Havana Spice & The Venice of Cuba with Chef Douglas Rodriguez

Dec 08 - 15, 2017

From $ 4695

Experience the flavors of Cuba!

Price: $ 4695
Single supplement: Add $ 995

Join us on an adventurous journey through Havana and Matanzas with the James Beard Awarded Chef and share in the passion that he has for the people and food of Cuba, and breathe in the energy he has devoted to his craft as he hones his talents.

You will recap knowledge and learn from the very finest culinary instructor on the planet or become America’s newest Nuevo Latino cuisine ambassador. You will not just dine as a spectator, but also learn and take part in how chefs integrate these culinary landscapes into their food in compelling ways. Quite simply, D-Rod Culinary Adventures has put together the greatest culinary journeys through Cuba and the expedition of a lifetime.


Let us show you Cuba first!


What's included

*8 Days & 7 nights

* Meet & Greet at Miami International Airport (only with purchase of air- sold separately) 

*Airport Transfers in Cuba (only with purchase of air- sold separately)

*Cuban Visa

*US Government Paperwork & People-to-People General License

*Accommodations for 5 nights at Hotel Capri

*Accommodations for 2 nights at Melia las Americas

*Breakfast every day at the hotel

* 5 lunches *6 dinners

* Museum, Institutional and Organizational visits

*Visits with Artists at their studios as per itinerary

* Visits to Community Organizations & Projects

* Day Trip to Matanzas

*Motorcoach or Van transportation to all events (12 hrs per day)

1 Gala Lunch at VIP Havana

* 1 Museum

* Mafia Tour

*  Concert & Panel Discussion by Prof. Alberto Faya

* Classic Cars Ride

*Cuban Experts & Specialists

*Translation by professional Cuba-based guide

*Our Cuba-based Manager to assist guests and oversee activities

What's not included

*Airfare to Cuba (priced separately)

*Airfare from your Home City to Miami

*Transportation to Miami International Airport

*After hours activities

*Airport Taxes upon departing Havana (CUC 25)  

*Single Room Supplement ($995)

*Trip Interruption Insurance

*Tips for restaurant staff, guide and driver

*Personal Purchases

*Tips for Hotel staff

*All other items not listed in “WHAT’S INCLUDED”


Please note: This itinerary is subject to change and you will be kept informed of changes to final itinerary.



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Itinerary 8 days

Day 1, Havana City

Meet & Greet at Miami International Airport

The time for your Meet & Greet experience will differ by departure date and you will be informed well ahead of your travel date on your personal itinerary. Your group will be met by a Cuba Tours & Travel customer service representative to assist you with check-in and answer any last minute questions.  We pride ourselves in giving you the best Cuba experience possible and it starts before you even get on the plane.


Check in to Hotel & Welcome Cocktail

You will be accompanied by your guide every step of the way to assist with check-in.  There will be a brief orientation at the hotel.



Set in an early 20th Century mansion in the “Centro Habana” district of the city, San Cristobal Paladar is probably, the best restaurant in Havana. Restaurateur and Executive Chef, Carlos Cristobal Marquez, has created a uniquely engaging ambience within a cluttered, but warm, eclectic décor; each room offering a journey through a particularly iconic aspect of Cuban culture.  The cuisine, Cuban Creole with a very refined and international twist, has a five-star rating by many international food critics and was enjoyed by President Barack Obama and his family during their recent visit to Havana.


Havana after Dark

Your guide will help you select from an array and wide range of evening activities based on what is happening in Havana. Enjoy live music, dance, baseball and other cultural activities scheduled nightly throughout Havana, including traditional and popular activities enjoyed by the locals.

Day 2, Havana City

Breakfast at The hotel

You will be met by your guide in the lobby after breakfast to begin the day’s program.

Old Havana Four Plazas

Tour Old Havana on foot, walking between the four main plazas that comprise Cuba’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Start at Plaza de Armas, the site of the oldest Spanish fortress in the Americas, the 1519 locale of the first mass in Cuba, and the massive Baroque seat of government, known as Palacio de los Capitanes Generales. Continue to Plaza de San Francisco de Assis and Plaza Vieja, where we will visit artists galleries and historic buildings and get a sense of the structure of the colonial city. Wind through historic streets spanning 5 centuries of historic architecture and end at Plaza de la Catedral and see the Baroque cathedral.


Lunch at Havana 61

Located in one of the oldest colonial areas of Havana, near the beautiful Iglesia del Angel, is a bright and airy, Havana 61. The modern design is in extreme contrast with the six-century-old city and offers traditional Cuban cuisine as well as culinary creations of their own. The seafood is the house specialty as well as the originally concocted libations.



Artist Studio & Gallery Visits

Rising from the restoration and revitalization of Old Havana, impressive art galleries have sprung up all over the colonial center of the city, exhibiting the work of Cuba’s top artists and often housing their private studios. As you stroll through Old Havana you will happen by many galleries and studios where you can view and purchase original art.


Dinner at Atelier

A very unique and upscale restaurant, Atelier is the brainchild of Niuris Higueras, who has long nurtured her passion for exciting food.  She has designed a very contemporary space housed in an idiosyncratic Havana mansion in the Vedado district.  The décor has a retro feel including an antique hob and old sewing machines.  While Niuris is the inspiration, Chef Enrique cooks the food on the very eclectic menu that changes every day.  Together they create an international range of dishes than might include from falafels to duck confit to stewed rabbit in wine. The food may vary from day to day, and sometimes be unpredictable, but it is consistently excellent as is the service.

Day 3, City of Matanzas

Breakfast at The hotel

You will be met by your guide in the lobby after breakfast to begin the day’s program.

Depart to Matanzas

On the northern coast of Cuba in Matanzas Province there a long thin peninsula named for a rare type of cactus, the Hicacos Peninsula. Lying between the Bay of Cardenas and the Caribbean Sea, this thin strip of land offers some of the most coveted beaches in the world and the quintessential beach resort town of Varadero at its eastern tip. Varadero has many unique, historical sites within the city limits offering a peek into a luxurious past where this town was the definitive Caribbean playground for wealthy Americans until 1959. You can still play 18 holes and have cocktails and the oceanfront mansion built by the American industrialist, Henri Dupont, in the 1920’s.


The Bridges of Matanzas

The city of Matanzas is built around the huge Bay of Matanzas, which cuts deep in the island and into which three rivers flow inside city limits. The Yumuri, San Juan and Canimar Rivers flow through the city, traversed by seventeen bridges, making it the Venice of Cuba or The City of Bridges. A guided tour of the bridges is fascinating and offers a great perspective of the city before you enjoy lunch at a local paladar.


Historic Sites - City Tour of Matanzas

An expert from the City Historian will join your group and act as your escort through a brief history of Matanzas through its institutions and architecture.  You will visit and interact with the personnel and artisans at the  Pharmaceutical Museum -

A pharmacy, originally built in 1882 by the French, it stands unchanged today, giving the impression that time stood still. The tour will take you to the The Palacio de Junco aka the Museo Histórico Provincial de Matanzas, is an outstanding example of Matanzas' 19th-century architecture, a built between 1835 and 1838 for the de Junco family, it has been a museum since 1980; and the Teatro Sauto, a proud symbol of the city, opened in 1863. The U-shaped, 775-seat theatre is a National Monument of Cuba with Carrara marble statues of Greek goddesses gracing the lobby.  Finally, you will visit the Catedral San Carlos De Borromeo whose first stone was laid on October 12, 1693. The once beautiful church with frescoes on the walls, ceilings and in the big dome, is now in a state of irreparable decay but is symbolic of a 17th Century Catholic presence on the island.


Ediciones Vigia

These creators of hand-written, hand-made books is among the most inspired and innovative publishing projects in Cuba. Ediciones Vigia is an independent publishing collective that began production in 1985. It produces handmade books, each not only of literary value but also a unique work of art. Located in a restored colonial house in the Plaza Vigia, the books are manufactured by dedicated artisans and no trip to Matanzas would be complete without a visit to this gem and tribute to the intellect and talent of the Cubans.


Lunch at Waco's Club

Travelers to Varadero love this sequestered-away spot, which was once Varadero's Club Nautico or Yacht Club. The restaurant is clearly aiming high with its impressive international menu (nothing as wacko as you might think with a name like this, but all well-presented and flavorsome) and refined upstairs dining terrace. Enjoy the food, the custom cocktails and the cordial staff while being part of the Cuban experience.


Varadero check into all inclusive

Afternoon on your own

Afternoon on your own to explore the unique resort town of Varadero and interact with the Cuban people in the bustling business district.


Dinner at the hotel

Day 4, Varadero

Breakfast at The hotel

You will be met by your guide in the lobby after breakfast to begin the day’s program.

City Tour Varadero City

On the northern coast of Cuba in Matanzas Province there a long thin peninsula named for a rare type of cactus, the Hicacos Peninsula.  Lying between the Bay of Cardenas and the Caribbean Sea, this thin strip of land offers some of the most coveted beaches in the world and the quintessential beach resort town of Varadero at its eastern tip.  Varadero has many unique, historical sites within the city limits offering a peek into a luxurious past where this town was the definitive Caribbean playground for wealthy Americans until 1959. You can still play 18 holes and have cocktails and the oceanfront mansion built by the American industrialist,  Henri Dupont, in the 1920’s.  Varadero is  home to a world-class, state-of-the-art marina for luxury and recreational boating primed for the near future when Varadero will again become the resort destination for affluent visitors from the North.  For the adventurous in spirit the stalagmite and limestone caves, some not even miles away from town, feature clear, fresh-water swimming holes and you can experience an open ocean wild dolphin swim at the dolphin center that is just off-shore.  When anyone imagines the glory of Cuban beaches, the clear turquoise Caribbean and absolute paradise, it is Varadero that they conjure in their imagination.


Cueva Saturno

A 30-minute drive from Varadero toward the city of Matanzas, is a flooded subterranean cave featuring spectacular rock formations and a fresh water pool where you can snorkel and scuba dive.  


Rio Canimar

Traditional Cuban lunch river ride/ horse-back riding

This is natural park crossed by a beautiful river that flows between two hills and where you can enjoy many activities: Boat tours, swimming in the river, swimming or snorkeling in the Cueva de Saturno (Saturn Cave), horseback riding, rowboat rides, fishing, or simply relax and observe the tick jungle-like vegetation.


Return to hotel and free afternoon

Dinner at the hotel

Day 5, Havana City

Breakfast at The hotel

You will be met by your guide in the lobby after breakfast to begin the day’s program.

Check out- Return To Havana

Yumuri Valley and the Bacunayagua Bridge - Pina Coladas and Panoramic

Pina Coladas and Panoramic view of the Valle Yumuri and the Caribbean. On your way back to Havana, you will make a stop for Pina Coladas at the mirador of the Bacunayagua Bridge. The Yumuri Valley is among the most beautiful and breathtaking natural phenomenon of Cuba. Over 89 Acres wide and reaching the altitude of 150 meters, extending to the shore of the Caribbean Sea, it is also a unique ecosystem and home to important archeological sites. The Bacunayagua Bridge traverses the valley, a fete of engineering that offers spectacular and unforgettable panoramic views from the mountain ranges, across the lush and verdant valley all the way to the Caribbean Sea.


Lunch at El Divino

At the heart of La Yoandra Ranch, in the breathtaking Cuban countryside, Divino Restaurant invites you to delve into a journey through the five senses.  The house itself is a charming Mediterranean style villa, beautifully restored, with a large terrace and various places to eat in the garden.  The range of available food is extensive, from quality pizzas and pastas to pork ribs, steaks, roasted chicken and an incredibly tasty lamb shoulder to more delicate chicken dishes with garlic and herbs. With an Italian owner and executive chef, the wine list is probably the best in Cuba!


Explore Havana - Live like a Cuban

The rest of the afternoon is  yours to explore. The group’s transportation will drop you in the Parque Central area and will return those who wish to the hotel.  You might want to stay near El Prado and walk the beautiful marble promenade traversed daily by locals living their day to day life in Havana, sit among the royal palms in the Parque Central (Central Park) or just enjoy wandering among the locals and making new friends.  Perhaps you’d rather return to a spot that you saw or already visited that drew your attention.  By day four in Havana, a welcoming and engaging city full of wonderfully communicative Cubans, you should be able to find your way around and live just like a Cuban for the afternoon.  And as always, your guide will help you make your plans.


Dinner on your own

Tonight dinner is in a paladar of your choice from a list of the hottest foodie scenes in the City. The tour guide will make the reservations. This is an opportunity to get away from the larger group and dine with a smaller group of friends. You will take a taxi to the meal that we will find for you. The group will have a chance to speak with the Chef and owner of the establishment to discuss food and new opportunities in the food industry in Cuba. The cost of this meal is not included in the trip price.


Day 6, Havana City

Breakfast at The hotel

You will be met by your guide in the lobby after breakfast to begin the day’s program.

Mafia Tour

Prior to 1959, Cuba was a favorite destination for the “mob”. A Havana “Mafia Tour” will trace the antics of Meyer Lansky, financier for the Hotel Riviera; you’ll visit Hotel Sevilla that housed one of Al Capone’s favorite casinos and the Hotel Capri, financed by Hyman Roth and owned by the mob boss Santo Traficcante, which was also the fictional location for scene from The Godfather.


Chef cooks lunch at VIP Havana

This Cuba culinary adventure would not be complete without a meal prepared and cooked by Chef DRod himself!  A regular guest in the kitchen of the stylish paladar, VIP Havana, Chef will create a delightfully creative lunch from the ingredients and inspiration gathered throughout the previous days.  In Cuba, the term “farm to table” is not so much a treat as it is a way of life and this will prove to be a delectable, unique and exclusive culinary gift from Chef Douglas Rodriguez and Cuba.  Buen provecho!


A Journey through Cuban Music with Professor Alberto Faya

Experience a rare, intimate encounter with what Cuba is best know for – the music.  There is an old saying, “In Cuba, if you turn over a rock a musician jumps out”. You will take a musical journey through Cuba’s rich and exciting musical history guided by world-renowned and award winning musician and musicologist Alberto FayaFaya, recipient of multiple awards for musical accomplishments, will be joined by a quartet performing authentic Cuban music. Enjoy this magical and interactive experience and feel free to engage the speakers and musicians.


Dinner at StarBien

The art and style of the 1930’s can be seen in every detail of this El Vedado mansion. The friendly staff offers very tasty fusion cuisine, combining traditional Cuban and international dishes. StarBien has always attracted artists, cultural figures and businessmen, whom we are loyal customers. You will enjoy the tranquil setting and professional service. 

Day 7, Havana City

Breakfast at The hotel

You will be met by your guide in the lobby after breakfast to begin the day’s program.

Ferry Ride Across Havana Bay to Casa Blanca

When driving or strolling along Havana’s “malecon”, the coastal avenue that hugs the city of Havana along its majestic port and iconic sea, you have a constant view of the iconic lighthouse that stands proud atop a cliff guarding Havana’s spectacular natural harbor. The towns of Casa Blanca sits at the end of the promontory, across the harbor from La Habana Vieja and home to the famous statue of Christ, the Blanco Cristo.  From the ferry landing on the portside of Old Havana, you will board the ferry and enjoy the views for the 10-minute crossing to Casablanca or Regla. Most locals who live and/or work in portside towns travel across the harbor on a pedestrian ferry boat which crosses to the landings in Regla and Casablanca all day long at 10 minute intervals.


Finca Vigia - Ernest Hemingway's Home & Museum

Your transportation will await you at Casa Blanca for the short drive to Ernest Hemingway’s home in the rural village of San Francisco de Paula, also just east of Havana. Named Finca Vigia or “Lookout Farm”, the home was built in 1866 and purchased by Hemingway in 1940.  This property, emerging from a lush tropical flora and fauna, was his primary home from 1940 until his death in 1961.  Hemingway loved Cuba and according to close sources, he spent more time there during those two decades that any of his homes around the world.  Here, Hemingway wrote his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, “The Old Man and the Sea”, and his famous fishing boat, El Pilar, is also on display here.  In 1962, Finca Vigia was turned into a museum making it the first institution in the world devoted to Ernest Hemingway and his work. Recently, the feature film, “Papa” was filmed on location in Cuba and much of it at Finca Vigia.


Lunch at Ajiaco Cafe in Cojimar

“Papa ́s” passion for fishing and drinking has left an indelible mark on Caribbean seaside the town of Cojimar, the picturesque fishing village where Hemingway docked his boat, El Pilar, and where some old timers might still remember Hemingway and his guide, Gregorio, whom the “old man” was based on.  Café Ajiaco is a Cojimar favorite. The fare is as varied as the drinks, but given that you are so close to the coast it is almost mandatory that you go for some seafood. The choice of fish changes daily with the catch. Enjoy this seaside fishing port village that is almost frozen in time since Hemingway made it his favorite hangout.


Drive by El Morro for a photo opportunity

Built on the high rock entrance to the Bay and completed in the early 1600s, El Morro Castle guards the Port of Havana, complete with dungeons, cannons and the iconic lighthouse. Known as “El Morro”, the castle is actually The Castle of the Three Kings, named for the biblical Magi. The lighthouse stands on the end of a promontory strongly fortified with huge walls and battlements built by the Spanish Conquistadors to defend the city against pirates and bounty seekers. You will make a brief stop here for photo opportunities of the colonial fort and the magnificent panoramic views of Havana.



Classic Car Ride on the Malecon

You will be picked up at you hotel and whisked away to your farewell dinner in perfectly restored vintage 1950s convertibles and enjoy an amazing driven tour of Havana’s “malecon” on the way. The quintessential avenue that wraps around Havana from La Habana Vieja to the Almendares River, hugging the famous sea wall that protects the city from the crashing waves of the Caribbean Sea offers the perfect sunset view. This drive is a retrospective, nostalgic journey through time and you can feel you’re in the 1950s with the backdrop of the Cuban skyline, nearly frozen in time.


Dinner at Rio Mar Paladar

This contemporary Restaurant is located in the Miramar neighborhood, it has wonderful views of the Almendares river and the Malecon. Offering some of the best seafood in Havana.

Day 8, Havana City

Breakfast at The hotel

You will be met by your guide in the lobby after breakfast to begin the day’s program.

Morning at leisure

Your last morning in Havana can be a perfect opportunity to take one last stroll through the magical streets of Old Havana or to pick up some gifts and souvenirs on La Rampa or at the huge market on the port, Almacenes San Jose.  You might want to sit on the malecon and reflect on your trip and  the beauty of Cuba and her people while overlooking the Caribbean.  


Check out of hotel & Transfer to the Airport

Depart Havana for Miami International Airport

Cuba and her people bid you  Adios! Hasta la proxima!

Meet Chef Douglas Rodriguez!

As you may know, I’m a son of Cuban Immigrants, my first visit to Cuba was 2013 I was invited to cook at an Art Festival Biennial. Ten American chefs where paired with Cuban chefs to prepare a dinner, I sincerely can say that this trip changed me. The chefs in Cuba have none of the tools that a chef like us take for granted, limited food resources, limited equipment, no internet access and may other challenges that a Cuban chef can experience on a day to day basis, yet this chef all have a great outlook, I call them true Iron Chefs.

After returning home from this trip I wanted to find a way to help my fellow Cuban chefs and began to organize culinary trips to Cuba. I have been back 13 times since my first trip, meeting culinary Players in Cuba and finally found a way to help my fellow Cuban chefs get some exposures. I have created a culinary exchange event, where we can cook together with a Cuban chefs.

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