Over View of Trip Map History Photos

Trip Planning

Itineary Creating a Cuban Trip

  • 6/1 12ish AM (red-eye) flight via Houston into Cancun. Get Visa at airport, check into hotel, change money, rest.

  • 6/2 Day 1 of tour - flight to Havana and transfer to lodging. Change pesos to CUC. Dinner with members of the tour (optional).

  • 6/3 Day 2 of tour - walking tour of Havana; travel to Vinales (4hr drive)

  • 6/4 Day 3 of tour - day in Vinales (overnight)

  • 6/5 Day 4 of tour - drive past Bay of Pigs, stopping at a cenote (swimming hole) to ovenight in Cienfuegos (8 hours)

  • 6/6 Day 5 of tour - drive to Trinidad (overnight) (3 hr drive)

  • 6/7 Day 6 of tour - Trinidad (overnight)

  • 6/8 Day 7 of tour - drive back to Havana via Santa Clara (overnight in Havana) optional group dinner (7 hours)

  • 6/9 Day 8 of tour - tour ends. We remain in final Havana lodging overnight

  • 6/10 day on our own and second overnight in Havana lodging

  • 6/11 mid-day flight to Cancun. Ovenight in Cancun

  • 6/12 overnight in Cancun

  • 6/13 overnight in Cancun

  • 6/14 7AM flight home
M y friend Barabra from Seattle, found an interesting tour in Cuba. I agreed I liked the idea of going for a quick trip to Cuba and she set up the itinerary. Here we are having tea in a bazaar in Istanbul in 2004! Chuck & Barbara in Istanbul - 2004

We will United fly to Cancun and from there fly on a local flight to Havana. One needs a visa like Cambodia or Brazil and one may pick it up the the Cancun Airport but we wondered what happens if you cannot get the visa? She found we can order the visas on-line for about $25 and we think that is the best policy. Well the travel agent said we might as well get the visas in Cancun and also change our money to pesos at the airport.

She also said we have to have trip insurance. Barbara said if one is over 70 years old one must purchase the trip insurance that costs twice as much as the under 70. I wondered how much the senior rate of twice the other rate would be, Barbara had a good laugh and said it was $4 a day instead of $2 a day. She decided she could afford the $4 a day insurance just to make sure we both had the best insurance!

We also decided to have a two day lay over in Cancun coming back, no hassel about getting to the airport late after the flight from Havana to Cancun. So relax and read about our 9 day trip to Cuba and our two day stop in Cancun, along with some photos I took!

Map of Cuba and the Caribbean

Note: The map on the right indicates many of the places I have traveled to in the Carribean. My first big trip was to the Bahams in 1962 to see the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. I celebrated my 72nd birthday in Puerto Rico and 75th in Jamica. I have also visited many of the Meso American countries on the coast of the Carribean Sea!

The map on the left details where we will be traveling while on our eight day land tour of Cuba, plus two extra days in Havanna.

Brief History of Cuba

Select this link to view the History of Cuba.

Daily Photos and Stories Along the Way

June 1st

    Flying from San Francisco to Cancun

San Francisco

This is the view of the San Francisco Bay Area from the 28th Floor of Fox Plaza the morning of my flight!

6/1/16: Depart UA1200 from SFO at 12:45 A.M. - arrive in IAH (Houston) - D84J70

6/1/16 at 6:23A.M.; Depart UA1619 from IAH at 7:18 A.M. - arrive in Cancun at 9:37A.M. (Travel time 6 hrs 52 min)

6/1/16: Over Night in Cancun

Hotel Kin Mayab Cancun - 3-star hotel

Avenida Tulum No 75 Sm 22 Mza, 77500 Cancún, Mexico

Small World:

I met my friend Viviane in 1999 while on a cruise on the Strait of Magellan at the southern tip of South America. The area is called Tierra del Fuego and is an archipelago off the southernmost tip of the South American mainland, across the Strait of Magellan. Viviane was in the travel business and other endeavors and eventually we went to Austria for the Millennium New Year in 1999/2000 and then to Morocco in 2000/2001 for the real Millennium New Year! She was living in Beverly Hills at the time and moved to Texas a few years ago, first in Austin and now in Houston. She told me her travel company was sending her to Cancun to check out the hotels and other interests the future travelers with her company might be interested in.

Viviane set up my birthday vacation trip this year for my 76th birthday in Portugal. It was a great trip and lots to see, all done in a timely manner. If you are interested in reading about my trip, select the Portugal link to view some of the great places to visit!

We laughed as she is flying to Cancun on May 31st and I and Barbara will be flying to Cancun on June 1st. We almost ended up on the same flight, just 24 hours difference. We hope to meet that afternoon in Cancun before Barbra and I fly to Havana the next day!

Millennium New Year in Morocco - 2000 Christmas Dinner in Beverly Hills - 2007 Chance Meeting in Cancun

1999 - The Millennium New Year in Vienna Austria. 2000 - The Real Millennium New Year in Marrakech Morocco.  

2007 - Christmas Dinner in Beverly Hills California with champagne of course.  

2016 - Seventeen Years Later - A Chance Meeting in Cancun Mexico.  

The lobby of our hotel in Cancun for one night.

Our first of many many beers, temperature was around 90 F and Muggy!

June 2nd

    Day 1 of tour - flight to Havana and transfer to lodging. Change pesos to CUC.

Aeromexico Airlines

6/2/16 Aeromexico, non-stop leaving Cancun at 11:04 A.M. to Havana Cuba.

Your Havana Guest House - Date: June 02 (confirmed) - Address: Casa Vieja

Havana No. 203 e/ Empedrado y Tejadillo, Habana Vieja. - Telef. (+53) 7 8632927, (+53) 54015853

We arrived in Habana and took a taxi to the hotel and arrived around 1 P.M. We met the group and the tour guide and that evening we had dinner to celebrate our first night together. Barbara and I also got the worst room in the hostel, hot and a staircase that was dangerous.

The Front Room. Staircase to the Bathroom! Our welcome to Cuba dinner.

The hostels we stayed at in Habana were very dangerous as far as stairs are concerned. The ceilings were at least 20 feet high and in our room, there was a staircase on the back wall that lead to the bathroom 15 feet off the floor. Steep and dangerous, especially if you wanted to use the bathroom late at night!

It was bad enough on our first night in Habana with the terrible staircase to the bathroom but when we came back to Habana we had three more nights in a different casa with almost the same problem.

The bed room was great and so was the front sitting room but, if you wanted breakfast you had to climb a very dangerous spiraling staircase to the roof. One man in the group could not climb those stairs and another couple changed rooms with he and his wife. One woman had vertigo so had to hang onto her husband so as not to fall!

There were partial hand railings and the staircase was open to the sky so when it rained, it came down and flooded the floor and covered the stairs with water making they slippery.

Who in their right minds designs these sorts of buildings? There were plants to catch the rain water and I assume some drain to let the water out.

So if you came out of your room and didn't watch out, you could slip on the tiles and that would have been the end. Everyone walked very slowly and carefully!

We met our tour guide the afternoon we flew in from Cancun. She introduced herself as Tatianna.

She said when the Soviet Union went into a depression in the early 1990s, they stopped helping Cuba with monies and trade.

She said things were rough and there were problems in Cuba.

She said during the years Cuba was under the wing of the Soviet Union, many men and woman's parents named their children after Russian names!

Tatianna said her 19 year old son like many in the country, has free education and is studying to be a doctor. Cuba has one of the highest rates of doctors graduating from university.

June 3rd

    Day 2 of tour - walking tour of Havana; travel to Vinales (4hr drive)

Visiting Several Main Squares in Central Habana.

We saw many old buildings that have been renovated into gorgeous restaurants.

This fantastic view was taken from the top of a hill as we approached Vinales - One of our favorite cities.

June 4th

    Day 3 of tour - day in Vinales (overnight)

Breakfast on the Terrace overlooking Vinales!

Sitting at the next table was someone I know in San Francisco, Guy, a small world indeed!

Jardin Botanico - Salvador Cisnero

A great batanical garden and a very good tour guide. I always read that the cocao pod on the tree was very bitter but our guide said if left on the tree to ripen to a golden color, the seeds would become sweet. Check out the second photo with the pods coming out of the trunk of the tree!

The seed of the fruit of an Amazonian tree that was brought to Central America before the time of the Olmecs, cacao beans were so revered by the Mayans and Aztecs that they used them as money.

Cuban Government and Individual Incomes

Two of our group went to a tabacco farm and the owner told them how the country paid for the 'free' health care and education. He said as an example, if one owns 20 acres and grows tabacco, after you harvest the leaves and hang them in the barns to dry, the government sends someone to check the output of the farm. The government sets a specific amount to pay per pound and then buys 90% of the output. The other 10% you get to do what ever you want with the output. In this case the man rolled cigars to sell. So he got what ever the government wanted to pay and then what ever he could get from selling his share.

We also found in the Hostels, guests signed a book and at the end of the year the goverment checked how many stayed at the Hostel and then took a perentage of the income.

This may seem steep but they get free health care and education and currently, Cuba has one of the highest ratios of scholars graduating universities as doctors in the world! And the individual actually gets monies to spend as they wish. We saw many with cell phones and the Internet is slowly coming into use.

June 5th

    Day 4 of tour - drive past Bay of Pigs, stopping at a cenote (swimming hole) to ovenight in Cienfuegos (8 hours)

Bay of Pigs

This location as many others, are named according to what was unigue to the area. In this case, at one time many pigs roamed the area!

Million of Crabs: We arrived when it was the season for crabs to reproduce! They live in the leafy jungle and grow to maturity. They then go to the shore to lay their eggs and when the eggs hatch, millions of baby crabs try to walk from the shore to the leafy jungle. As you can see, this walkway was two blocks from the shore and millions had made it this far! Lots of them got stepped on in the process!

Limestone and Fossils: As we walked around the area we saw the ground covered with rocks of all shapes and almost every other one was a fossil. You could spend all day checking out the various animals and plants that were fossilized!

Taty & El Chino Hostal

We had a fantastic dinner with the family! You need to stay at their home. Avenu 50 #4506 e/45 y 47 Cienhuegos Cuba - (52) 4351.3324

Son Asnell - Taty and El Chino  

Chuck and Taty in the Kitchen with cocktails.  

Taty and El Chino acting up, El Chino's Grandmother was from China!  

Asnell drinks tomato clam juice to build up his body. El Chino gave me half a glass of tomato clam juice and filled the rest up with beer!  

Taty showing me her famous coffee making expertise!  

Taty and El Chino and Asnell's wife - such a nice family!  

Sun Problems in San Francisco and Angola Africa!

I was wearing shorts and sandals which I normally do not wear. Taty's husband was talking to me and suddenly had a strange look on his face?

He pointed to my legs and shook his head. We wondered what was going on. He smiled and pulled up his pant leg and pointed. He knew right away I had surgery on my legs for exposure to sun and had basel cells that had to be removed.

He said that when he was around 19 or so, he joined the military and Russia sent him to fight in Angola Africa!

He mimicked holding a gun and shooting at people! He said he was there for three years and then come back to Cuba and became a Colonial after ten years. He said he did get paid a decent wage but no retirement for being in the military for 13 years.

So now he runs the Hostal while his wife works at a local bank as an accountant.

Postage to Cuba

After downloading my photos I decided to send to the Taty family, most of the ones I took of them.

I had about eight photos I took to Walgreen to have printed. I ended up with about 16 photos as I had duplicates made of each photo.

I put them in a small envelope and too it to the Post Office in my building. Of course the staff first wanted to hear about my trip to Cuba! Then they looked at me and the envelope and agreed maybe I should fill out a customs form. They said even with such a little thing to mail, better safe the sorry. I agreed and filled out the form. They took off half of the form and pasted it to the envelope.

Then they weighed the envelope - 3.10 oz. - and said it would cost $13.50. I said what ever it takes to send it. So hopefully they will get the photos and the Thankyou card from me!

June 6th/7th

    Day 5 & 6 of tour - drive to Trinidad (3 hr drive) (3 overnight stays)


Buildings and Various other Points of Interest!

Almost every bar and cafe had roving bands. The lobby of our hotel. The Guitarist is also a Piano Teacher.

Great Sea Food. Our last dinner in Trinidad with Entertainment. Taste Testing the Local Beer!

June 8th

    Day 7 of tour - drive back to Havana via Santa Clara (overnight in Havana) optional group dinner (7 hours)

Photo as We Traveled to Habana

Photos from our last drive to Habana from Trinidad- Optional Dinner - Overnight lodging in Havana.

Watch Tower to ensure the Slaves were Working Hard!
Iron Containers to Cook the Sugar Cane. Fabrics and Lace for Sale.

Che Memorial
Road Side Cafe. Taste Testing the Local Beer and Food!

Ernesto "Che" Guevara

Ernesto "Che" Guevara - June 14, 1928 – October 9, 1967), commonly known as El Che or simply Che, was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, guerrilla leader, diplomat, and military theorist. A major figure of the Cuban Revolution, his stylized visage has become a ubiquitous countercultural symbol of rebellion and global insignia in popular culture.

As a young medical student, Guevara traveled throughout South America and was radicalized by the poverty, hunger, and disease he witnessed. His burgeoning desire to help overturn what he saw as the capitalist exploitation of Latin America by the United States prompted his involvement in Guatemala's social reforms under President Jacobo Árbenz, whose eventual CIA-assisted overthrow at the behest of the United Fruit Company solidified Guevara's political ideology. Later, in Mexico City, he met Raúl and Fidel Castro, joined their 26th of July Movement, and sailed to Cuba aboard the yacht Granma, with the intention of overthrowing U.S.-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Guevara soon rose to prominence among the insurgents, was promoted to second-in-command, and played a pivotal role in the victorious two-year guerrilla campaign that deposed the Batista regime.

Following the Cuban Revolution, Guevara performed a number of key roles in the new government. These included reviewing the appeals and firing squads for those convicted as war criminals during the revolutionary tribunals, instituting agrarian land reform as minister of industries, helping spearhead a successful nationwide literacy campaign, serving as both national bank president and instructional director for Cuba's armed forces, and traversing the globe as a diplomat on behalf of Cuban socialism. Such positions also allowed him to play a central role in training the militia forces who repelled the Bay of Pigs Invasion and bringing the Soviet nuclear-armed ballistic missiles to Cuba which precipitated the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Additionally, he was a prolific writer and diarist, composing a seminal manual on guerrilla warfare, along with a best-selling memoir about his youthful continental motorcycle journey. His experiences and studying of Marxism–Leninism led him to posit that the Third World's underdevelopment and dependence was an intrinsic result of imperialism, neocolonialism, and monopoly capitalism, with the only remedy being proletarian internationalism and world revolution.

Guevara left Cuba in 1965 to foment revolution abroad, first unsuccessfully in Congo-Kinshasa and later in Bolivia, where he was captured by CIA-assisted Bolivian forces and summarily executed.

June 9th

    Day 8 of tour - tour ends. We remain in final Havana lodging overnight

Casa Obrapia Hotel

Your Havana Guesthouse: - Date: June 09 & 10 (confirmed)

Address: Calle Obrapia # 405 (Altos) e/ Aguacate y Compostela, Habana Vieja

Telef. (+53) 7862 8285

20 Foot Ceilings - Front Room. View of Apartments in Central Habana. Street View.

June 10th

    Day 9 & 10 - Two days on our own and in the same Hotel.

Views of Habana

Fantastic Building Converted to Hotels Spectacular Hotel Lighting. Famous Hotel National

Beautiful Houses A Favorite Cafe and Band. Trying out a New Beer!

Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña (Fort of Saint Charles), colloquially known as La Cabaña, is an 18th-century fortress complex, the third-largest in the Americas, located on the elevated eastern side of the harbor entrance in Havana, Cuba. The fort rises above the 200-foot (60 m) hilltop, along with Morro Castle (fortress).

After the capture of Havana by British forces in 1762, an exchange was soon made to return Havana to the Spanish, the controlling colonial power of Cuba, in exchange for Florida. A key factor in the British capture of Havana turned out to be the overland vulnerability of El Morro. This realization and the fear of further attacks following British colonial conquests in the Seven Years War prompted the Spanish to build a new fortress to improve the overland defense of Havana; King Carlos III of Spain began the construction of La Cabaña in 1763. Replacing earlier and less extensive fortifications next to the 16th-century El Morro fortress, La Cabaña was the second-largest colonial military installation in the New World by the time it was completed in 1774 (after the St. Felipe de Barajas fortification at Cartagena, Colombia), at great expense to Spain.

Over the next two hundred years the fortress served as a base for both Spain and later independent Cuba.

Morro Castle (Spanish: Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro), named after the three biblical Magi, is a fortress guarding the entrance to Havana bay in Havana, Cuba. The design was drawn up by the Italian engineer Juan Bautista Antonelli; originally under the control of Spain, the fortress was captured by the British in 1762, and was returned to the Spanish under treaty terms a year later.

The Morro fortress in Havana shares its name with structures in Santiago de Cuba and the Castillo de San Felipe del Morro in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In this case, the Spanish "morro" means a rock which is very visible from the sea and therefore serves as a navigational landmark.[2] Perched on the promontory on the opposite side of the harbor from Old Havana, it can be viewed from miles around as it dominates the port entrance. Built initially in 1589 in response to raids on Havana harbor, el Morro protected the mouth of the harbor with a chain being strung out across the water to the fort at La Punta.

This beautiful beach was seen on one of our Hop on and Off bus trips around Habana. It was about a 45 minute trip and many take the bus to spend the day at the beach. There is a bar and restaurant but we were told we could not sit in the dining area with a drink unless we ordered a drink! There was an outdoor bar, a thatched hut and we ordered drinks and sat under a palm tree until the bus came back!

June 11th

    Mid-day flight to Cancun. Ovenight in Cancun

Aeromexico Flight

    6/11/16: Havana on Aeromexico, non-stop leaving at 2:20 P.M.. for Cancun.

I was in Cancun for a week in 1987 and I rented a car and drove to the Chichen Itza ruins, stayed in Merida overnight and then drove down to Tulum.

I didn't get to go to Cozumel but interestingly, I did get to visit Cozumel in 2015 on a cruise for my 75th birthday!

If you are interested in seeing some photos taken in 1987 in Cancun, Merida, Chichen Itza and Tulum, click on the following link! Hard to believe in 2016, it has been almost 30 years since I was in the Yucatan.

Photos of the Yucatan and Cancun in 1987

The family left Acapulco to open a Cafe in Cancun.

Our server is 17 and came to Cancun when he was Seven!

June 12/13th

    Three nights in Cancun - Two full days to sight see!

Ruins of Coba

A Travel Agent in our Hotel told us to take the bus and do our own tour as it would be so cheap compared to a private tour.

Coba (pronounced co-be) is an ancient Maya city on the Yucatán Peninsula, located in what is now northeastern Quintana Roo, Mexico. The site is the nexus of the largest network of stone causeways of the ancient Mayan world, and it contains many engraved and sculpted stelae that document ceremonial life and important events of the Late Classic Period (AD 600–900) of Mesoamerican civilization. The adjacent modern village bearing the same name, reported a population of 1,278 inhabitants in the 2010 Mexican federal census.

Chuck in Coba!  

The Highest Pyramid in the Yucatan!  

Bicycle Taxi - Mayan Driver!  

Stop for a Beer before the Bus to Cancun.  

90 Degrees Plus - Beer for Days!  


Barbara and I were walking around the ruins and after a while, felt very hot. The next pyramid was over half a mile away. We saw a bicycle taxi and decided to take it. The driver was Mayan and told us the names of the ruins in the Mayan language! Before we took the taxi we were taking photos of the ball park and wondering around the area.

We were on the taxi and as we were wheeled through the jungle, we decided to take some photos. I looked in my bag and no camera. We stopped the taxi and looked in my bag, no camera. We went back to the beginning where we rented the bicycle taxi. We slowly went back on the same path as we did the first time.

Suddenly we saw a couple waving their arms at us, we wondered at first, why. Well the husband was waving a camera. He was looking for me!

We actually sat across from each other on the bus coming from Tulum to Coba! He looked at my camera photos and saw me and told his wife he knew me. She was surprised. So instead of keeping the camera or turning it in to the Lost and Found, he decided to try and find me.

As you can imagine, we couldn't believe my luck and I told him he was an angel. He laughed and pulled his hat back like a halo. We had a good laugh. He said he and his wife are locals and were playing tourist.

Now isn't this a wonderful story and gives one faith in mankind!

June 13th     Over night in Cancun

Final Dinner in Cancun.

Two for the price of One!

June 14th

7 A.M. flight from Cancun to San Francisco

San Francisco Night View from My Apartment on the 28th Floor!

   6/14/16: Depart UA1159 from Cancun at 7:05A.M. - arrive in SFO at 11:00A.M.

   6/14/16: Back home after a great trip and the City looks beautiful. Here I am flying over the Sierras with snow capped mountains!

Return to Chuck Buntjer's World Travels

  Charles Walter Buntjer

San Francisco California
Created on: 2016.05.01  

Updated on:   2016.07.23