A Life in Travel

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A Closer Look With Kurt Kutay | Travel To Cuba

A Closer Look at Cuba

 ​If you've not yet been to Cuba, I suggest you take a closer look! Here's why you should travel to Cuba:

Since Cuba opened to American travelers, 2016 was a record year for tourist arrivals on the island. Airlines had high hopes, cruise ships added Cuban ports of call, and institutional travel like Smithsonian and National Geographic added more group departures. But flights have been reduced and the larger tour groups that were so prevalent are waning since the Trump administration announced they would reverse the historic thawing of relations last year. 

Concerns were raised by misinformation that much of Cuba was devastated by Hurricane Irma, but Wildland Cuba Director, Grettel Calderon, visited last December shortly after the storm and reported that power was restored, all the streets were cleaned up, and damage was minimal in Havana and other areas we visit. One of our travelers in the country at the time was impressed by Cuba's effective emergency preparedness system. It didn't help that a politically motived story about sonic attacks on American diplomats raised travelers' concerns even though no tourists were affected by the fabricated "attack."

The Trump administration's announcement of a new license category for American travelers to Cuba make it seem more complicated to travel to Cuba, but it's actually not. We provide all the documentation and license requirements you need, and now you can easily obtain your visa online or at the airline counter upon check-in. The purpose of the new "support the Cuban people" license is to direct tourist dollars away from the Cuban government. It was designed specifically to encourage small private parties of 1-5 travelers requiring only a local Cuban guide (without the tour escort required to accompany US-based institutional group travel). Furthermore, under this small group private party license travelers must stay in Casas Particulares, not government hotels.

 As a matter of fact, THAT'S exactly how we like to travel, in small private parties with a local guide staying in small guest house accommodations with local Cuban families or small community-based tourism entrepreneurs. Recent alumni shared that they loved their accommodations in Cuba, "sitting on the patio of our casa/restaurant, 10 steps from our room and 5 steps from the beach, listening to a band performing on the beach for us and the patrons of the casa/bar next door was truly a "lightning in a bottle" moment." - Parker & Lora M. They also recounted that their tour leader, Roman, "was born to do this. He did everything he could to accommodate us. He is an inveterate connector. He understands the guide/hospitality role as well as anyone I've ever met." (Read their full review)

So, whether you are a party of five or fewer, or part or a slightly larger group traveling under a "people-to-people" license, we really showcase how small group travel to Cuba can be personalized through our network of local guides and community contacts on the ground. They create incredibly engaging and interesting experiences like our new Art, Music and Dance of Cuba trip that Anne and I will be leading November 10-18, 2018. Please join us! 

And there's more to Cuba now than ever before:

The Cuban people and the tourism infrastructure resources built in recent years (private B&Bs and restaurants), are eagerly awaiting more visitors after building up from the initial rush in 2016. You will be welcomed with open and appreciative arms by many who invested expecting that tourism would rise after the Obama opening.

We now offer our Cuba National Park Walking Adventure and Cuba Kayak Adventure on a private basis for as few as 2 people, under the new "Support the Cuban people" license so you have more flexibility to travel on your own dates.

There are now some really nice small luxury boutique hotels like The Reserva, Malecon 663 and Casa Tu Havana, but you must book far in advance during peak winter months. But they do tend to be available during off peak season in our spring and summer; we especially recommend July when there is a relatively predictable break from summer showers.  

There are also a growing bunch of best restaurants and culinary experiences available like local Cuban entrepreneur, Omaida Scott, who greets our travelers at her roadside stand to prepare a "Run-away slave lunch" for our travelers, or dining experiences with famous chefs like Raulito at Grados Restaurant

Finally, I would add there has been much speculation as to how the new leadership in Cuba would affect tourism and we don't see this affecting travel in the future in a positive or negative way. We expect it will simply stay the same. 

So, Cuba is relatively empty these days, and it's a great time to visit as the crowds are gone and the best private hotels and restaurants are open for business. Go when you can, or come join us on our Art, Music and Dance Adventure November 10-19, 2018.

Keeping it wild,

Kurt Kutay

Read more Cuba Guest Reviews

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