Let's go together, as pioneers with our electric bicycles, to visit one of the last sanctuaries in Cuba. We start our adventurous trip with two days in Havana and then we will be crossing the distance between the main land and the mysterious Isla de la Juventud, by the sea. We will leave behind us a daily distance between 30 and 80 km.That may sound like a lot, but it won´t be exhausting, unless you prefer to turn off the engine and let your body work. You should rather be prepared to be confronted with a mental challenge, since the contrasts and impressions that await us in Havana could not be more extreme. The mode of life varies completely on the Isla de la Juventud. There, the deceleration will allow us to enjoy the pure nature of an island, which for two centuries was the home of the most famous pirates of our history. In the beginning of the last century the island was used for the deportation of people in disagreement with the policies of that time. José Martí was one of the cases, making an involuntary stay on it for a period of time. As well as Fidel Castro and his brother Raúl, who were imprisoned in the previously called Prisión de Isla de Pinos, which is now shown as a museum. We will cross this gigantic installation and also visit the abandoned beaches of the island. Expect with enthusiasm to discover Havana like only a few people have and an island that is opening itself, step by step, to foreign visitors. You will spend nine nights with breakfast in the morning, eight lunches and dinners in simple but cozy hotels and authentic casas particulares, including six fascinating daytrips.
The night before the first daytrip in Havana will accommodate you in a cozy casa particular with colonial style, where your guide will be waiting for you the next morning at 9:00 am, right at the door. It will be really easy to recognize him by the electric bike or the "Cubyke"logo on his poster, his shirt or his cap. In the event that you form a closed group we can certainly agree on an individual meeting point. Together, we will pick up the the rest of the bicycles. After a brief introduction regarding the correct use of the bicycles, their adjustment according to the physical characteristics of each one and some general information about the conditions of the Cuban streets and traffic rules, we will start our first tour by e-bike.
One day in Havana – El clásico
After the first overnight stay we´ll start at 9:00 am with our undisputable classic "One day in Havana". The tour includes all the highlights of the Cuban capital and also other, lesser-known wonders that this ecstasizing city hides. We get to know some of the fifteen neighborhoods of the capital, such as Old Havana, Havana Center, Vedado, Playa, Marianao and depending on our speed on the trip, even more. We will quickly realize that time passes differently here and that Cuba is, on many levels, different from all the countries we have known so far. In Havana, our tour starts in direction of the vivid and historic Old Havana. We pass through the Callejón de Hamel, an open air exponent of Afro-Cuban religion in the center of Havana, from there we will make a stop at La Guarida. The restaurant La Guarida counts as one of the most important in Havana, since it became famous for appearing in the Oscar-nominated Cuban film, "Strawberry and Chocolate" (1993), and its proximity to the Paladar San Cristobal, where Obama dined during his stay in Cuba. We keep pedaling along the touristic hot-spots of the old town: Capitolio, Gran Teatro, Parque Central and make stop at La Casa del Perfume and at Fortín Castillo de la Real Fuerza. At some point we will be strolling next to our e-bikes through some special historical places, due to the narrow and crowdy alleys. After marvelling at the four main squares: Plaza Vieja, Plaza de San Fransisco de Asís, Plaza de la Catedral and Plaza de Armas, we will drive along El Paseo del Prado with our e-bikes. During our lunch break we will be given the chance to assess if the existing rumor that considers the Cuban cuisine as bad and boring, is really true. The specific place always depends on our travel speed, the size of the group and the practical conditions of the streets. During our journey through Havana we surely will not omit the Malecón and, passing the impressive Hotel Nacional, we will enter the elegant neighborhood El Vedado with its diverse architecture. We will pedal on the crowdy Calle 23, not far from La Rampa, until we reach Avenida Paseo with the objective of heading to the historic Plaza de la Revolución, where we can, with a little sensitivity, feel the atmosphere that must have prevailed when Fidel, in front of more than a million Cubans, gave his eloquent speeches. On our return to the meeting point of the trip, we will stop one last time to have a drink, maybe a cocktail, a beer or a water, while we discuss the impressions of the day.
Havana Countryside –The East to discover
On our freshly recharged e-bikes we will head along the coast, leaving the pulsating metropolis, in direction to the countryside. That part of Havana is not included usually in the classic guides for tourists - maybe that is the reason why it is so original and charming. The route put us in direct contact with the way of living in Cuba's hinterland. We will notice how the time apparently stopped here, even being still very close to the Capital. There is almost not traffic, people simple walk or use horse-drawn carrieges or bicycles. Another great contrast, on our way to the first fishing village of the east, will be the visit of open air galleries, where some of the most famous artists of the country exhibit their work of art. Your guide will be waiting for you at 9:00 am in the accommodation. The first destinations of today's trip are devoted to art in combination with social projects. Then, on the way to the embassy neighborhood, we will pass by the Palacio de Convenciones, where many national and international congresses take place, as well as relevant political events. Moving on in direction to Jaimanitas along the famous Club Habana, we will make a stop at Fusterlandia, an place created by Fuster, a prominent plastic artist in Cuba whose work is inspired by the Afro-Cuban religion and takes Gaudí as a reference. From there on, we continue our trip in direction of Marina Hemingway, the largest yacht facility in Cuba, named after the American writer Ernest Hemingway. We will drive on the Pan-American Highway with our e-bikes towards Santa Fe. The small beaches and the original living conditions, which we will be able to see along the coast, are impressions that will remain. On the way to Playa Baracoa we will pass by the Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina, where African and Latin American students will be future doctors. The fishing village of Playa Baracoa has an incredible charm and, fortunately for us, has practically not been discovered in the tourist sphere. We will arrive at one of our favorite restaurants, which is difficult to exceed in terms of location and spectacular food. Invigorated with carbohydrates, vitamins and proteins, as well as with the impressions we got, we will set out on our way back, making some short stops on the way to hydrate and give our body some rest.
From Havana to Batábano and then to La Isla de La Juventud
With our loaded bicycles, we will start the day at 8:00 am, departing from the accommodation in direction to Batabanó, where the fast Russian ferry awaits us to head to Isla de la Juventud . We will equip ourselves with a small backpack for our necessities on the bike and bring a separate, bigger luggage, which will be transported by horse, car, pedicab, or tractors, from the ferry to the hotel. We have to undergo a somehow unusual security check and the boarding will also take its time, but you will see that it is worth it, once we get there. It is a privilege to visit a place where years ago no foreigner could access, and even in the present days, the Cubans themselves have difficulties to enter. That is one of the reasons why the island has kept her virginity almost intact. It is very necessary and important to have the passport at hand. The crossing will take approximately 2.5 hours. In the port of Nueva Gerona, the capital of La Isla de Juventud, we will embark our luggage and mount our e-bikes to start a small tour of the place. We will enjoy a picnic on a beach with „arenas negras“, as the Cubans would say, which is not really black sand, only a little darker, and has many colors, as it use to be on a common beaches that we know. If we have time enough, as per the schedule we follow, we will be able to take a dip in the sea, so don't forget to bring your bath clothes. The location, the people, the water and the surroundings are very nice and little touristy, wherefore it will be difficult for us to say goodbye. When the sun sets we will drive, almost without sound, on our e-bikes towards our hotel to settle in the rooms and freshen up a bit. After dinner we have the possibility to sit down in the bar of the place to immerse ourselves in a debate about our impressions and share them, accompanied by typical Cuban cocktails or a nice glass of rum with locals, who also stay there. This is part of the island's charm – there is no longer a strict division between foreigners and natives, as there used to be a few years ago. We will spend two nights in this hotel, which is like all hotels and the island in general, very simple, but clean. The rooms are air-conditioned, they have a TV, hot and cold water, large beds, good mattresses, friendly staff, as well as sufficient food and refreshments will be provided. We will not find any SPA or beauty salons there, much less large shopping complexes, no golf courses, but there is a pool and wifi. The bicycles will spend the night at the loading station to recover maximum power and to get ready for our next stage.
Presidio Modelo – with our e-bikes through the former prison
After getting a good breakfast, we will leave at 9:00 am, beginning our tour of the island's capital Nueva Gerona, with the destination Presidio Modelo. The majority of you probably has never been to jail, and even if you have, you will see that the prison in which Fidel Castro spent several years is completely different. This prison facility had, during its operating times, a model character (therefore the name), since it had a very limited number of guards for a maximum capacity of five thousand inmates. The dimensions of the place are gigantic, there is only another place in the world comparable with it: the active prison of Illinois, USA. The place is so big that we can drive down the old tracts, where the prisoners were held captive, with our bicycles. According to our experience, it can be a distressing and thrilling adventure to see the old cells and learn about the historical events that took place in the installation. Cyling throughout the prison museum we will learn how Fidel Castro planned his thrust against the dictator Fulgencio Batista and how he got to obtain literature of Karl Marx until he was pardoned by the government of the time, something that eventually backfired for the former ruler Batista. When Christopher Columbus arrived at the Isla de la Juventud in 1494, he occupied it as property for the Spanish crown and named it San Juan Evangelista. It turned out that the small island didn't comply with the strategical interests of the Crown and they forgot about it, turning it into an ideal main barrack for pirates in the Carribean from the sixteenth century on to the eighteenth. Henry Morgan, Tomas Baskerville, Sir Francis Drake and John Hawkins, to name a few. They island was then the perfect place to repeatedly dock the Spanish Silver Fleet and utilize it as a quick shelter. Many of us know several adventurous stories from some of the countless pirate films. In 1830 began the military control of the Spaniards towards the island, thus founding the capital Nueva Gerona, which they tried to control, but eventually that plan did not work out. The island continued as a refuge of lawless men, even though, almost all the pirates left throughout the time. But no need to be nervous – today the island is a peaceful place and lives mostly by its agriculture. It is assumed that there are scattered more than 200 shipwrecks around the island, probably, full of treasures. Due to missing resources, Cuba hasn't yet rescued the wrecked ships, which is why the place serves as one of the best diving areas in the world. But there is much more to tell about this fascinating island. Under Batista's government it became a free business area and under the government of Fidel Castro many reservoirs were built and several agricultural projects were established. Maybe you already heard about the case of the Ubre Blanca, the so-calles „super cow“, able to „produce“ 110 liters of milk a day, which is why she was valued as a heroine to the point that a statue was raised in her name. Because of the fact that Fidel Castro allowed many young people from developing countries to study on the island, he re-named it back in 1978 from Isla de Pinos to Isla de la Juventud. Leaving the Presidio Modelo we will head to Playa Paraíso and Playa Bibijagua and there we will eat something. After our meal at the beach we return to Nueva Gerona, where we have the chance to appreciate the island's craft ceramic workshops and to walk along the boulevard and breathe in the quiet air of the islanders. We will stop for an ice cream or a drink before returning to our hotel, where a shower, dinner and the bar await us. Although we must not forget to recharge our bikes and pack, because the next morning we will move to Hotel Colony, the former Hilton Hotel.
From Nueva Gerona to Colony –the former Hilton
Today we start at 9:00 a.m. in direction to Colony. The once famous Hilton Hotel surely shows its age, but most of the rooms were renovated. On the way, we will stop at the museum Finca El Abra, where the young José Martí was held under arrest for two months in the year 1870. The island always served as a place of deportation for people who showed themselves in opposition to the existing policy. After that we will continue to Lago Kaolin where some of us will have the chance to take a mud bath.. As we were told, the mud which you can find in the lake is famous for its skin-cleansing effect. We continue pedaling to a mystic forest. After the physical cleansing we may exploit the atmosphere for spiritual cleaning as well. In the forest of La Demajagua one has the feeling of being in a fantasy movie, the immense trees of Jagüey have a magical power of attraction. In the shadow of the woods we will enjoy a small snack. Our next stop is La Victoria, former home of Ubre Blanca, the cow that was dedicated a statue in that small town, due to its capacity to give 110 liters of milk per day. Sadly, we can not try her milk, but we can by refreshing beverages in a small local store. For our final spurt we continue pedaling on streets with practically no car traffic, through a nature that makes you feel like you are in a national park. In the afternoon we will arrive at the Hotel Colony. Enough biking for today, we move into our rooms for two days, and take the time to enjoy the beach or relax at the pool. The bicycles will be properly stored and loaded until their next use.
Boat trip to a dream beach – Punta Francés:
Snorkeling and sunbathing at one of Cuba's most beautiful beaches
We will have breakfast together, as usual, but as an exception, we will leave our bikes at the accommodation. In exchange, we will take a boat to Punta Francés National Park. Since we will use the day to relax our bodies from the past days of pedaling, you will not have to row the boats –a catamaran or an electric boat will do the work for us. Once in Punta Francés, we will find one of the most beautiful beaches in Cuba, an excellent place to practice snorkeling and one of the best diving spots in the world. We do affirm with certainty that the spectacular setting of this oceanic paradise will invite you to obtain a diving license to immerse yourself in the depths of its clear blue waters. In the Marina, next to Hotel Colony, we can get our diving permits, Punta Francés has different offers of packages, which you can reserve in advance with our company.
Colony – La Fé – Nueva Gerona –Pure Nature Tour
Our tour number seven starts, again, with light luggage (and swimwear), across the Isla de la Juventud, while our larger suitcases will be transported independently to Nueva Gerona. We will visit farmers who will provide us with information about the agriculture of the Island. At the farms we have the chance to taste some organic products, because the animals husbandry and the natural cultivation of different plants, are a priority in those villages. We will eat a typical lunch in the island's second largest city, La Fé, which has approximately 8,000 inhabitants. It is amazing how easy going the Cuban locals manage the organization of their time, something that is even more remarkable in the island life. In La Fé town, there is a thermal bath that obviously shows its age, since its founding in the year 1880 it does not seem to have been renovated. Although several people, seen as crazy by others, use its waters to bathe themselves in it - maybe we can share this „madnest“ with them. It is said that the fountains are endowed with healing powers for problems of the skin, the kidneys, the stomach, the liver, and help to cure diseases like rheumatism and asthma. This could be a good reason to take this thermal bath. After La Fé we will continue through streets that are practically reserved only tfor us, in direction to Nueva Gerona. Having arrived, we will settle into our last island lodging, where we will have dinner and seize the evening at the bar. The next morning we will get up early in order to get ourselves ready to take our well-known fast ferry, that awaits us to take us safely from the harbour to the mainland.
Nueva Gerona – Batabanó – Havana by night
Our eight tour begins at a slightly more challenging time, because the ferry to Batabanó departs around 8:00 am. Considering that we have to do the check-in of the luggage,to pass the control of the ticket and the passport, the loading of the bicycles, the security control and the assignation of each seat, we need to allow extra time. Therefore, we will leave at 6:00 am in direction to the in port Nueva Gerona with our e-bikes. Having arrived in Batabanó we disembark our bikes and catch any mean of transport to Havana. There we will move into our casa particular, the last common station of our adventurous trip, and meet later, at 6:00 p.m., for a final highlight. Havana by night - a tour with well-lit bicycles through dazzling alleyways, throughout the sunset along the Malecón, one of the most beautiful coastal walks in the world. You will notice that the Havana, exhibited during the night gives us a different magic than the Havana that we see during the day: the wonderful illumination of the colonial buildings, the Gran Teatro de La Habana, the Capitolio, the Paseo del Prado, the Museo de la Revolución, the new luxury hotels, the American oldtimers, the crowdy alleys of Old Havana... We will take our last opportunity to experience the Cuban cuisine, to have a goodbye drink and to chat about our cycling experience, including negative and positive criticism about the past days. Some will be happy that the adventure is ending and others will be sad to say goodbye to these days of constant movement and impressions. Anyway, it is possible to book an extension program that includes more nights in Havana, where you can explore freely, without guides following specific programs. If the additional nights in Havana are not exciting enough for you, then you can choose to visit other colonial cities. Other extension programs are recommended for those of you who enjoy complete relaxation at the Cuban beaches, before returning to work life. Maybe we will meet again on one of the many city tours or another adventure from our program "Through Cuba". However, you can say with certainty that you visited the largest island of the Caribbean in a special, intense and authentic way.
Day of departure:
Today is the day to say goodbye. Depending on your flight schedule you can use the morning for a walk or to buy souvenirs for you friends and family in Old Havana. We offer an optional transportation to the international airport. As an alternative, we organize an individual transport to your future lodging. We will help you with great pleasure as much as we can.