Special Programs

  • Look here for upcoming Special Events, Special Tours to join, and Special Pricing





  • A great month for gardens, celebrations, and all of our tours

November 2013

  • Bi-annual International Choral Festival. Calling all choristers and music lovers – international choirs invited. Non-competitive festival.

Carnival Santiago de Cuba

Hot days and hotter nights – Carnival in Santiago de Cuba is a great time to feel part of this timeless Caribbean city.

Celebrate Revolution – 26th July 1953 was the famed attack on the Moncada Barracks which started 5 years, 5 months and 5 days of Revolutionary Civil War. Travel back in time with one of our signature tours and live those tremendous years around Santiago de Cuba.

Book now July 21 to July 27th
Accommodations, Meals and 2 of our spectacular tours.

554.00CAD per person double occupancy 2 people minimum

Special group prices available

Discount for longer stay

Contact us for full tour description

Festival of Fire - Santiago de Cuba

Celebrating the African Caribbean Diaspora this is a tremendous festival – music, dance, poetry, lectures, street parades, costume parties, and more music and dance, and religious ceremonies, and did I say music.

Each year one country of the Caribbean celebrates it culture, history, music, dance.

So come home to the Caribbean, come to celebrate your African and Caribbean heritage, come from wherever you are, whatever your heritage – dance, enjoy the music, join a parade.

Book now July 2 to July 10th
Accommodations, Meals and 2 of our spectacular tours.

$600.00 CAD per person double occupancy 2 people minimum

Special group prices available

Discount for longer stay

Contact Us for full tour description

Tours In And Around Santiago De Cuba

Santiago de Cuba, in “tierra calente”, is the perfect place to start to understand Cuba. The first capital, the incubator of the War of Independence and the Revolution, the birthplace of Cuban music and much more. Surrounded by the Sierra mountains, in 50 kms you can experience everything from a cloud forest to a desert. Orchids, cacti, butterflies, bats and birds make even a short walk absolutely compelling.

Join us, and explore history, culture, music and dance, and the beautiful, southern coast of Cuba.

Most of these tours are available year round. Some are weather dependent – mountain roads become impassable in the rain. We can usually move from one day to another tours which are affected by weather.

The Sierra hikes are available from January to April depending on the weather. They cannot be done once the summer rains start.


Eco-Tour 1 – Gardens of clouds and forest

Join us in the enchanted world of ferns and clouds. We journey out of the city to a cloud forest with ancient fern trees and simple pines which existed in the time of the dinosaurs. Visit to a high altitude garden with beds of bird of paradise flowers and many exotic tropical plants. Visit a private garden hidden among the slopes and trees. Walk in the magical world of bromeliads and orchids, brightly colour butterflies and brilliant birds. Lunch at the beach

Eco-Tour 2 – Fern and orchid Garden

Visit to an internationally acclaimed fern and orchid garden with the most complete collection of tropical ferns in the Americas. The collection numbers some 3000 ferns and over 300 exotic and indigenous orchids. This is the life work of the Director of the Institute which he has created over the passed 35 years. Lunch in the garden

Eco-Tour 3 – Gardens of desert, cacti and musical instruments

Join us for a tour in the arid hills of the south coast between the Sierras and the azul Caribbean sea. This coastal strip is full of micro climates permitting elephant grass here, and cacti there. We make lots of stops along the way to peer into gardens, tramp through the undergrowth (no sandals please) and look and point. The Cactus Garden represents a major collection of exotic and indigenous species and we spend time learning to propagate these heat and drought tolerant plants. Visit to private collection. Lunch

Eco Tour 4 – Wetland Birding

This fresh water lake and its tidal channels are a haven for endemic and visiting water birds. A morning along the channels and cannel will net avid birders lots of species for their checklist. For those who just enjoy a wonderful journey there are fresh water dolphins, rare crocodiles, and neon-brilliant crabs. Late afternoon birding along the coastal strip completes the day. Lunch

Eco-Tour 5 – Birds, Butterflies and Bats

Early morning start to see the owls coming home; as the dawn washes over the heavily forested slopes of the mountain side you greet dawn on the top of the mountain, the best time to see both endemic and visiting birds is during the very early morning feeding. You end the day near the coast, where thousands of bats make their perfectly timed exodus from their coastal cave to the mountain side for fruit, nectar and pollen. Lunch at the beach

Eco-Tour 6 – Coral and Fishes

Snorkel in the clear waters off Cuba’s South-east coast. The expert is part of the team which studies and cares for the Biosphere which was created 25 to 30 years ago, covering about 60 kms of fragile coast, mangrove swamps, and second and third growth forests. Species protection, habitat protection, research and propagation are key elements in this work. Breakfast at the beach. Turn this into a beach day with hike along the cliffs, or a lazy day sunk in the wonderful deck chairs, walking the beach or swimming in the blue-green waters. Breakfast included. Lunch extra. Towel Service included.

Eco-Tour 7 – Farms of the Sierras

A delightful add-on to our agricultural tours, or just a couple of nights’ getaway into the beautiful mountains of Tercera Frente on the north facing slopes of the Sierras. These verdant hillsides produce coffee and fruits – avocados the size of coconuts, tiny bananas, cocoa. The eco-resort offers a natural swimming pool below a crystal clear waterfall, and great walks on the high plateau . Plate sized butterflies come to the stream to drink, hummingbirds sip the flowers, and the forest is alive with all manner of tiny creatures.

Eco-Tour 8 – Geology of Cuba

The unique coastal formations, old volcanoes, desertification and erosion make this a fascinating coast to enjoy.


Agricultural Tour 1 – Food for thought

The government of Cuba has a goal of the island becoming self sufficient in foodstuffs. Since 1988 when the first organic gardens were created, increasing amounts of fruit and vegetables are being produced through intensive cultivation. Many of the gardens are in the centre of cities, near major residential developments, in schools, hospitals, police stations, army barracks, and in almost any other space, piece of ground or roof top. We visit local organic gardens, a market, and a small holding. Lunch at the farm

Agricultural Tour 2 – National Reference Gardens

Our goal is two remarkable small gardens which seem to the overflowing with goodness. The first garden, which is more like a small and expanding market garden, is termed a patio garden, but has little in common with your herb planters tucked between the deck chairs. It produces sufficient vegetables for several blocks of apartments, together with tilapia for the neighbours and rabbits for family meat. Inter planting and judicious use of flowers makes for good insect control, while the left overs from the sugar mills provide the material for earth worm beds and compost.

Our second visit is to a medicinal herb garden. This garden and its maker have been recognized for their excellence and their contribution to the field of urban agriculture and the health of the population. Every square inch of garden and now the roof and stairs is under cultivation. The garden is staffed by local volunteers, who take their pay in trips to various gardens and workshops.

Lunch in the gardens

Agricultural Tour 3 – Farm Day

Eager to get your hands into some tropical soil? Or just need to garden? Spend a day working on a small farm, preparing soil, planting, gathering crops, and helping the farmer extend his pasture and agricultural land, until recently buried in invasive bushes and trees. Farm lunch.

Agricultural tour 4 – 2 farm visits

About 6 years ago, Cuba changed its land use policy to encourage farmers and people interested in farming to expand the agricultural base and take back land which had been lost to marabu, desertification, salination, and other problems. Much of this land was near major urban centres. The process continues. Our first visit is to a small farm which is being formed out of waste land just outside Santiago. The young farmer has diversified into fruit, herbs, short cycle and long cycle crops, and a healthy herd of goats. Our second visit is to a much more established, but expanded, farm, growing herbs for medicine and the kitchen, and flowers for market. Farm lunch


History of Cuba Part 1 Pre-Columbia to First Contact

See Baracoa

History of Cuba Part 2 Colonial Cuba to Independence

From Indians and slaves, buccaneers and Spanish grandees, pirates and indentured servants, has come a vibrant people. Explore their history and their struggles. From the oldest house in the Americas (quite a few others burned down) to the solid fortress at the harbour, and the living remembrance of the Peace Tree, Cuban history is told in stone and wood, and the faces of its people.

History of Cuba Part 3 Independence to Revolution

A century of turbulence and civil war has led to over five decades of relative calm. The struggle to become an independent nation in the face of US opposition is a poignant and triumphant story. Come with us to explore the Revolutionary Civil War as played out around Santiago. Have history come alive and tangible.

History of Cuba Part 4 Sugar and Slavery

See Trinidad

History of Cuba Part 5 Life and Work in a 20th century Sugar town

The history of Cuba and of the Caribbean is intimately connected with sugar. Sugar defined the wealth of a few, the colour of its people, the dominance of superpowers, and the poverty of its citizens. Visit a small town where sugar is still king. Understand the history of its barrios. This is the history of much of Cuba in the twentieth century.

History of Coffee

The spread of Coffee from the Middle East through Europe and into the new world is a wonderful adventure. That toasting a green, vegetable tasting, bean changed the world is a story worth following. Coffee changed the life of Cuba’s mountains. Mountain sides were cleared, roads and houses were built, slaves brought in – all to export the most expensive legal drug in the world. Follow the colonial development of Cuba’s coffee industry.


Art and Artists

Like most colonies Cuba, at first, followed the artistic fashions of Europe. Religious mural painting and secular commission work was the foundation of an artistic tradition from which has sprung a new artistic language. This tour begins with a short lecture and slide show which helps you understand that history and some of the best of today’s artists. Museum, gallery and studio tour.

This tour is a must for people interested in the arts and/or in purchasing Cuban work. The tours in Camaguey and Habana build on this information.

Art and Religion in Cuba

From the time of Columbus, Spanish Catholicism with it panoply of saints and many festivals was the principal religion of Cuba. Here and there were tiny pockets of Indians, still practicing their religions, but much of their culture had been swept away by the middle of the 16th century. The influx of African slaves building to major imports by the mid-19th century changed the face of Cuba and its religions. At first allowed to practice their own religions, their sheer numbers became a threat especially during their festivals. Their religions were suppressed and Christianity imposed. However, the Yoruba transferred the attributes of their African gods to Christian saints and so found a way to stay within the law and practice their religion. This tour explores the importance of these mixtures as they inform art, music and dance in Cuba.

Architecture Walk 1 – The Historic Centre

One of Santiago’s leading architects takes you on a walk through history. Each city in Cuba has its own unique style and decoration. As one of the oldest of the cities, Santiago offers the most eclectic mix. Pirates, fire and earthquakes have enforced urban renewal – the Cathedral is the 3rd building on that site, and almost none of the very early buildings escape the attention of English and French pirates. Early colonial sits next to Art Deco, and buildings from the Republic and later periods. Learn to spot the fakes and the overbuilding and explore some of the glorious courtyards which can be glimpsed through half closed doors.

Architecture Walk 2 – The Republic Suburbs and Revolutionary Expansion

The coming of the automobile, the wealth brought by sugar, US prohibition, and US investment freed the owners of major businesses and the rich from the need to stay in the centre of the city, and gave them the money with which to fulfill their rural fantasies. Wide roads, houses set back in their own gardens, treed streets to preserve the quiet and coolness of early morning, and above all architecture expressing the new age – ferro-concrete allowing curves and balconies, elegance in design and durability. The new suburbs epitomized the new found confidence of the Age. Housing and the right to a home was one of the great arguments of the Revolution. New suburbs with basic housing, gifts from other countries, and most recently the replacement of whole barrios with new housing after Hurricane Sandy, characterize the new growth of Santiago and of most Cuban cities.



All music classes are offered on an individual basis.
Music classes available: Percussion ~ Guitar ~ Trumpet ~ Voice

The price of classes varies with the level at which the class is taught. Classes for Beginner and Intermediate are available all the time. Advanced and Master Classes must be booked 3 months in advance to ensure the availability of the teacher.

We provide percussion instruments and space to practice. Guitar and Trumpet, please bring your own instrument.

Minor percussion instruments and guitars can be purchased in Cuba. A guitar takes time to make.

Dance Classes

Dance classes are on an individual basis If you come with a partner we will make sure that you can dance together and with other partners. Your classes are run by an experience teacher and professional dancer, and include a dance partner. Two evenings out on the town with your teachers to take your new skills out onto the dance floor.

Dance Classes include Danson, Salsa, Mambo, Rumba and Chachacha. Afro-Cuban dance is available on request. Choreography for casino salsa is available on request.

Spanish Classes – individual classes only

Intensive Spanish courses with highly experienced teachers. Your language classes are your key to Cuban culture. Beginner and Intermediate levels available all the time. Specialized and Advanced classes require advance planning.


1 week in duration – 30 hours of workshop
These workshops can also be offered on an individual basis

Papier Mache

An exciting workshop for those who love to create in paper. Perform marvels with different papers, different techniques. This workshop includes the Art and Religion tour and two additional excursions to collect material. Although art materials are increasingly available, it is wise to bring your own paints and paintbrushes.

This workshop is also available for 15 hours.

Guitar Making

Almaneres has been making guitars since he was 13. His father was a legend of Cuban music. The workshop includes selection of the various woods, design and making of the guitar and decoration. Along the way this master of the Requinto will engage you with his music.


Led by the official photographer for the Office of the Conservador of the city of Santiago, this workshop includes the history of photography in Cuba, and many different aspects of photography including architectural, landscape, sport and culture. This workshop is available for individuals with a slightly changed format, and for groups of 6 or more there is the possibility of photographing a quince.


Sierra Maestras – 3ra Frente – Eco-resort

This tour into the mountains includes stops at two of the reference gardens, a morning walk with a naturalist in the mountains (length and difficulty are determined by your capability). This delightful resort features a waterfall and pool for swimming, a pleasant river, shaded balconies, and medical and massage facilities.

Sierra Maestras – Pico Torquino

To climb the highest peak in Cuba is the ambition of most Cubans. This hike takes you up the arid south face and into the clouds enshrouding the two peaks of Cuba and Torquino. The hike is done in easy stages, mule supported, and led by an ornithologist who makes the trip frequently.

Sierra Maestras – Santo Domingo

This hike takes you from the south coast over Pico Torquino and through the rugged north slope covered in cloud forest and temperate woodlands. The higher rainfall makes for trees hung with orchids, birds and butterflies in abundance. The walk ends near the base the Revolutionaries worked from. A side trip by jeep can be made to the Comandancia.

El Caleton

This lovely small beach has a large protective reef. Away from urban development the waters are crystal clear. A small house, high on a hill with a great view of the sunsets. Two bedrooms (a/c and fans), kitchen, bathroom, large sala, available as a get away, with or without housekeeping and meals. Long stay discounts available.


An artisan colony of more that 25 years standing, this pleasant village is quiet and ideal for those who wish to paint, to explore the arts, or just to rest away from the city.


This well known beach is generally busy through most of the year. Tucked away is an ideal hideout to recover from the trip and busy lives, or just to enjoy snorkeling, diving, or beach walking.


There are several all-inclusive hotels scattered along the coast both east and west of Santiago. We recommend Sierra Mar/Los Galeonos, which is in two parts, an adult part on top of a cliff minutes away from the regional centre of Chiverico, and a larger family hotel about 7kms away. The main hotel has lots of entertainment and beach options, the adult hotel has a pool, a tiny beach, and lots of quiet. (Los Galeonos residents tend not to want to be animated into singing, dancing, or exercising)

Havana, Santiago & Baracoa

Experience the culture and history of this wonderful island through the eyes of internationally acclaimed experts. Walk the streets of ancient capitals, follow the birth of a nation, and glory in its rich history. We take you on extra-ordinary walks amid trees which existed at the time of the dinosaurs, high amid the clouds you discover an ancient and fragile world of orchids and mysterious ferns. From the bay where Columbus first set foot and declared this to be “the most beautiful island”, through colonial squares and transforming countryside, we emerge finally in the glory of Habana.

Cuba is the land of perpetual summer, join us any time for festivals, music, dance and laughter.

Arrival Day

Arrive in Santiago de Cuba. However you arrive in Santiago de Cuba you will be met by our friendly staff and taken to your Casa Particular (Cuba’s equivalent of Bed and Breakfasts) Your homestay is located in the centre of the city – close to music, art, and great people watching places. Depending on your time of arrival you will have dinner or a snack.

Day 1 Architectural Walk

Santiago de Cuba was once the Capital of Cuba . One of the first seven towns built by the Spanish in the early 16th century its history is told through its architecture. An early start will take you on a walking tour through three interesting neighbourhoods in this Colonial city. Your lecturer is a conservation architect. We start in the oldest part of the city, exploring the vibrant streets and the tranquil, elegant squares, Colonial streetscapes are being restored to their former glories, but often to new uses. (In case you wonder how the colours of the city work so well together – ask your lecturer – he chooses them!) A walk through the city takes us to one of the elegant pre-revolutionary neighbourhoods where palaces now house community centres and exclusive clubs play host to school children of all ages. We’ll take time to drop by one of the city’s markets and enjoy a delightful lunch in one of those restored buildings. Dinner in your homestay.

Day 2 Tropical Gardens and Cloud Forests

After an early breakfast we’ll collect our botanist lecturer in his fabulous fern garden. Home to a collection of more than 3000 tropical ferns (some named after him) and a growing collection of orchids. We’ll travel east of the city to the Gran Piedra. This magnificent outlier of the Sierra Maestras often disappears into the clouds. As we travel from the coastal plain to the summit cloud forest we’ll stop to enjoy the changing vegetation. There is an easy climb to the summit with native orchids and ferns in great abundance. By lunchtime the forest is full of butterflies. After the climb to the summit we’ll explore the 19c Haitian style Cafetal which has been recently restored and is now a UNESCO museum. We’ll visit the large commercial garden where beds of bird of paradise flowers, gladioli, roses and many native plants are surrounded by fragrant hedges, and where every corner affords a new vista of mountains and plains. Late lunch in a local paladar with visits to Artisan Studios. Dinner in your homestay.

It is possible to substitute the Eco –Tour – Wetlands Birding – with arrangement with the other participants.

Day 3 History of Cuba – Pre-Columbian to Independence

We begin the day with a short orientation to the history of this island. We start our walk at the “oldest house” in the Americas, tour the Emilio Barcardi Museum with its treasure trove of artifacts. Jumping ahead in time we will visit the famous San Juan Hill and the tree under which the Cuban Spanish American war finally ended. “El Morro” the 17th century castle built to protect the city against the privateers and pirates like Henry Morgan who sought to relieve Spain of the wealth of Latin America guards the magnificent bay which has provided safe harbour for galleons and oil tankers, yachts and men-‘o-war. The little launch which circles the bay will take us to one of the main islands for lunch and an afternoon stroll in this friendly community. Dinner in your homestay.

It is possible to substitute the History of Cuba – Independence to Revolutionary Triumph – a Century of Turmoil – with arrangement with the other participants.

Evening meal and Afro-Cuban entertainment – groups of 4 or more

Day 4 From Santiago de Cuba to Baracoa

Early start for Baracoa – magnificent drive along the coast and through the mountains. This jewel of a historical town is between the Atlantic and Caribbean. Accessible by sea only until the late 1960’s, this town ‘s history is rich in aboriginal life, and successive waves of boom and bust economics. The surrounding mountains are clothed in forests with many plants seen only in its micro-ecosystems. Your accommodation will be in Casa Particulars (Cuba’s B&B’s) in the centre of the city. Dinner in your homestay and stroll around the town to various music venues and art galleries.

Day 5 Eco – Hike of El Yunque

Early morning start to climb slopes of El Yunque. The slopes of El Yunque tower above the town and were described in the diary of Christopher Columbus from his first landing in the bay. This old eroded mesa is a bio-preserve of second-growth forest and unique eco-systems which arbour birds, orchids, frogs and trees not found elsewhere in Cuba. . Guided hike with naturalist. Our expert lecturer will be either a botanist or ornithologist – depending on the group’s interests. . Lunch at an eco-reserve, after lunch walk and exploration of the area. Dinner and stroll around the town to various music venues.

Day 6 Historic Baracoa

Historical walk of the town of Baracoa. We will visit the famous forts which protected this outpost against pirates, and the navies of Britain and France. This was the first town of the Spanish, and the site of their first and almost only conflict with the aboriginal inhabitants. With the burning of their leaders, resistance disappeared, and by 1522 the aboriginal population had been decimated by disease, overwork and hunger. The local church houses one of the crosses brought by the Spanish. You’ll learn the history of the triangular squares, and the economic booms which brought so much prosperous housing to Baracoa in the early part of the 20th century. Visit to an archeological dig. Lunch on a farm. Dinner in your homestay

Day 7 Travel to Habana

Travel to Habana will be either direct by air (available 2 days per week only) or return to Santiago and an evening flight to Habana.

Day 8 Habana – Arts Tour

Habana is home to a passionate and prolific arts scene. Painters, sculptors , craftspeople and photographers display their work in impromtu sidewalk collections, vying for your attention with established galleries, small and large museums. This tour takes you from the gem of the Belles Artes Museum and its major collections, to galleries and to private collections and studios. Led by the director of one of Habana’s most prestigious galleries , this unique tour will introduce you to the place of Cuban Art and its inherent symbolisms. Lunch during the tour will give you time to explore your questions and enjoy the passing scene.

Day 9 Habana Vieja – Walking Tour

Walking Tour of Old Havana. Famous for its elegant squares, this tour will take you to three of the most famous. We will make our start at Havana’s famous Cathedral, visit the home of the Captains General (now the city’s museum), walk on to the splendid church of San Francisco, and complete our tour in Plaza Vieja amid the craftsmen and galleries. On the way we’ll find time to stop for gallery or studio visits, and sometimes explore a side street. Your tour is led by one of Havana’s leading architects who is intimately involved in the restoration of Old Havana, he’ll take you to see some of the restorations and rebuilding on which he has worked, explain to you how the projects are managed, and answer your many questions.

We’ll take a break for lunch and enjoy some people watching. At the end of our tour we’ll leave time to explore the craft market, which is a jumble of colour and excitement near the Cathedral square.

Day 10 Departure

This tour includes

  1. Airport Pickup and transfers on arrival in Santiago, Baracoa and Habana as part of the tour
  2. B&B style Accommodation including breakfast and dinner
  3. Tours including expert lecturers, translators, transportation, and lunches
  4. Entrances and photography fees at all sites visited
  5. Airconditioned transportation – private bus or inter-city bus link

This tour does not include

  1. Flights and expenses associated with entering or leaving the country
  2. Personal expenditures including snacks, alcohol, film development, upgraded accommodation, additional meals.
  3. Transportation prior to start or after conclusion of tour
  4. Evening entertainment except where specified


Prices and Availability

Available Anytime

2 People $2600/per person
4 people $1950/per person


For the Love of Food

I was going over the menus we have used in the last couple of months, and realized how much we have come to rely on a new Indian Cookbook we were given. Victoria Sidhu – Rani to her friends and readers, has presented more than another cookbook of Indian food. The book includes her romantic story of falling in love and going to India. The food is from the Punjab, redolent with fragrant spices, full of veggies, our clients have loved every mouthful. For those not accustomed to Indian food, Rani has prepared suggested menus, so if you just want something different as a starter, browse the menus and get tempted into several.

Living in Santiago de Cuba, you get used to wonderful fruits and vegetables that encourage you to experiment. Yesterday for the vegan staying with us – crispy fried potatoes (yes there were actual potatoes in the market) and fresh okra crispy fried, and onions the same, then baked to get rid of the oil and tossed in spices – what a feast of tastes!

One of the great benefits of the Special Period, is that it forced Cuba to start along the road to food self-sufficiency. As a result we have organic vegetables as the norm, not an expensive option. And most of our vegetables grow very near the city, with just a few kilometers between the farm gate and the market.

And every year there is more variety, more flavour, better conditions, and longer seasons. One of the difficulties has been seeds. All seeds and plants react to daylight hours, which is why Italian and southern French grapes grow wonderfully in California, or in Niagara, and not at all in more northern climes, no matter the temperature. You can travel your seeds east and west, not north and south! At the start of the Special Period, Cuba was importing its seeds. Beetroot came from Holland and Japan, carrots from Europe. The yields were low and the vegetables strange tasting. Even tropical vegetables had low yields, and without fertilizer and pest control the losses were high.

Continue reading For the Love of Food

Welcome to the Real Cub

Well our latest group of birders have just left, triumphant from a week of birding which netted 65 species and 11 of the Cuban endemics.

So now we dig out the kitchen – the site of many very early breakfast makings, and great dinners. With birders wanting to catch that moment of dawn or even earlier we send a packed breakfast of fruit and omelet and a snack, often made at 3 in the morning.

We are fortunate in the Santiago area to have many separate micro-climates so we offer a truly marvellous array of habitats ranging from cloud forest to almost desert. As 50 kms of the coast and mountains is part of a protected biosphere the mixture of coastal marshes, tiny beaches, pastureland and mountain forest provides increased range for almost everything.

In fall we have ospreys using the heights and thermals to set them right for a long glide to Haiti, and at this time of year the cold in the mountains drives small birds down to the warmer coast – including this time the bee hummingbird casually drinking in a patio, much to the delight of our co-ordinator, who was getting anxious, the ornithologist who wanted perfection, and our birders, who had dreamed of such a happening.

As not all birders want to bird all the time, we include in our week a couple of our wonderful history and cultural tours, and always something about organic food production.

Cuba is changing so quickly; almost every day the newspapers carry news of a factory restarted, fruit or vegetables harvested at rates not seen since the early – 90’s or even the 1980’s – a time preserved in a haze of good food, great ice cream, and working transportation.

Continue reading Welcome to The Real Cuba

Summer in Cuba 2015

Cuba Beyond the Beaches invites you to come see The Best of Cuba.

Join us this year in the city of Santiago de Cuba. Celebrate the 500th anniversary of its founding. Explore this wonderful island, its history, culture, countryside, mountains and beaches.

Part 1 First Contact

Explore the first Spanish city in Cuba, the history of its aboriginal inhabitants, the forest cloaked sides of the emblematic eroded mesa of El Yunque which Columbus drew in his diary. Visit the beaches, swim in one of Cuba’s famous rivers, all surrounded by a deep tropical jungle of trees and plants not seen elsewhere in Cuba.

Part 2 Colonial History

Santiago de Cuba was Cuba’s first colonial capital, explore its history of pirate raids, commercial growth; its century long struggle for the country’s independence, the coming of Yoruba slaves and French Haitians, and all the influences which make this the most Caribbean of Cuba’s regions.

Part 3 The Revolution

Not once, but twice, Eastern Cuba led the battle for independence and sovereignty. On July 26, 1953 a small group led by Fidel and Raul Castro and Abel Santamaria, led an attack on the bastion of the Batista’s secret police, the Palacio de Judicia, and a nearby hospital, the attack was unsuccessful but in the tinder keg of plots and counterplots, brutal repression, and desperation; it sparked insurrections and strikes throughout the country. Relive the story of the revolutionary war from defeat to victory.

Part 4 Themed tours of:

  • Camaguey – its colonial life and times – Legends of Camaguey
  • Santa Clara – the final battle of the Revolutionary War –Battle of Santa Clara
  • Trinidad – the colonial sugar trade – Sugar and Slavery
  • Cienfuegos – the republic sugar trade – Wealth beyond belief
  • Habana – Habana Vieja – the old Colonial city glowing with colour and life

Other tours included:

  • Baracoa – hiking El Yunque and river picnic
  • Santiago – Cloud forests, cafetals and gardens
  • Art and Religion
  • Santa Clara – Escambray mountain and local farm
  • Habana – Arts in cuba.

Meet extraordinary people, visit a Cuba seldom seen by tourists, live in Cuban homes, and enjoy the food with its immense variety of fruits and vegetables.

Price per person double occupancy $2000.00 US
Minimum group size 4 people
Deposit 400.00 US at time of booking
Final payment 30 days in advance.
Deposit is refundable if the tour is cancelled for lack of numbers.

This tour may be available in one week segments – contact us.

Meet and greet available at all entry points to Cuba. We are happy to arrange pre-and post-tour transfers and travel, accommodations, etc. Please contact us for further information.

Detailed Tour Description (Click here to Open)

Date Day Overnight Location Activity
Jul 20 Monday Santiago Arrival
Jul 21 Tuesday Baracoa Departure to Baracoa

A memorable drive along the southern coast – small towns, Cuba’s desert, and the fabulous Farola Highway.

Jul 22 Wednesday Baracoa History 1 – Pre-Columbian Life and First Contact

Exploration of the life of the original inhabitants of Cuba continues in many parts of the island. Thousands of years of human endeavour are found in the petraglyphs, pottery shards, and ornaments. Visit with descendents of these original inhabitants. The arrival of Columbus, quickly brought an end to an enduring, agricultural way of life. Understand the history of that first contact and the beginnings of what is now Cuba.

Jul 23 Thursday Santiago This massive mesa dominates the views of the town. Its almost vertical sides are clothed in tall trees, and dense tropical growth. Crystal clear waters tumble in waterfalls and rivers which rush down to the sea. This tour takes you around the lower slopes of El Yunque and into a nearby eco-reserve. Lunch is a barbeque on the banks of the river (bring your swimsuit), followed by a visit near a black coral beach.

Mid –afternoon departure for Santiago

Jul 24 Friday Santiago History of Cuba Part 2 Colonial Cuba to Independence

From Indians and slaves, buccaneers and Spanish grandees, pirates and indentured servants, has come a vibrant people. Explore their history and their struggles. From the oldest house in the Americas (quite a few others burned down) to the solid fortress at the harbour, and the living rememberence of the Peace Tree, Cuban history is told in stone and wood, and the faces of its people.

Jul 25 Saturday Santiago History of Cuba Part 3 Independence to Revolution

A century of turbulence and civil war has led to over five decades of relative calm. The struggle to become an independent nation in the face of US opposition is a poignant and triumphant story. Come with us to explore the Revolutionary Civil War as played out around Santiago. Have history come alive and tangible.

Jul 26 Sunday Santiago 500th Anniversary of the City and Commemoration of attack on the Moncado Barracks. Last night of Carnival.
Jul 27 Monday Santiago Eco-Tour 1 – Gardens of clouds and forest

Join us in the enchanted world of ferns and clouds. We journey out of the city to a cloud forest with ancient fern trees and simple pines which existed in the time of the dinosaurs. Visit to a high altitude garden with beds of bird of paradise flowers and many exotic tropical plants. Visit a private garden hidden among the slopes and trees. Walk in the magical world of bromeliads and orchids, brightly colour butterflies and brilliant birds. Lunch at the beach

Jul 28 Tuesday Camaguey Art and Religion in Cuba

From the time of Columbus, Spanish Catholicism with it panoply of saints and many festivals was the principal religion of Cuba. Here and there were tiny pockets of Indians, still practicing their religions, but much of their culture had been swept away by the middle of the 16th century. The influx of African slaves building to major imports by the mid-19th century changed the face of Cuba and its religions. At first allowed to practice their own religions, their sheer numbers became a threat especially during their festivals. Their religions were suppressed and Christianity imposed. However, the Yoruba transferred the attributes of their African gods to Christian saints and so found a way to stay within the law and practice their religion. This tour explores the importance of these mixtures as they inform art, music and dance in Cuba.

Depart for Camaguey

Jul 29 Wednesday Santa Clara Legends of Camaguey

These stories of romance, self-sacrifice, undying love and miracles, are the stuff of opera and the much loved telenovellas. Join us to explore the meaning of the white vulture, the miraculous appearance of the virgin, the silver coffin, and the everlasting grave marker. Each story is identified with a church of this city. This tour takes you to some of the most visually exciting areas of the city, to catacombs, and tiny churches. See Camaguey through the eyes of the 18th century.

Depart for Santa Clara

Jul 30 Thursday Trinidad The Battle for Santa Clara

Come back with us to December 1958. Santa Clara is under bombardment from the skies and from the hills overlooking the city. The revolutionaries have blocked the way south for an armoured train, which is now holding the revolutionary army at bay. With a participant of that battle relive his life, his time in the Lucha Clandestina and the days of that battle in and around Santa Clara. Visit to the monument of Che Guevara.

Depart for Trinidad The Escambray Mountains

The mountains between Santa Clara and Trinidad are beautiful in all seasons. Cool streams, deep forests, small villages, and country farms make this a spectacular drive. Lunch on a local farm with time for a swim. A great way to rest between tours of these two cities.

Jul 31 Friday Cienfuegos Sugar and Slavery

Join us in the exploration of the colonial sugar trade. For a period in the 19th century Trinidad was wealthy beyond belief. Visit the Valley of the Sugar Mills, explore the archeological sites which are once more bringing to life the past. Explore the life of the city which depended on the wealth of both of the trades.

African religion

A visit to an Afro-Cuban Cabildo where the sacred congas are kept, and worship is maintained in the traditional style.

Depart for Cienfuegos

Aug 01 Saturday Habana Architecture in Cienfuegos

Centred on a sheltered, deep water, port, Cienfuegos was the natural successor to the town of Trinidad. Built by Haitian refugees, American sugar barons, and investors in Cuba’s wealth, the city of Cienfuegos has a tranquility in its public spaces which belies the frantic money making which underlay it. Our tour takes you to some of the benefits of this enormous personal wealth. A 19th century theatre built to honour the man who first electrified his sugar mills.

This tour is led by a senior architect from the Office of the Conservador; responsible for many of the restorations and rebuildings of Cienfuegos’ architectural treasures.

Depart for Habana

Aug 02 Sunday Habana Arts in Cuba

From the earliest works of the artisans through to the explosion of work in the 20th century, Cuban artists have contributed to the lively debates, the civil and religious life of the country, and the interpretation of our understanding of society.

The tour begins with a survey of the fine Cuban collection in the Fine Arts Museum and continues on with visits to galleries and collections and finally through some of Habana’s striking murals both past and present.

Aug 03 Monday Habana Habana Vieja

This splendid walking tour of Habana Vieja takes you through the 4 principal squares of the old city and some of its principal streets, into projects and private homes. The story of Habana Vieja and its growing financial capability, the preservation of the social integrity of the old city, and the continuation of the preservation of buildings in face of hurricanes and floods is fascinating. For tourists and residents alike there are street performers, theatre, music and art.


Gardens of Central Cuba

Day 1 – Arrival Day

On arrival in you will be met in Santa Clara by our friendly staff and taken directly to your homestay. All our homestays are government licensed and carefully selected with your comfort in mind. (If you are arriving at another airport we will have you met – all transfers can be arranged)

Dinner in your homestay

Depending on your arrival time we can offer a tour of this Revolutionary City of Che Gueverra

Day 2 – Private Gardens and some extraordinary farming

We start the morning seeing how the city feeds itself. . On the city’s mountain slopes is an outstanding market garden. Known as Organoponicos, these urban/suburban gardens are an important part of the ever changing and expanding farming scene in Cuba. Carved out of a wasteland covered in the invasive marabou, they are a green ring around many cities. Together they produce 5 to 7 million tons of vegetables every year, and are the quintessential local farm.

You are in the City of Che, Cuba’s hero of almost mythical proportions. Next we visit a social garden dedicated to the city’s hero. The garden offers recovering alcoholics and drug users meaningful work in a beautiful and tranquil setting. Leaving the city we enter the arid plain where sugar is grown under irrigation. In this dry land we visit an outstanding cactus garden , the dedicated work of its owner. With care and attention cactus gardens offer interesting alternatives for arid winter homes. After lunch workshop on their care and propagation.

From the heat of the plain we pass into the gentle hills which eventually lead to the Escambray mountains. is a bee farm – producing not just honey but many of the natural medicine products which Cuba exports. We meet some extraordinary bees.

Lunch in the cactus garden.

Overnight at a nearby Spa.

Take the mineral waters for which the hotel is famous, or just relax around the pool.

Day 3 – Bottle gourds, cannonball vines and bamboo

An early start takes us to the Jardin Botanico. Originally this was the hobby of a sugar magnate, who left his extraordinary collection of trees and particularly bamboo, to Harvard University. At the Triumph of the Revolution the state accepted control of the garden and has continued to maintain it and enhance it, even during the desperate days of the Special Period. Many of the workers have been at the garden for more than 30 years. The collection of trees is quite extraordinary, sausage trees, bottle trees, the cannon ball vine with its really pungent flower, and stands and stands of bamboo. It is home to collections of cacti, bromeliads, and representative plants of the Escambray.

Lunch in the garden

Dinner in your homestay.

Cienfuegos is a city built on the wealth of its premier industry during the late 19th and early 20th century – Sugar! Today it is not only a major industrial centre, university town, and commercial port; thanks to the efforts of the Office of the Conservador of the City, it is one of the most beautiful cities in Cuba. The Office controls 70 blocks in the center of the city, which has been designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

We will take time to sip something cool on the roof of a palace built for a million dollars in gold at the beginning of the 20th century. Part of the unimaginable wealth of sugar.

Day 4 – Orchids and more orchids

After breakfast we travel out of the city to an orchid garden. Its director created this outstanding collection over the course of many years. Started in 1987 and home to more than 400 orchid species, it is now attached to the Jardin Botanico. Lunch in the garden. Afternoon workshop on propagation and care of orchids. For those with interest and stamina, forest walk to see wild orchids.

Late afternoon visit to a private collection of orchids in Cienfuegos.

Dinner in your homestay

Day 5 – A heritage of medicine

We start the day with a walking tour of the heart of colonial Cienfuegos. Our expert guide is one of the architects charged with restoring this city to its former glories. Along with visits to a 19th century theatre in its original condition, and one of the prettiest churches in Cuba, you visit newly restored streetscapes which take you back to the vibrant life of this rich city. The architect opens his restored colonial home for a visit.

After lunch we leave Cienfuegos for the slopes of the Escambray and a visit to a national reference farm owned and farmed by an ex-professor – specializing in ecological farming and conservation techniques. Our next stop is to a living museum. Green medicine, natural medicine, herbal medicine, have a strong tradition in Cuba, not least because it has had to find alternatives to many proprietory medicines. This a spurred investigations into many different avenues, and the development of valuable drugs now produced under license in other countries – medicine like Herbaprot – the cure for diabetic ulcers.

Dinner in your homestay in Trinidad

Day 6 – Sugar and Slavery

Until just over 5 centuries ago, Cuba was probably quite densely populated by various groups of Indians who had come from the north and from the south. In the river valleys they grew maize, manioc, tobacco and other subsistence and tradeable crops. Near the sea and in the rivers they fished, caught small animals and birds. Like Indians in Southern and Central America, they probably terraformed the landscape to increase production and to manage drainage and irrigation. By 1511 the Indian population had been decimated by disease, starvation, forced labour, and outright murder. Incoming Spanish settlers seized land and set up their own system of subsistence farming including livestock. Cash crops were sugar, coffee, and dried meat.produced by farm families and increasingly by slaves.. The productive river valleys outside Trinidad rapidly expanded the land under sugar cultivation, particularly after the Haitian Revolution, with major slave imports providing the labour.

This tour takes you to this important colonial agricultural centre, with its country mansions, centrals, and images of gracious living in the centre of one of the richest industries of Colonial Cuba.

Lunch during the tour

Dinner in your homestay

Day 7 – Mountain Farm

The Escambray form a massive limestone uplift. Carved through by short, fast rivers, precipitous waterfalls, and unbelievably steep mule paths, it is hard to imagine that this is a highly productive agricultural area. Chrystal Mountain coffee, an Arabica coffee of high quality, grows in abundance in the cafetals clinging to the mountainsides. Each year its farmers produce thousands of pounds of coffee, fruit, and vegetables.

Farm lunch with a tour of the farm and a chance to swim in a refreshing river and waterfall.

Dinner in your homestay in Santa Clara.

Day 8 – Free Day

Optional tour – The Battle of Santa Clara – led by a participant in the Battle, this is a fascinating remembrance of the last battle of the Revoluntionary War, and the years of the struggle before.

A meal in your homestay before your flight – lunch or dinner – depending on the time of your flight.

You will be picked up at your homestay and transferred to the airport for your flight home or to other destinations.

Tour availability

Small groups, individuals – continuously available – CONTACT US FOR PRICES


  • February 2nd week
  • March 2nd week
  • April 2nd week

See below for further information for Garden Groups

Tour Includes:


  • Homestays in Santiago generally with private bathroom, air conditioning and/or fan
  • Mountain resort – 3 Star Accommodation


  • Breakfasts and Lunches as specified
  • Dinners as specified


  • All transfers within Santiago
  • Air-conditioned transportation
  • Expert lecturers
  • Translator where required
  • All entrance fees
  • Deposit $500.00 Canadian non-refundable

Not Included:

  • Flights
  • Personal expenditures
  • Tips
  • Additional beverages
  • Evening entertainment

Garden Groups (minimum 6 people traveling together)
Deposit $250.00 Cdn – not refundable.

Garden Tours

Cuba Beyond the Beaches brings you three exciting garden tours of Cuba.

For many years our “gardening” visitors have thoroughly enjoyed exploring the micro-climates, mountains and deserts of Eastern Cuba.

Now, we are pleased to announce our new garden tours of Central and Western Cuba, its plains, mountains, and valleys.

Our lecturers are internationally recognized Cuban experts whose lifework has been their gardens and the search, protection and propagation of the indigenous species of Cuba.

Visits to private gardens are accompanied by a translator who also is a plant expert.

The Gardens of Eastern Cuba

An exciting tour of Eastern Cuba’s most interesting gardens, its protected forests and mountains. Here on the coastal strip and in the forbidding Sierra Maestras are microclimates which support exotic species and ancient plants. From desert to cloud forest to specialty and species gardens; you will be thrilled by these collections.

Your tour starts and finishes in Santiago de Cuba, a colonial city built on many hills, overlooking a bay which has been a safe harbour for Henry Morgan and Teddy Roosevelt, Spanish galleons and privateers, war fleets and slave ships, oil tankers and luxury yachts.

We start our tour outside the city at one of the world’s most complete collections of tropical ferns; the life’s work of its director. A complete contrast the next day finds us in the near desert of the coastal strip enjoying the passions of our expert in cactus.

A nearby cloud forest is a place of dripping trees, brilliant birds and butterflies, tree ferns and simple pines. Here are long ago cafetals and the scarlet trees which mark the canopy coffee of excellence.

Our tour continues with a local farm, the prolific organoponico gardens, specialty gardens, and finally a visit into the mountains, where a morning walk takes you to cocoa plantations, small farms and the quiet exploration of a mountain valley.
Seven days of gardens, lectures, and good company; meeting Cuban gardeners in their gardens.

Click here for more information on our Gardens of Eastern Cuba Tour…

The Gardens of Western Cuba

This is orchid country. National Gardens, private gardens, commercial gardens, and individual afficiandos, all of them endeavouring to find the perfect orchid. A black orchid?

Our tour starts and ends in Habana. This city is fast becoming the orchid capital of Cuba; spurred on by the International Orchid Festival held there in May. We visit several private gardens and a large commercial grower.

From Habana we travel west to the country’s outstanding orquidea, and an exploration of the renowned Vinales valley. A change from orchids we visit a private nursery which is one of the major reservoirs of heritage fruit trees which are making a comeback throughout Cuba as processing plants demand more and different fruits. Life is more than mangos!

We conclude our week of gardens with a private tour of the Jardin Botanica of Cuba and several private gardens.

Seven days of unforgettable gardens, passionate gardeners, and beautiful landscapes.

Click here for more information on our Gardens of Western Cuba Tour…

Gardens of Central Cuba

In Central Cuba we circle the Escambray mountains, visiting national gardens and private collections, unique living museums and prize winning farms. Overnight in a newly restored spa – mineral waters and baths, massages, or just a tranquil evening away from the bustle of the cities.

The World Heritage cities of Trinidad and Cienfuegos are celebrating their 500th anniversary. We take an architect led walk in both to enjoy the outstanding architectural restorations, and step back in time.

We return to Santa Clara via mountain roads where there is time for a farm lunch and a swim in a waterfall and river.

Click here for more information on our Gardens of Central Cuba Tour…


Hope for Diabetics

Diabetes Conference - Dec 2014

Congreso Controlado la diabetes y sus complicaciones mas severas

I have no date for the conference but will be keeping up with developments

Before the conference Dec 8 and 9, 2014 – Corso Internacional Melia Habana, Habana. This is designed to demonstrate Heberprot P and a newly developed surgery with minimal access which clears up foot problems which may develop into ulcers.

I have a little more information on this surgery.

If you are interested in attending the conference and the event at the Melia Habana, we are happy to arrange flights (including for US visitors), meet and greet, transfers, hotel or homestay accommodations with meals. I hope to have conference fees in the next few weeks.

Please note this conference will be for medical professionals and other involved in the professional treatment of patients with diabetes.



Foot ulcers leading to amputation are one of the most horrific side effects of diabetes. The operation, the recovery, the loss of mobility, the loss of independence and the constant worry that what occurred once will happen again, are all specters that diabetics live with.

In Cuba the Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology has developed a cure for these ulcers.

Known as HEBERPROT-P the drug is injected into the ulcer site over a period of six to eight weeks. The drug was developed for large ulcers which would almost automatically lead to amputation; however treatment is also available for much less advanced ulcers – with the expectation that controlling and healing early is better than waiting.

2016 Price Reduction – NEW PRICE $4,000 US (About 1/2 Price from before)

The Cuban Ministry of Public Health has announced a special package of treatment in Santiago de Cuba for non-residents.

21 days of in-hospital treatment including
All pre-treatment tests
All treatments including Herbeprot P
24 hour monitoring
24 hour nursing attention
Diabetic meals from 5 star hotel

We continue to offer special rates for accompanying family members at Hostel Atardecer

Treatment available in Cuba

Treatment is available for foreigners in Cuba.

We are happy to make all the arrangements for you to participate in this outstanding health programme in Santiago de Cuba.

The programme is now an in hospital programme with a minimum stay of 4 weeks.

The programme has an 80% success rate.

Our services include

  1. Flights and transfers
  2. Accommodation for accompanying family
  3. Meals – for accompanying family – special diets observed
  4. Arrangements for Clinical Assessment
  5. Initial transfers
  6. Translation where needed – the hospital has English speaking staff for this programme

We recommend that you send photographs of the ulcer and a medical history so that we can contact the clinic to assess the ulcer.

Please note that in hospital treatment is aggressive and demands 24 hour monitoring with 24 hour medical staff available.

Accommodation is in an exclusive wing with individual rooms with air conditioning. All conditions are of a high standard.

For more information and prices – please contact us