Two Journeys groups explored Cuba for the first time in 2016 on the itinerary we call Rhythm of a Lively Land. With so much hype around Cuba travel, there were many expectations of what the groups would and wouldn’t experience. Everybody who traveled with us—a group of very seasoned travelers—was charmed and surprised by what they learned along the way. Here, Joan Weber shares her observations from the trips.

1. Classic cars are everywhere, they’re not just a photo op.

Some are rusted jalopies, others are immaculate and shiny. Few cars entered Cuba after the revolution, so cars from the 40s and 50s are what they’ve got.

2. Cuba is a hot travel spot right now, but with small groups you will avoid the crowds. 

We were concerned that with all the hype around visiting Cuba these days, we would be constantly bombarded by large tour groups. And all the groups we encountered were considerably larger than ours. What we learned is our small size made us more nimble and more flexible, so we were able to enjoy more behind-the-scenes opportunities. Other groups did not interfere with our good time.

3. Cuba is poor—and Cuba is rich.

Except for very new and very tiny private enterprises, everyone (including doctors, lawyers and engineers) is a government employee. Most Cubans do not make enough money for all the food and clothing they need and consumer products are extremely limited. However, world-class education, health care and the arts are free to all, providing riches to Cubans that many other countries don’t offer.

4. Expect your expectations of Havana to be blown out of the water.

Havana is a large, beautiful, dynamic, varied, navigable, and evolving city. You can walk its narrow cobblestone lanes, drive along magnificent tree-lined boulevards, see it from a bicycle cab, stroll the iconic Malecon, and at every turn you’ll be surprised by something new.

5. Cubans are eager to get to know you.

Communicating with Cubans is as natural as communicating with your neighbor at home. Everybody we met welcomed us with ease, and we never once heard anti-American sentiments. The people of Cuba are well aware of their history and their government—and also their new opportunities. They recognize that things in Cuba are not under their individual control and promises are not always kept, but there is a wry humor about this. We often heard “¡así es Cuba!” (that’s Cuba!) and “en este país, hasta el clima es loco”, (in this country, even the weather is crazy).

Want to learn more?

Journeys is one of the few companies to offer small group Cuba travel services. Request a call and an Adventure Specialist will reach out to tell you all about it.

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