Special Programs

  • Look here for upcoming Special Events, Special Tours to join, and Special Pricing





  • A great month for gardens, celebrations, and all of our tours

November 2013

  • Bi-annual International Choral Festival. Calling all choristers and music lovers – international choirs invited. Non-competitive festival.

Gardens of Western Cuba

Cuba Beyond the Beaches brings you an exciting tour of the gardens of four delightful areas of Cuba. This is orchid country. The mountains of Western Cuba receive rainfall all year round – in winter brought by cold fronts from the continent, in summer from the tropical lows passing from the Caribbean to the Gulf of Mexico. Ideal conditions for endemic and exotic orchids.

Our lecturers are internationally recognized Cuban experts whose lifework has been their gardens and the search, protection and propagation of the indigenous species of Cuba.

Your tour starts and ends in Habana, fast becoming the orchid capital of Cuba, thanks to the interest created by the International Orchid Festival held in May.

Day 1 – Habana, City of Orchids

We start our day in the city of Habana. High on the cool slopes of hillsides where once the wealthy summered, we visit a private collection of orchids of outstanding merit.

Our host is the vice president of the Habana orchid association. He has an outstanding collection of fine orchids and is currently involved, with a group of friends, in building a small en vitro fertilization lab for breeding wonderful new orchids.

Lunch in his home

After lunch time to study – propagation, care and showing orchids. Time to ask all your questions.

(For non-aficiandos we are happy to arrange on of our cultural/heritage tours for the afternoon)

Day 2 – Garden Projects – Feeding the city and disaster recovery

By the late 1980’s Cuba was in the uncomfortable position of having two thirds of its food come from outside the country. Its basic foodstuffs – milk, meat, rice, coffee (in Cuba a basic food) and most of its vegetables, came from outside nearly all from the USSR but a great deal from Europe. With the collapse of the USSR this flow of cheap and reliable food stopped. Rice went from 5 Pesos for a pound to 35. Cuba was starving. No oil for tractors, or trucks, or fertilizer. The solution was to grow food locally. Empty lots, parks, and wasteland was converted to productive organoponico gardens. Fertilizer was made from compost and manures, soil was built up, and vegetables flourished. Slowly local seed was developed. Most apartment buildings had large gardens from where residents purchased their vegetables. Producing 5 to 7 million tons of produce these gardens and tiny farms encircle cities and infiltrate the most upmarket residential areas.

Social gardening seems to be a peculiarly Cuban form. We visit someone who turned a disastrous salt water flood into a green movement for his street, his block and his barrio. Not content with his lovely garden he planted in the street, and then encouraged his neighbours to tend trees he supplied

Day 3 – More orchids

Today we leave the city to head out to the mountainous provinces of Artemisa and Pinar del Rio. On our way out of the city we make two stops to enjoy more orchids.

A private garden started in 2008, now has a collection of 240 orchids (this is the home of the local orchid association).

Then on to a commercial grower, selling cut orchids for arrangement since 1987.

Lunch at one of these stops.

Your homestays are on the outskirts of Soroa. Many of them have beautiful and interesting gardens, backdropped by the Sierras, and with the cool air of the mountains refreshing after the heat of the city.

Dinner in your homestay.

Day 4 – More orchids and more about orchids

The orchid gardens of Soroa are world famous. Our local guide has worked in them for nearly 30 years. We get a glimpse of the propagation and experimental work going on behind the scenes, and projects to preserve the wild orchids which used to abound in the mountain forests.

After lunch we visit two outstanding artists known for their work with orchids. And other artists nearby.

Dinner in your homestay.

Day 5 – A different kind of nursery and a project

High on a hill overlooking the northern shore is a nursery devoted to preserving heritage fruits. After 20 years this gardener’s work has attracted the attention of the government and he is now part of a national group working to make fruit mean more than mangos!

After a nursery tour, lunch on many of the fruits and vegetables of this wonderful garden.

Many of the palms in this part of the island are unique to Cuba and endangered. The Jardin Botanico has a preservation project which we are privileged to visit.

Dinner in your homestay.

Day 6 – Vinales Mogotes and Gardens

The huge limestone outcrops of this part of the island have been made famous by artists for hundreds of years. The sheer sides of the isolated hills are the result of water erosion on the oldest rocks of the island. The isolation of each mogote has led to endemic and unique insects, snails and plants. Rivers run through subterranean caverns which are still being explored. Cave paintings are in abundance. Access is restricted.

Vinales is home to a couple of interesting gardens. We visit a miniature Jardin Botanico with many species of endemic and exotic trees and plants, and then on to a natural sculpture garden.

Lunch in Vinales.

As we turn back to the highway and Pinar del Rio we will visit the provinces Jardin Botanico. Newly restored this garden is slowly recovering from years of being abandoned

Dinner in your homestay in Habana

Day 7 – Jardin Botanico de Cuba

This 600 acre site was developed between 1969 and 1984 and parts are constantly under renewal. Despite the ravages of the Special Period, the long time director was able to maintain the collections which are now expanding and filling newly defined spaces. There are fine collections of palms, archaic forest plants, and collections of orchids, epiphytes and bromeliads. The centre of the garden is The Japanese Garden – a gift to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Revolution. This garden has recently been restored to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Revolution.

Lunch in the garden – the Jardin Botanico promotes vegetarian food and healthy eating.

Visits with some local gardens

Dinner in your homestay.

Day 8 Departure Day

Additional tours are available for this day. Ask us about visits to individual orchid growers, and our cultural and heritage programming in Habana

Extend Your Tour

Extend your tour with all or part of our Gardens of Central and/or Eastern Cuba

Tour availability – small groups, individuals – continuously available – CONTACT US FOR PRICES


  • February 2nd week
  • March 2nd week
  • April 2nd week

Click for Further Information – Accommodation, Meals, Transport


Accommodations are quoted as Homestays throughout the tour. All are in carefully selected and licensed Cuban homes. Most accommodations offer private baths, air-conditioning and fans. Your hosts may speak a little English but gestures, smiles and genuine kindness make the stay a truly memorable experience. Our bilingual staff is always available.

Alternative accommodations are available in hostals (converted colonial or republic era buildings which are now tiny hotels complete with restaurants and bars, most are in the colonial, neo-colonial areas of the city centres and are rated 3/4/5 stars), or in a variety of hotel accommodations (hotels not resorts in the city)

Eastern Cuba – Mountain Eco-Resort

The mountain resort is a true eco-resort high in the Sierras about 100 kms of winding roads from Santiago. Waterfalls and pools enhance a valley of tropically lush vegetation, while alpine-type meadows and small farms make the mountain slopes above a wonderful contrast.

Read more about Gardens of Eastern Cuba.

Central Cuba – Spa-Resort

The spa-resort is a newly restored and renovated mineral spa-hotel. There are pools of beneficial mineral water warmed by subterranean hot springs. Massage and other remedial activities are available. Or just relax by the pool and soak up the peace and quiet of this off road hotel.

Read more about Gardens of Central Cuba.


Homestay Accommodations are booked with Breakfast and Dinner.

Hotel Accommodations are booked with Breakfast only, unless dinner is requested.

Lunch is included in all full tour days. Lunches are on farms, in studios, in private homes – all integral parts of the tour.

Special diets and vegetarian food are available. Please let us know when you book. We recommend homestay accommodations for people with special meal requests.


Group and individual transport for the day tours is by government licensed, air-conditioned vehicles, with a very few exceptions. We use the same chauffeurs for our tours as much as possible as they know how our clients like to be driven.

For individuals and very small groups we recommend intercity bus transportation except where the journey is part of the tour. The intercity buses are clean, on time, air-conditioned, they carry two chauffeurs. For large distances they provide a very economical solution. Depending on where you are travelling we try to select journeys for the late afternoon and evening, to leave your days free for our tours, and your own explorations.


Please let us know if standing or longer walks are difficult for you – we try to make all tours accessible. Some of the gardens are partially wheelchair accessible; we provide well-trained assistance for people in wheelchairs or those with limited mobility.

After Tour Accommodation Options

For those of you coming for two weeks to Eastern Cuba and wishing a beach stay we offer several alternatives:

A small all-inclusive resort, about 75 kms from Santiago. Here you will find peace and tranquility in an idyllic setting. Perched above a small town, with breathtaking seascapes from every room, this is an ideal place to start enjoying the warmth and friendliness of Cuba, and to relax after a busy week of gardens.

A wonderful beach house, with an interesting history, has a limited number of rooms. Perched on the terrace above a small private cove and near a lovely little beach, this house offers tranquility and a lazy tropical atmosphere, with welcoming chairs on deep verandas, spectacular sunrises and sunsets, and marvelous food. A completely off the track hideaway.

A quiet property close to a safe beach. This alternative is ideal for a family or small group of friends. The small property is in the process of being transformed from arid pastureland to a productive tiny farm – fruit trees, honey production, vegetables for home and local sale. Self catering with housekeeping, or international standard catering. For those of you coming for two weeks to Central and Western Cuba and wishing a beach stay we offer the full range of hotels in the major resort areas of Varadero, Trinidad, Cayo Coco, Santa Maria. Please note that many of the smaller islands are connected by ferry with one journey each way per day. Larger islands are accessible by flights from Habana.

General Information

 We recommend travel insurance You must be able to show Health Care Insurance coverage on entry to Cuba Visas – visas are provided with your flight or can be purchased at check-in. For MOST tourists it is not necessary to request a visa from the Cuban Embassy. CHECK WITH YOUR AIRLINE


Because of the embargo US dollars carry a surcharge of 10% before exchange. Please bring Euros or Canadian dollars. Not all places change all currencies. Please check with us concerning exchange problems.