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Introduction to: Havana

Written By David Lee

It only takes a 50-minute direct flight from Miami to travel 60 years back in time.

Cuba is an island of irony and surprise. Despite generations of communism, it is a culture that boasts one of the most thriving, arts, music and entrepreneurial environments on the planet. While Cuba isn’t completely open to American tourism yet, the loosening of restrictions has made it easier than ever before to travel there. The influx of tourists can’t help but change the fabric of much of what makes this destination so unique. The time to go is now.

LEGAL ARRANGEMENTS

Our SmartFlyer advisors are able to make the proper legal arrangements for private and or small groups with customized and niche-based itineraries, tailored to the needs and travel desires of their clients while also meeting the United States government’s requirements of legal travel.

LENGTH OF TRIP

Trips can be as short as 3-4 nights, with a focus on the highlights of Havana combined with a stop at the famed white sand beaches of Varadero, or a day trip to visit the world’s best tobacco plantations.  Extensive 7-10 day tours of the Island includes visits to the sites of Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos.

CUBA HIGHLIGHTS

ARCHITECTURE

Many of the colonial art deco buildings have been carefully restored, yet so much of this city is in various stages of decay and neglect. The ravages of time are photogenic and alluring, but bound to change as buildings are restored and or torn down. Take part in an informative exploration of the challenges and history of the ongoing restoration of Old Havana as part of a private discussion with the government’s leading architect, followed by a private tour of Havana Viejo.

VINTAGE RIDES | Cruise in gorgeously restored 1950’s era American cars. These cars are everywhere in Havana, all models and conditions, and in continuous use since the 1950s. There is nothing quite like a sunset drive in a 1957 Chevy convertible up and down the Malecon.

HAVANA CLUB | Let’s not forget the rum. Home of the famous and delicious Havana Club that, due to the embargo, is a rum that is unobtainable in the United States. SmartFlyer is able to reserve special private tastings with the head rum sommelier of the Havana Club factory.

MUSIC | Son, Rhumba, Afro-Cuban Jazz, Salsa…Home of the Buena Vista Social Club; the music in Cuba literally pours into the streets.  From the smallest street side bars to the large late night Salsa clubs, the city is alive with music.

NIGHTLIFE | Enjoy a strong cup of Cuban coffee post-dinner to maintain your energy after a day of sightseeing. The biggest Salsa bands usually hit the club stages after midnight in a city that truly never sleeps.  Havana is alive day and night.

INSIDER ACCESS | VIP EXPERIENCES

PALADARS

The food scene in Havana is blossoming and it’s all about the paladars (private restaurants). These range from a couple of tables tables in the kitchen of a small house to a twenty-table establishment built into a fully renovated mansion in Havana’s Miramar neighborhood. SmartFlyer’s private travelers dine only in the best paladars in Havana, most of which are too small to cater to larger groups. SmartFlyer clients are able to explore unique and the not widely-known “secret” bars and clubs that the growing middle class of Havana’s entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, and restaurateurs often frequent.

ARTS

From the folk art at the various souvenir markets to the higher-end fine art presented by appointment only in the “secret” private galleries of Havana, the art scene is bourgeoning.  At the famous Casa Fuster, the renowned ceramicist will personally tour you around his home workshop and gallery and also the town of Jaimanitas, which is now a unique work of public art where Fuster has decorated over 80 houses with ornate murals and domes to suit the personalities of his neighbors.

CUBAN CIGARS

Even if you aren’t a fan of smoking cigars, a private tour of the oldest continuously-operating cigar factory in the world and home to the best cigars ever made, is captivating.   SmartFlyer’s special VIP access is the only way to experience the secrets behind such names as Cohiba and Montecristo. You will smell, touch and witness the remarkable process from start to finish at the Partagas Factory.  Pictured here is a tobacco farmer inspecting dried tobacco leaves before sending them for rolling.

DAY TRIP FROM HAVANA | VARADERO

Some of the most beautiful Caribbean waters in the world belongs to Varadero. Sneak in a romantic getaway as part of your Cuban discover trip and enjoy a day trip to the beautiful white sand beaches for a private lunch at the historic Dupont House and a round of golf at the Varadero Golf Club. This experience is a delightful contrast and unspoiled respite.

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