Cuba tours from U.S.

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I'm looking for a good tour to Cuba from the U.S. for winter 2013. I am considering Insight Cuba and Distant Horizons (although they don't have any listed yet for next year). Any suggestions? I want want that gives the most insight into the country. Also wondering which are the important places to go outside of Havana? Care much more about culture and scenery. Thanks

In addition to the companies you mentioned, there are some others that you might want to look at:

Marazul Tours ( -- they’ve had their “license” to travel to Cuba for many years (at least 20) and are probably the most experienced.

Overseas Adventure Travel ( - thru their Grand Circle Foundation has 9 and 12 day itineraries. They started their tours this past January.

Road Scholar ( has several programs. Participants have to be 50 years or older

And local groups, such as District 214 (largest high school district in Illinois) Community Education Travel (adult travel program) has some good itineraries (

There are others -- I will keep my eyes open and post them as I find them.

When doing comparisons, you may want to look at:
• size of the group

• ability to take the direct charters to Havana from Miami, Chicago, LAX, JFK, Baltimore, Dallas and a few other cities. Be suspicious of any company that routes you Mexico, Canada or islands in the caribbean, as they might not have the US “license” to travel to Cuba

• you mentioned you are more interested in culture and scenery, so you don’t want to spend much (or any) time in Varadero and Cayo Coco which are resort areas.

• with the longer itineraries you can spend more time in Trinidad and Camaguary and visit the cities at the eastern point of the island, Baracoa and Santiago de Cuba (both of which I especially enjoyed).

Look at Friendly Planet's "Colors of Cuba" tour. I'm doing it in early December.

I am going with Friendly Planet in the beginning of November. Adventuregirl made great comments. Also, I looked into travelling to Cuba with Insight. However, they do not include the charter airfare cost from Miami in their tours, which I was told by Insight is approximately $499 to $600 which is a significant amount to add to the Insight tours.

I posted a reply to a similar question (and some very erroneous answers) back in January. Here's a "copy and paste"

My husband and I participated in the second Grand Circle Foundation tour to Cuba on December 6th, 2011. We are veteran OAT travelers and Foundation donors, and were therefore given an "invitation" to participate before the trips were opened to the general public. Here is everything I know. Hopefully the information will be helpful.

1. The trips in November & December, 2011 sold out quickly, as have most of the other trips offered in the winter and spring. No matter when you choose to go, you will not be on an exploratory departure. They have already happened.
2. The Foundation is offering the trips rather than either OAT or GCT because of the legal requirements of the US government. We traveled legally on a People-to-People program and were able to fly directly to and from Miami, without having to come in through Mexico or Canada.
3. Most of the particular details of the trip were actually overseen by Cuba........where we stayed, sometimes where we ate, what groups we met, what performances we saw. Almost every aspect of this was exceptional. We met with artists (visiting their homes and studios), dancers, musicians, senior citizens, pottery makers, basket weavers, coffee growers, children, organic farmers, religious groups, etc. We visited museums, Hemmingway's home, a botanical garden, and many historic areas. Special arrangements were made for us everywhere. Someone in our group wanted to see a Cuban baseball game. The guide got tickets for us (we only stayed for a few innings, but it was a lot of fun). Someone else in our group loved the old cars. They hired cars to drive us around in Havana. We popped in to our bus driver's home and met his wife. We rode in every kind a vehicle imaginable, including horse-drawn wagons used as taxis. And we still had free time to wander the towns and absorb the flavors of Cuba. Our tour bus was spacious and very comfortable and our driver - exceptional.
5. Some of the down-sides included a few "touristy" things such as the craft market, and the sugar mill restoration. The hotels were variable - but that's Cuba!!
6. And lastly, the guides (which "make" the trip) were fantastic. We had two - the Foundation guide (fluent in Spanish) who oversaw the details of the trip and the Cuban guide who was amazing (a University educated linguistics major, fluent in non-accented English, who has never been outside of Cuba!) and made many special experiences possible for us.

You might try contacting Mary Drobny She does trips to Cuba several times a year and is now affiliated with Palos Verdes Art Center in CA. Her itinerary varies somewhat trip-to-trip. The one I did a couple years ago was small in number and intimate in nature, as Mary has close ties to Cuba. I was especially intrigued with a visit to a Santaria priestess. Mary's personal background is art history (? art-something) and her tours are less expensive than others I've seen recently.

We went to Cuba on Mar 11 2012 to Mar 22 2012. We booked with Vantage Tours but the tour was set up by CCRC. ( Center for Caribbean Religion and Culture is a non profit organization. We flew to Miami and stayed overnight. Vantage arranged the flight to and from Miami and the hotel.We paid a little over $200.ea to join CCRC and they arrange for the Visa which were around $138.ea.We were on Charter flights between Miami and Cuba arranged by CCRC .This trip was ok by the US State Dept.or we would not have gone. We liked that we only stayed in 1 hotel in each of the 2 cities which were Cienfuego and Havana.There were 15 in our group and we traveled in small near new bus and still had plenty of vacant seats to spread out in.Our tour guide was a young natve Cuban woman with excellent English.We visited chuches and Synagogs,schools,the Bay of Pigs,Ernest Hemingways home,the Botanical garden and other very interesting places.The Cuban people are friendly and the food is good. We are so happy we took the opportunity to see this beautiful Caribbean Island. Be sure and go see for yourself.

Nancy, We went to Cuba with Grand Circle Foundation on March 3, 2012. It was an exciting educational trip. Small group, 18 people, a spectacular tour director from Grand Circle Foundation and a terrific Cuban guide. It was a fabulous adventure.

And to Ada Green, contact Grand Circle Foundation for the correct information about their Person-to-Person trip to Cuba.

We too are going with Friendly Planet but in the middle of October. The Washington Post review in early February was very beneficial.

------ Moderator note
Podol2: is this the review you are referring to:

Yes, that's the one.