TRUSTED TRAVEL EXPERT

David Lee

David fell in love with Cuba on a humanitarian trip many years ago and has nurtured his on-the-ground relationships ever since, regularly leading private and small groups on cultural-exchange missions. He specializes in creating one-of-a-kind trips for up to ten people, a size that ensures access to the small private restaurants, intimate music venues, and behind-the-scenes experiences that larger groups or big-bus tours cannot access.

cu14He can get you into the best hotels in Old Havana—the perpetually sold-out favorites with rooftop pools and 360-degree views—and arrange a seamless visit that can be done in a long weekend, with a quick flight from Miami, three days in Havana, and a day in the country, either at the beach at Varadero or exploring tobacco plantations.

David has tapped into the country’s underground art scene, and his trips include visits to renovated mansions-cum-art galleries, special unadvertised music performances, and private art studios. David selects his guides for their knowledge and dynamism, as well as their willingness to give an honest assessment of daily life in their native country, opening the eyes of visitors to what it means to be a Cuban in Cuba.

NOTE: Though sanctions are easing, the U.S. ban on general tourism to the Caribbean island remains in force, which means “tourism” is still not a valid reason to visit Cuba. The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control still requires that all documents related to travel to Cuba (including a preapproved schedule, a record of appointments, and all receipts) be documented and kept for five years post-travel. Cultural Cuba manages the entire process including all of the documentation, reservations, and transportation so that clients can enjoy exploring the culture of Cuba without the worry or hiccups of travel in a communist country.

cu13Things to Do and See

Hidden gem
El Taller Experimental de Gráfica is a graphic design and printing studio at the end of an alley off Cathedral Square. Printmaking is an important traditional art form in Cuba, and the studio has helped preserve it, turning out etchings, lithographs, collagraphs, and woodcuts since 1962. You can talk with the artists as they work, and there’s a gallery and shop on the second floor where you can buy prints.

Bragging rights
Visit the studio of Roberto Fabelo, whose paintings and sculptures draw viewers into a fantasy world of bird-headed nudes, human-headed cockroaches, and urns teeming with mermaids and forks. The artist, who is delightful and down-to-earth despite his celebrity status, will talk with you about his work and show you his sketchbooks, which illustrate his attention to anatomical detail.

Dancers at the Habana Compas Dance in Havana, Cuba. Photo: CulturalCuba

Dancers at the Habana Compás Dance in Havana, Cuba. Photo: CulturalCuba

Attend a private performance by Habana Compás Dance, a group of classically trained dancers and musicians who use castanets, hourglass-shaped batá (the drums of Cuban Santeria), and even chairs as percussion instruments—think Stomp! mixed with flamenco. In the Q&A session that follows, you’ll learn how the choreography, a mix of traditional and modern, is derived from the dancers’ Spanish, Cuban, and Afro-Cuban roots.

Tour a medical facility and have lunch with American students who have chosen to go to medical school in Havana, for a unique and no-holds-barred perspective on the state of socialized medicine in Cuba.

Learn to distinguish the different flavors of rum and methods of aging at the leading distillery in Cuba. At a private tasting with the head sommelier you will sample rum that is not available in the U.S., accompanied by the best cigars in the world.

Inside the Insituto Superior de Arte in Havana, Cuba. Photo: CulturalCuba

Inside the Insituto Superior de Arte in Havana, Cuba. Photo: CulturalCuba

Don’t miss
The Instituto Superior de Arte, Cuba’s top fine-art and music school, is housed in a suburban architectural complex that tells a fascinating story: The innovative brick and terra-cotta buildings, conceived soon after the Revolution as part of a utopian vision, were later deemed incompatible with Soviet utilitarian architecture, and the site was never completed. Today, the complex is recognized as a national treasure, and visitors can observe music rehearsals, student art exhibits, dance rehearsals, and more. Tours are by appointment only and must be government-approved.

Don’t bother
La Bodeguita del Medio, the place where the mojito was allegedly invented, is so overrun with tourists that the quality of the mojitos has declined. Sure, pay a quick visit and take a picture, but go elsewhere for the actual drink.

Streets of Old Havana, Cuba. Photo: CulturalCuba

Streets of Old Havana, Cuba. Photo: Cultural Cuba

Downtime
Havana is full of hidden gems. Make sure you explore beyond the renovated sections of Old Havana—insist on this time in your itinerary—and don’t be put off by the dilapidated buildings and streets. They are part of the experience and completely safe. (Do remember to look down as you walk to avoid tripping on potholes and uneven pavement.)

Contact David Directly!

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Classic cars in front of the Capitol in Havana.Cubans keep thousands of them running even when parts have not been made for decades and they've become an icon of the country

Classic cars in front of the Capitol in Havana.Cubans keep thousands of them running even when parts have not been made for decades and they’ve become an icon of the country

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