Day 1: Arrive to Havana
Meet your guides at the airport and head to your historic hotel in Old Havana. Take a walk down the charming pedestrian street and browse the books for sale. That afternoon, meet for an orientation and welcome cocktail and have dinner with a group of scientists working to protect this country's incredible ocean habitats. Overnight at the historic Hotel Nacional overlooking the Caribbean (2 nights).
Day 2: Havana Exploration
After breakfast, meet with coral biologist Dr. Patricia Gonzalez of the University of Havana, followed by a walking tour of two natural history museums. Dinner will be on the town including traditional music and dancing lessons.
Day 3: Havana & Vinales World Heritage Site
This morning, explore Old Havana and the Port of Havana and have lunch with Cuban turtle conservationist Dr. Julia Azanza, head of the Guanahacabibes program. Later, board your bus for a 2 hour drive to Viñales Valley, Cuba’s renowned tobacco growing area surrounded by “mogotes,” enormous isolated rock formations that afford some of the most scenic views on the island. Spend the afternoon on horseback visiting haciendas or visit the Santo Tomás caves nearby. Overnight at the Hotel Rancho San Vicente (1 night).
Day 4: To Guanahacabibes
After breakfast, board a bus and pass through the breathtaking Pinar del Rio landscape. Stopping for a break, you'll tour a tobacco plantation. Late that afternoon, you'll arrive to Guanahacabibes National Park and check in to your beachfront cabin at Villa Maria La Gorda (3 nights) and then head to the beach to swim or relax.
After dinner, the group will enjoy a cocktail reception in the evening and meet local researchers and park rangers and learn about this diverse park.
Day 5: Ocean Exploration
After breakfast, we'll visit a turtle nesting beach in the park to document any tracks from the previous night. A picnic lunch is followed by a visit to Roncali lighthouse, the country's westernmost point. Later, experience the park's impressive coral reefs via a guided dive/snorkel excursion.
In the evening, watch the incredible sunset and enjoy live Cuban music with drinks at the hotel bar along the water. Once dark falls, we will head over to the beach to look for turtles coming ashore and observe the nesting process as the researchers collect data.
Day 6: Caves & Turtle Research
Today is a busy day of activities, including birdwatching, visiting a fascinating cave, and a second snorkel or dive excursion. Arise early for a hike to see some of the park’s fascinating birds. Later in the morning, you can join a short hike to the Cueva las Perlas (Pearls Cave), a series of caverns and sinkholes in the park.
There will be one more optional activity to explore the park’s incredible reefs by diving or snorkeling. Finally, before dusk the group will head to the turtle nesting beach to look for nesting turtles. You will have opportunities to help the researchers measure the turtles, record data, and other tasks. Spend the night helping biologists with research or return to your room.
Day 7: Return to Havana
After a late breakfast (to allow for sleeping in), we will board the bus to return to Havana. Check in to the Hotel Nacional and explore the fascinating history of this beautiful hotel. That evening will be a celebratory dinner and then out on the town to see Cuban music at the famous Zorro y Cuervo jazz club. Overnight at the historic Hotel Nacional (2 nights).
Day 8: Havana
One more full day to explore incredible Havana. Visit a rum museum to learn how this drink helped shape the country. Visit a local market to shop for Cuban art and handicrafts. Have lunch at the historic and beautiful 1830, right on the water. In the late afternoon, we will be treated to a private rooftop concert by Grupo Mezcla to learn about different genres of music in Cuba today with world class musicians. Dinner will be at La Casa, a wonderful third-generation paladar for a multi-course meal.
Day 9: Departure
Take your memories, pictures, and souvenirs home with you to remember this unique adventure. You will be taken to the airport in time for your connecting flight home.