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The Best Birding Nature Culture Tour of Cuba

Cuba Trogon

Cuban Trogon - Cuba’s National Bird

 

Join Mariah Travel (Formally EAC Tours) on an incredible journey to Cuba for the best Birding, Nature & Culture Tour in the Caribbean. Cuba is the BEST birding location in the West Indies, is also the largest island in the Caribbean and supports an incredible variety of habitats from interior tropical forests, montane forests, to extensive wetlands and mangroves. Lying only 90 miles from Miami, Cuba boasts 372 species of birds, 27 of them endemic species; by far one of the premier locations in the world to enjoy bird watching and to add to your birding life list.

 

Our guides are the best in Cuba. By partnering with the Natural History Museum of Cuba and the University of Havana, we have access to master birders, educators, historians, and researchers knowing the history, culture, and bird locations on the island.

 

Mariah Travel is licensed by the U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to organize and conduct legal Support for the Cuban People travel to Cuba. These exclusive tours engage participants with the warm beautiful people of Cuba along with a strong emphasis on the island’s natural and cultural history. You will experience Cuba in a most personal way, through the eyes of the Cubans. Stroll historic Habana Vieja and view the incredible architecture, meet the people, eat delicious food, and enjoy the sweet Cuban vibes.

 

Program inspiration, concept and design is modeled on similar international natural history trips and voted “One of North America’s Best Wildlife Tour Companies” by the National Wildlife Federation.

Bee Hummingbird

Zunzuncito – Bee Hummingbird

      World's Smallest Bird!      

A few comments from Mariah's recent birding tours:

 

So many birds, so much history and culture, and so much fun! 

 

• This trip not only met my expectations, but it also exceeded them!

 

• The educational component was great! I learned so much.

 

• Cuban foods and dishes were delicious, and the accommodations were also

top-notch.

 

• We are happy Mariah Travel appreciates the value of small groups, meeting the local people, and hire local knowledgeable guides, and nature.

Travel Dates: Inquire for November 2024 through May 2025.*

https://www.mariahtravel.com/contact

 

Singles, couples, families, or organized groups, all tours are custom designed to meet the dates and budget of each traveler(s). Join a small group or design your own.

 

*Please note: All dates are subject to change from weather, bird locations,

road conditions, availability, etc.

 

Highlights of the tour:

Day 1: Arrive Havana!

•  Arrive Jose Marti International Airport, retrieve baggage, clear customs.

•  Meet with a Mariah Travel representative and transfer to Habana Vieja.

•  Informal introduction to Cuba and an overview of the week’s activities.

•  Welcome dinner at a local Paladar (private restaurant – included)

•  Overnight at La Posada de Chacon or similar.

Endemic Birds of Cuba

Approximate Birding Tour Route

Cuba Map

DAY 2: Las Terrazas & Soroa

• Breakfast included at the casa.

• Morning departure to Las Terrazas eco-community west of Havana. Stopping at Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve (Soroa and Las Terrazas) looking for endemics and other target bird species. Las Terrazas is a successful Cuban land restoration project originated during the Castro administration.
This area offers wonderful birding opportunities.

• Lunch at Casa del Campesino on the banks of the Río San Juan. (included)

• Dinner on your own at one of the excellent local paladares

• Overnight: Casa particular located in Las Terrazas or Soroa.

DAY 3: Vinales and Vinales Valley

• Early breakfast included at the casa.

• Depart for the Vinales Valley in the Sierra de los Organos mountains for an introduction to Cuba’s natural history and endemic bird species by our local guide.

· Afternoon birding, searching for local targets as Cuban Solitaire, Olive-capped Warbler, Cuban Grassquit and other endemic, migrant and residents: Cuban trogon, Cuban Vireo, Cuban Tody, Cuban Blackbird, Western Spindalis (Cuban), Cuban Meadowlark, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Yellow-headed Warbler, Cuban Kestrel, Cuban Pewee, and more...

· Over 130 bird species have been reported here.

• Enjoy a delicious lunch at one of the excellent paladars.

• Explore the town of Vinales, the magnificent cave formations, or the famous tobacco farms.

• Dinner on your own at one of the excellent local paladares

• Overnight: Casa particular located in Vinales.

 

A few endemics observed this year!        

Cuban Tody
Pygmy Owl
Cuban Parakeet

               Cuban Tody                                                 Cuban Pygmy Owl                                                 Cuban Parakeet

DAY 4: Playa Larga and Parque Nacional Ciénaga de Zapata

• Breakfast included at the casa.

• Departure to Playa Larga - Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs) Approx. 4.5-hour drive.

• Lunch at a local paladar in Playa Larga or similar. (included)

• Meet your guide and a departure to Zapata Swamp, Ciénaga de Zapata, located on the Zapata Peninsula in the southern Matanzas province of Cuba. This area is over 6,000 km² and is the largest protected area in Cuba, and in the Caribbean. The swamp, known for its size and

diversity, was designated as a “Wetland of International Importance” in 2001. Home to many of Cuba’s endemic, enjoy an afternoon of incredible birding.

• Dinner on your own at one of the excellent local paladares.

• Overnight: Casa Zuleida & Vinola or similar in Playa Larga

 

ZAPATA’S BIRDS & HOTSPOTS

 

The Zapata Peninsula is indisputably the premier birdwatching area in Cuba, and possibly across the entire Caribbean region. It boasts nearly all of Cuba’s 27 endemic bird species, alongside numerous native species that include winter residents, transients, and several summer and spring visitors that breed in Cuba before migrating south in the fall. Over 260 bird species have been documented in this region.

Bermejas: This area offers excellent opportunities to spot the Bee Hummingbird, Gray-fronted Quail-Dove, Key West Quail-Dove, Ruddy Quail-Dove, Cuban Parrot, Cuban Blackbird, Cuban Bullfinch, Loggerhead Kingbird, Bare-legged Owl, and Cuban Pygmy Owl. Additionally, there's a good chance to observe the threatened Cuban Parakeet, Fernandina’s Flicker, and Blue-headed Quail-Dove.

Cueva de los Peces: Visitors here have the chance to see the beautiful Blue-headed Quail-Dove and other endemic species. The site is renowned for one of Cuba’s largest underwater saltwater caves, which offers swimming and snorkeling opportunities near the lovely reef just offshore.

Los Hondones: A developing eco-village where the community practices organic farming and plants fruit trees beneficial to many endemic bird species such as the Cuban Parrot, Cuban Trogon, Cuban Tody, Great Lizard Cuckoo, and Cuban Emerald, as well as various migrant species. Evening birdwatching is particularly rewarding for sightings of the Stygian Owl, Bare-legged Owl, Cuban Pygmy Owl, and the Greater Antillean (Cuban) Nightjar.

Las Salinas Trail: This trail features diverse habitats including low, dense forests, mangroves, marshlands, and open wetlands. It is an ideal location for observing the endemic Cuban Black Hawk, as well as numerous shorebirds, seabirds, and waterbirds such as the American Flamingo, Roseate Spoonbill, Reddish Egret, Wood Stork, and Clapper Rail.

DAY 5:

  • Early breakfast included at the casa

  • Depart to Hondones-Bermejas both fauna refuges with national significance.

Meet with a local guide from the National Park office for possible observation of , and all four quail-dove species in special the beautiful and Nearctic warblers.

  • Enjoy a brown bag lunch or in a local paladar and continue the excellent birding opportunities!

  • Flexible afternoon of relaxing, hiking, swimming, or birding in Las Salinas, with the opportunity to see many wetland birds, special some targets such Cuban Black Hawk, American Flamingo, Wood Storks, and (Caribbean) Osprey.

  • Dinner on your own in an excellent local paladares.


  • Overnight: Casa Zuleida & Vinola or similar in Playa Larga

HIGHLIGHT:  NAJASA, LA BALEN, AND CAYO COCO RESERVE BIRDS

 

Located about 70 km southeast of Camagüey city, this is a protected area of open country with many palm groves and a mixture of semi-deciduous woods at the foothills of low elevations. About 120 species of birds have been reported: Plain Pigeon, Cuban Parakeet, Rose-throated Parrot, Bare-legged Owl, Cuban Pygmy-owl, Cuban Palm Crow, three species of woodpeckers and Giant Kingbird.

The second-largest key in Cuba that has recently been connected to the mainland by    

a rock-fill road. Located 70 km northwest of Morón, and mostly covered by semi-deciduous forests; there are also mangroves, coastal shrubs, patches of grass, and lagoons. Over 200 species has been reported, including many Cuban rarities with several new birds to add to the list: Cuban Gnatcatcher, a race of Zapata Sparrow and Oriente Warbler.

 

Also, species such as: Western Spindalis and Cuban Bullfinch. There are many waders and one of the largest groups of American Flamingo. In the fall, Merlin and Peregrine Falcon are not uncommon. Piping Plover is a winter resident on these keys.

 

DAY 6:

  • Early breakfast included at the casa.


  • Depart to Santo Tomas or La Turba, both fauna refuges with national significance, flexible itinerary is dependent on the access and birding opportunities suggested by the local guide of the National Park. In Santo Tomas a boat is necessary to observe some locations.

  • Lunch: Enjoy a brown bag lunch or in a local paladar and continue the excellent birding opportunities!

  • Flexible afternoon of birding at Soplillar, searching for Cuban Parrot, Parakeet, Cuban Nightjar, Fernandina´s Flicker and many other endemics.

  • Fun nighttime owling in surrounding areas searching for Stygyan Owl and Barn owl (White winged)

  • Dinner on your own at one of the excellent local paladar.

  • Overnight: Casa Zuleida & Vinola or similar in Playa Larga.

 

DAY 7:

  • Breakfast included at the casa.

  • Depart Playa Larga for Trinidad (aprox. 3 hr. drive depending on stops along the way for sight-seeing, birding, or cultural history interpretation). Trinidad is a city with a great history and a cultural heritage UNESCO´s World Heritage Site

  • Visit paladares for traditional cuisine and drinks like “canchanchara” in an environment typical of the Spanish colonial settlement as if it were frozen in time.

  • Taking the south coast road with scenic views of the Caribbean Sea, stopping along the way for photo opts or just to daydream!

  • A completely flexible relaxing day of touring.

  • Lunch at excellent and typical local paladars along the way.

  • Enjoy an afternoon of exploring Trinidad, learning the history of this ancient city. Maybe a visit to Ancon Beach (15 min. drive) for swimming and snorkeling.

  • Dinner on your own at one of the excellent local paladares

  • Overnight: Casa in Trinidad

Great Lizard Cuckoo Cuba

GREAT LIZARD CUCKOO

Cayo Coco Flamingo

CAYO COCO FLAMINGOS

DAY 8:

  • Breakfast included at the casa.

  • Leaving early from Trinidad to Moron (approx. 2.5 hrs. drive), located near Cayo Coco, there are many opportunities for bird observations and enjoy the beautiful countryside.

  • Lunch in one of the excellent local paladars.

  • Meet the local guide to explore this protected area and visit Laguna de la Leche, the largest natural lagoon in Cuba for an opportunity to boat the shoreline observing birds and enjoying the landscape.

  • Maybe happy hour at a local bar in front of the lagoon!

  • Another option is to arrive at Ciego de Ávila before continuing to Morón for searching Gundlach´s Hawk in a breeding area (meet with a local guide), also possible to search for other endemics.

  • Dinner on your own at one of the excellent local paladares

  • Overnight: Casa Alojamiento Maite - Moron or similar

 

DAY 9:

  • Breakfast included at the casa.

  • Early morning birding around Cayo Coco, Cayo Paredón Grande, and Cayo Guillermo in a full day birding, with Bahamas Mockingbird, Thick-billed Vireo, Zapata Sparrow, Oriente Warbler, wetland birds with many migrants (gulls, terns, herons: Great Blue Heron (White), sandpipers and much more, an interesting place for records. There is also time to relax, swim or just sunbath on the beaches in Cayo Coco.

  • Lunch at a restaurant belong to the Protected Area (Playa Prohibida) with excellent seafood.

  • Dinner on your own at one of the excellent local paladares

  • Overnight: Casa Alojamiento Maite - Moron or similar

 

DAY 10:

• Breakfast included at the casa. 


• Early departure and drive from Morón to Havana, about 5 hours.

• Time permitting, tour of Ernest Hemingway’s Finca Vigia and El Morro Castle Fortress


• Dinner on your own at one of the excellent local paladares.

• Overnight: La Posada de Chacon, Habana Vieja or similar

Hemingway

DAY 11:

•  Breakfast included at the casa.

•  Walking guided tour of Habana Vieja, visiting the historic plazas and more...

•  Lunch on your own at one of the excellent local paladares (private restaurant).

•  Enjoy the museums, music, arts, architecture, and local color.

•  Relax with a walk along the Malecon while interacting with the locals. Visit the markets for a  nice piece of art.

• Optional dinner and a musical evening with the world-famous Buena Vista Social Club or the Tropicana Cabaret, running continuously since 1933!

• Overnight: La Posada de Chacon, Habana Vieja or similar

 

Optional activity suggestions. Your guide will help with transportation, tickets, etc.

  1. Visit to National Botanical Garden and the famous Playa del Chivo along Havana’s coastline.

  2. Evening dinner at Fábrica de Arte cultural project.

  3. Evening with the Buena Vista Social Club. Music and dinner.

  4. Evening at the World-Famous Tropicana Cabaret. Continuously running since the 1930’s. A Cuban original.

  5. Just explore the incredible city of Havana

Parque Central Music

Day 12:

• Transfer to José Martí International Airport and depart Havana for flights home with

   wonderful memories of a fabulous birding, culture & nature experience!

COSTS:      $4299 per person – double occupancy

                   $500 single supplement

 

INCLUDED IN YOUR TOUR COST:

• Expert master birding guide throughout the program.

• Cuban Tourist Visa.

• Airport transfers: We meet you at José Martí Int'l Airport in Havana and take you to your lodging upon arrival. We return you to José Martí Airport for departure.

• Comfortable lodging at casa particulares and bed & breakfasts.

• All breakfasts and welcome dinner. Other lunches and dinners as listed in tour itinerary.

• All activities, services, speakers, meetings, and meals as described in tour itinerary except those noted as "optional" or "not included in cost."

• Air-conditioned coach transportation and a full-time driver.

• Mandatory Cuban medical insurance coverage during your island stays.

 

NOT INCLUDED IN YOUR TOUR COST:

• International airfare to and from Cuba. There are legal commercial flights available to Havana. Mariah Travel can assist with coordinating the best flights.

• Gratuities for Cuban tour guide, bus driver, chambermaids, restaurant staff, porters, etc.

                 *Please inquire about recommended gratuities guidelines.

• Any personal items.

• Travel cancellation insurance (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) *

*Mariah Travel works with Travel Insurance Services with no add-on costs.

 

https://www.mariahtravel.com/travel-insurance

 

PLEASE NOTE: US Passports MUST be valid for 6 months after your arrival date to Cuba.

 

This itinerary is subject to change and probably will. Cuba is a wonderful country with beautiful people, and natural/cultural beauty, however sometimes things simply do not go as planned. Flexibility and patience are key.

 

As always, your health & safety is our #1 concern. We hope you will continue to feel comfortable trusting Mariah Travel to ensure your well-being while traveling.

Mariah Travel is licensed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to organize and operate authorized Support for Cuban People programs to Cuba. OFAC License No. CT-2013-305326-2

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