcelona or that of Brancusi in the Romanian city of Targu Jiu. He supports his community project through the sale of his paintings and ceramics
  • Return to your hotel and freshen up
  • Dinner not included. This evening is free for you to explore Havana’s stellar private eateries. Your guide will provide a list of this month’s ten best restaurants
  • Havana Jazz Festival Performances, chose among events taking place at several different venues (transportation NOT INCLUDED)

Day 6 – Friday :: Urban agriculture, Hemingway, Jazz Fest events

  • Greet the day with tasty breakfast served at your hotel
  • Visit the UBPC Vivero Organopónico Alamar, a giant farm cooperative producing a range of healthy, organic vegetables
  • Tour highlight. We have a special lunch arranged for you by our friends at Ajiaco paladar [private restaurant]. It’s considered the best in Cuba. It’s a mandatory dining stop located off the beaten path in the romantic coastal fishing village of Cojímar. Ajiaco is noted for fantastic service, atmosphere and scrumptilicious country Cuban cuisine. All their ingredients are fresh and organic, supplied by nearby private gardens to give every dish a delightfully aromatic flavor you’ll never forget
  • We’ll visit the village of Cojímar, the setting for Ernest Hemingway’s "The Old Man and the Sea.” Here adoring local fishers cast a bronze bust from old anchors, props and tools. They had no money for new materials. Its inscription reads, "In loving memory of the people of Cojímar to the immortal author of Old Man and the Sea." A plaque below the bust reads: Sculpted with the contributions of the Fishermen Cooperative of Cojímar
  • We’re off to visit Finca la Vigía [Lookout Farm] where North America’s literary titan Ernest Hemingway spent twenty-one of his most important and productive years adding to the building blocks of English literature. Claimed by both the United States and Cuba as a native son, it was Hemingway himself who declared Cuba to be his true home. His house has been preserved just as it was when he lived in it. You’ll see his eclectic personal objects, thousands of books, manuscripts and photographs, as well as some animal trophies he bagged on his safaris to deepest Africa
  • Return to your hotel and freshen up
  • Dinner not included. This evening is free for you to explore Havana’s stellar private eateries. Your guide will provide a list of this month’s ten best restaurants
  • Havana Jazz Festival Performances, chose among events taking place at several different venues (transportation NOT INCLUDED)

Day 7 – Saturday :: Havana discovery day, Jazz Fest events

  • Greet the day with tasty breakfast served at your hotel
  • Your morning and afternoon are free to explore the city with your tourmates and new Cuba friends
  • Lunch not included. Explore Havana’s private eateries. Your guide will provide a list of this month’s ten best lunch spots
  • Return to your hotel and freshen up
  • Dinner not included. This evening is free for you to explore Havana’s stellar private eateries. Your guide will provide a list of this month’s ten best restaurants
  • Havana Jazz Festival Performances, chose among events taking place at several different venues (transportation NOT INCLUDED)

Day 8 – Sunday :: Afrocuban music engine, Jazz Fest CLOSING FINALE

  • Greet the day with tasty breakfast served at your hotel
  • Morning is free to explore the city with your tourmates and new Cuba friends
  • Lunch not included. Explore Havana’s private eateries. Your guide will provide a list of this month’s ten best lunch spots
  • Visit the Afrocuban influenced Callejón de Hamel and witness a monster mesmerizing neighborhood rumba jam and dance party that will knock your socks off
  • Return to your hotel to freshen up
  • Farewell group dinner at Atelier private restaurant
  • Havana Jazz Festival CLOSING FINALE (transportation INCLUDED)

Day 9 – Monday :: Say goodbye to Cuba – for now

  • Greet the day with tasty breakfast served at your hotel
  • Check-out of your Havana hotel
  • Transfer to José Martí International Airport in Havana for flights home
  • We'll miss you and hope you will return soon. In Cuba we say: A true friend remembers the song in your heart when you have forgotten the lyrics
Cuba travel is a challenge. Our staff and Cuban partners work super hard to make your tour unfold seamlessly despite Third World conditions on the island. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Flexible travelers understand this is part of their Cuban adventure.

Tour cost based on double room occupancy (sharing a double room during tour).

Tour date Cost Comments Availability
Jan 14 to Jan 22, 2018 $ 3558 $ 2499
Four-star Hotel Habana Libre
Book now
Tour meals at your hotel and at fine restaurants
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Breakfast
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  • Premium access jazz passes for all Jazz Festival events, a $250 value
  • Small group size: There will be more than 100 people joining this tour. Participants will be split into groups of 24 or fewer. As a result day-to-day activities will vary to avoid congestion at smaller venues and eateries
  • Certificate of Legal Cuba Travel in compliance with US Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control regulations (OFAC) section, 1 C.F.R. § 515.565(b)
  • Havana airport and hotel transfers on tour start and end days
  • Quality Cuban hotels
  • An expert English speaking guide and tour leader throughout the program
  • Modern air-conditioned bus and professional chauffeur
  • Bottled water on bus
  • All activities, entrance fees, services, speakers and meetings in tour itinerary
  • Flexible monthly tour payment options
  • Emergency telephone and internet access to America from Cuba
  • Cash advances for participants facing money problems while in Cuba
  • Participants become Club Cubano alumni and receive future tour discounts
  • Ongoing support from our US and Cuban staff before, during and after travel