Cuba Private Travel is a Cuba-based travel agency that will create both a ground itinerary and assist you in getting approvals to use your own private jet for domestic flights during your VIP tour of the island. Its owner Johnny Considine says, “We work across the whole island, and can craft any type of experience. We know the best Havana penthouses and leafy pool villas and the best place to pitch a tent in Cuba’s secret, tourist-free wildernesses.”
He adds, “If you’re into wild musicality, have an architectural obsession, or want to joust with a forensic cigar export or a socialist-leaning economist, we have at our fingertips the best and most educated specialist guides and contacts. If you are simply dreaming about a first-time trip with a privileged, authentic edge, we are here. A great forte of ours is crafting unique educational and cultural experiences that answer U.S. People-to-People requirements while remaining fun, individual, and above all, private.”
He notes, “When in Cuba, infrastructure challenges often mean a traveler able to roll with the punches will have an easier time accepting the realties of Cuba’s still strained tourist resources and standards. But the careful and imaginative planning of Cuba Private Travel will give you the softest possible landing into this most effervescent, eccentric and life-affirming of destinations.”
To use your own aircraft, you’ll need to provide in advance your tail number, aircraft management company, licenses it hold. Cuba Private Travel will apply for landing permits provided by Cuban Civil Aviation and create OFAC-proofed Itinerary and Travel Documentation, and file the flight plan. In this issue is an actual itinerary by private jet executed by Cuba Private Travel.
Arrive by your private jet in Havana. Upon leaving the plane you will be met by an airport rep that will guide you through customs into the VIP lounge to wait for your luggage to come out. There’s VIP assistance. You will pass through immigration quickly but there is no guarantee your bags will arrive any faster. After, you will meet Cuba Private Travel’s rep. The company’s airport representative will meet you after going through customs and will lead you to your driver. You will have a vintage car with an English speaking guide and a Spanish-speaking driver from for the next two days. It takes about 35 minutes to get into Havana.
If you arrive in time, start with lunch at Dona Eutimi situated in the heart of Old Havana just off Cathedral Square for Cuban creole food to get you in the mood.After, your private concierge will welcome you at your hotel, the 5-star Kempinski and go through your itinerary with you and make suggestions of places to see and things to do. After, attend a private show at Lizt Alfonso Dance Company. This dance company is known around the world after the famous music video Bailando by Enrique Iglesias. Founded 25 years ago by Lizt Alfonso, it has performed in hundreds of cities on five continents.
Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski
Rebuilt on the site of a building originally constructed between 1894 and 1917 as the first European style shopping arcade in Cuba, Gran Hotel Manna Kempinski (above) is located in Old Havana with views of the Capitol and the Great Theater of Havana. The famous Castillo del Morro is accessible within a 10-minute drive. There is a spa, fitness center and rooftop pool. Cuba Private Travel will reserve a room or suite of your choice.
First Night in Cuba
El Del Frente means the one in front. The menu offers the best ceviches tacos and tatakis in town. El Del Frente has a rooftop terrace/bar where you can either sit for a drink and a cigar, or have a light informal dinner surrounded by Old Havana’s historic architecture. The drinks here are exceptional, says Considine. You can also dine at La Guarida on the expanded outdoor terrace and or stop by the rooftop bar. End with cocktails and cigar tasting at Hotel Nacional. Sip Daiquiris on the terrace and enjoy the old world charm of the iconic building with its Mafia history. Your expert sommelier and cigar aficionado will guide you through a range of top class rums pared with the very best of Cuban cigars.
Cigar rolling at Conde Villanueva
In the mezzanine of a small hotel there is a Casa de Habanos, an official purveyor of Cuban cigars. An experienced cigar roller works everyday showing how the best cigars in the world are rolled. While this is not the factory experience it does give you a good idea of how cigars are made with more of a chance to ask questions.
Chef Alberto Gonzalez won the Bronze Medal for International High Cuisine (2007) and the Golden Spoon and Silver Fork awards (2009). He was the first Cuban chef to obtain the distinguished Michelin Star and remained in the Michelin Guide for three years.
This afternoon, drive vintage sports cars and other heritage vehicles arranged for you in advance by Cuba Private Travel.
Dine at Tierra, a new restaurant inside Fabrica de Arte Cubano (Cuban Art factory). It’s a culinary tour of the world with 20 dishes and lots of drinks…Drinks are delicious and huge, says your host.
Go to Fabrica del Arte, a lounge and meeting place for artists and avant-garde arts. Enjoy music, dance, film, art and shows. VIP access ensures you bypass the queues.
Other Hotel Options
If the Kempinski doesn’t suit your tastes, choose from faded art deco grand dames, colonial mansions, contemporary international chains, and a plethora of villas. If you want to stay in an original 1950s suburban home or a penthouse Cuban Private Travel can fix arrange your own private pied-a-terre.
Your driver will collect you in the morning and transfer you back to Jose Marti Airport where Cuban Private Travel has arranged all the complicated paperwork so you can travel on your own private jet for the flight to Cayo Coco Airport. There you will be met by an English speaking driver. You’ll have a choice between an Audi A4, A6, Lada 2018 or a Renault Fluence as well as vans, based on availability.
The Cuban government chose Cayos Guillermo and Coco, part of the120 miles long Jardines del Rey archipelago, a former home to pirates, as the spot to developing modern resorts. You’ll find plump palm trees on smooth white sands lapped by shallow turquoise water. If you are seeking an authentic Cuban community within reach of your beach holiday experience, these resorts may not be ideal. But for an unadulterated fly and flop, or in combination with others Cuban centers of culture, they are the best choice in Cuba, their accommodation options a cut above the mainland resorts says Cuba Private Travel.
Cayo Guillermo, with four all-inclusive resorts including the Melia Cayo Guillermo and the Sol Cayo Guillermo, was the setting for the climax of Hemingway’s Islands In the Stream, and has one of Cuba’s best beaches, Playa Pilar, named after Hemingway’s yacht. Cayo Coco has a massive reef to its north and about a dozen international hotels. As the islands are resoundingly similar, you will be choosing the hotel, not the destination. If you want a quiet, small-scale hotel, consider Villa La Bruja on Cayo Santa Maria, a collection of quiet cabanas on a boardwalk with a small restaurant on a tiny, sugar-white beach. Cuban Private Travel will provide you options for each stop and work with you so you can select the right ones, so in this report, we are giving you just some examples. Once you get settled, try your hand at kite surfing.
Fly via your private jet from Cayo Coco to Holguin and transfer to your hotel before spending a half-day fly-fishing via a chartered boat with expert fishing guide and equipment.
After, return to the capital of the province to which is ringed by mountains, a pleasant city of gardens, plazas and parks, lacking the colonial grandeur or romance of Camaguey or Trinidad, but with its own low-key charms. The province at large is home to some of the most beautiful beaches, mountains and isolated rural communities in Cuba, including the idyllic property where Raul and Fidel Castro grew up, wealthy and privileged in this poor swathe of the east. The sleepy town of Gibara, whitewashed houses topped with red riled roofs, is an undiscovered gem with the largest amount of artists per capita in Cuba, and is popular with independent travellers seeking something similar to remote Baracoa, but more accessible – Gibara (below) is only 40 minutes by car from Holguín.
If you want to experience the most conventional delights of this stretch of coast, visit Guardalavaca, the resort town chosen for its turquoise waves and brilliant white beach. Decent hotels (though nothing resembling five-star) with Internet connections and scuba facilities can be found here, and though the town cannot be described as an authentic Cuban place, the undulating, sugar-cane-covered surrounding landscape is beautiful.
Recommended to stay is The Ordono Hotel (above) which been restored to its original Spanish colonial grandiose splendor and was re-opened in January 2013. Have a drink in the airy lobby bar opening into the street or the roof terrace bar. The restoration includes the early twentieth century paintings by León Hernández Cáceres, an artist from the Canary Islands based in Gibara.
Start with a horse ride to get to natural pools where accompanied by your guide, you will dive around the entrance to Cubas largest flooded cavern, Tanques Azules. The cave features stalactites and stalagmites originally formed before the cave was flooded by rising sea levels. It is one of the most beautiful in the region with unique wildlife such as shrimps and blind fish. Then transfer by your private vehicle from Gibara to Holguin airport, about a 90 minute drive.
Get back into your own private jet for the flight from Holguin to Baracoa where you will have a private transfer from Baracoa airport to Humboldt National Park, about an hour’s drive. Visit Alejandro de Humboldt Park and Balcon de Iberia. Alejandro de Humboldt Park is the largest protected area of biodiversity in Cuba and was declared as a World Heritage Site with one of the most variable ecosystems of great beauty. Enjoy walking trails and swimming in a fresh, clear river.
For dinner is Paladar Victor Villa Maguana, a shack on the beach that does fresh seafood and other traditional Baracoan dishes. Tonight you will camp in outdoors tents if you wish.
After breakfast transfer to Baracoa Airport for your flight to Santiago de Cuba, where you will be met and taken to your next hotel. In summer months, the city is known for its festivals that can trace their roots back to the 17th century, each with various customs, loud drums and the high-pitched sound of a special Chinese trumpet that proved to be the conga special ingredient.
Geographically closer to Kingston, Jamaica than to Havana, Santiago de Cuba is the stronghold of Afro-Cuban culture on the island and has a fearsome musical, cultural and political heritage. Though it’s Cuba’s second city, it feels compact, with a handful of key monuments and nightspots. Visit the Casa de la Trova, where the city’s legendary rumba can be heard. Socialist to the core, Santiago was a key stronghold during the nascent stages of the Revolution. The Moncada Barracks, where Fidel led a failed coup in 1953, are worth a visit, as is the Castillo del Morro, the old fortress, a romantic place to watch the sunset with panoramic views. On the cultural side, there are a number smaller museums, such as Museo Emilio Bacardi Moreau, the home of the cultural treasures of the Floridian émigré and rum king (he collected everything from Egyptian mummies to sad artifacts of slavery.
Stay in The Imperial Hotel (above), one of the most significant pieces of Santiaguera architecture seen throughout of the city. Dinner Palenquito provides a barbecue in the casual backyard restaurant on the outskirts of Santiago. Grilled pork and chicken are served with the typical sides, but the real star is dessert. Try rich zapote or coconut ice cream in the shells of the original fruit. Portions are huge. After, enjoy music at Casa de la Trova with local bands.
Relax on your final morning before your private transfer to Santiago de Cuba airport where you will then fly to your next international destination.