With its opened gates, Cuba’s mythic presence looms larger than ever. Flamboyant vintage cars rumbling down streets lined with palm trees. Chilled glasses of mojitos resting next to smoking cigars. Mambo and salsa beats undulating through the humid nights. It’s Hemingway’s Havana. It’s Ernesto “Che” Guevero’s guerrillo movement. It’s the Caribbean’s wild child. It’s Cuba.
Discover the irresistible allure of Cuba on our eight-day tour through Cuba’s most iconic sites seen from a new angle: a kayak. Paddle your way around Cuba’s sparkling Caribbean coasts and thriving coral reefs. Skim the calm waters of rivers winding through valleys of sugar cane. Find your way to isolated cays where tropical fish are the primary residents. It’s not simply a tour of Cuba, but a tour of the diverse natural world from which Cuba gets its wild spirit.
Our trip couples daily explorations of Cuba’s wilderness and wildlife with insightful encounters with Cuba’s people and history. Walk cobbled streets that saw the rise and fall of Spanish colonialism or plazas painted over with the colors of the revolution. We meet with Cuba’s artists who continue to shape its culture and its park rangers who persist in its conservation. We visit Trinidad, where the past remains present, and the Bay of Pigs, where the past has lent way to a future free of raids but built on nature. Cuba is a country of contrasts and irresistible surprises, and Sea Kayak Adventures takes you on a tour where each turn is an unexpected adventure.
*If kayaking in Cuba is not what you are looking for, our sister company Cuba Unbound offers many amazing, US legal, "Support for the Cuban People" tours including:
Images & Videos
Commercial flights from the United States to Cuba are the standard mode of travel between the two countries. We ask that our guests book their own travel between the U.S. and Havana. This tour will begin in Havana at approximately 11:00 AM on Day 1. Our meeting point on Day 1 will be Havana's Jose Marti International Airport where your Tour Leader and local guides will meet you to begin your tour.
If you are unable to fly all the way to Havana on Day 1 with an arrival before 11:00 AM, we recommend that you consider a "Day 0" for your tour and choose either of the following:
Travel to Havana on Day 0. With this option, we recommend that you overnight in a casa particular (a private home with rooms for rent) of your choosing and make your way back to the Havana Airport to meet your Tour Leader, guides, and fellow travelers the next morning.
Travel to Miami on Day 0. With this option, we recommend that you overnight in Miami and take a flight to Havana on the morning of Day 1.
We are happy to offer guidance with scheduling your travel to and from Cuba, and our office staff is ready to answer any questions you may have.
Note: The listed activities and itinerary below may undergo some changes as they are contingent upon factors such as the availability of guest speakers, weather, and transportation. In such cases, we always attempt to substitute similar activities that maintain our tour’s focus on Support for the Cuban People encounters and further your Cuban experience.
Bienvenido Cuba! Its patchwork of buildings narrates a history of colonial grandeur, pillaging pirates, and 1950s panache. Colorful vintage cars with flashy fins and catchy chrome evoke a nostalgia for old-school elegance. Billboards and murals paint the city in the spirit of Revolution. Havana embodies the vibrant contrasts and impalpable spirit that make Cuba so fundamentally Cuban.
We are met with our ROW tour leader and professional Cuban guide who lead us on a journey through Havana and as well as Habana Vieja (also known as Colonial or Old Havana)— a UNESCO World Heritage Site still raw with the frenetic Cuban spirit despite its ongoing renovations over the past some 30 years. Before we set out into Habana Vieja, we stop in the thriving city of Vedado where we enjoy lunch at a Paladar, a privately owned restaurant, for our first taste of authentic Cuban food.
After lunch, we make our way to Cuba’s northwestern shore where cobbled streets, energetic plazas, colonial mansions, and 16th-century fortresses are laden with Cuba’s turbulent history. We enjoy a walking tour through Colonial Havana’s plazas such as Plaza de Armas and Plaza de la Catedral throughout the afternoon before sitting down to dinner at another Paladar.
Once we’ve finished dinner, retire to your evening’s accommodations or explore Habana Vieja’s liveliest street, Obispo, where throngs of people, art galleries, bars, and cafes line the street forever percolating with live music and its infectious beat.
Tour Criadero de Cocodrillos, Kayak Bay of Pigs, and Arrive at Zapata National Park
We breakfast early and set off to explore the Cuban wildlands outside of Havana’s urban buzz. We take about a two-hour drive to the Criadero de Cocodrillos, one of Cuba’s premier crocodile breeding facilities. Here we view the endangered Cuban and American crocodiles in a scientific breeding facility and learn about these incredibly adaptive creatures. Hunted to near extinction, this facility breeds and releases the Cuban Crocodile back into the wild. After, we lunch at a close by restaurant where you can try crocodile meat (of the not-endangered American crocodile) prepared with a Cuban flair, along with other choices.
Our day continues as we travel to Playa Larga, where we first check into a casa particular, our unpretentious, home-style lodgings similar to a B&B. Settle in and possibly explore the small village before we make our way to the beach to set off on our first kayak through the historically-charged Bay of Pigs. Paddle through waters studded with small whitecaps looking out onto beaches with palm fringes waving in the wind. You can often see former military fortifications lining the beach in sharp contrast to the paradisiacal shores. As we paddle, our local guide further brings to life the momentous events of April 1961.
We paddle throughout the bay for about two hours before returning to the beach in time for sunset. From there, we continue back to our lodgings to enjoy a meal cooked in Cuba’s festive tradition with chicken, pork, and seafood.
Kayak Paddle: Approximately 3 miles, 1.5 - 2 hours paddling time depending on weather and timing factors
Kayak Zapata National Park Wetlands
We enjoy a hearty breakfast at our Casa Particular before heading out to explore the diverse wetlands of the Zapata National Park. Our excursions today take us down dirt roads less traveled and waters less paddled. We meet up with a park guide under the direction of Parque Nacional Zapata’s head ranger who leads our kayak tour and educates us on the unique flora and fauna of the protected region. Our paddle today takes us around the Zapata Peninsula and through tangles of mangroves that rise above the placid waters. Cormorants, black hawks, and frigatebirds flit in and out of the shadows while pink flamingos create a vivid backsplash. Bonefish may also be seen swimming languidly beneath the surface.
Our paddle then takes us out of the mangroves and into the pellucid waters of the coast lined with cays. We pull over into one to enjoy a picnic lunch, explore the surrounding banks, and snorkel along the coral reefs. As we play, our park guide tells us more about this unique tropical ecosystem and shares his own experiences and understanding of the region with us.
We conclude our day of nautical adventuring and return to Playa Larga. If we have time, energy, and interest to spare, we also have the option for a cultural excursion to a local performing arts school before our evening’s activities.
We continue our environmental education before dinner as the Director of Parque Nacional Zapata joins us for an engaging presentation on the history and calling of the park. He might join us for dinner — homemade with local, fresh ingredients — allowing us to continue our lively discussions.
Kayak Paddle: 7 - 10 miles, approximately 3.5 - 4 hours total paddling time. We have several starting location options for this paddle and the group's interest and abilities will determine which put-in we use
Tour Museum Playa Girón, Coastal Snorkeling, Exploring Cienfuegos Botanical Gardens and Arrive at Trinidad
Today we leave the shores of Playa Larga in favor of the Playa Girón coastline. Playa Girón’s Caribbean tranquility has been disturbed by several raids throughout history, including the CIA-backed Bay of Pigs Invasion. Now, however, the white sand beaches and turquoise waters only find themselves invaded by snorkelers seeking Cuba’s famed coral reefs. Our first destination of the day is the Museo de Playa Girón, where we learn more about how the Cold War touched down on Cuban shores as well as the region’s eventful, sometimes bloody, past. Our guide’s personal insights as well as the photographs and short film enhance the experience.
After, we explore Playa Girón’s more serene side as we travel to a stunning snorkeling site. There, we have the opportunity to snorkel through an underwater world of colorful tropical fish and hills of thriving coral reefs. Cuba’s coral reefs are among the healthiest in the Caribbean, largely due to previous lack of tourism and industry as well as the government’s intense focus on conservation and sustainable agriculture. As we enjoy lunch, our guides tell us more about Cuba’s government policies regulating the marine ecosystems as well as the Cuban peoples’ intimate relationship with the treasured natural world they experience daily.
Into the afternoon, we travel from Playa Girón to the Jardin Botánico de Cienfuegos lying just outside of Cienfugos. The Jardin Botánico is a botanical tour de force, housing over 2,000 plant species and remaining one of Cuba’s largest gardens. We engage with some of the staff members in an interactive and supportive encounter, and they share with us the garden’s unique history as a sugarcane start-up conceived by American sugar baron Edward F. Atkins. Atkins’ sugar cane dreams led way to the neotropical paradise of introduced, foreign trees and plants seen today—a garden based on botanical exchange. Wander the gardens, learn about the unique specimens growing there, and enjoy the vibrant tableau so evocative of Cuba despite it’s being not purely Cuban.
Following our tour of Jardin Botánico, we continue our travels to the city of Trinidad—a town of living history. We check into our casas particulares before taking a walk down cobbled streets to a local restaurant where we enjoy authentic Cuban dishes for dinner. We have another initimate encounter as we meet with the Paladar’s owner who shares with us the unique challenges and opportunities of managing a private business within Cuba. Excellent conversation accompanies our dinner. After dinner there’s time to explore the streets of Trinidad further along with its vibrant music scene before retiring to our individual casas.
Kayak Rio Guaurabo, Walking Tour of Trinidad, and Meeting a Trinidad Artist
We wake up in the somnolent town of Trinidad whose Spanish colonial architecture earned it a UNESCO World Heritage Site tag in 1988. Wake up to calls of “El Pan!” as bakers sell bread and hooves clopping down cobbled streets before we head out to the tranquil Rio Guaurabo for a morning paddle.
Our paddle on the local Rio Guaurabo river provides panoramic views of Trinidad as well as the sprawling valleys nearby. We also travel by the site where adventurer Hernan Cortez made a stopover in 1518 to purchase horses and hire extra troops for his upcoming journey to the Yucatan.
After our paddle, we take to Trinidad’s streets on a walking tour of town and witness why it’s known as Cuba’s living museum. Take in the opulence of the mansions built on the money of Cuba’s then-burgeoning sugar industry and learn about the cultural complexities of the colonial era. Our stroll takes us through plazas, palaces, and churches. One of the most spectacular structures is the 18th century church Iglesia Parroquial de la Santisima known for its expressive altars carved from wood as well as its acoustics.
We enjoy lunch within Trinidad and some time to explore the city's sites. In the late afternoon we meet with a local artist or two. This might be a sculptor who works in wood, and his wife that runs a non-profit women's art project, or a visit with a local businessman and photographer, Julio Munoz, who tells us about his life in Cuba, his work with horses and other topics. In the evening we meet for dinner and after that the town is alive with music for those who care to explore more.
Kayak Paddle: 3.5 - 4 miles, approximately 1.5 - 2 hours total paddling time
Kayak Laguna Guanaroca Nature Reserve, Arrive in Cienfuegos
Our day begins early with a drive to the Laguna Guanaroca Nature Reserve, known as one of Cuba’s best locations to spy colonies of flamingos, pelicans, and tocororos—Cuba’s national bird—wandering amongst güira and mangroves. Our morning paddle begins in the saline lagoon from which the nature reserve gets its name, giving us plenty of opportunities to spot the bright tropical birds and take in the transforming ecosystem as we paddle from the mangrove-lined lake to the sparkling Bahía de Cienfuegos. Look out for tropical fish, birds, and remnants of an old Russian submarine lying submerged beneath the bay’s calm waters as we paddle our way to the shores. There, we enjoy a fresh seafood lunch while looking out on the bay.
After lunch, we venture into Cienfuegos, le Perla del Sur. Cienfuegos’ French colonial roots have flourished over the ages, leaving it a vibrant Caribbean city with a Parisian verve. While the waterfront setting itself is enviable, Cienfuegos also houses some of Cuba’s most distinctive architecture. We walk down the elegant, colonnaded Paseo del Prado with its urban ensemble of historic buildings and passersby. Our stroll down the Prado eventually leads us to the Malecón that stretches out along the bay usually filled with street musicians and people enjoying the view.
Some of the highlights of our walk through Cienfuegos are the Teatro Tomás Terry theater as well as the Catedral de la Purísima Concepción. The Teatro Tomás Terry theater’s a grand site with its gold-leafed mosaics covering its outside façade. However, the marble, Cuban hardwood, and ceiling frescoes provide the indoor auditorium with a rare grandeur made from a fusion of cultural influences. We also view the 19th century neoclassical Catedral de la Purísima Concepción whose French stained glass windows and distinctive towers illustrate the city’s French colonial past. Perhaps even more impressive is the Chinese writing decorating several of the columns that further demonstrates the blended cultures that comprise Cuba’s past.
We enjoy a delicious dinner in Cienfuegos before retiring to our casas particulares for the evening.
Kayak Paddle: Approximately 5 miles, 2.5 - 3 hours total paddling time
Tour Ernest Hemingway Museum, Explore Cojimar, and Arrive at Havana
On our final full day of Cuban adventure, we make our way back to Havana. We stop outside of Havana in San Francisco de Paula in order to visit the Museo de Ernesto Hemingway, a somewhat recent development to Hemingway’s Cuban legacy. The museum’s rich authenticity lies in that it has been created within Hemingway’s former home he inhabited with Martha Gellhorn, his third wife, for over twenty years. Hemingway wrote many novels while living here, including The Old Man and the Sea and A Moveable Feast.
Finca Vigía, or Lookout Farm, retains a palpable presence of Hemingway. With his scribblings lining walls, his former typewriter left silent in his favorite writing spot, and the chintz chair sitting empty yet worn in the living room, it’s easy to imagine Hemingway still there, rumbling over his daily word count while sipping on a scotch.
We tour the extensive estate with its artifacts and articles before continuing to the small port town of Cojimar, where Hemingway moored his prized fishing boat “Pilar” and which served as the inspiration for the fishing village featured in The Old Man and the Sea. We follow Hemingway’s footsteps to one of his favorite haunts, La Terraza, where Hemingway was known to drink many a sundowner after a day of fishing.
After lunch, we continue to Havana where we check into our evening’s accommodations and have some time to relax before the evening’s activities. Tonight, we tour the city in style as we cruise the streets in some of Cuba’s acclaimed vintage cars. Our drive takes us past Havana’s city square, the Plaza de la Revolución. The revolutionary fervor is tangible throughout the plaza and an excellent place to capture some memorable photographs of the Cuban spirit.
We later dine at a fitting private restaurant to enjoy another authentically Cuban meal. Enjoy the dinner and Havana’s energetic ambience before returning to our hotel for the evening.
We breakfast at our hotel before traveling to the airport. If you have any Cuban currency left, make sure to stop by the exchange counter or shop for a final souvenir before departing for the states.
Also note: Please keep an adaptable attitude throughout your travels in Cuba. We have planned full days, but activities do not necessarily go as planned as they can depend on external factors and third parties. Though our listed activities and Support for the Cuban People encounters are not guaranteed, we prioritize providing experiences suitable for this legal program. Furthermore, it’s important to keep in mind that traveling through developing countries may confront you with experiences and sights you’re unaccustomed to. For instance, accommodations may not be up to your normal standards. We ask our guests to appreciate the people, food, and adventures that make your cultural encounters authentic and therefore invaluable.
Dates & Rates
|Dates||Adult (USD)||Child (USD)|
|Mar 29, 2020 to Apr 05, 2020||$3,190£0€0$0$0||$3,190£0€0$0$0||BOOK NOW|
|Apr 05, 2020 to Apr 12, 2020||$3,190£0€0$0$0||$3,190£0€0$0$0||BOOK NOW|
|Apr 19, 2020 to Apr 26, 2020||$3,190£0€0$0$0||$3,190£0€0$0$0||BOOK NOW|
|Apr 26, 2020 to May 03, 2020||$3,190£0€0$0$0||$3,190£0€0$0$0||BOOK NOW|
|May 10, 2020 to May 17, 2020||$3,190£0€0$0$0||$3,190£0€0$0$0||BOOK NOW|
|May 17, 2020 to May 24, 2020||$3,190£0€0$0$0||$3,190£0€0$0$0||BOOK NOW|
Rates for 2019/20 Season:
- $3190* per person
*Note: Christmas departures have a supplement cost ($300) due to our increased prices for accommodations.
Single Supplement: $500
If you are traveling solo and prefer private accommodations (pending availability) you may elect to pay the single supplement fee. If you are traveling solo and wish to be paired up with another solo traveler of the same gender in order to avoid the single supplement fee, please let your Adventure Consultant know at the time of booking. We will do our best to find another traveler to pair you with, however if there is not another solo traveler of the same gender willing to share on your trip, you will be charged the single supplement fee.
Up to 16 spaces available on each tour (depending on tour date, number of solo travelers, and available accommodations)
- Experienced English-speaking guide(s)
- Specialized activity guides based on activity of trip (kayaking, biking, hiking, etc.)
- Specialized equipment needed for activities such as kayaks, bikes, helmets, paddles, personal flotation devices, etc.
- Private pre-tour orientation meeting
- Cuba Unbound hand-crafted itineraries including
- Accommodations as noted in the itinerary
- All meals as noted in itinerary
- Certification of travel to Cuba under the U.S. Department of Treasury general license
- Small group size (Custom tours for 2, group tours are 12-16)
- All entrance fees to include events and activities
- All in-country ground transportation
- Clean drinking water available at all times
- Gratuities for specialized guides and presenters, luggage handling, restaurant staff, and activities throughout tour
- Round-trip air to/from Cuba
- Cuba Tourist Visa Fee (ranges from $50-$100 depending on where you buy it)
- Taxi to return to airport at end of tour ($25-$30 for 3 people and luggage)
- Guide and driver gratuities
- Personal expenses such as souvenirs, gifts, alcoholic beverages, additional entertainment outside the standard itinerary, and incidentals
FAQ & More
With the new policies announced by the U.S. Government June 4, 2019, can I still travel legally to Cuba?
Yes! The new policies did change some aspects of travel to Cuba. Most notably, the category of educational "People-to-People" travel is no longer allowed. However, there are 11 other categories of legal travel. Most people traveling with Cuba Unbound do so under the Support for the Cuban People category.
You bet! However, you still can't embark on a self-guided vacation, or spend days at a beach resort, but you can travel to Cuba under an approved itinerary. There is a general license procedure to travel to Cuba and if you travel with Cuba Unbound we take care of everything for you! Under the general license, the OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) there are now 11 categories of travel for a US citizen going to Cuba. We arrange tours for educational institutions under the “education” category; church groups under the “religious” category, and Support for the Cuban People for other itineraries.
Cuba has good structure in place for visitors coming to see the island. Cubans are natural open and friendly and there is a remarkably low crime rate in comparison to other relatively poor countries. Travel to Cuba does require a flexible attitude as there may be a lack of hot water at your Bed and Breakfast, schedules may not run exactly on time, and finding many things we take for granted (soap, toothpaste, snack foods) can be a challenge. That said, the people of Cuba are kind and welcoming, and they want us to get to know their people, culture and island! Because many of our tours are active with sea kayaking, hiking, cycling and transport, there are inherent risks which would be the same regardless of where you are traveling. Several people on our staff have visited Cuba recently so feel welcome to contact us with any concerns or questions.
Our favorite time to visit Cuba is the dry season, between November and April, when the high temperatures are generally between 75 and 80 degrees F, lows generally in the 60's F, and the average rainfall is at its lowest. This is also the time of year when you will avoid the summer crowds and the worst of the Caribbean humidity. The rainy season runs from May through October, and these months see the highest temperatures and humidity. The most active tropical storm months are September and October. For a complete month-to-month guide on Cuban travel weather, go here: Cuba Weather.
You need what is called a Cuba Tourist Card (aka Cuba Tourist Visa). It is just as important as your passport and is required when you go through customs and immigration upon arrival in Cuba. The commercial airlines departing from the US will have these for sale when you check-in at the airport or they will have a “Cuba Ready” kiosk near the departure gate where you can purchase one for a price that ranges from $50 to $100. Some airlines connect you with a service where you can purchase the Tourist Card online ahead of time. We always recommend checking with your airline about the Cuban Tourist Card to find out what your options are for purchasing the card. It is also possible to buy your Cuba Tourist Card from Cuba Unbound for a cost of $70. If you purchase one at the airport, be very careful when filling the form out because if you make a mistake you will have to buy a new one. You can also purchase it through Cuba Travel Services.
There are now many options for commercial flights between the US and Cuba! It is also possible to fly via Mexico or other countries. While the vast majority of travelers will fly in and out of Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport, there are ten cities with international airports on the island, so there are many possibilities. Airlines with direct flights from the US include American, Delta, United, Southwest, JetBlue and Alaska. American Airlines serves more Cuban airports than any other US airline. The right airline for you will depend on your home location and preference.
Yes, you can! To be covered under the same general license used while on our tour, you can arrive the evening before and stay one additional evening in a casa particular. Beyond a pre- and post-night, you will be on your own to meet the requirements for the Support for the Cuban People travel category. If you wish to add a custom extension, we can organize that for you!
It is always best to check with the airline(s) that you will be traveling with for specific luggage allowance policies. Most airlines charge for checked bags, and we recommend avoiding checked bags whenever possible.
All travelers to Cuba must have Cuban-specific health insurance as required by law in Cuba, and the company providing your insurance plan must have the ability to make payments from a non-U.S. banking institution. The mandatory level of insurance required to travel to Cuba is likely included in the cost of your commercial flight to and from Cuba, although we do recommend verifying this with your airline. Guests may purchase supplemental coverage at their discretion and we highly recommend it, as the mandatory level of coverage included with your ticket is quite low, both for medical coverage in case of illness/injury while on your trip, as well as for emergency evacuation or repatriation. In addition, some guests will want a travel protection plan that protects them in case they must cancel their trip for any number of reasons. We have partnered with Travel Insured International for supplemental coverage. The cost of this additional coverage will vary based on coverage amount, age of traveler, and length of travel.
There are two currencies in Cuba, although our guests will only use the Cuba Convertible Peso, or CUC. US dollars are not accepted anywhere in Cuba. Currency in Cuba can be a bit complicated, so we have a whole section on our Cuba Unbound website dedicated to all money questions: Money
This is something you'll hear in Cuba a lot. Casa particular is a phrase meaning private accommodation or private homestay in Cuba, very similar to bed and breakfast. Some casas have just a simple room in a family’s home, while some are more similar to a boutique hotel. There are thousands of casas in Cuba and these privately-owned places are what we use for all our tours.
Cuba's food has not generally been known as its strongest attraction in recent decades, as trade embargoes and the general economic situation has limited access to ingredients. However, things are rapidly improving as the political situation changes and restrictions ease, and foodies often love Cuba for the overall culinary experience, spices, and variety of dishes served. Traditional Cuban cuisine is a unique and interesting blend of African, Caribbean, Spanish, and Native American food. Seafood, rice, beans, and local fruits are likely to be common items on your plate. You may encounter very simple meals along the way, but even these simple dishes can be a memorable experience when prepared by a traditional Cuban chef or owner of a casa particular. We have carefully selected unique and authentic restaurants that will give you a taste of this varied and authentic cuisine. We are sure that along the way on your Cuba Unbound tour, your taste buds will be doing the rumba!
The electrical current in Cuba is 110V with a current of 220v (same as the U.S. and Canada). Therefore, you should not need a converter. However, while most outlets are of the same type as those in the U.S. and Canada, there are a few rare places that have the round two-prong type like those in France.
US Travelers: Well, how much can you buy with $400? The spending limit, per person, is $400 for US citizens for any personal use items. As of October 2016, this limit now includes rum and cigars. Since these regulations could change, be sure to double check.
Something to keep note of, Cuban custom officials have the right to request proof of purchase from anybody leaving the country with more than 50 cigars. They don't always do it, but they do reserve the right. Keep your receipt and only buy from authentic sources.
We strongly advise you to approach your Cuba Unbound tour as an opportunity to completely unplug. If you embrace that attitude, we believe you will have a most authentic Cuban travel experience. While cell phones are not uncommon in Cuba, there are only a few US cellular companies that have service in Cuba including Verizon and AT&T. Check with your provider to see if they have coverage in Cuba.
Internet service is also very limited but has expanded greatly in the past two years. Whenever you see groups of people gathered in one location and staring at their phones, you can bet there is WiFi. Often this is town parks, and sometimes in hotel lobbies. You have to buy an Internet card to access WiFi. As of June 2019 the cost is 1 CUC per hour. Your Cuban guide will help you purchase these if you so desire.
If there is an emergency, our guides are equipped to communicate using phones and internet as needed.
Gifts for Cuban friends you meet along the way - This is a complex subject that we hope you will take a moment to reflect on. We understand that some people truly enjoy sharing their bounty and we believe there is an appropriate and conscientious way of doing so that reinforces dignity and respect rather than the flawed image of a charitable savior.
We are very sensitive to the idea that we don't want to contribute to a culture where children see tourists and immediately think "I'll go ask for candy or a pen." Or where adults view tourists as if they are a vending machine. Our goal is to provide meaningful interaction with people and establish genuine relations across a diverse world.
If you are interested in supporting the economic empowerment of Cuba’s people, we encourage you to purchase locally made products and support small businesses along the way. There are also organizations well equipped to provide large scale support across Cuba for health, education and more such as CARE (https://www.care.org/country/cuba) that welcome donations. *We always encourage you to research any charity you consider giving a donation to ensure the money is actually used for the benefit of the people.
It can be appropriate to bring some gifts to give to people along the way, in the manner in which you might give a token of appreciation to a friend. However, the giving needs to be done in a sensitive way and after some sort of relationship is established between you and the local people you are meeting.
Many of our trips stay in Casa Particulares, which are private homes set up like a Bed & Breakfast. These are great places to meet a local family and get to know more about Cuba. At the same time, these people are already more well off than most Cubans as they are renting rooms in their homes. The most appropriate gifts for your hosts might be small souvenirs from your home town such as postcards to show them what it looks like, or some specialty product from your region.
Along the way you'll meet many musicians and they always have tip baskets set up. We encourage you to contribute to those, but you might also think about bringing guitar or bass strings, or saxaphone reeds.
If you do decide to bring gifts, they should be things that won't simply end up in the landfill because they are cheap and break. Things that require batteries are also not a good choice as batteries are expensive for Cubans and they have no recycling system for them. Here are a few ideas: Because Cubans have limited access to the internet, flash drives are common and quite expensive for the average Cuban. Travel umbrellas, small solar lights like "Luci Lights", crayons, colored chalk, rubber playground balls, inflatable globes, quality bandaids, quality kitchen gloves and sponges, simple medicine like ibuprophen, etc. can also be meaningful gifts for families you meet along the way. Our guides are happy to help you with any questions you may have and coordinate your efforts.
Remember too that the service industry in Cuba is just like anywhere else in the world. Hotel bellhops, taxi drivers, servers in restaurants and bars all depend on tips as part of their wages. Cuba Unbound includes most all incidental tips on the trip (at group restaurant meals, hotel baggage handling, etc.) but you are always welcome to add your own tip over and above this. This money makes its way into the economy and in the end also is a big help to the locals. Again, your guides are happy to help navigate what an appropriate amount might be.