Hiking light Birding light

Hiking light, Birding light, Spanish Light  throughout the Cuban countryside!

February 17 – Friday, February 28, 2020


Interact with Cuban nature, support Cuban conservationists and Cuban birds while improving your Spanish!

This 12-day adventure is  uniquely designed for curious conservationists, interested birders, and amateur ecologists who want to interact meaningfully with a variety of Cuban nature specialists, archaeologists, biologists, historians and artists and give support to Cuban civil society. Conservation and conversation come together to deepen our understanding of Cuba and the Cuban people. Join Cuba’s national campaign to protect the environment while visiting uniquely beautiful national parks. Emphasis is on gaining an appreciation of birds, nature, conservation, creative eco-tourism, and the work that Cuban naturalists are doing to protect and nourish the environment in Cuba. We will engage in light hiking in protected areas while practicing our Spanish (not a prerequisite) with our Cuban friends who work in the private sector of conservation and avian research. We will also sample the new trends in creole and international cuisine with Cuba’s growing private sector.

The tour will visit the bio-rich areas of Las Terrazas, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve; the beautiful Viñales Valley and National Park,  with its unique hiking and birding opportunities; the Ciénaga de Zapata, an immense swamp and bird habitat; and, of course, Old Havana with its fascinating urban ecology. 


 Cuban Trogan – drawing by Nils Navarro
Cuban Trogan – drawing by Nils Navarro

The cost of $3,500  includes transportation to and from Cuba; Cuban visas; medical insurance in Cuba; ground transportation within Cuba; hotels and bed and breakfasts; all group meals in Cuba; and entrance fees.  Limited to ten people. Because Cuba is in transition, all dates, activities and even costs are subject to minor changes. 

Chocolate Orchid (Encyclia phoenicea)
Chocolate Orchid (Encyclia phoenicea)


Tentative Itinerary

Mon Feb 17, Day 0: Find your way to Ft. Lauderdale. Briefing meeting with tour co-leader, Paul Baicich, at designated motel in the evening.

Tues. Feb 18, Day 1: Shuttle to airport; Southwest Air 9:25 am – Havana 10:50 am. Our on-site tour co-leader, Soledad Pagliuca, and our dedicated driver will meet us with a comfortable, air-conditioned bus. We will head for Las Terrazas (51 Km) part of the Sierra del Rosario UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Visit the Buenavista Coffee Plantation. Check in to the iconic Hotel Moka. Dinner at El Romero Vegetarian Restaurant followed
by an informal meeting in Spanish with local artists. Translation provided.

Wed, Feb. 19, Day 2: Breakfast in the Hotel. Easy morning hike in the Reserve, looking for birds, lizards, and the like, then drive to Soroa (16 km) and botanical garden orchidarium with over 300 species of orchids. Lunch on site. Dinner at the hotel.



Thur. Feb 20, Day 3: Check out and drive to Viñales (123 km.). Lunch on
the road. Check into  Rancho San Vicente   Hotel. Dinner  at  La   Puesta  del Sol  and conversation  with Nils Navarro, leading Cuban ornithologist, artist,  and author of   The Endemic Birds of Cuba.

Fri. Feb 21, Day 4: Early morning drive to the Sendero de
las Maravillas
to observe some of Cuba’s endemic birds, palms, lizards, and
snails (easy hike). Lunch at a paladar. Afternoon, two options: visit the Cueva del Indio (EASY cave) or hike to Santo Tomas caves (difficult). Dinner at the Finca Agro-ecológica Paraiso.

Sat. Feb 22, Day 5: Check out early and drive to Ciénaga de Zapata National Park (366 km). Picnic along the way. In Playa Larga visit the Patio de Adrian in Ana’s backyard for unique birding opportunities. Possibly see the Zunzuncito (Bee hummingbird). Check in to our individual B&Bs, (very near each other) with Cuban families. Dinner at Tiki restaurant with Rosendo Martinez, outstanding biologist, conservationist, and conversationalist, who will give us an overview of the National Park System in Cuba.

Sun. Feb 23, Day 6: Breakfast with your family. Excursion to the Finca Agro-ecológica Rancho Los Pintines in Solpillar to study birds in the swamp environment. Horseback or horse and buggy to trek around the savanna and then walking in the woods.  Lunch at the Finca with our guides, Manso and Ningo, and their families. Visit the memorial to the Fidel Dinner with the “Carboneros” (carbon workers). Sunset visit to Las Salinas with an expert local biologist who will help us spot long-legged waders, raptors, shorebirds and crocodiles. Legendario Café Bar for light dinner and music

Havana Streets
Havana Streets

Mon. Feb. 24, Day 7: Early morning drive to Enigma de las Rocas with  park specialists. Bring bathing suits. Visit to the Finca Agro-ecologica Los Cocos in Bermejas for lunch with Eddy and Aliuska. Possible search for endemic species: Bee Hummingbird and the Blue-headed Quail-Dove. On to Playa Giron where the infamous 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion took place and visit the small, but informative museum there. Return to Playa Larga for dinner.

Tues. Feb 25, Day 8: Early morning excursion to Santo Tomas to visit some of the Swamp’s exquisite tributaries by small rowboats and search for the elusive Zapata Wren. Afternoon free for swimming, etc.

Wed. Feb 26, Day 9: Leave for Havana (177 Km). Stroll Havana Botanical Gardens rich in native birds. Lunch at the Gardens. Sunset cocktails at Hotel Nacional with biologists who will join us to talk about conservation projects. Check in to B&Bs in Havana
Vieja. Dinner at Cinco Esquinas with leading Cuban ornithologists, then optional hotel rooftop music.

Thurs. Feb 27, Day 10: Walking tour of Old Havana with historian and Martí scholar, Ruben Javier Perez. Visit Plaza de Armas; Government House; walk by San Geronimo University; Cathedral Plaza and Cathedral; visit offices of the Director of Archaeology of Old Havana; stop to visit Julio Larramendi art gallery in the Hotel Villa de Conde Nueva; Plaza San Francisco; and finally, Plaza Vieja. Lunch at Lamparilla #361. Afternoon visit the recently renovated Capitol building then to The National Museum of Cuban art. Last evening with our Cuban friends at Lebanese restaurant Beirut. Optional music at roof top hotels.

Fri. Feb 28, Day 11: Southwest 2:55 pm flight arrives Ft. Lauderdale 4:20 pm. Time for a drive around Greater Havana.  ¡Hasta pronto!  


Purpose and goals:  

This delegation is in support of the Cuban people as permitted by the U.S. Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).  We have an intense itinerary with a strong focus on meaningful interaction with our Cuban counterparts through formal and informal meetings. Each participant is obligated to keep records for review by the US Treasury Dept.

Our goal is to help you understand more about conservation in Cuba, especially with regard to the environment, endangered species, birds, and nature in general, while brushing up your Spanish and giving support to Cuban civil society. Another goal is to assist our independent Cuban naturalist colleagues in their work; the delegation will bring optics, feeders, books, and educational materials to Cuba.

Tour Leaders:

Along with our encounters with Cuban colleagues throughout the trip, you will
be assisted every day by Soledad Pagliuca, experienced traveler, cultural
interlocutor, and bilingual tour leader from The Friendship Association, and
Paul Baicich, bird conservationist and author. Both have led delegations to
Cuba multiple times, with an abundance of varied experience.



$3,500 (per person, double occupancy). Add $300 for single supplement (if available).

Limited to 10 participants.

– $500 non-refundable deposit due with application.
– $1,500 due January 10, 2020.
– $1,500 due January 30, 2020 (Or $1,800 for single occupancy if available).

Included: membership in the Friendship Association; overnight stay at the hotel in Ft. Lauderdale; transportation to and from Cuba from Ft. Lauderdale; Cuban visa; medical insurance in Cuba; all transportation within Cuba; all hotels and bed and breakfasts; all meals with the group in Cuba; restaurant and driver tips; entrance fees; and tour guides. Since people’s drinking habits vary greatly, to be fair, each person is responsible for their own drinks, except bottled water.

Not included: transportation within the U.S.; personal tips such as housekeepers and porters; drinks other than water; extra suitcases and overweight; travel insurance.

For more information about: 

  • Fauna and flora, contact Paul Baicich: paul.baicich@verizon.net; (443) (443) 745-5179
  • Trip logistics, contact Soledad Pagliuca: aimisoledad@gmail.com; (904) 808-2030. (Note: Soledad will be in Argentina for the month of January. Email is the best option).


Cuban Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium siju)
Cuban Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium siju)
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