Cuban ‘Ukulele Rhythms

Feb. 16 – 25, 2024

The U.S. Government permits travel to Cuba under 12 different categories including “Support for the Cuban People” which is the one we will be using. This category requires travelers to maintain a full schedule of activities that involve meaningful interaction with individuals in Cuba and that help Cubans become more independent. Excessive free time and recreational activities are not permitted. Our itinerary fulfills these requirements with wonderful experiences that include thoughtful, respectful, and kind interactions with the many Cubans we will meet with during our travels.

Yes! Please join us in Cuba! Whether we use one vintage car to get around or two, there will never be more than 10 people on our Cuban adventure, making sure you see and experience everything Cuba has to offer, up close and personal. And, new this year, we are offering an exclusive extension to the beautiful Vinales region of Cuba, only for those participating in our regular Cuban Ukulele Rhythms Adventure.

“Our trip to Cuba was extraordinary. We arrived home on Monday, but the experience will remain fresh in our memory for a long time.” Tom

“What made the trip for us was that we had so much interaction and not just sightseeing.” Shelley

“What a fantastic trip it was!” Leslie

If you’d like to learn more, please check out the itinerary below and if you want to join us please let me know ASAP.


Day 1 – Feb. 16 – Havana (L)

Ideally arriving on the same flight (tbd), we will be met at the airport by our Cuban guide, Jesus Noguera, and driven to our accommodations in Habana Vieja (old Havana) to briefly settle in. (Please note: airfare is not included. Please note, depending on arrival times, the order of events below may change.) 

Then we’ll get our bearings by exploring the old town on foot, visiting five centuries of history and architecture at Plaza de Armas, Plaza Vieja, Plaza de San Francisco de Asis, and Plaza de la Catedral. This is a perfect way to begin to understand the important place Cuba held in the Caribbean for centuries.

We’ll have lunch at Doña Eutimia, a lovely and renowned Cuban restaurant located in a festive back alley off the Plaza de la Catedral.

Dona Eutima

Doña Eutimia

“This is trip-defining food of the highest order, and proof that Cuba’s traditional cuisine, when prepared properly, can be pretty spectacular.”

Lonely Planet

After our walking tour there may be an opportunity for a little salsa lesson at back at our casa particular.

The evening is yours with an abundance of nearby restaurants and musical opportunities available nearby, from the typical tourist haunts to private roof-top performances. Our guide will let us know what’s available. It’s a very full day and just the beginning of our Cuban adventure.

Day 2 – Feb. 17 – Havana (B,L)

Cafe Ajiaco Staff

After breakfast at our hotel, we’ll pay a visit to an organic farm practicing sustainable farming in Cojimar. Then, after a delightful visit with the farmer, we’ll head to Cafe Ajiaco where we will first learn how to make the perfect Cuban Mojito. We might also be invited to help prepare lunch using the herbs and produce from the farm we just visited. (We’ll also learn the secret ingredient in Cuba’s famous black beans.)

La Terraza de Cojimar, one of Hemingway’s favorite watering holes, with its fabulous view of Cojimar Bay, is also on the agenda.  This is where Hemingway met the fisherman who was the inspiration for The Old Man and the Sea, considered by many to be his finest novel.

And since no trip to Cuba is complete without a visit to Finca Vigia, Ernest Hemingway’s home for 20 years, this will be our next stop.  It is here that Hemingway wrote many of his books. And when he left sortly after the revolution, he fully expected to return.

Then we’re back on the music trail as we head over to Guampara, the first independent production house and urban music label in Cuba, for an animated talk about the evolution of Cuban music. This is consistently one of our favorite stops.    (After our talk, there may also be an opportunity for a little salsa lesson at Guampara.)

And because no visit to Cuba is complete without a tour of modern Havana in a vintage convertible, this may be the day!

Day 3 – Feb. 18 – Havana (B,L)

Our Cuban adventure continues this morning with a planned visit to Habana Compass Dance, a school recognized internationally for its dynamic fusion of Flamenco and Afro-Cuban rhythms. Rhythm…nothing but rhythm. It is compelling and the enthusiasm, passion, and energy of these kids are mesmerizing. They do sometimes tour, so our visit will depend on their schedule. In any case, this would be a good place to purchase some claves to use while learning Cuban rhythms.  And if you’re looking for a valuable gift to bring the Cuban people, the school needs dance tights!

Jose Fuhrer's home

From there we continue on to Jaimanitas and the home of renowned artist, Jose Fuster, who has turned his home (and the surrounding neighborhood) into a flamboyant masterpiece of tiles, turrets, and colorful mosaics. AKA Fusterlandia! Because of Fuster’s influence, what was once a sleepy fishing village on the outskirts of Havana is now a mosaic-laden piece of living art.

But perhaps the best part of the visit is lunch…prepared and served by Fuster’s staff…in the midst of all this Gaudi-esque beauty.  (This is just one of the many advantages of travelling in a small group such as ours.)

After lunch, we head back to Havana where we will be treated to a unique and private journey through Cuban music with American-born, Cuban musician Pablo Menéndez. (This is where those claves might come in handy, as we learn the basic and more advanced rhythms of Afro-Cuban music.)

Dinner tonight, at a local paladar, is on your own, with suggestions from our local guide.  Then…possibly music self-made on the roof-top of our casa particular, unless the seemingly endless nightlife of Havana is calling to you, again.

Day 4 – Feb. 19 – Playa Larga, Zapata Peninsula (B,L,D)

After breakfast, we head toward the Zapata Peninsula. This sparsely populated (and zealously protected) region lies within the Ciénaga de Zapata Biosphere Reserve, providing a protected habitat for rare birds and crocodiles. This is a busy day, but ends at Playa Larga, a Cuban seaside resort where you can kick off your shoes and enjoy a mojito on the beach with the locals.

Corimacao Project

But first, we visit the town of Pálpite and the Korimacao Cultural Project. This community project gives young, non-professional artists from all around Cuba the chance to further their skills in music, theater, dance, poetry, or painting–and share them with people in small communities around the country. (Be prepared, the students may ask us to play our ‘ukuleles for them!)  This too will be an opportunity to show our support for the Cuban people by bringing gifts of guitar strings and reeds for wind instruments. These are “like gold,” for local musicians.

We’ll also have lunch in Pálpite and make a special visit to a local man who feeds and breeds birds. Here (if we are lucky) we’ll have an opportunity to see, among other things, the bee hummingbird, the smallest bird in the world and found only in Cuba.

After dinner we have another opportunity to kanikapila with our ‘ukuleles or stroll along the beach and visit the local scene. This is one the places where the Cubans come for vacation!

Day 5 – Feb. 20 – Playa Larga to Trinidad (B,L)

We’ll get an early start today so we have an opportunity to visit Gran Parque Natural Montemar, the largest cienaga (swamp) in the Caribbean, and one of Cuba’s most diverse ecosystems — another opportunity for birdwatching, among other things. So, if birds are your thing, be sure to bring your binoculars!

We’ll also have an opportunity to go swimming at Cueva de Los Peces and may also have time for a little snorkeling in the Caribbean. And while there is snorkeling gear to rent, you may want to bring your own, (along with a towel.)

On our way to Trinidad we’ll make a quick visit to the museum dedicated to the battle at the Bay of Pigs.

Then, still enroute to Trinidad, we’ll stop in beautiful Cienfuegos, a maritime city founded by French settlers in 1819. Here we’ll have time for a quick tour of the main square, the Cathedral Church, Terry Theatre, and the Palacio del Valle. The opulence and artistry is truly astonishing.

After a busy, action-packed day, we arrive in Trinidad, another UNESCO World Heritage site, and Cuba’s foremost colonial town.  Trinidad is, today, a vibrant center of art and music.

Trinidad nightlife

After dinner (on your own), those with any energy left can join locals and tourists alike as they start to gather at the open-air Casa de Musica to order a cocktail, sit on the wide stone staircase, listen to the music, soak up the atmosphere, people watch, and/or join in the salsa dancing.

If that doesn’t float your boat, there is also Casa de la Trova, Canchánchara Bar, and/or Disco Ayala – a disco in a cave. Or, we can all just retreat to the courtyard of our casa particular and make our own music. (Simply calling it a night is also an option!)

Day 6 – Feb. 21 – Trinidad (B,L)

We’ll start the day by getting our bearings in Trinidad with a stroll around the cobble-stoned Plaza Mayor and visit a local museum.  Here you can see that Trinidad’s historic center has not changed much over the last 150 years.

We’ll also visit the studios of various local artists in Trinidad, including the Santander Family that has been making pottery for generations.

Then it’s off to Playa Ancón, a ribbon of white beach on Cuba’s south coast and one of the best beaches in Cuba’s south shore. We’ll also have lunch here, at the beach.

But the best part of this day could very well be a special house concert in the evening in a private home, the site of another very successful community project. Community projects abound in Cuba, and this one was organized to teach and inspire young musicians. Indeed, the former students who performed for us in 2022 and 2023 were incredibly talented and generous with their time and skill. It is always one of our most memorable evenings.

Day 7 – Feb. 22 – Trinidad (B,L)

After breakfast, we head to the nearby Escambray Mountains, the home of Topes de Collantes National Park, a lush nature reserve. An easy hike through the woods with a local guide reveals a myriad of rare birds on this part of our Cuban adventure.

But the special treat here is the lovely lunch prepared by our guide’s brother at their family farm in the mountains. Our terrific meal with this charming family is capped by roasting, hulling, and grinding our own coffee beans then brewing our own Cuban coffee…served in a handmade cup.

We should arrive back in Trinidad with time for another salsa lesson opportunity before dinner and an evening on your own with many restaurants and nightclubs to choose from.  The Cubans, it seems, never sleep.

Day 8 – Feb. 23 – Matanzas

Right after breakfast, we bid farewell to Trinidad and travel to Matanzas, , a vibrant cultural hub that, among other things, hosts one of Cuba’s finest theaters. Here, we will have lunch at a private home where we will also have a very unique opportunity to interact with local musicians, who couldn’t be more gracious. This is the real deal and not what you expect at all.

Matanzas is the heart of the music scene that gave the world many Afro-Cuban musical traditions, including the rumba* and an assemblage of instruments including conga drums, claves, palitos (sticks), marugas (iron shakers), cajones (packing cases), and spoons.

*Cuban rumba is in a class of its own. Percussion-driven, accompanied by song and dance that exudes the physical and emotional intensity of its African roots. It is definitely not the “rhumba” from the ballroom dance floor. A synthesis of various African traditions and Spanish influences, rumba became the music of the country’s poorest people. It was in Matanzas that one of Cuba’s most beloved rumba bands, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, was founded, in 1952, in a tavern where their “instruments” were the bar’s counter, tables, glasses, and bottles.

We’ll spend the night here in a local hotel.

Day 9 – Feb. 24 – Matanzas to Havana (B,L)

After breakfast we will visit Ediciones Vigia, a unique and creative book publishing house. Truly a case of necessity being the mother of invention, Ediciones Vigia emerged as shortages of paper and other basic goods forced the writers and artists to use scrap paper, leaves, yarn, and other “found” supplies to publish their works. Since its humble beginnings, Ediciones Vigia has published the most important Cuban writers using only a typewriter, an ancient mimeo machine, and ingenious craftsmanship.

Callejon de Hamel

We return to Havana with a stop at Callejon de Hamel, a vibrant, “open-air museum” in a 200-meter-long alley, created by the late artist, Salvador Gonzalez. The murals and sculptures here are devoted to Afro-Cuban culture and depict symbols of cultures and religions of African origin, such as Santeria, Palo Monte, and the Abakua Society. We may also be treated to a special performance.

From here we’ll head to Restaurant San Cristóbal, another one of the Top 10 paladaras in Havana, for lunch. While the traditional Cuban-Creole fare (malanga, yucca, cerdo asado (roast pork), lobster, fresh fish, and shrimp) is exemplary, it is the restaurant itself that garners the most comments.

“Cluttered and eclectic, this is a lived-in space on the bottom floor of an early 20th-century mansion. Piles of old books are stacked atop beautiful old furniture; black and white photos jostle for space with antique record covers and bullfighting posters, while a selection of clocks, religious artefacts and, even a full-size zebra pelt, add to the mix.”

The Guardian
Street market

On this, our last afternoon in Cuba, we’ll have an opportunity to do some last minute shopping at Almacenes de San José, an art and souvenir market before heading back to our hotel, where more surprises may await.

Day 10 – Feb. 25 – Havana & Home

Sadly, our Cuban adventure has come to an end and it’s time to leave Cuba and all the wonderful new friends we’ve made, unless you have opted for the Viñales Extension.

Otherwise, it is off to the airport to catch our morning flight back to Fort Lauderdale and contemplate all the wonderful things we did and the people we met along the way.

Reserve your spot now!

The total trip cost is $4,289/person — same as last year, but with an extra day thrown in!) The single supplement is $259/person. Registration is not yet open, but you can reserve your spot with a $250/person deposit, refundable only if we cancel the trip entirely or there is no space available when we receive your deposit. Please contact me for more information or to find out how and where to send in your deposit.

And don’t forget the Vinales Extension, February 25 – 29, only available to those participating in our Cuban Ukulele Rhythms Adventure.


Still have questions?

Please feel free to contact me with your questions anytime. But you might also check the link below as some of your questions might be answered there.

Here’s what you should know before traveling to Cuba. (Please click on the link)

Please Note: Travel in Cuba requires a flexible attitude. Visiting developing countries can be eye-opening and life-changing. Visiting Cuba is both. That said, accommodations may not be up to the standards you are used to sometimes the hot water or air conditioning may not work, for example. Cuba has its own beat and things don’t always run on time. Our days are full, and as required by U.S. law we have a full agenda of meaningful interactions with the Cuban people. And while we will do our best to make sure we fulfill our obligation under the Support for the Cuban People program, the activities and visits listed are not guaranteed.

So, we ask that you appreciate the authenticity of your cultural encounters as well as the people, food, culture, and adventures that await. Come with an open heart and an open mind and this will be a fascinating and educational experience.

In the meantime, perhaps this will get you in the mood!


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