Book

Cuba

Road trip + Vounteering + Spanish

Depart

Itinerary Options

Let's go

Looking for something more flexible? Get in touch and we'll chat through options more suited to you.

Discover Cuba

Enter the time warp and practise your salsa.

Cuba maybe a nation frozen in time with its pretty, decaying, neoclassical buildings and vintage American cars, but this country rocks. Dance, music and mojito's literally flood the streets of Havana making it one the most exciting places to step into.

This unique 3 week road trip adventure will show you Cuba's highlights - from the meandering streets of Havana to the tobacco filled valleys of Vinales, to the glorious Caribbean beaches. We promise to get you off the beaten track and immerse you fully by volunteering in community centres, teaching you to dance, speaking Spanish and rolling a cigar.

Venture out to this Caribbean paradise to explore, learn Spanish and immerse yourself into their culture whilst on an awesome road trip of Cuba's finest hidden gems.


Program Itinerary

This 3 week program provides the opportunity to explore this historic island whilst heading off the tourist trail on an exciting road trip to meet the local people. Spanish lessons will be part of your time here so you can get the most out of this cultural immersion.

The following is a sample itinerary.

Days 1 - 8

Old Havana Spanish + Exploring + Vounteering

Welcome to Havana

The city that will have you moving and shaking until the early hours....

Your base will be in the heart of Old Havana – a stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site, so brace yourself for 101 selfie opportunities. This area is a myriad of gorgeous neoclassical buildings packed with local people living cheek by jowl. At street level, there is a constant musical buzz floating out from the many hip bars scattered throughout this popular neighbourhood - heaven.

Explore and learn Spanish
Your time here will involve a mix of volunteering, Spanish lessons, dance, cultural exchange and exploration lead by our guides, whose contacts will take you way off the tourist trail.

Typically a day will involve Spanish lessons in the mornings before refurbishing one of the community centres we support and exploring the cities museums and galleries, with a few salsa dancing lessons thrown in for good measure.

The evenings will range from home cooked fun at the Casa to chilling along with Malecon with local Habeneros or a trip to Vedado to enjoy the music and nightlife of this incredible city.

You will also enjoy a couple of half day trips to the local beaches along Playas del Este to enjoy the refreshing Caribbean waters.

Accommodation

You will live in a large Cuban apartment in a neoclassical tenement building in Old Havana. Like most of Old Havana, the architecture, exterior and communal stairs, are safe but in an overall dilapidated condition (call it shabby chic!). Inside however, the apartment is very comfortable, with views across the neighbourhood from the terraces where you can chill.

Expect dormitory style bedrooms sleeping six, with bathrooms providing hot and cold water showers and western style toilets.

Food


Breakfast and lunch included.
Dinner is extra and can be in one of local cafes or you can cook in the house kitchen.

Days 9 - 11

Vinales Cigar Country

Road Trip Begins

Next it’s time to hit the road and explore the rest of Cuba, starting with Viñales, a peaceful farming town which is just a 3 hour drive from Havana. Viñales is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site owing to its outstanding landscape, traditional architecture and agricultural techniques still used on the tobacco farms.

Whilst here you can horse ride into the valley to see the tobacco drying houses were you will learn about the art of curing tobacco and rolling cigars, along with an early morning hike to see the spectacular sunrise.

You will also visit the ‘Cueva del Indio’ and take a boat trip learning about the ‘Guanajatabey’ Indians who built primitive homes hollowed out of the limestone mogotes.

Accommodation

You will stay in a ‘Casa particular’, essentially translating to a government approved ‘individuals house’ where foreign guests can stay. This gives you the opportunity to live with a Cuban family for a full cultural immersion. Expect about 2-4 Leapers per house.

Food

Breakfast and lunch included.
Dinner will be out in a local cafe - please budget about $5 per meal.

Day 12

Playa Giron Bay of Pigs

The Caribbean's Largest Wetlands

After leaving Viñales you’ll head south towards Trinidad with an overnight stop to explore one of Cuba’s most authentic little towns – Playa Giron. A village on a white sand beach on the east bank of the ‘Bahis de Cochinos’ (Bay of Pigs). Playa Giron gained new found fame after the Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961, but the area is equally renowned for its amazing beauty firstly its beaches and marine life and furthermore with the ‘Gran Parque Natural Montemar’, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve - it contains the largest wetlands in the Caribbean, home to flamingos, manatee, crocodiles and the world’s smallest bird, the bee hummingbird.

Here you’ll head to its beautiful white sand beach for some snorkelling. A magnificent reef is less than 30 meters away from the beach and so you are guaranteed an array of tropical fish beneath your feet. You may also try and spear the invasive ‘Pez León’ (lion fish) and enjoy some ceviche, and a BBQ dinner. Here you’ll also get to learn about the events of the famous Bay of Pigs invasion.

Accommodation

You'll live with a local family, in a ‘Casa particular’. Expect 2-4 Leapers per family.

Food

Breakfast and lunch only in the house.
Dinner will be extra at one of the local cafes.

Days 13 - 15

Trinidad Colonial Masterpeice

Salsa and Trekking

Trinidad is a stunning UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the Caribbean's best-preserved towns from the sugar-trade and Spanish colonialism era. Expect pastel coloured houses, pretty churches and cobbled streets. Stunning.

Trinidad is Cuba’s most popular tourist destination after Havana and during the weekend it is particularly lively with some of the best salsa clubs in the world, live music and open air bars – as well as tiny indoor clubs. Our local guides will take you to the best places depending what’s on, including the famous ‘Cave Club’, high above the town.

Daytime activities include a half day hike to the ‘El Cubanito’ waterfall. This hike takes you through the ancient old town of Trinidad and one of her oldest ‘barrios’, along a thin trail and wooden area, and finally a magnificent waterfall (there is even a cave behind the waterfall that you can swim in). You’ll also get some time to spend relaxing on the beach.

Accommodation

You'll live with a local family, in a ‘Casa particular’. Expect 2-4 Leapers per family.

Food

Breakfast and lunch included in the house.
Dinner will be extra at one of the local cafes.

Day 16

Santa Clara Che Guevara

Revolution's Turning Point

After leaving Trindad it’s time to head back to Havana via an overnight stop in Santa Clara. This is an important city in Cuba and the scene for one of the turning points during the revolution when reinforcements, sent from Havana to quell the uprising in the east, where derailed by a bulldozer. In the ensuing battle the revolutionaries captured much needed military supplies.

It is also home to a spectacular memorial and mausoleum to Che Guevara which you will visit along with enjoying a half-day walking tour of the city.

Accommodation

You'll live with a local family, in a ‘Casa particular’. Expect 2-4 Leapers per family.

Food

Breakfast and lunch only in the house.
Dinner will be extra at one of the local cafes.

Days 17 - 21

Old Havana Spanish + Exploring + Vounteering

Back in Havana for the last 5 days to resume the schedule of Spanish, volunteering and dancing before heading home.

Accommodation

Back into our volunteer apartment in Old Havana.

Food

Breakfast and lunch included.
Dinner is extra in one of local cafes or you can cook in the house kitchen.

Program Details & Costs

We have two departures to Cuba in May and July for 3 weeks where you can do everything described above. This program is perfect to combine with Costa Rica and Guatemala, as the flights are quick and the program dates tie in.

Just get in touch.

May program starts on:

2019: 14 May

2020: 15 May

Costs

3 Weeks

2019: £16692020: £1679

July program starts on:

2019: 24 Jul

2020: 23 Jul

Costs

3 Weeks

2019: £16692020: £1679

Social Life

The house in Havana can accommodate up to 35 travellers, who come from all over the world, so it's busy and fun.

Cultural Exchange

Through local contacts you will experience so much more than the average tourist.

Spanish & Dancing

Learning and perfecting both is integral to experiencing the heart and soul of this culture.

Road Trip

Your journey will take you from the Caribbean beaches, to the tobacco covered hills of Vinales and beyond.

Monday to Friday

You‘ll be busy 5 days a week and for the majority of the day, BUT your weekends and evenings are your own to let your hair down – we’re in Cuba after all.

Weekends

Weekends will generally be free time. You’re welcome to stay and chill at the house or head off for a change of scene.

Backpacker favourites:

  • Watch a baseball match - baseball is as Cuban as hand-rolled cigars!
  • Head out on a road trip to Baracoa, Cuba's oldest city and first capital.
  • Visit Maria la Gorda, renowned for its diving, idyllic beaches and laid back vibe.
  • Visit Camagüey, built to stop on-going raids by pirates, the maze-like streets are slightly confusing, but nevertheless an amazing place of colour and culture.

Brothers On A Mission

Yes Cuba has opened it doors and everyone, even the Americans, can step in to soak up the glorious decaying neo classical buildings, classic American cars in mouth watering colours, salsa (compulsory) and all the Caribbean heat and sounds you can muster…come on ... it's awesome and should be on everyone's bucket list.

But how about stepping beyond the tourist trail and getting into the local groove?

Well, you can now do just that through our seasoned all Cuban team led by brothers Leonel and Leandro. They are passionate about their country and want to see it fly once again, they want to show you the best bits, the troubled bits and everything in between...

Leaper's Highlights

Have a read of what our volunteers have been up to...

Cuba week 2 Caroline Kenney

Amigos y familia!

This concludes our second week here in La Habana Vieja and I think I can speak for all of us in saying, we have had an absolute blast. We have all learned a significant amount more Spanish from our Spanish lessons, have explored our stomping ground here in Havana quite thoroughly, and have become good friends with some of the people in the hostel as well. We have our favourite restaurants, know where to get the best deals on “limonada” and ropa vieja and have experienced much of the tourist area of Cuba so far. We have toured the various Plazas, have visited art museums and historical Cathedrals, and have learned much of the rich history of this beautiful city.

Although we have all loved our time here in the heart of the city, we are eager to get a broader perspective on life here. That is why tomorrow we will be leaving to visit the city of Viñales. As beautiful and enriching as Havana is, I anticipate that Viñales will feel much more authentic, as it is a smaller western town that lends itself to a more rustic and pastoral experience, from what I have heard. Here, we will continue our cultural exploration and immersion, go horseback riding to an authentic old school tobacco farm, and much more. After returning to Havana for just a couple hours to pack a new backpack, we will then finally start our volunteering endeavours in Playa Girón, and we couldn’t be more excited for it!

Till next time!

Adventure in Trinidad and volunteering in Havana Liz Reid

So now we have returned for our final 10 days in Havana, in which we will be volunteering.

We spent 2 more days in Trinidad since I last gave you an update. On Tuesday, we cycled to the coast – a classic Cuban picturesque white sanded beach where we spent most of the day in the sea and the beach bars that line the sand. On Wednesday, we went trekking on horseback along a disused rail track and through the countryside just outside of the city. We rode through the beautiful landscape – past banana and sugar plantations – and then trekked to a waterfall in which we went swimming. And despite the various aches and pains experienced the next day from the ‘caballos’ it was a fantastic experience!

Back in Havana have been helping out at a local children’s centre. On Thursday, having travelled from Trinidad to Havana, we went to cook with the children – making guacamole and sweet potato chips. Despite the limited resources that this centre has we made the most of everything there and saw with how little we were able to give the kids so much. We went back the next afternoon after Spanish classes to play games with the children – charades, musical chairs and other team games. This week we are starting work on a basketball court in Havana – repairing and repainting the facilities that are there already.

As well as the volunteering work, we have been keeping up the Spanish lessons every morning and have down time in the evenings and weekends spent soaking up the buzz and atmosphere of Havana for our final week here!

A day in the life of a volunteer in Cuba Liv Reid

In Playa Girón we started our volunteering; marine conservation, building a baseball field and catching the predatory lion fish which were introduced into the area by human error. Playa Girón is a small town on the coast, it wasn’t so much the historical significance nor the idyllic white sand beaches that blew me away but the tight sense of community and family – the ‘mi casa, su casa’ philosophy. The close community there were tightly bound by their strong sense of family and their love of music and dance.

Our group leader in Girón was the slightly ‘loco’ but loveable Alfonso who is involved with the local baseball team and therefore oversaw our work on the basbellito. Having worked on and off on the field, on our last day we played a game against the junior team. Despite the 10-15yr age gap, it’s fair to say that they claimed an emphatic victory.

We also volunteered to help out the local area by cleaning the beaches. We initially went around with rubbish bags just picking up what we saw and then later made rubbish bins to place around. Materials are very hard to source in the area, so we had to make do with whatever we could find – broken planks and small tree trunks – leaving the finished products looking rather… ‘abstract’.

Our third volunteering activity was hunting the lion fish around the coast. We snorkelled for the majority of the morning pointing out the fish to be speared and those that we caught we grilled and ate for lunch there.

As well as volunteering, we did find time also for some relaxation in the picturesque surroundings of Girón. This included snorkelling, swimming, bike riding and cocktail making. Alfonso took us to a natural clear water pool in the middle of a forest to swim and then to the coast to watch the sunset.

The gratitude and warmth which we received from the community in Girón was humbling. Alfonso threw two parties for us whilst we were there and the way which he spoke of the baseball field and the kid’s response to our work highlighted the importance of something, such as sports facilities, that are all too easily taken for granted at home.

Watch our videos

Cuba

September 2017. Credit to Caroline Kenny

Cuba

Culture, Spanish and salsa

Got a burning question?

Got a burning question you can't find the answer to? Filled with panic about organising your gap year? Or maybe you just fancy a friendly chat and some advice about your options? We're here to help.

Or give us a call on +441672 519 922

And chat with one of our (very friendly and knowledgable!) team

Opt in below to help us keep track of your gap year planning so each time you talk to us you can pick up where you left off.

Yes please, let's keep life simple!