Despite President Trump’s new restrictions on travel to Cuba effective September 24, 2020, every U.S. citizen can still legally travel to Cuba, pre-approved and at any time, under the “support for the Cuban people” license. This program is designed in accordance with U.S. regulations intended to maximize “support for the Cuban people” through stays at private B&Bs, meals at private restaurants, and interactions with independent artists, private tobacco farmers, owners of classic convertible taxis, etc.
Please join me on an exhilarating 10-day Cuba motorcycle adventure with Blue Rim Tours. Our days will be full of fun meetings with Cubans from all walks of life… such as artists, tobacco farmers, owners of B&Bs and private restaurants, and above all Cuba’s resourceful and indefatigable harlistas (owners of pre-revolutionary Harley-Davidsons) and other motorcycle enthusiasts.
TOUR LEADER: CHRISTOPHER P. BAKER
It’s true to say… no-one knows Cuba as well as Christopher, the Lowell Thomas Award 2008 ‘Travel Journalist of the Year’ and the author of seven travel books about Cuba. National Geographic acclaimed him “one of the world’s leading authorities on Cuba travel and culture.” In 1996, Chris shipped his BMW R100GS PD to Cuba and made a three-month, 7,000-mile journey as a licensed journalist, resulting in publication of his Moon Cuba guidebook and his award-winning travelogue Mi Moto Fidel: Motorcycling Through Castro’s Cuba. In January 2013, Christopher led the first licensed U.S. motorcycle group tour of Cuba end-to-end since the 1959 Revolution. He has since led numerous motorcycle tours in Cuba on behalf of MotoDiscovery, Edelweiss Bike Travel, Bob’s BMW of Maine, and the BMW Riding Academy of Turkey, as well as almost one hundred tours to Cuba on behalf of National Geographic Expeditions and other tour companies. In addition to riding “sweep,” ensuring the cohesion of the group, and attending to logistics, Christopher brings something unique to these tours… an ability to share a profound knowledge of Cuba, providing unparalleled context for your travel experience.
ROAD GUIDE: LOUIS ENRIQUE GONZÁLEZ
Louis Enrique González has more experience guiding group motorcycle tours in Cuba than any other Cuban motorcycle enthusiast and road guide. Between 2013-16 he worked alongside Chris to lead the very first motorcycle tours in Cuba for U.S. citizens using BMW 1200GSs, F700GSs, and a medley of Harley-Davidsons. Since 2017, he has acted as lead guide for Profil-Reisen and has led scores of tours throughout Cuba end-to-end. An English-speaker, he’s a natural raconteur and all-around “colorful character” with a Rolodex of contacts throughout Cuba (his personal history includes as a mariner and, in the 1980s, as a Lieutenant in Cuba’s Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias in charge of an anti-aircraft battery in Angola). Louis is also responsible for maintaining Profil-Reisen’s fleet of F700GSs in Cuba. A superb mechanic, Luis exemplifies Cubans’ resourcefulness, ingenuity and indefatigable good humor. When not leading tours, Luis loves tinkering with his collection of pre-revolutionary Harley-Davidsons, a miscellany of other antique motos, plus his 1948 Buick.
We’ll ride BMW F700 GSs exclusively. Each will be fitted with twin side panniers. However, we will also be accompanied by a support van and driver.
ITINERARY (SUBJECT TO CHANGE):
Day 1: Meet in Havana
The U.S. “support for the Cuban people” license allows individuals to travel freely to Cuba as they wish at any time. We’ll meet this evening at our B&B in Habana Vieja (Old Havana) for a welcome reception and briefing with Chris and our Cuban guide. Our welcome dinner will be nearby at Chacón 162, a popular bikers’ bar and restaurant.
Overnight: Posada de Chacón (B&B), Habana Vieja
Day 2 (120 miles): Havana – Las Terrazas – Viñales
After breakfast, we change into our motorcycle gear and transfer to pick up our motorbikes. In order to get familiar with your bike, we’ll make a circuit of greater Havana, including such iconic sites as the Malecón and Plaza de la Revolución. After a brief visit to Fusterlandia to admire this fascinating community art project, we head west out of Havana along the Circuito Norte—the North Coast Road. We’ll savor a fabulous lunch at a family restaurant in the beautiful mountain community of Las Terrazas, then continue along the Circuito Norte to Viñales, arriving in Cuba’s most scenic valley in late afternoon. Tonight we’ll dine in a local paladar (private restaurant) in the heart of this lovely colonial-era village.
Overnight: Casas particulares (B&Bs), Viñales
Day 3 (80 miles): Viñales / Tobacco Country
Today’s circuit takes in some of the most spectacular scenery in Cuba as we head past great mogotes (giant haystack limestone formations) and follow a scenic and snaking back road through the Sierra de los Órganos mountains. Arriving the world-famous Finca Pinar El San Luis—Cuba’s foremost private tobacco farm—we’ll take a tour with owner Hiroshi Robaina before lunching and then relaxing with cigars at this idyllic location. It’s a relatively short one-hour ride back to Viñales from here. We’ll have an optional short enduro ride along forest trails! Dinner will be in another local paladar.
Overnight: Casas particulares (B&B), Viñales
Day 4 (220 miles): Viñales – Bay of Pigs
Today we’ll ride along Cuba’s only freeway—the Autopista Nacional—which takes us back to Havana, where we’ll visit Museo Ernest Hemingway at Finca Vigía (the author’s former home), on the southeast outskirts of the city. From here, another 90 minutes on the Autopista, leads to the Península de Zapata, the Caribbean’s largest wetland. We turn south here and run south to Playa Larga. We’ll have time to relax on the beach where the CIA-trained Cuban-American exile army came ashore in April 1961 during the “Bay of Pigs” invasion. We’ll dine and overnight beachside in the Bahía de los Cochinos (Bay of Pigs).
Overnight: Hostal Enrique (B&B), Playa Larga
Day 5 (120 miles): Cienfuegos / El Nicho / Trinidad
This morning we’ll be glad for the F700GSs as we follow a dirt track along the Caribbean shore to reach the lovely bay city of Cienfuegos. After a brief stop to explore the city, we’ll follow a superbly scenic route as we climb into the Sierra Escambray mountains for lunch at El Nicho waterfall. We’ll then follow a convoluted and thrilling route to the summit at Topes de Collantes, then a steep switchback descent to the UNESCO World Heritage City of Trinidad—Cuba’s most authentic and perfectly preserved colonial city. This evening, enjoy strolling the cobbled colonial streets, dinner at the best paladar in town, then music and dance at one of Trinidad’s many clubs.
Overnight: Hotel E Calesa or casas particulares, Trinidad
Day 6 (80 miles optional ride): Trinidad
Today is an optional rest day to explore this UNESCO World Heritage City. In the morning, Chris will lead a guided tour and introduce you to some of his closet (and most interesting) friends, such as world-class artists Lázaro Neibla and Carlos Mata. This afternoon, choose to continue exploring Trinidad; head to the local beach; or join Chris and our Cuban guide for an optional afternoon ride along the Caribbean shore and into the Sierra Escambray mountains. We’ll dine at another of Trinidad’s finest paladares.
Overnight: Hotel E Calesa or casas particulares, Trinidad
Day 7 (100 miles): Valle de los Ingenios – Santa Clara – Remedios
This morning we ride through the Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills), another UNESCO World Heritage Site dotted with colonial-era sugar haciendas. We’ll visit Hacienda Guajimiro, then wind over the Guamahaya Mountains to Santa Clara for lunch. Next, visit the Conjunto Escultórico Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara–the vast monument, mausoleum, and museum dominating Plaza de la Revolución–and other key sites associated with the final battle in December 1958 that eventually toppled the brutal Batista regime. We then continue the short distance to Remedios, a beautifully preserved UNESCO World Heritage Site colonial city. Our suckling roast pig dinner alfresco will be hosted at one of our two casas particulares.
Overnight: Casas particularles (B&Bs), Remedios
Day 8 (184 miles): Sagua la Grande – Varadero
We begin today with a visit to a provincial cigar factory in Camajuaní. Then we follow the Circuito Norte (North Coast Road) through the Vuelto Arriba tobacco country and beautiful coastal mountain landscapes of Villa Clara. We’ll lunch beside the sea in the fishing village and former rum-and-sugar port of Isabela de Sagua. Then continue via Cárdenas to Varadero, Cuba’s premier beach resort, where a sugar-white beach and scores of hotels spill along the full 12-mile length of the Hicacos Peninsula. Tonight, enjoy dinner at the Varadero 60 paladar before taking in the varied nightlife of Varadero.
Overnight: Casas particulares, Varadero
Day 9 (100 miles): Matanzas – Havana
Our last riding day is a beauty as we head west along the Atlantic shoreline for the bay city of Matanzas and then the Puente de Bacunayagua—Cuba’s tallest bridge. We’ll lunch at a private paladar at Jibacoa. Approaching Havana, we’ll stop at the El Morro castle for a fabulous view over the city before circumnavigating Havana’s harbor. After return of the motorbikes, the transfer bus takes us back to our B&B in Habana Vieja. After resting up, we’ll ride in convertible classic cars to our farewell dinner at La Guarida, Cuba’s most sensational restaurant.
Overnight: Posada de Chacón, Habana Vieja
Day 10: End of trip
Today transfer to the airport for your departure flight. Or, if you wish, you can stay some more days in Cuba.
TOUR DATES: TBD
PRICE US$ (per person):
|Number of participants||Per rider / single room||Per rider / double room||Per pillion / single room||Per pillion / double room|
Services of Chris Baker as tour leader and Cuba expert
English-speaking Cuban road guide
Support van and driver for luggage transfer, with limited space for passengers
9 overnight stays in medium class hotels and/or casas particulares (B&Bs)
All breakfasts and dinners (lunch is not provided)
All entrance fees and tolls
Fuel during the entire trip
Luggage storage for duration of tour
Program according to the itinerary if not defined as ‘optional’
A detailed tour information package including maps, guide books, and a T-shirt
International flight between USA and Cuba
Cuban tourist visa
Items of a personal nature (alcohol, laundry, tips, etc.)
Skill level: moderate
1. Do we reserve our own flights to Havana?
YES. IT’S AS EASY AS BOOKING TO ANYWHERE ELSE ONLINE. FOR EXAMPLE, IF YOU BOOK ONLINE WITH AMERICAN AIRLINES AT AA.COM, AS SOON AS YOU TAG IN HAVANA AS A DESTINATION, YOU’LL BE PROMPTED TO AFFIRM THAT YOU’RE TRAVELING UNDER ONE OF THE 12 PERMISSIBLE LICENSES. YOU CHECK “YES” AND THAT’S IT. END OF STORY! NO OTHER PAPERWORK IS REQUIRED. THEN, WHEN YOU CHECK IN AT THE AIRPORT FOR YOUR FLIGHT TO HAVANA, YOU’LL BE ASKED WHICH OF THE 12 LICENSES YOU’RE USING: ANSWER = “SUPPORT FOR THE CUBAN PEOPLE”
2. Do we apply for our own visas?
THE AIRLINES HAVE THEIR OWN RELATIONSHIPS TO CUBA TOUR SPECIALISTS WHO CAN PROVIDE THE VISA. AFTER RESERVING YOUR FLIGHTS, YOU SHOULD RECEIVE AN EMAIL FROM THE AIRLINE WITH A LINK TO THEIR VISA PROVIDER (SOME AIRLINES MAY INCLUDE THE VISA IN YOUR RESERVATION). FOR EXAMPLE, AMERICAN AIRLINES USES CUBA TRAVEL SERVICES. AT ANY TIME YOU CAN REQUEST AND PAY FOR THE VISA ONLINE. THEY CAN ALSO BE PURCHASED UPON CHECK IN ($100) AT MIAMI AIRPORT.
3. Are we required to get vaccinations?
NO. HOWEVER, WE RECOMMEND YOU CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR
4. Is it advisable to get any vaccinations?
HEPATITIS AND TETANUS AT A MINIMUM, BUT CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR
5. Do we need an international drivers’ license? With a motorcycle endorsement?
YOU DO NOT NEED AN INTERNATIONAL DRIVERS LICENSE. YOUR U.S. DRIVERS LICENSE SHOULD SUFFICE, BUT IT MUST INCLUDE A MOTORCYCLE ENDORSEMENT.
6. Can U.S. travelers go to Havana for a few days BEFORE the ride starts, or stay a few days AFTER it concludes?
YES, U.S. LAW PROVIDES FOR ANYONE UNDER U.S. JURISDICTION TO VISIT CUBA ANY TIME THEY WISH, PRE-APPROVED AS LONG AS THEY SINCERELY BELIEVE THEY FULFILL ONE OF THE 12 LICENSE CATEGORIES AND ABIDE BY THE REGULATIONS WHILE IN CUBA. THEY MAY DO SO FOR AS MANY DAYS AS THEY WISH. EVERYONE IS PRE-APPROVED (AND NO PAPERWORK IS REQUIRED) UNDER THE “SUPPORT FOR THE CUBAN PEOPLE” LICENSE, WHICH REQUIRES THAT YOU STAY AT PRIVATE B&Bs AND DINE AT PRIVATE RESTAURANTS WHILE IN CUBA AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE (HOTEL STAYS ARE PERMITTED, EXCEPT FOR HOTELS RUN BY THE GAVIOTA CHAIN, WHICH IS OWNED BY THE CUBAN MILITARY). THEREFORE, YOU CAN CHOOSE TO BOOK YOUR OWN FLIGHTS TO ARRIVE/DEPART ON ANY DAY BEFORE OR AFTER THE TRIP.
7. What about medical insurance and emergencies?
YOUR AIRLINE TICKET INCLUDES MEDICAL INSURANCE FOR MEDICAL SERVICES PROVIDED WHILE IN CUBA. OF COURSE, IT’S ALWAYS WISE TO OBTAIN MEDICAL EVACUATION INSURANCE, SUCH AS MEDJET ASSIST. PROOF OF INSURANCE IS PROVIDED BY A RED STAMP ON YOUR BOARDING PASS TO HAVANA. THIS SHOULD BE RETAINED AND CARRIED ON YOUR PERSON AT ALL TIMES WHILE IN CUBA.
8. Do we need to show proof of motorcycle insurance?
9. Can I used credit cards in Cuba?
NO, U.S. LAW PROHIBITS USE OF CREDIT CARDS IN CUBA. YOU’LL BE OPERATING ON A CASH ONLY BASIS