Bee Hummingbird, world’s smallest bird, Photo by Kim Powell
LAND ACCOMMODATIONS: During our land visit to Cuba, we plan to stay at “Casas Particulares” which is a phrase for a “private home”, owned and operated by a Cuban rather than the government. Our private home stays will vary at each location, but you will share a room within a comfortable Cuban home on a double occupancy basis. As with a rental home here, living areas will be shared. Throughout Cuba it is recommended to place toilet paper in the waste basket as their septic system is generally more delicate than ours. When traveling carry a roll of toilet paper with you. As we progress through the trip, hold onto Cuban coins to be used in public bathrooms.
After a day of learning and adventure, you make relax in your room or join the group in the communal living area. Casas Particulares operate like our B&B’s and provide a hearty breakfast. Keeping to our mission of providing truly authentic experiences during our learning adventure, we are excited to meet and converse with our Cuban hosts at each Casa Particular we visit. Double occupancy accommodations provided throughout our Cuban Itinerary.
SAILBOAT LIVING: What better way to experience the Carribean Sea surrounding Cuba than from our own private yacht! During our sail, we will become an active member of a sailing crew. With the guidance of our captain, take the ship’s helm, raise sails, set anchors and learn how to maintain a safe ship. Your on board naturalists and local Cuban experts will provide lectures on marine ecology, culture , history and other topics throughout the week. While sailing, we will meet with local scientists at biological research stations learning about the fascinating ecology of Cuba. Several sit on top kayaks will be available for use.
Our pace will be leisurely with each day enjoying the exquisite beauty of a new anchorage. Our double hull catamaran offers stability and comfort. Each stateroom provides ample storage and a queen size bed for two people to share. Some may opt to sleep under the stars on our spacious deck or trampoline or you may share a stateroom (you will be assigned another group member to share a stateroom if traveling alone).
MEDICAL REQUIREMENTS: As of December 1st, 2023, our international programs no longer requires proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to our departure or proof of a COVID-19 vaccination. This decision was made based on the general trend in the eco-adventure travel industry with updates from the CDC regarding COVID-19. However, during our travels if anyone is exhibiting flu or COVID like symptoms, we will require that you take a COVID 19 test. We plan to bring a supply of testing kits, however please bring several personal kits. If someone tests positive, you will be isolated from the group until arrangements can be made for your evacuation from our program. All costs of an evacuation is the responsibility of each participant. Now more than ever, it is important to secure Travel Insurance You may purchase through this link or choose a company of your choice.
Cuba does not require any specific immunizations for entry from the USA. However, The Center For Disease Control has issued a set of recommendations for travel to Cuba. In general, any travelers in developing countries should be up to date on routine vaccines such as measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis(TD or Tdap), varicella (chickenpox), polio, Hepatitis A, Typhoid and your yearly flu shot. Please review the health recommendations for travel to Cuba at the Center for Disease Control Cuba link at: CDC to Cuba
The Zika virus has been reported in Cuba and is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. More information on the Zika virus may be reviewed at: Zika. Please review this page carefully for Information on Zika and recommendations for prevention during and after our visit to Cuba.
Please visit the CDC for updates and suggestions before you travel. All medical precautions are the decision of each participant. You may also consult a travel clinic that specializes in immunizations and travel updates.
PASSPORTS: Everyone is required to have a current passport for entry into Cuba as well as a Visa. Please make sure that your passport is current at least 6 months past your date of arrival into Cuba . In other words, your passport can not expire before June 1st, 2025. We will be contacting you by email regarding your Visa which costs $90-125 to obtain prior to arrival. For passports, It usually takes 6-8 weeks to process. For information on obtaining a passport, please visit: Passports Most post offices provide the service to process US passports.
OBTAINING A VISA AND OTHER LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS: US citizens traveling to Cuba must obtain a Visa and fall into one of the 12 categories of legal travel to Cuba established by OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control, Department of Treasury). The 12 categories of permitted travel to Cuba may be reviewed here: Travel to Cuba. Our program falls into the category of Support for the Cuban People which requires that we follow a detailed educational itinerary and we are fully hosted, from beginning to end. Once airfare is ticketed we will send you details on how to obtain a visa. When obtaining a Visa at Visa for Cuba you will be asked to select: one of the 12 categories (select Support for the Cuban People ); Flight Date, Record Locator and Cuba Province, select Havana.
In June, 2017 the Trump Administration ordered a series of changes regarding policies towards travel to Cuba for US citizens. The changes were outlined by the Department of Treasury OFAC division, have been updated and can be reviewed here: OFAC Update
A pertinent change was eliminating individual people to people travel to Cuba. In other words, those individuals who would like to plan their own trip to Cuba, can no longer do so. The Department of Treasury stated “The President instructed Treasury to issue regulations that will end individual people-to-people travel.
You may also review the US Department of State’s Cuba Page for the most current information on travel to Cuba.
Group travel such as our program was not affected by the changes ordered in 2017. The Department of Treasury offered this clarification:
“1. Will group people-to-people travel still be authorized?
Yes. Group people-to-people travel is educational travel not involving academic study pursuant to a degree program that takes place under the auspices of an organization that is subject to U.S. jurisdiction that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact. Travelers utilizing this travel authorization must maintain a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that are intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities, and that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba. An employee, consultant, or agent of the group must accompany each group to ensure that each traveler maintains a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities.”
While we are not anticipating a travel ban to Cuba, a type of Trip Insurance known as Cancel for Any Reason, would protect 75% of your deposits made towards the Cuban program. Please review trip insurance options here: Travel Insurance.
Photo by Roman Cahero
MAPS OF CUBA: A variety of maps may be found here Maps of Cuba.
MONEY: Upon arrival to Cuba, all expenses with the exception of personal alcohol, souvenirs and small tips for local musicians are included. The costs of any activities not described in the itinerary such as visiting additional museums, scuba diving or catching a personal taxi are your responsibility. An airport departure tax and the $2.50 per day accident insurance has been factored into your ticket. US Credit cards or debit cards do not work in Cuba so you will need to bring cash. Upon arrival to Cuba, we can change money near the airport.
Most locations or people will not accept US dollars or traveler’s checks and require CUCS (the Cuban currency). You will receive a greater value in the Cuban currency if you bring EUROS or Canadian Currency instead of US Dollars These may be ordered ahead of time from your bank. There is a 10% penalty when changing US dollars at Cuban money exchanges. 100 USD= 86 CUCS and 100 EUROS = 105 CUCS. Please plan on bringing $300 in extra cash that you will keep in US currency. Beyond the $300, you will just need cash for your bar bills, souvenirs and the suggested $100 tip. When planning your budget, rum drinks may cost $4-6 US dollars and beers may cost $3-5 US dollars. At the end of your trip, you may cash in your Cuban currency for US Dollars at the airport.
TIPPING: The cost of your trip to Cuba includes a generous tip to our Cuban Guides, tips for our Cuban hosts and drivers, as well as donations to museums and speakers. In Cuba, we plan to collect an additional $100 per person for our Cuban guides. We do suggest that if you enjoy some local musicians, that you will consider a few dollars as tip to show your appreciation. If you have left over Cuban Currency, you may use it as a tip to your BWV assistant guide at the end of the trip.
Photo by Roman Cahero
GENERAL SAFETY: Cuba is considered one of the safest countries to travel in throughout the Western Hemisphere. Cubans are generally very friendly and warm hearted people who welcome Americans and are eager to share and interact with us. As with all travel, we should exercise general precautions. When available, we should use a safety deposit box at homes that provide them. When in public areas, be mindful of money exchanges and avoid pulling out big sums of money. Pick pocketing, though rare may occur as it can anywhere else in the world especially in larger cities, so please keep track of your belongings. Make several copies of your passport/visa and store them in several different locations in your luggage.
CIGARS AND RUM: Currently, US citizens are not permitted to bring back cigars or alcohol from Cuba. Regulations can be reviewed here: No More Cigars
LUGGAGE: Several medium or one large soft duffel bag works well. Large, hard shelled suitcases are difficult to store on board and are not recommended. A medium to large duffel bag is recommended. Duffels that have a rolling option are fine. We will be traveling through Cuba on vans which will accommodate our luggage but please keep your personal checked luggage to one large bag or two smaller bags plus carry on. American Airlines permits 50 pounds per bag and the size dimensions not to exceed 62 inches (height, width and length combined). The airline charges $25 for the first checked bag and $40 for the second bag. American Airline baggage restrictions can be reviewed here: checked luggage and carry on. Pease note that federal regulations have banned the: Samsung Galaxy Note 7 luggage.
Please review the next heading regarding Gifts. If you would like to bring a second duffel with donated items, we encourage you to do so. If you have plans to clear out your clothing and shoe closet in the near future, you may bring an extra duffel of clothing and other personal items to donate. When packing, consider a second duffel with your items to donate. Upon arrival to Cuba, we can give extra duffels to Roman. These duffels will be dropped off at storage and distributed as needed so you will not have to travel with extra luggage. Consider keeping some small gifts with you to give to special people you meet along the way. If you would like your extra duffel back, simply pack a few garbage bags to transfer items from the duffel to the bag that will go to storage. Thank you for your generosity.
GIFTS AND DONATIONS: People often inquire about bringing gifts for our hosts, guides, teachers or children we meet along the way. Most Cuban families have very little so small gifts are always appreciated. Even simple items such as toothpaste, shampoo, lotions or razor blades are in great demand. A small set of tools would be an appreciated gift. If you would like to donate some of your clothing at the end of the trip, our Cuban guides will make sure it finds a good home. Used clothing and shoes are fine.
Other gift ideas include: school supplies (crayons, pencils, construction paper, maps. water color paints, rulers, erasers, glue, etc.) children’s books. f you have a functional laptop or Ipad that you would like to donate to a teacher for use during the school year that would be a tremendous gesture.
Medical supplies such as bandaids, gauze pads, medical tape etc. and over the counter first aid supplies such as advil, aspirin, benedryl, etc. are in great demand. Sporting goods items such as a deflated soccer ball with pump or fishing gear are other gift ideas. Inflatable Solar lanterns are light weight and extremely useful items.
LANGUAGE : A very enriching part of our Helping the Cuban People is conversing with the wonderful people we meet along the way. Very few people speak English and they greatly appreciate our efforts to converse in their language. You might want to consider brushing up on your Spanish skills or taking a basic conversational course before we depart.
CUBAN MUSIC: From our first day in Cuba to our last, you will learn that Cubans love to dance! Music and dance are an integral part of the rich Cuban culture. While we will offer Salsa dance lessons, our advise is: Don’t be shy and get up and dance!
LOCAL CUISINE: An intricate component of our cultural experience will be enjoying the flavors of Cuban cuisine. We will enjoy some seafood, chicken, beef, rice and beans, ground provisions such as yams, organic vegetables and local fruit. Vegetarian meals can be easily arranged upon request. Please keep in mind that service in restaurants may be slow and choices may be limited. Economies based on socialism will not present the same standards of service and food choices that western societies are accustomed to.
During meal times, please sit back and enjoy each other’s company, be patient, appreciative and flexible. Be sure to specify any dietary restrictions or allergies on the registration form that will be sent to you.
PERSONAL SNACKS: Cuba has very limited western style snacks such as power bars, nut mixes, beef jerky, candy, etc. Keep in mind that most types of chocolate will melt while we are traveling in Cuba and is not recommended. Gluten free breads and crackers will not be available, so please bring such items to supplement your meals if needed.
DRINKING WATER: It is best to purchase purified water while traveling in Cuba with both flat and sparkling water available. The restaurants we visit will serve purified drinking water and ice. Both are fine to consume. Tap water for brushing your teeth is acceptable, but you may play it safe and use only bottled water.
CLIMATE: Cuba enjoys a tropical climate with the Tropic of Cancer passing through the northern region. December is typically a mild, sunny month with some rainfall possible. December is known for pleasant temperatures averaging around 75 degrees with slight variation from year to year and at different locations around the archipelago of islands. Good rain gear is suggested to protect from rain or windy conditions. Down pours are always a possibility in tropical regions. Bring a waterproof sun block/lip balm with a protection factor of 20 or higher. Water temperature in December averages around 75 degrees.
CLOTHING: Loose fitting cotton or quick drying nylon work well in the tropics. Lighter colors seem more comfortable in warmer climates. Some restaurants have AC and may actually be cool so layering is suggested, while other restaurant may be quite humid as they lack AC. Jeans take too long to dry out and are not recommended. Laundry is done by hand as needed by each participant. We may also ask our various hosts to help us with laundry for a small fee.
APPROPRIATE DRESS: Unlike several of our Blue Water destinations where we ask for some conservative attire, the dress code is causal throughout Cuba with no real restrictions. We will be dining out at restaurants for our meals so causal comfortable attire is our primary recommendation.
FOOT WEAR: A light weight hiking boot or sturdy tennis shoe with good tread is required for a few of our spectacular hiking destinations. During hikes, we may encounter sharp rocks on the trail and some rough terrain so Keens or other sandals may not be permitted. However, Keens or other sport sandals are great for beach time and around town. We also recommend a pair of flip flops.
PHYSICAL CONDITIONING: While experience in snorkeling, sailing or hiking is not required to participate in this program, good general health is recommended. Few elevators exists in Cuba. You may need to climb several sets of stairs as our land based meals may be served on roof top terraces. Your room at a Casa Particulare may also be on the 3rd floor. Some stairs are narrow and steep. While hiking or sight seeing, we may cover 4-8 miles daily, so we highly suggest that you condition for Cuba. If we explore caves or waterfalls we may climb steep stairs to access these spectacular locations although these activities are optional. People with weak or injured knees may not be able to do a few of our land based hikes. While sailing, our pace is leisurely with all hikes optional. Our guides will offer a variety of excursions each day for those who want to keep active. Some level of upper body conditioning is advisable to prepare for snorkeling.
SNORKELING AND GEAR: Please plan on bringing your own mask, snorkel and fins as such gear is not available to rent in most parts of Cuba. Your naturalist guides are avid snorkelers eager to share information about reef ecology and fish behavior. In addition to our Helping Cuban lectures, we will offer informal talks and guided snorkeling excursions. We hope you will join us in the water as we explore and interpret this amazing ecosystem. We [plan to offer a night snorkel for those who wish to experience the creatures of the Caribbean sea at night! If you have a waterproof dive light, please bring it along or we will share ours.
Please test out new gear prior to arrival. If you have purchased a new mask, you will need to clean it at home and then test it. Repeat cleaning until it is fog free. Instructions may be reviewed here Cleaning your Mask. If you are using new fins, try them out! Some fins which have a back heel strap will fit more comfortably with a wetsuit booty or wetsuit sock. Fins that lack the back strap usually don’t require a booty or sock. A visit to a local dive shop will help answer your questions on snorkeling gear.
December water temperature averages around 75 degrees which some people find comfortable without a wetsuit. You may also consider bringing a shorty wetsuit or wetsuit top. This is a personal choice. For comparison, Oahu’s Wakiki Beaches averages 76 degrees from January to April and 80-81 degrees mid summer.
IMPORTANT UPDATES ON SNORKEL GEAR: A few years ago, learned about the potential dangers in full face masks. Apparently, in some models CO2 builds up inside the mask leading to blackouts, potentially fatal. Here are just a few articles regarding the dangers of full face masks. With that said, Blue Water Ventures is banning the use of full face masks while we snorkel in Cuba and on all of our snorkeling programs. In Cuba,. we use fins as we enjoy long snorkels. You may argue that you did your own research and purchased the top of the line full face mask. However, we can not assume this risk nor ask our guides to shadow anyone in the water who chooses to wear a full face mask. Full face masks can not be used.
CORAL SAFE SUNSCREEN: If you have had a chance to look over our website packing list, you will have noticed several brands of Coral Safe Sunscreens. There are many out there, some that claim to be safe but actually are not. A key ingredient to avoid is oxybenzone, harmful to marine life. Two brands that we personally like are: Raw Element and Stream2Sea, although there are other good brands on the market. Review this link for more details: Coral Safe We truly appreciate your consideration of coral safe sunscreen to help reduce our impact on the fragile marine ecosystem.
INSECT REPELLENT: A few mosquitoes and sand gnats will be encountered in Cuba. Avon Skin so Soft is the best defense against sand gnats found in coastal areas and your Blue Water Ventures guide will have some SOS handy or you may bring your own supply. In recent years many of our clients have been quite happy with Lemon Eucalyptus by Repel as an alternative to DEET. A layer of lightweight, light in color clothing is an effective defense against insects. The skies are not black with insects. However, if you can’t tolerate insect bites, a trip to the tropics is not for you!
ELECTRICAL OUTLETS: Throughout Cuba, you will find both 110 and 220 volt electrical outlets. We will check in with each house owner to identify which plugs are the standard US 110 outlet for recharging digital cameras, cell phones or other appliances. Several digital camera batteries and extra memory are recommended while traveling. Typically the outlets by the AC at each home are 220 and ones further from the AC are 110, however, always ask when in doubt !You may also travel with the 220 or European Adaptor.
WIFI: Internet connections are slow and may not be available at all of our accommodations or destinations. Communication applications such as Skype and Facetime will not work while we are traveling through Cuba. Be prepared to unplug for 10 days! When internet connection is available at public areas, plan on paying 2-10 CUC per hour.
CELL PHONE: As you depart the United States, be sure to put your cell phones on airplane mode to avoid extremely steep roaming charges. Most US phone do not work in Cuba even if you have an international plan. You may double check with your provider before departure. As an alternative while in Cuba, you may purchase prepaid phone cards and use the cell phone of our guide, Roman to call home. The use of his phone will be available for our use throughout the trip both to receive and make calls as needed.
While in Cuba if you need to get in touch with Roman, you may ask to borrow a cell phone. Cubans are very kind and helpful to tourist asking for directions or cell phone use. Tell them you want to make a collect call using the 99 code and you will easily get through to Roman. His number within Cuba is: 55 10 93 61.
HOW TO REACH OUR GROUP: Before we depart, we will send you a final email with more information on how family members may reach us in the event of an emergency back home. Family members may reach our group by calling our guide, Roman Cahero on his cell phone day or night at: 011 53 55109361.
ILLEGAL DRUG USE AND OTHER OFFENSES: The Cuban government has very severe penalties for the use of illegal drugs. Do not bring illegal substances into Cuba or purchase/use them during this program. Products containing CBD oils or THC are illegal in Cuba and should not be brought through customs. Products containing CBD oils or THC are illegal in Cuba and should not be brought through customs.
Additionally, it is against the law to photograph military personnel, military installments, airport, harbor or rail facilities. Illegal activities may be reviewed here: Cuba Law and select Local Law and Special Circumstances.
Photo by Roman Cahero