The Culture and Enigma of Cuba

December 10 – 17, 2018

Embark on a unique Cuban expedition with the LA Times. On this specially designed eight-day program, explore Cuba through firsthand interactions with local artists, journalists, historians and filmmakers. Trace the history of Cuba and discover how the island, located less than 100 miles from the U.S., reflects an air of nostalgia, embodies the spirit of entrepreneurship, and stimulates hope for the future. Explore the capital city of Havana, admire the French colonial architecture of Cienfuegos, and wander through the cobblestone streets of colorful Trinidad. Learn about U.S.-Cuban relations, religion, music, art, architecture, healthcare, race and economics on this in-depth program. Throughout, meet with everyday Cubans sharing their stories, expertise and passion for this island.


travel deeper:

guide expert

Catherine Watson Travel writer

Trained as a journalist, Catherine was a pioneer in voiced travel writing for American newspapers. She was the first travel editor at the Minneapolis Star Tribune and was its chief travel writer and photographer from 1978 to 2004. Her writing appears in 16 anthologies, including “Best Women’s Travel Writing 2012,” “Best Travel Writing 2010’’ and “Best Women’s Travel Writing 2009” from Travelers’ Tales Books and “Best American Travel Writing 2008’’ from Houghton Mifflin Books. She is a contributor to the Los Angeles Times.


Day 1
Arrive in Miami 

Arrive in Miami and check in to an airport hotel. Tonight, gather for a reception and panel discussion. Hear from Miami-based experts on U.S.-Cuban relations to develop context for the upcoming expedition. (R,D)

Day 2
Miami – Havana

Depart Miami this morning for a group flight to Havana. After arriving and passing through customs at Jose Martí Airport enjoy an orientation drive of Havana. Stop at El Morro castle for a scenic overlook of the city and Plaza de la Revolución, where many political rallies and speeches have taken place. Check-in to the Hotel Parque Central, located at the edge of Old Havana. Enjoy a group dinner at a local paladar, or privately-owned restaurant. Following dinner, attend a jazz performance at a local jazz club. (B,L,D)

Day 3
An Introduction to U.S. – Cuba Relations

Begin your day exploring U.S.-Cuba relations with a meeting with Rosa Miriam Elizalde. Elizalde, a Cuban journalist, contributor to The Nation, and editor of the site Cubadebate, will discuss the state of media in Cuba, comparing it with issues being faced by media in the United States. Then, visit the U.S. Embassy in Havana, formally re-established in 2015 after almost 40 years. There, hear from an embassy representative to discuss recent developments in normalizing relations. End the day with a visit to Fábrica del Arte, a former factory-turned-art gallery, showcasing some of Cuba’s contemporary art scene. During this private, pre-opening visit, meet with one of the local artists whose work is currently exhibited. Enjoy dinner tonight as a group at a local paladar, followed by an evening musical performance. (B,L,D)

Day 4
Colonial Havana

Understand the history and architectural heritage with a morning lecture by a renowned Cuban architect and urban planner. Discuss the restoration efforts being carried out throughout the city before embarking on a walking tour through the streets of Habana Vieja, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After lunch, visit the FUNDECINE to meet with young Cuban documentary filmmakers. Learn about the growing importance of Cuban filmmaking around the world and the ways film is being used to touch on important topics in Cuba like race, religion, and entrepreneurship. This afternoon, visit Granma, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, to learn about the paper’s influence around Cuba today. Tonight, enjoy a dinner at leisure to explore Havana’s dining scene. (B,L)

Day 5
Cienfuegos: The Pearl of the South

Check out of the Havana hotel this morning. Visit the Organipónico Alamar, an urban organic farm. Meet with a local farmer to discuss urban gardening and agriculture in Cuba. Then, enjoy a guided tour of Finca Vigía, Ernest Hemingway’s home in Cuba. Meet with a museum expert as you learn about Hemingway’s strong connection to the Cuban people and the Cuban way of life. Enjoy lunch at a local paladar before driving three hours southeast to Cienfuegos. After checking into the Hotel Jagua, have some time to relax before a group dinner at a local paladar. (B,L,D)

Day 6
Trinidad Preserved

Depart Cienfuegos to travel to Cuba’s best-preserved colonial city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Trinidad. Meet with a representative from the Office of the City Historian for a lecture and walking tour, learning about the city’s preservation efforts and challenges.This afternoon, attend a panel discussion with local experts to discuss healthcare and the economy in Cuba. Learn how Cuba’s healthcare system is recognized internationally. Return to Cienfuegos late in the afternoon and enjoy the remainder of the day and evening at leisure. (B,L)

Day 7
Cuba’s Future

This morning, enjoy a guided walking tour through the port city of Cienfuegos, viewing the French colonial architecture. Engage with local cuentapropistas (independent business owners) on Cienfuegos’ main commercial street. After lunch, visit 5 de Septiembre, the local Cienfuegos newspaper. Meet with journalists and editors to discuss the role of media in Cuba. End the day with a private performance by the Orquestra de Guitarras of Cienfuegos. Tonight, enjoy a farewell reception and dinner to toast your Cuban expedition. (B,L,R,D)

Day 8
Homeward Bound

After breakfast, depart for Jamie González Airport to check in for the group flight back to the U.S. (B)

trip details

Pullman Hotel

The Pullman Hotel is conveniently located near the Miami International Airport and offers contemporary ambiance and modern amenities.

Hotel Parque Central

Located within walking distance from Old Havana, the Parque Central offers comfortable rooms with modern amenities.

Hotel Jagua

The Hotel Jagua is situated in the area of Punta Gorda.

this trip

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