- Kayak around the mangroves and waterways of Tortuguero National Park
- Water-tube down the canyons and rapids of the turquoise Rio Celeste
- Stay in unique boutique hotels, from a beachfront haven to a remote jungle lodge
- Hike through the rainforest and lava formations of Arenal volcano
- Jump aboard a boat to beach-hop and snorkel around the stunning Pacific
- See beautiful wildlife in its natural habitat, from monkeys to exotic birds
Explore bustling Havana on a city cycling tour, cruise through the captivating Old Town in a vintage motor, and discover the vibrant art scene at the heart of modern Cuba. Channel your inner extrovert at a salsa dancing masterclass, feel the heat of local flavour with a Cuban cookery lesson, and try your hand at rolling an iconic Cuban cigar. Savour belly-warming rum on a spectacular sunset walk, ferry to the golden sands of an idyllic coral key, and BBQ under the stars before bedding down in a beachside bungalow
Our Cuban adventure is only suitable for our more adventurous Flashpackers. Cuba is a country that is changing rapidly however you should know some of the hotels are charming but basic, itinerary changes will likely happen along with the odd power cut. There is often baffling red tape and the simple luxuries we take for granted are often missing in this beautiful country. However for those who love the odd surprise and the charm of visiting places a little different to home will absolutely fall in love with Cuba.
Are you ready to immerse yourself in a place like no other? Cuba may be famous for its nostalgic scenes of vintage Cadillacs cruising through kaleidoscopic streets, but it’s a country both steeped in history and on the brink of something new. A sun-soaked land slowly emerging from the hangover of revolution and political tighthold, Cuba is a place where contradictions prevail. Here, it makes sense to expect the unexpected. Neighbourhoods are at once exhilarating, vibrant and yet surprisingly conservative; the striking colonial architecture ranges from bombastically majestic to endearingly run-down or entirely dilapidated, while the landscape switches between pulsing city life and remote rural valleys, with golden sandy beaches and dramatic rocky coastline peppered in-between. Following an economic embargo that’s lasted over half a century, and despite still relatively complex socialist State rule, Cuba is now on the cusp of a growth spurt, making it the perfect time to visit. Arrive with an open mind and you’ll soon understand the intoxicating allure of this quirky Caribbean island. Our adventure begins with a bike ride through Havana’s intricate backstreets, followed by a tête-à-tête with a veteran revolutionary who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Che Guevara. Over a special eight-days, you’ll cruise Havana’s captivating Old Town in a vintage motor, try your hand at rolling an iconic Cuban cigar, savour smooth, belly-warming rum at sunset, and scratch the surface of Cuba’s modern music scene. We’ll ferry to the golden sands of an idyllic coral key and snorkel in clear blue waters, before drifting off in beach bungalows to the sound of lulling waves. We’ll BBQ on the beach, sip mojitos on the sand, and head back to Havana for a Cuban cook-off. We’ll salsa dance come sun-down and drink cocktails under the stars, before sampling the nightlife of Havana’s hippest hotspots. Get ready Flashpackers, this is a Cuban immersion like no other…
The Flash Pack promise
Here at Flash Pack, we’re committed to unique adventures that deliver great value for money. We pack our trips with epic experiences (unlike other companies, all activities are included), and match you with like-minded people.
- Uncover the hidden quirks of Cuba’s capital and cruise the captivating Old Town in 1950s classic cars
- Cycle the intricate backstreets of bustling Havana and see the city from a unique perspective
- Feel the heat of Havana during a salsa dance class with a one-on-one Cuban partner
- Snorkel in the clear Caribbean waters of Cayo Levisa and stay in a beach bungalow nestled on the island’s golden sands
- Travelling in Cuba is not for everyone, luxury doesn't exist and you have to be prepared for last minute changes and odd unexpected surprise.
- Get a taste for local flavour and master a traditional dish at a Cuban cooking class
- Experience the intoxicating buzz of hedonistic Havana, then dial things down in the laidback Viñales valley
- Try your hand at rolling authentic Cuban cigars and take a sunset walk through the rural Valle del Silencio
Day 1: COCKTAILS AND COMPADRES
Take a private transfer from the airport to your boutique casa particular in the buzzy Vedado district of Havana. Meet your guide and fellow Flashpackers and head out to the Old Town for an artisan’s crash course in Cuban cocktail making and a Japanese-Cuban fusion feast
Flashpackers, welcome to Cuba! Whatever time you touch down at Havana airport, a private transfer will be on hand to whisk you straight to the boutique casa particular where we’ll spend our first night. Take in the city surroundings, meet your trip guide and get to know all your fellow Flashpackers. Perfectly set in the hip district of Vedado just a few miles west of Havana’s Old Town, you’ll get your first true taste of authentic Cuba at your first night’s accommodation. A restored colonial property set amongst the impressive art deco mansions of what was once known as Havana’s ‘forbidden district’, this is a chance to soak up the exquisite architecture of Vedado; a neighbourhood once notorious for its Mafia connections, now heralded as a hub for nightlife and chic cafe-spots.
Once the whole group has arrived and settled in, we’ll head to the Old Town for a masterclass in artisan cocktail making and a delicious spread of local cuisine. Get to know your new compadres a little better while tucking into some delicious food over a drink or two. Fuel up, it’s a busy day tomorrow.More +
Day 2: HAVANA BY BIKE AND VIÑALES VALLEY ROADTRIP
Start the day by exploring Havana’s captivating quirks, colour and culture, with a group city cycle tour taking in the woodland valley of Bosque de Almendares, and the coastal road into the Centro Habana district. Have lunch in the Old Town, then take a roadtrip to the picturesque valley of Viñales in time for dinner
You might want to start the day with a Café Cubano (a strong espresso shot sweetened with demerara sugar); today’s schedule is a bonanza of sights and cycling. After breakfast we’ll take to bikes and set off from our casa to see the main sights of Havana from a truly unique perspective. Our two-hour cycle route—led by members of the Cuban Masters, a veteran cycle team who know the city inside-out—will cover 16km, as we ride through the woodland valley of Bosque de Almendares to Plaza de la Revolución—home to the famous Memorial José Martí. From there, we’ll pass the iconic Hotel Nacional as we take the El Malecon coastal road in to Havana’s rustic Centro Habana district, buzzing with lively street vendors and busy locals. We’ll dismount at the Capitolio building on the edge of the Old Town, then head into the maze of busy narrow streets on foot, to better explore. Our guide will highlight key features of the city and lay down the basics of Cuba’s complex political and economic history (there’s much to cover), and you’ll enjoy a once in a lifetime meeting with a veteran revolutionary, who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Che Guevara the infamous Castro brothers during the Cuban revolution.
After lunch at a chic cafe in the Old Town, you’ll board a private coach with your Flash Pack crew, for a roadtrip to the valley of Viñales and its namesake town. The bumpy journey will take us three hours, so kick back and relax as we drive westwards through the leafy Artemisa province on the edge of the Sierra del Rosario mountain slopes, and into the verdant countryside of Pinar del Rio—just a small leap from where the world’s best tobacco is grown. Get your camera ready for the winding descent into the town of Viñales, those views are worthy of a #nofilter. After checking in at our hotel, where we’ll be based for the next two nights, we’ll enjoy dinner at a local eatery, as opposed to the many State-run options. Later, we’ll head to the town’s main plaza to cut the rug at dance venue Centro Cultural Polo Montanez. Bring your salsa shoes!More +
Day 3: ROLLING CUBANS & RUM AT SUNSET
Get a true taste of rural Cuba with an exploration of the Viñales valley and the spectacular scenery of the province of Pinar del Rio. Take in the Jurassic cave networks at Cueva de Santo Tomas enjoy lunch at a converted farm with rolling countryside views, then try your hand at rolling authentic Cuban cigars. Watch the sun go down over Valle del Silencio and soak up the sunset with some belly-warming rum
We’ll kick off Day Three by exploring the spectacular scenery in the province of Pinar del Rio, aka lesser-known rural Cuba. After breakfast, we’ll head to the incredible Jurassic caves at Cueva de Santo Tomas—a gigantic network spread over 46km and eight jutting levels. Lunch will be served in the tranquil countryside a world away from the urban thrum of Havana. Pinar del Rio is the home of Cuba’s most internationally acclaimed cigars; Montecristos and Cohibas, for those who know their tobacco. So after lunch we’ll head to tobacco farm Finca de Raul Reyes to try our hands at Cuban cigar rolling. If your handiwork turns out to be less than masterful, this is your chance to buy the good stuff. Expect to pay between two to three CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso) per puro—you can take 50 out of the country without having to deal with customs.
We’ll regroup early evening for a sunset walk through the Valle del Silencio—a picturesque valley running along the foot of the La Aquiana mountain—where we’ll sample some of Cuba’s smoothest rums al fresco, as the sun sinks to a burnishing glow. There are plenty of dining options in the town of Viñales, so once we’re back at base feel free to explore local cuisine, from traditional Cubana sandwiches filled with roasted ham, pork and cheese, to marinated olives, fried sweet plantains and Ropa Vieja—a Cuban take on shredded beef, often served with rice and mung beans.More +
Day 4: SEA, SAND AND A BBQ AT SUNDOWN
Kick back and relax on the Caribbean island of Cayo Levisa, a beach-lover’s paradise complete with soft golden sands, crystal clear waters and charming beachside bungalows, where we’ll spend the night being lulled to sleep by rolling ocean waves. Sip mojitos on the sand, join your Flashpackers for group snorkelling, and grab some grub at an exclusive beach BBQ as the sun goes down
Today, we’ll hop on the minibus and drive an hour out of Viñales to the north coastline of Pinar del Rio. We’ll catch a 30-minute ferry at Palma Rubia and sail the 7km to the island of Cayo Levisa—a small coral key that makes up part of the Archipelago de Los Colorados in the Gulf of Mexico. An unfailing paradise for beach loving Flashpackers, Cayo Levisa, said to be a favourite spot of Ernest Hemingway’s, is best known for its 3km stretch of golden sandy beach, dense green mangroves and abundant sea life. Today is all about kicking back and taking it easy, so grab a book (plus your sunscreen and mosi-spray), order your mojito and take a load off next to the lapping blue waves of the Caribbean Sea. If you’re feeling energetic, join your fellow Flashpackers for a spot of snorkelling in the crystal clear waters where tropical fish abound beneath the surface.
Though food isn’t typically a highlight of visits to Cayo Levisa (some Cuban food is not great), we’ll be changing things up with an exclusive Flash Pack BBQ as the sun goes down. After swimming and sunbathing all afternoon, join us on the beach come evening for a pork-roast dinner with a Cuban twist (we’ve got some simple vegetarian options too), before bedding down in tonight’s accommodation—wooden beach bungalows nestled in the sand, a lot more basic than some of the big beach resorts in Cuba but way more authentic, where you’ll drift off to the lull of ocean waves. This is the life.More +
Day 5: BYE CAYO LEVISA, HELLO SALSA
Say goodbye to Cayo Levisa and catch the ferry to the mainland, where we’ll head back to heady Havana for an immersion into all things salsa. See the kaleidoscopic works of famous Cuban artist José Fuster in the Jaimanitas neighborhood, and enjoy a tasty dinner of pizza and pasta before exploring the city nightlife
After breakfast overlooking the beach, we’ll wave goodbye to Cayo Levisa and catch the ferry back to the mainland. At Palma Rubia we’ll hop on the minibus and head back to where your Cuban adventure all began—our boutique casa in the Vedado district, and the intoxicating pull of heady Havana. The scenic drive will take us approximately two and half hours, though we’ll stop-off on the western outskirts of the city to tuck into lunch at a beautiful restaurant, complete with views across the Caribbean big blue. We’ll also pay a brief visit to Casa de Fuster in the Jaimanitas neighborhood, the home of Cuban artist José Fuster, whose vivid mosaics and remarkable street art has enveloped the community in a riot of kaleidoscopic colour.
This afternoon, we’ll embrace the heart of Cuba’s defining art form—dance! We’ll head to the Playa district of Havana, which sits sandwiched between Santa Fe to the west and the Almendares River on the east, to immerse ourselves in the passionate art of salsa dancing. After learning the steps one-on-one from a local Cuban dance instructor, grab yourself a rum and join your Flashpackers—dance partners, too—for dinner at a nearby restaurant, before heading out to show off your new moves at Havana’s hottest dance spots.More +
Day 6: GET A FEEL FOR FLAVOUR
Savour a late start at your casa, before we head to Playa district for a Cuban culinary masterclass. After the heat of the kitchen, join your Flashpackers for a slap-up lunch overlooking the clear blue sea. Later, we’ll meet some of Cuba’s contemporary musicians at a Havana recording studio, before heading out to sample the beats at hotspot La Fábrica
After the vigour of last night’s salsa-fuelled evening, enjoy a later wake-up call this morning and a more leisurely paced day. After breakfast at the casa, we’ll head back to Playa district, where you’ll get to indulge in a hands-on cookery class learning how to make a traditional Cuban dish packed full of Latin flavour. After the heat of the kitchen, cool off with a quick swim in the ocean along the rocky coastline if the weather is on our side, then let the chefs show us how it’s really done with a slap-up lunch overlooking the clear blue sea.
Later we’ll visit BandEra recording studios and meet some of Cuba’s contemporary musicians, who’ll give us the low-down on Havana’s modern-day music scene. This area is teeming with fabulous dining options, but we’d recommend gathering your Flashpackers for tapas and cocktails on the rooftop terrace at a nearby restaurant, before heading out to one of Havana’s hippest hotspots.More +
Day 7: CLASSIC CARS & STAR-LIT COCKTAILS
Spend your last full day in Havana as you see fit. Fly solo and shop the city while revisiting your favourite spots, or join beach-keen Flashpackers for a bike ride to sandy Playa del Salado. Take a bucket-list-worthy cruise around greater Havana in a 1950s classic car, then toast your brilliant Flash Pack friends one last time with cocktails on the terrace and dinner under the stars
It’s the penultimate day of your Cuban adventure and your last full day in Havana, so today’s schedule has plenty of wiggle-room to allow you the freedom to spend it as you wish. Either spend the day at your leisure, shopping the city and revisiting your favourite spots, or join any Flashpackers up for a ride on a cycle route through the city to a beach in Playa del Salado. A 45km round-trip (we’ll have a bus on hand if you need to take your feet off the pedals), we’ll set off from Miramar, one of the flashiest neighbourhoods in the Playa district, and ride westwards out of Havana for around 23km towards the beach, where we’ll lounge, swim and bask in the sunshine before cycling (or busing) back.
In the evening we’ll regroup at the casa and embark on a bucket-list-worthy tour of greater Havana riding in 1950s classic American cars. The two-hour cruise will take in the lush woodlands of Parque Almendares, as well as Revolution Square and the El Malecon coastal road, before a fitting final stop in the Old Town. We’ll toast to the final night of our Cuban adventure with cocktails on the terrace of a favourite paladar, and have a last dinner together in balmy Havana under a star studded night sky.More +
Day 8: HASTA LUEGO, CUBA
Flashpackers, it’s time to say adios. Or as we’d prefer it, hasta luego—a more optimistic ‘see you later’!
It’s over to you to arrange your taxi to the airport and depart at your leisure. Wherever you’re headed, you’re sure to be high on life after a true Cuban adventure. You’ve cruised through Havana in a classic car, danced salsa all night with your Cuban compadres, and BBQ’d on the beach under a starry night sky. You’ve walked the white sands of Cayo Levisa, dreamt the night away in a beachside bungalow, and snorkeled the clear blue waters of the Caribbean seas. You’ve savoured rum-soaked cocktails, sampled a true Cuban mojito and cycled the backstreets of Havana like a city local. You’ve probably picked up a few new lifelong friends, too. But if you’re not quite ready to leave Cuba—and really, who could blame you?—extend your journey, there is loads more of the island to explore.More +
Fly into and out of: José Martí International Airport (HAV)
The accommodation choices in Cuba are plusher than your average Cuban dwelling, but not quite up to Flash Pack’s usual high standards.If you have travelled with Flash Pack before, please be aware the standards of accommodation in Cuba will not match your previous experience, we are staying in some of the best places in each location, but generally the accommodation in Cuba is of a lower standard. Regardless of where you stay in Cuba, power cuts and breaks in hot water are sometimes unavoidable, but we’ll always make sure hotels or casas are clean and comfortable with rooms that are truly unique. Sometimes hotels/casas cancel on us at the last minute so with this in mind we always have a backup hotel/casa of a similar standard.
Cuba is a developing country, luxuries such as air conditioning, and even toilet seats, are often scarce in Cuba. Learning to appreciate everyday Cuban resourcefulness is all part of this unique adventure.
You’ll need a visa to visit Cuba: check your country requirements and apply for a tourist visa before you travel
Coming from the States? Things are more complicated for you. While travel to Cuba is legal, tourism is still prohibited under US law. To comply with the legalities you’ll need a pre-prepared itinerary that is deemed to be in ‘support of the Cuban people’. Our itinerary supports the local people but we will need you to contact us before you back so we can explain the rules clearly. Also, you will need to ensure you book flights to and from Cuba via a third-party country, i.e Canada, Mexico, Panama etc, to avoid complications
There is an additional charge for the bike ride to the beach on Day 7 of the trip, as this is an optional extra depending on a minimum of 2 Flashpackers
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