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.

Tours In And Around Santiago De Cuba

Santiago de Cuba, in “tierra calente”, is the perfect place to start to understand Cuba. The first capital, the incubator of the War of Independence and the Revolution, the birthplace of Cuban music and much more. Surrounded by the Sierra mountains, in 50 kms you can experience everything from a cloud forest to a desert. Orchids, cacti, butterflies, bats and birds make even a short walk absolutely compelling.

Join us, and explore history, culture, music and dance, and the beautiful, southern coast of Cuba.

Most of these tours are available year round. Some are weather dependent – mountain roads become impassable in the rain. We can usually move from one day to another tours which are affected by weather.

The Sierra hikes are available from January to April depending on the weather. They cannot be done once the summer rains start.


Eco-Tour 1 – Gardens of clouds and forest

Join us in the enchanted world of ferns and clouds. We journey out of the city to a cloud forest with ancient fern trees and simple pines which existed in the time of the dinosaurs. Visit to a high altitude garden with beds of bird of paradise flowers and many exotic tropical plants. Visit a private garden hidden among the slopes and trees. Walk in the magical world of bromeliads and orchids, brightly colour butterflies and brilliant birds. Lunch at the beach

Eco-Tour 2 – Fern and orchid Garden

Visit to an internationally acclaimed fern and orchid garden with the most complete collection of tropical ferns in the Americas. The collection numbers some 3000 ferns and over 300 exotic and indigenous orchids. This is the life work of the Director of the Institute which he has created over the passed 35 years. Lunch in the garden

Eco-Tour 3 – Gardens of desert, cacti and musical instruments

Join us for a tour in the arid hills of the south coast between the Sierras and the azul Caribbean sea. This coastal strip is full of micro climates permitting elephant grass here, and cacti there. We make lots of stops along the way to peer into gardens, tramp through the undergrowth (no sandals please) and look and point. The Cactus Garden represents a major collection of exotic and indigenous species and we spend time learning to propagate these heat and drought tolerant plants. Visit to private collection. Lunch

Eco Tour 4 – Wetland Birding

This fresh water lake and its tidal channels are a haven for endemic and visiting water birds. A morning along the channels and cannel will net avid birders lots of species for their checklist. For those who just enjoy a wonderful journey there are fresh water dolphins, rare crocodiles, and neon-brilliant crabs. Late afternoon birding along the coastal strip completes the day. Lunch

Eco-Tour 5 – Birds, Butterflies and Bats

Early morning start to see the owls coming home; as the dawn washes over the heavily forested slopes of the mountain side you greet dawn on the top of the mountain, the best time to see both endemic and visiting birds is during the very early morning feeding. You end the day near the coast, where thousands of bats make their perfectly timed exodus from their coastal cave to the mountain side for fruit, nectar and pollen. Lunch at the beach

Eco-Tour 6 – Coral and Fishes

Snorkel in the clear waters off Cuba’s South-east coast. The expert is part of the team which studies and cares for the Biosphere which was created 25 to 30 years ago, covering about 60 kms of fragile coast, mangrove swamps, and second and third growth forests. Species protection, habitat protection, research and propagation are key elements in this work. Breakfast at the beach. Turn this into a beach day with hike along the cliffs, or a lazy day sunk in the wonderful deck chairs, walking the beach or swimming in the blue-green waters. Breakfast included. Lunch extra. Towel Service included.

Eco-Tour 7 – Farms of the Sierras

A delightful add-on to our agricultural tours, or just a couple of nights’ getaway into the beautiful mountains of Tercera Frente on the north facing slopes of the Sierras. These verdant hillsides produce coffee and fruits – avocados the size of coconuts, tiny bananas, cocoa. The eco-resort offers a natural swimming pool below a crystal clear waterfall, and great walks on the high plateau . Plate sized butterflies come to the stream to drink, hummingbirds sip the flowers, and the forest is alive with all manner of tiny creatures.

Eco-Tour 8 – Geology of Cuba

The unique coastal formations, old volcanoes, desertification and erosion make this a fascinating coast to enjoy.


Agricultural Tour 1 – Food for thought

The government of Cuba has a goal of the island becoming self sufficient in foodstuffs. Since 1988 when the first organic gardens were created, increasing amounts of fruit and vegetables are being produced through intensive cultivation. Many of the gardens are in the centre of cities, near major residential developments, in schools, hospitals, police stations, army barracks, and in almost any other space, piece of ground or roof top. We visit local organic gardens, a market, and a small holding. Lunch at the farm

Agricultural Tour 2 – National Reference Gardens

Our goal is two remarkable small gardens which seem to the overflowing with goodness. The first garden, which is more like a small and expanding market garden, is termed a patio garden, but has little in common with your herb planters tucked between the deck chairs. It produces sufficient vegetables for several blocks of apartments, together with tilapia for the neighbours and rabbits for family meat. Inter planting and judicious use of flowers makes for good insect control, while the left overs from the sugar mills provide the material for earth worm beds and compost.

Our second visit is to a medicinal herb garden. This garden and its maker have been recognized for their excellence and their contribution to the field of urban agriculture and the health of the population. Every square inch of garden and now the roof and stairs is under cultivation. The garden is staffed by local volunteers, who take their pay in trips to various gardens and workshops.

Lunch in the gardens

Agricultural Tour 3 – Farm Day

Eager to get your hands into some tropical soil? Or just need to garden? Spend a day working on a small farm, preparing soil, planting, gathering crops, and helping the farmer extend his pasture and agricultural land, until recently buried in invasive bushes and trees. Farm lunch.

Agricultural tour 4 – 2 farm visits

About 6 years ago, Cuba changed its land use policy to encourage farmers and people interested in farming to expand the agricultural base and take back land which had been lost to marabu, desertification, salination, and other problems. Much of this land was near major urban centres. The process continues. Our first visit is to a small farm which is being formed out of waste land just outside Santiago. The young farmer has diversified into fruit, herbs, short cycle and long cycle crops, and a healthy herd of goats. Our second visit is to a much more established, but expanded, farm, growing herbs for medicine and the kitchen, and flowers for market. Farm lunch


History of Cuba Part 1 Pre-Columbia to First Contact

See Baracoa

History of Cuba Part 2 Colonial Cuba to Independence

From Indians and slaves, buccaneers and Spanish grandees, pirates and indentured servants, has come a vibrant people. Explore their history and their struggles. From the oldest house in the Americas (quite a few others burned down) to the solid fortress at the harbour, and the living remembrance of the Peace Tree, Cuban history is told in stone and wood, and the faces of its people.

History of Cuba Part 3 Independence to Revolution

A century of turbulence and civil war has led to over five decades of relative calm. The struggle to become an independent nation in the face of US opposition is a poignant and triumphant story. Come with us to explore the Revolutionary Civil War as played out around Santiago. Have history come alive and tangible.

History of Cuba Part 4 Sugar and Slavery

See Trinidad

History of Cuba Part 5 Life and Work in a 20th century Sugar town

The history of Cuba and of the Caribbean is intimately connected with sugar. Sugar defined the wealth of a few, the colour of its people, the dominance of superpowers, and the poverty of its citizens. Visit a small town where sugar is still king. Understand the history of its barrios. This is the history of much of Cuba in the twentieth century.

History of Coffee

The spread of Coffee from the Middle East through Europe and into the new world is a wonderful adventure. That toasting a green, vegetable tasting, bean changed the world is a story worth following. Coffee changed the life of Cuba’s mountains. Mountain sides were cleared, roads and houses were built, slaves brought in – all to export the most expensive legal drug in the world. Follow the colonial development of Cuba’s coffee industry.


Art and Artists

Like most colonies Cuba, at first, followed the artistic fashions of Europe. Religious mural painting and secular commission work was the foundation of an artistic tradition from which has sprung a new artistic language. This tour begins with a short lecture and slide show which helps you understand that history and some of the best of today’s artists. Museum, gallery and studio tour.

This tour is a must for people interested in the arts and/or in purchasing Cuban work. The tours in Camaguey and Habana build on this information.

Art and Religion in Cuba

From the time of Columbus, Spanish Catholicism with it panoply of saints and many festivals was the principal religion of Cuba. Here and there were tiny pockets of Indians, still practicing their religions, but much of their culture had been swept away by the middle of the 16th century. The influx of African slaves building to major imports by the mid-19th century changed the face of Cuba and its religions. At first allowed to practice their own religions, their sheer numbers became a threat especially during their festivals. Their religions were suppressed and Christianity imposed. However, the Yoruba transferred the attributes of their African gods to Christian saints and so found a way to stay within the law and practice their religion. This tour explores the importance of these mixtures as they inform art, music and dance in Cuba.

Architecture Walk 1 – The Historic Centre

One of Santiago’s leading architects takes you on a walk through history. Each city in Cuba has its own unique style and decoration. As one of the oldest of the cities, Santiago offers the most eclectic mix. Pirates, fire and earthquakes have enforced urban renewal – the Cathedral is the 3rd building on that site, and almost none of the very early buildings escape the attention of English and French pirates. Early colonial sits next to Art Deco, and buildings from the Republic and later periods. Learn to spot the fakes and the overbuilding and explore some of the glorious courtyards which can be glimpsed through half closed doors.

Architecture Walk 2 – The Republic Suburbs and Revolutionary Expansion

The coming of the automobile, the wealth brought by sugar, US prohibition, and US investment freed the owners of major businesses and the rich from the need to stay in the centre of the city, and gave them the money with which to fulfill their rural fantasies. Wide roads, houses set back in their own gardens, treed streets to preserve the quiet and coolness of early morning, and above all architecture expressing the new age – ferro-concrete allowing curves and balconies, elegance in design and durability. The new suburbs epitomized the new found confidence of the Age. Housing and the right to a home was one of the great arguments of the Revolution. New suburbs with basic housing, gifts from other countries, and most recently the replacement of whole barrios with new housing after Hurricane Sandy, characterize the new growth of Santiago and of most Cuban cities.



All music classes are offered on an individual basis.
Music classes available: Percussion ~ Guitar ~ Trumpet ~ Voice

The price of classes varies with the level at which the class is taught. Classes for Beginner and Intermediate are available all the time. Advanced and Master Classes must be booked 3 months in advance to ensure the availability of the teacher.

We provide percussion instruments and space to practice. Guitar and Trumpet, please bring your own instrument.

Minor percussion instruments and guitars can be purchased in Cuba. A guitar takes time to make.

Dance Classes

Dance classes are on an individual basis If you come with a partner we will make sure that you can dance together and with other partners. Your classes are run by an experience teacher and professional dancer, and include a dance partner. Two evenings out on the town with your teachers to take your new skills out onto the dance floor.

Dance Classes include Danson, Salsa, Mambo, Rumba and Chachacha. Afro-Cuban dance is available on request. Choreography for casino salsa is available on request.

Spanish Classes – individual classes only

Intensive Spanish courses with highly experienced teachers. Your language classes are your key to Cuban culture. Beginner and Intermediate levels available all the time. Specialized and Advanced classes require advance planning.


1 week in duration – 30 hours of workshop
These workshops can also be offered on an individual basis

Papier Mache

An exciting workshop for those who love to create in paper. Perform marvels with different papers, different techniques. This workshop includes the Art and Religion tour and two additional excursions to collect material. Although art materials are increasingly available, it is wise to bring your own paints and paintbrushes.

This workshop is also available for 15 hours.

Guitar Making

Almaneres has been making guitars since he was 13. His father was a legend of Cuban music. The workshop includes selection of the various woods, design and making of the guitar and decoration. Along the way this master of the Requinto will engage you with his music.


Led by the official photographer for the Office of the Conservador of the city of Santiago, this workshop includes the history of photography in Cuba, and many different aspects of photography including architectural, landscape, sport and culture. This workshop is available for individuals with a slightly changed format, and for groups of 6 or more there is the possibility of photographing a quince.


Sierra Maestras – 3ra Frente – Eco-resort

This tour into the mountains includes stops at two of the reference gardens, a morning walk with a naturalist in the mountains (length and difficulty are determined by your capability). This delightful resort features a waterfall and pool for swimming, a pleasant river, shaded balconies, and medical and massage facilities.

Sierra Maestras – Pico Torquino

To climb the highest peak in Cuba is the ambition of most Cubans. This hike takes you up the arid south face and into the clouds enshrouding the two peaks of Cuba and Torquino. The hike is done in easy stages, mule supported, and led by an ornithologist who makes the trip frequently.

Sierra Maestras – Santo Domingo

This hike takes you from the south coast over Pico Torquino and through the rugged north slope covered in cloud forest and temperate woodlands. The higher rainfall makes for trees hung with orchids, birds and butterflies in abundance. The walk ends near the base the Revolutionaries worked from. A side trip by jeep can be made to the Comandancia.

El Caleton

This lovely small beach has a large protective reef. Away from urban development the waters are crystal clear. A small house, high on a hill with a great view of the sunsets. Two bedrooms (a/c and fans), kitchen, bathroom, large sala, available as a get away, with or without housekeeping and meals. Long stay discounts available.


An artisan colony of more that 25 years standing, this pleasant village is quiet and ideal for those who wish to paint, to explore the arts, or just to rest away from the city.


This well known beach is generally busy through most of the year. Tucked away is an ideal hideout to recover from the trip and busy lives, or just to enjoy snorkeling, diving, or beach walking.


There are several all-inclusive hotels scattered along the coast both east and west of Santiago. We recommend Sierra Mar/Los Galeonos, which is in two parts, an adult part on top of a cliff minutes away from the regional centre of Chiverico, and a larger family hotel about 7kms away. The main hotel has lots of entertainment and beach options, the adult hotel has a pool, a tiny beach, and lots of quiet. (Los Galeonos residents tend not to want to be animated into singing, dancing, or exercising)