JOIN AUTOMOTIVE & MOTORCYCLE CORRESPONDENT CHARLES FLEMING AND ACCLAIMED MOTO-JOURNALIST & CUBA EXPERT CHRISTOPHER P. BAKER ON A 9-DAY MOTORCYCLE ADVENTURE IN “SUPPORT OF THE CUBAN PEOPLE”
“Christopher… I gave the tour a 99 on a 100 scale as I can’t imagine it gets much better than we experienced in Cuba. You did everything well and made sure that everyone in the group had a very memorable trip.”
BOB HENIG, BOB’S BMW of MARYLAND
Please join me and automotive and motorcycle correspondent Charles Fleming as we host a thrilling 9-day motorcycle adventure by BMW F700GSs with my close friend and professional Cuban road guide Luis Enrique González. 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.
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. We’ll meet this evening at our B&B in Habana Vieja (Old Havana) for a welcome reception. Our welcome dinner will be nearby at Chacón 162, a popular bikers’ bar and restaurant.
Overnight: Posada de Chacón or similar (B&B), Havana
Day 2: Habana Vieja / Greater Havana / Bay of Pigs (150 miles)
After breakfast, we discover the colonial-era core of Havana, which celebrated its 500th anniversary in November 2019. Chris will guide us on foot through the cobbled pedestrian-only plazas of this magnificent historical quarter. After lunch in Plaza Vieja, we return to our hotel to change into our motorcycle gear and 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, Plaza de la Revolución, Museo Ernest Hemingway at Finca Vigía (the author’s former home). We then head east via the Escaleras de Jaruco hills and Madrugada, and along the Autopista—the freeway—which delivers us via the Zapata Peninsula to Playa Larga (“Bay of Pigs”). We’ll overnight by the beach where the CIA-trained Cuban-American exile army came ashore in April 1961.
Overnight: Hostal Enrique (B&B), Playa Larga
Day 3: Cienfuegos / El Nicho / Trinidad (120 miles)
This morning we’ll be glad for the F700s 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 convoluted and challenging forest trails to the mist-shrouded summit at Topes de Collantes to take a switchback down 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, plus music and dance at one of Trinidad’s many clubs.
Overnight: Casas particulares (B&Bs), Trinidad
Day 4 : Valle de los Ingenios / Santa Clara / Remedios (100 miles)
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 dinner will be a roast suckling pig feast at one of our two casas particulares.
Overnight: Hostal La Estancia & Casona Cueto, or similar (B&B), Remedios
Day 5 : Sagua la Grande / Varadero (184 miles)
Today 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 8-mile length of the Hicacos Peninsula. Tonight enjoy dinner at Salsa Suárez paladar, and take in the varied nightlife of Varadero.
Overnight: Casa Beny and other casas particulares, or similar (B&Bs), Varadero
Day 6: Matanzas / Havana / Viñales (200 miles)
Our last riding day is a beauty as we head west along the Atlantic shoreline for the bay city of Matanzas. We then skirt Havana and take the Autopista Nacional for about one hour to reach Las Terrazas, an idyllic agricultural community and eco-resort in the Sierra de Órganos mountains. We'll lunch here before continuing west to Viñales, a charming village in the heart of tobacco country and Cuba's most scenic valley.
Overnight: Casas particulares, Viñales
Day 7: San Luis y Martínez / Viñales (120 miles)
Our day excursion offers a sinuous and fun ride through the mountains, then via the provincial capital of Pinar del Río and into the tobacco growing region of Vuelto Abajo. We'll lunch at the most famous private tobacco farm in Cuba before a short curving ride back to Viñales.
Overnight: Casas particulares, Viñales
Day 8: Viñales / Havana (100 miles)
We’ll follow the Circuito Norte coast road back to Havana. After return of the motorbikes, the transfer bus takes us back to our B&B in Habana Vieja. After cleaning up, we’ll ride in convertible classic cars to our farewell dinner at La Guarida, Cuba’s most sensational restaurant.
Overnight: Posada de Chacón or similar, Habana Vieja
Day 9: End of trip
Today transfer to the airport for your departure flight. Or, if you wish, you can stay some more days in Cuba.
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.
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, I 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. 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
Trip cost: $TBD single occupancy
(priced based on 10 riders)
Approx. 945 miles
- Rental motorcycle BMW F700GS for 5 days
- 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
- 8 overnight stays in casas particulares (B&Bs)
- Meals as indicated
- All entrance fees and tolls per itinerary
- 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
- Fuel (full-to-full-rule): roughly around $175
- International flight between USA and Cuba
- Airport transfers
- Cuban tourist visa
- Items of a personal nature (alcohol, laundry, tips, etc.)
- Tips to guides, etc.
- Ride along time-worn Havana's famous Malecón seafront boulevard and along the Costera Norte (Atlantic) and Circuito Sur (Caribbean) coast roads
- Lunch by the beach at the Bay of Pigs, setting for the failed CIA-sponsored invasion of Cuba by Cuban-American exiles in April 1961
- Ride circuitous mountain roads of the Sierra Escambray
- Savor the colonial street life of Trinidad and Remedios, UNESCO World Heritage Cities where the clip clop of hooves still resounds through cobbled streets.
- Visit the Che Guevara mausoleum and memorial in Santa Clara.
- Two nights in tobacco country, including lunch at Cuba's premier private tobacco farm.
Author and journalist Charles Fleming writes about automobiles and motorcycles for the Los Angeles Times. An avid adventure motorcyclist, he has a passion for all things relating to autos and motos and has written extensively about motorcycle touring around the world. Charles has also reported since 1987 as staff writer, editor and columnist for Newsweek, Variety, LA Weekly and The Los Angeles Herald Examiner, and as a freelancer for Vanity Fair, Entertainment Weekly, TV Guide, Playboy, Time, The New York Times, New York Magazine, and McCalls, among others. His many best-selling novels include After Havana, a delicious crime novel about the sour twilight of the Batista empire in pre-revolutionary Cuba. In November 2019, Charles and Christopher co-led the Los Angeles Times Expedition trip ‘Cuban Chrome’ for automotive and motorcycle enthusiasts.
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 approximately 100 tours to Cuba on behalf of National Geographic Expeditions, and other tour companies, etc.. In addition to riding lead or “sweep,” ensuring the cohesion of the group, and attending to logistics, Christopher will share a profound knowledge of Cuba, providing unparalleled context and invaluable added value for your travel experience.
LUIS ENRIQUE GONZÁLEZ
Luis 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 Cuba-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’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.
Despite President Trump’s restrictions on travel to Cuba effective September 24, 2020, and still in effect, 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.