LA Conservancy's Cuba Itinerary

January 31-February 8, 2016

Cuba People to People Trip with special emphasis on Historic Preservation and Architectural Heritage

Please note that this Itinerary is subject to change and will be continually updated until departure to ensure the best trip possible.

[1] Sunday January 31 - Miami

We have reserved the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Miami the first night, and we will gather together that evening.

[2] Monday February 1 - Miami/Havana

Check in at Miami International Airport in the morning. Arrive in Havana City in early afternoon (specific air itinerary will be supplied at a later date) . You will be met at the airport by your guide and tour study leader. After brief greetings and a drive into the city we will arrive at the Hotel Capri and be in our rooms around 2:30 PM.


En route to the Hotel Capri, stop at Havana’s famous Plaza de la Revolucion, a compendium of 1950s commercial buildings that now form the center of the government. This is the site where the most famous speeches in the country are made and where Pope John Paul II held his legendary 1998 Mass.


Gather in the Hotel Capri bar upon arrival for a welcome cocktail and a brief intro to Havana by Rosa Lowinger.


If we arrive early enough in the day, we can organize a brief walking tour through the neighborhood, visiting the Lopez Serrano building, a 1930 Art Deco masterwork that is still used as an apartment residence and is in great need of conservation.


[7:30 pm] - Welcome Dinner at San Cristobal paladar (home restaurant), set in an early 20th century mansion. Drive along world famous Malecon Boulevard and see Havana at night. Rosa Lowinger will continue with intro to Havana and the U.S. influence on 20th century Cuba.


Rated by The Guardian as the number one paladar in Havana, the San Cristobal is based in an interesting, eclectic space in an early 20th century mansion. The food is Criollo (Cuban Creole): malanga, yucca, cerdo asado (roast pork), lobster, fresh fish, shrimp and other traditional fare, finished with fresh flair. The dessert menu is expansive and the wine list is broad. We will have a chance to speak with the chef and the owner of the establishment to discuss food and new opportunities in the food industry in Cuba.

[3] Tuesday February 2 - Old Havana


[7:00 am] - Breakfast at the hotel


[8:30 am] - Old Havana’s Four Plazas - All day walking and bus tour. Leave hotel on bus to tour Habana Vieja, Cuba's first and most significant UNESCO World Heritage site. We will see the eclectic mix that is Old Havana, focusing on the architecture of the 16th - 19th centuries. Our tour will begin in the Plaza de Armas, the oldest in the city, containing the 16th Century Castillo de la Real Fuerza that is the oldest Spanish fortress in the Americas. We will visit the former Palace of the Captains Generals, built in 1776 that now serves as the museum of the city of Havana, and then walk the streets that form the original colonial settlement. We will continue in the Plaza de la Catedral, the Cathedral Plaza, with its unfinished 1727 Baroque cathedral, and the most splendid of the colonial mansions. One now houses the Museum of Colonial Art, which we will also visit. From there we will walk to the Plaza de San Francisco, housing the port, the stock exchange, and the San Francisco convent. We will visit the studios of la Escuela Taller, a workshop-training center that prepares young people to work in preservation trades such as plastering, mural painting, historic ironwork and stone masonry.


Our tour will focus on the mixed-use character of the Old City, that has sought to preserve the local character while offering tourist services that fund the basic needs of the residents.


[1:30 pm] - Lunch at Paladar Mercaderes.

Located in Old Havana, Los Mercaderes paladar combines the atmosphere of a typical colonial house with the stained glass, murals and frescoes of the era, with original XIX century floors. This paladar offers an excellent variety of plates from traditional to international with a special emphasis on fresh seafood and is ranked as one of the six most important restaurants in Cuba by TripAdvisor.


[3:30 pm] - We will visit the Taller de Grafica, Havana’s premiere graphics arts workshop. This public center for local artists was established by Pablo Neruda and Che Guevara at the beginning of the Revolution as a place where artists living and visiting Havana can work on printmaking. Over the years they have developed an inventory of prints by unknown artists as well as more celebrated artists. This is an excellent time to purchase art gifts for yourself and others at great prices.


[4:30 pm] - On our way back to our hotel we will stop by the Havana Hilton (now the Hotel Habana Libre), designed by Los Angeles architect Welton Becket. Opened in March 1958, it was Latin America’s tallest and largest hotel, financed by the pension fund of the union of Cuban restaurant workers but operated by Hilton Hotels. On January 8, 1959, Fidel Castro entered Havana and the hotel served as his headquarters, even as it continued operating as a Hilton (until October, 1960, when all American hotels in Cuba were nationalized). In 1996 the Spanish Sol Melià chain assumed management of the hotel and restored the enormous original mural by artist Amelia Peláez over the main entrance which had spent decades hidden from public view.


Before boarding the bus, we will enjoy a visit to Coppelia, one of the largest ice cream parlors in the world, in an iconic flying saucer-shaped building built in 1966. Architect Mario Girona was influenced by the biomorphic modernism of Italian, Mexican and South American modernists like Pier Luigi Nervi, Felix Candela and Oscar Niemeyer.


[7:30 pm] Dinner on your own.
Tonight dinner is in a paladar of your choice from a list of the hottest foodie scenes in Havana. The tour guide will help make the reservations and book taxis. This is an opportunity to get away from the larger group and dine with a smaller group of friends. The group will have a chance to speak with the chef and owner of the establishment to discuss food and new opportunities in the food industry in Cuba. The cost of this meal is not included in the trip price.

[4] Wednesday February 3 - Central Havana

[7:00 am] - Breakfast at the hotel


[10:00 am] - Morning visit to Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA).
Begin the day with a visit to ISA, the world famous national art schools in Havana, designed by a trio of architects on the site of the Havana Country Club. Visit the facility in the company of either Professor Javier Leon, director of conservation for the school, or Universo Garcia, the architect who led the recent renovation of the art school buildings.

[12:30 pm] - Lunch at El Aljibe, an outdoor thatch roof restaurant located in the residential area of Miramar, a few minutes from downtown Havana. The specialty of this family run business is the famous El Aljibe roast chicken, served with a side of delicious bitter orange sauce, French fries, fried plantains, delicious black beans, white rice, salad and, for dessert, traditional Cuban sweets.


[2:30 pm] Arrive at the Museum of Fine Arts - Cuban collections, housed in a prize-winning modernist building that was recently restored. This collection demonstrates the breadth of visual artistic activity in Cuba throughout the colonial and modern periods.


[4:00 pm] - After visiting the museum, those who want to can enjoy a walking tour through old Havana, passing by the Bacardi Building, of the Murallas neighborhood of Havana. Those who prefer can return to the hotel by motorcoach.

Optional- Enjoy a drink at El Floridita, the bar where “Papa” Hemingway preferred his daiquiris. Return by taxi to hotel. (not included)


[7:30 pm] - Dinner at La Atelier. The large main room is decorated with sparse modern lines, inside a typically idiosyncratic Vedado mansion. Two balconies with boundless cushions form the outdoor lounge. Scattered antiques offer a retro, yet not old, feeling. The food changes every day, every week, hence the charming handwritten menus.


[10:00 pm] - Tropicana nightclub. The Tropicana was the most famous nightclub in the world from 1939 to 1959. Built in the gardens of an early 20th century residence, it contains one of Cuba’s most significant modern buildings, the Arcos de Cristal (1952), a thin-shell concrete structure. The club continues to operate and is the only one of Havana’s famed clubs to survive the revolution. Rosa Lowinger, your study leader, wrote the definitive work on this club: Tropicana Nights: The Life and Times of the Legendary Cuban Nightclub (Harcourt 2005), demonstrating how it was a microcosm for Cuba in the period of the revolution. Rosa will lead us on a rare behind-the-scenes architectural tour, followed by the legendary Tropicana show. The price of the show is not included in your trip price.

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[5] Thursday February 4 - Havana

[7:00 am] - Breakfast at the hotel


[9:00 am] - Morning architectural tour of the Santo Suarez and Vibora neighborhoods of Havana led by Cuban architect Universo Garcia. Located in Havana’s municipality of 10 de Octubre, Santos Suarez is a neighborhood spanning nearly 6 square kilometers. The area borders with the neighborhood of Vibora. A group of mansions built at the beginning of the 20th century – some in a deplorable state, others fully restored and refurbished – is among the neighborhood’s architectural highlights. Another noteworthy characteristic of the locality is the fact that many of its streets are named after saints. Some examples are Santa Catalina, San Indalecio, San Benigno, Santa Irene, San Ignacio and Santos Suarez, after which the neighborhood is named.


Some of the emblematic sites in the neighborhood include: La Milagrosa Church, the Gran Via pastry shop (once renowned in Havana for the quality of its pastries, today part of the State-run Sylvain chain), the Moises Nathanel MacCall Baptist Church and Seminary, the Santos Suarez Park, the building which once housed the “Settler’s Bank” (“Banco de los Colonos”), located on the intersection of Lacret and Juan Delgado, and the former location of the Mara Cinema (today the venue of Cuba’s Spanish Ballet School).


[11:00 am] - Bocoy Rum Factory

The Bocoy Rum Factory on Avenida Máximo Gómez in Havana was established in 1878 to produce both Ron Bocoy and also the Legendario brand. The word Bocoy is a Cuban unit of capacity from the 19th century. Cuban rum is considered a liquor for great occasions whose origin goes back to the time when sugarcane was introduced to Cuba. Since then, it has become an irreplaceable companion to Cuban life. Cuban rum has its precedence in a beverage obtained from molasses during the sugar-producing process. It was initially used in rituals by African slaves brought to Cuba. Between 1762 and 1792, Cuba supplied the world market with rum, which didn't evolve into the genuine Cuban rum until the 18th and 19th centuries. It has since accumulated a rich history. Each distillery brings a specific brand to the market, with unique aromas, tastes and colors, thus creating its own circle of connoisseurs. La Tienda El Roble Ron Tabaco Cafe (The Oak Rum Cafe & Tobacco Store) shares the Bocoy facility and one of the great pleasures of a tour occurs at the end, when the bottles are lined up and patrons can sample the many different brands. At the far end of the room, cigars are available for the aficionado to purchase.


[12:00 pm] - El Litoral Paladar. El Litoral opened its doors after extensive renovations in January 2014 in a renovated mansion almost next door to the US interest section of Havana. The high-ceilinged restaurant has a modern finish with tasteful and elegant furniture. The menu is extensive with a range of tapas—try the foccacia de papa, pulpo y ajo tostado (Focaccia with octopus and garlic), mejillones rellenos ‘Tigres’ (stuffed tiger Mussels) and Cazuela de chorizo al vino, pimienta y pan (Spanish sausage with wine and pepper) or just order a plate from the best-stocked cold cuts and salad bar in Havana.


[2:00 pm] - University of Havana

You will meet students at the University of Havana and discuss life of university students in Cuba. You wil also have the chance to Visit the Felix Varela Tomb at the university. Fr. Varela, a Roman Catholic priest, who was born and studied in Havana, and is being considered for canonization as a Catholic saint.


[3:00 pm] - Walking Tour of Centro Havana, which includes the famous Bacardi building and Paseo del Prado, the first paved street in Havana. Lining the boulevard are important buildings imitating styles from Madrid, Paris and Vienna, including mansions, cinemas and the Hotel Sevilla.


[5:00 pm] - Return to hotel to freshen up and relax before dinner.


[7:30 pm] - Dinner on your own

Tonight dinner is in a paladar of your choice from a list of the hottest foodie scenes in the city. The tour guide will help you make reservations and catch a taxi. This is an opportunity to get away from the larger group and dine with a smaller group of friends. Your guide will help you book a meal and . The group will have a chance to speak with the chef and owner of the establishment to discuss food and new opportunities in the food industry in Cuba. The cost of this meal is not included in the trip price.

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[6] Friday February 5 - Matanzas & Varadero (overnight)

[7:00 am] - Breakfast at the hotel


[9:00 am] - Today we will take an overnight trip to the region of Matanzas and the seaside resort of Varadero. For your convenience, you will keep your room at the Capri Hotel. Pack a light bag and do not forget your swimsuit.


Matanzas is a provincial capital known for its poets, Afro-Cuban folklore, music and the dance traditions of danzón and rumba. Located on Cuba’s northern shore, it is called the City of Bridges, for the seventeen bridges that cross the three rivers that traverse the city.


Matanzas was one of the regions that saw intensive development of sugar plantations during the colonial era. Consequently, many African slaves were imported to support the sugar industry during the first half of the 19th century. We will walk through the historic district and see the Teatro Sauto, a wood-paneled theatre built in 1863 that is an National Monument of Cuba, and still in use today.

Varadero is a resort town with lovely white sand beaches, mid-century residences and the Dupont mansion, built in 1930.


[11:00 am] - Ediciones Vigia Matanzas

Ediciones Vigía, an artisanal press producing stunning handmade books since 1985, will opens its doors to us and show us their workshop and archive, and give us a chance to purchase their beautiful work. We will learn about the wide range of Cuban and international authors they have independently published, ranging from José Martí and Emily Dickenson to contemporary writers, and get an inside look at the creation of the artistic designs of these incomparable books.


[12:00 pm] - Country lunch at Finca Coincidencia

Enjoy bucolic provincial Cuban life at this idyllic farm on the Carretera Central. The grounds are replete with mango and guava trees and 83 other types of plants. This is a place for farmers, artisans, poets and thinkers who will all be at your table as you enjoy some of the best organic foods of Cuba served in home made ceramics.


[2:00 pm] - City tour of Matanzas and Varadero

Varadero is a resort town, boasting more than 20 km of white sandy beaches studded with major hotel complexes. The first tourists visited Varadero as early as the 1870s, and for years it was considered an elite resort. In 1910 the annual rowing regatta was started; five years later the first hotel, named Varadero and later Club Nautico, was built. Tourism grew in the early 1930s as Irénée du Pont, an American millionaire, built his estate on the peninsula. Many famous and infamous people stayed in Varadero during those years. Between the 1960s and 1980s Varadero transformed itself into a cultural centre. During those years the central park saw countless concerts, festivals and sporting events.


[4:00 pm] - Check into hotel in Varadero (Melia Las Americas).

The rest of the afternoon you are free to explore Varadero on your own or visit the recreational areas around the hotel.


[7:00 pm] - Dinner is included at the hotel's La Terraza Restaurant with a menu of Criollo food. Our guide can help book reservations for those who prefer to go to a local paladar.

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[7] Saturday February 6 - Varadero/Havana

[7:00 am] - Breakfast at the hotel.


[8:30 am] - Check out of hotel and leave for Havana.


[10:00 am] - Cementerio de Colon

Visit Havana's Cementerio de Colon. Laid out between 1871 and 1886, the cemetery includes more than 500 mausoleums, chapels and family vaults, sculpted in bronze, granite, marble and limestone by leading Cuban and European artists. Learn about the relationship between this cemetery and the Catholic Church in Cuba.


[11:30 pm] - Napoleon Museum

We'll visit one of the museums with the most complete collection of belongings of Napoleon Bonaparte, including the guns he carried at the battle of Borodino and Bicorne, and the telescope he used in Santa Elena.


[1:00 pm] - Paladar Mediterraneo

Elegance and locally sourced food are the characteristics of this restaurant, the creation of a Cuban dreamer who lived in Italy for many years, and a Sardinian chef. Here you can enjoy the most delicious ravioli in Cuba.


[3:00 pm] - Vedado and Havana Moderna tour. Beginning in 1940, Havana’s architects defined a national Cuban identity by adapting the principles of International Style modernism to Cuban buildings. Bolstered by the burgeoning economy of the post-war period, and an intellectual moment of creativity that spanned all of the arts, an extraordinary building campaign was put into effect. The result was a period of amazing building that was nearly unparalleled in Latin America. Cuban Modernism is characterized by exuberant building materials, the combination of art into architecture and stunning domestic as well as public buildings.


[7:30 pm] - Rio Mar Restaurant

This restaurant is located in the Miramar neighborhood of Havana, and features fresh, delicious seafood, You will enjoy wonderful views of the Almendares river and the Malecon from this upscale paladar.


[10:00 pm] - We recommend an evening of live Latin jazz at La Zorra y el Cuervo or Gato Tuerto, depending on who's playing. Both these clubs are very close to the Hotel Capri. On your own.

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[8] Sunday February 7 - Havana

[7:00 am] - Breakfast at the hotel. Board bus for the ferry.


[10:00 am] - Ferry ride across Havana Bay

Take the ferry from Old Havana across Havana Bay, to the historic city of Regla.


[11:00 am] - Ernest Hemingway's Finca La Vigia

Visit Ernest Hemmingway's Finca La Vigia, located on a hilltop in the rural village of San Francisco de Paula, just southeast of the City of Havana. The home, now the Hemingway Museum, has recently undergone a massive preservation effort by America's National Trust for Historic Preservation, to preserve the home as the author left it in 1961. You will also see Hemingway's sport-fishing boat, the Pilar. The Finca Vigia estate and the fishing village of Cojimar are considered the most significant locales for those interested in Hemingway’s history.


[12:30 pm] - Ajiaco

Considered among the very best restaurants on the Island, this paladar, located in the fishing village of Cojimar (where Hemingway kept his boat the Pilar) features traditional Cuban flavor. The menu includes such things as "Crema de Malanga", Ajiaco (a stew made up of various vegetables and roots), Bacalao (codfish), "fricase de pollo" (chicken fricasse), plus the traditional moros (rice and beans), white rice, fried bananas, fried yuca, etc. If you have room at the end of the meal, enjoy delicious home made flan.


Today you will have the afternoon off to relax and go back to see places you missed or might want to see in more detail.


[6:30 pm] - Classic cars

No trip to Havana would be complete without a ride in one of the classic American cars you see everywhere. Tonight, a fleet of these colorful autos will drive you through Havana in style on your way to dinner.


[7:30 pm] - La Guarida

Farewell dinner at La Guarida, the most famous paladar in Cuba, set on the second floor of a characteristic eclectic mansion from the late 19th century. This elegant setting compliments the "Nueva Cocina Cubana" cuisine. This paladar served as the set for the groundbreaking film Fresca y Chocolate (Strawberry and Chocolate).

[9] Monday February 8 - Havana/Miami

[7:00 am] - Breakfast at the hotel.


[9:00 am] - Check out of hotel.


[10:00 am] - Depart from hotel to Havana Airport.


[3:00 pm] - Depart Havana for Miami.