Expert's Corner

Hello! I’m Bernie Solymar, and I kindly invite you to join our Cuba nature tours, an odyssey of the country's culture, agriculture, ecology and beautiful nature. We'll explore the historic cities of Havana and Trinidad, visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves, tour organopónicos and visit with Cuban farmers, explore forests, caves and mountains, swim in mountain rivers, meet and talk with numerous Cuban experts in the fields of permaculture and conservation, partake in traditional local food dishes, enjoy some Cuban music, rum, and camaraderie, and much, much more. Do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions!
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Even though, there has been some relaxation in the travel restrictions to Cuba, Americans can not go to Cuba for tourist activities. Bird watching and similar nature oriented tours are considered as ordinary tourism; therefore, it is not permitted for US travelers.

When the Spaniards arrived at the end of the 15th century, more than 90% of Cuba was covered with forest. However, clearance for cattle raising and sugar cane reduced this proportion to 54% by 1890 and 14% by 1959.


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Add to your birdwatching life-list 21 endemic Cuban bird species!
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Overview



Working under the auspices of Cuba’s foremost environmentalist and nature conservation organizations, Authentic Cuba Travel gains access to the most pristine natural Cuban sites of this tropical bird watching paradise, from UNESCO Biosphere Reserves and National Parks to Protected Areas, and offers an unparalleled opportunity for North American nature lovers, bird watchers, naturalist, biologists, environmentalists and nature conservationist to witness the great biodiversity of the largest and most unspoiled island in the Greater Antilles.

Cuba’s diverse wildlife stems from its unique natural history. Cuba was not originally in the Caribbean Sea but in the Pacific Ocean, where the island was situated 100 million years ago, before the forces of continental drift slowly brought it into the Caribbean. As the island migrated over the ages, an astonishing variety of life arrived by air, sea, and possibly by land bridges that may have once existed. Over time, these animals adapted to their new environment.

This isolation has contributed to an extraordinary high rate of biodiversity and endemism. Cuba, the largest island in the Greater Antilles, boats about 350 species of birds, 21 of those birds are endemic to the island, including the smallest bird in the world: the Bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae). Cuba is also a major stopover for migratory waterfowl birds.

Endemic bird species include the Cuban Tody (Todus multicolor), the Cuban Green Woodpecker (Xiphidiopicus percussus), the Cuban Parakeet (Aratinga euops), the Blue-headed Quail-dove (Starnoenas cyanocephala), the Cuban Gnatcatcher (Polioptila lembeyei), the Zapata Wren (Ferminia cerverai), the Zapata Sparrow (Torreornis inexpectata), the Cuban Crab Hawk (Buteogallus gundlachii), the Bare-legged Owl or Cuban Screech-owl (Gymnoglaux lawrencii) and the Zapata Rail (Cyanolimnas cerverai).

Cuba, with its mix of Spanish and African roots, is the largest, least commercialized, and most exciting island in the Caribbean. It is also one of the world's last bastions of communism with a fascinating modern history. Cuba's relative political isolation has prevented it from being overrun by tourists, and locals are sincerely friendly to those who do venture in.

Please, check the day-by-day itinerary below. Welcome Aboard!

Cuba Bird Watching Tour
Highlights & Quick Facts

  • Travel to UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Sierra del Rosario.

  • Explore Cuba's premier eco-community, Las Terrazas.

  • Bird Wacthing in La Guira National Park.

  • Soroa’s Orchid Garden, created by Cuban naturalist Camacho.

  • Relax by Soroa Waterfall or go bird watching!

  • Travel to UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Peninsula de Zapata.

  • Bird Watching exploration in Las Salinas Wildlife Refuge.

  • Birding expedition to Hatos de Jicarita.

  • Bird Watching in Topes de Collantes National Park.

  • Lecture on Cuban endemic birds by renowned Cuban birders.

  • Guided tour of UNESCO Heritage Site, Havana Historical Centre.

  • Guided tour of UNESCO World Heritage Site, Trinidad.

  • Travel UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sugar Mill Valley.

US Professors

United States of America Schools for Resource and Environmental Studies, Wildlife Conservation, Earth and Marine Sciences and others can organize a for-credit structured educational and research program to Cuba under a General License. Under such a program professors, students and staff can travel to Cuba legally to conduct research on resource and environmental issues as well s wildlife conservation.

Authentic Cuba Travel specializes in working with US Schools and Universities in creating custom-made structured courses and educational field trips to Cuba that meet the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Cuba travel regulations, while also meeting the learning goals and the needs of your university or school.
Cuba's nature displays the smallest of a number of animals, such as the tiny frog Monte Iberia Dwarf Eleuth (Eleutherodactylus iberia) only 0.3 inches long and exclusively found in some mountainous regions of eastern Cuba; the butterfly bat (Natalus lepidus), which is only 7 inches from wingtips and weighs just a couple of grams; and the endangered zunzuncito or bee humming bird (Mellisuga helenae) roughly 3 inches long. There is also a dwarf scorpion (Microtityus fundorai) between 0.3 and 0.7 inches long among males.
Soroa’s Orchid Garden, created by Cuban naturalist and lawyer Tomás Felipe Camacho, features a collection of 250 orchids endemic to the island, and over 700 from around the world, along with numerous species of exotic plants that thrive here thanks to the local climate. Today, there is also an Orchid Research Center belonging to the University of Pinar del Río.
La Guira, natural habitat to bird species such as the Cuban Solitaire (Myadestes elisabeth), Cuban Bullfinch (Melopyrrha nigra), Great Lizard Cuco (Saurothera merlini), Cuban Toddy (T. multicolour), Olive-capped warbler (Endroica pityophila), Green woodpecker (Picus viridis), Gundlachs hawk (Accipiter gundlachi) and others.
Four rivers run through the evergreen and semi-deciduous tropical forest of UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Sierra del Rosario, natural habitat to one of the world's smallest frogs and more than 115 bird species including a large number of migratory birds that nest in Cuba’s tropical climate.

Peninsula de Zapata Biosphere Reserve contains the largest wetlands in the Caribbean with blue-water beaches, forests, rivers, lakes, flooded caverns. Natural habitat to the Cuban crocodile, the jutia and 175 bird species.
Las Salinas Wildlife Refuge, unique Cuban site for bird watching where two continental corridors of migratory birds coincide. Natural habitat to several bird species such as Roseate Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber), Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis), Roseate, Yellow-headed Warbler (Teretistris fernandinae), Spoonbill (Ajaia ajaja), Clapper Rail (Rallus longirostris), Common Black Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus) and many others.
Topes de Collantes National Park in the Escambray mountains in Central Cuba. A perfect place for encountering the Cuban Emerald (Chlorostilbon ricordii), Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus), Fernandina’s Flicker (Colaptes fernandinae), Cuban Parrot (Amazono leucocephala), and others.

Day 1. Thursday 29 December 2016. Hello Cuba

Map Cuba Nature Tour Arrival at "Jose Marti" International Airport in Cuba's capital city.

Meet your Cuban tour guide and bus driver.

Private transfer to your hotel Tryp Habana Libre located at Vedado Disctrict, the cultural center of Havana City.

Group check-in.

Breakfast is complimentary from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

For bird watchers, Cuba is by far the most important island in the Caribbean and it is much the best place from which to build a knowledge of the Caribbean’s special birds.

Day 2. Friday 30 December 2016. Explore "Cuba's Rainbow" Soroa

Morning: visit to the Museum of Natural History Felipe Poey located at The University of Havana. The museum displays the collection on endemic species brought together by eminent Cuban scientist Felipe Poey during the 19th century. The exhibit includes specimens of the world’s smallest bird, an extinct pigeon and indigenous Cuban birds!

Introduction to the program and lecture on Cuban endemic birds by Cuban Professor from University of Havana.

Followed by guided walking tour of Old Havana, UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Visit to San Francisco Square, one of the oldest in the historical quarter.

Visit to Plaza Vieja, the only civic square of colonial times. Notice it doesn't have a church or government building around. Here we will visit important institution for visual arts.

Lunch at La Mina restaurant.

Afternoon: visit to Square of Arms, ancient military parade ground for Spanish soldiers and surrounded by impressive buildings such as:

Palacio de los Capitanes Generales was the former seat of colonial government. Today the building houses the Museum of the City.

Palacio del Segundo Cabo, the seat of the second authority of the island.

Castillo de la Real Fuerza. The second oldest fortress built by the Spaniards in the West Indies. The castle was recently renovated and reopened in June 2008 to hold the impressive maritime museum. Well laid out exhibits chart Spain and Cuba's naval history.

Visit to the Cathedral Square, the most beautiful and private 18th century colonial plaza of Cuba, named after the masterpiece of Cuban baroque architecture: the Cathedral of Havana built by the Jesuit order.

Free time in the famous handicraft market of Old Havana where you can purchase all sorts of crafts and souvenirs by local artisans.

Drive along the Malecón, Havana’s famous waterfront, on our way to Soroa in Pinar del Rio province. Check-in at hotel Villa Soroa.

Dinner at the hotel.

Day 3. Saturday 31 December 2016. La Guira National Park

Early departure for La Guira National Park.

Once a huge privately owned state, this area is preserved now as a national park that protects over 21,850 hectares and offers picturesque valleys and hidden caves.

Bird watching session in La Guira National Park.

We’ll be looking for the Cuban Solitaire (Myadestes elisabeth), Cuban Bullfinch (Melopyrrha nigra), Great Lizard Cuco (Saurothera merlini), Cuban Toddy (T. multicolour), Olive-capped warbler (Endroica pityophila), Green woodpecker (Picus viridis), Gundlachs hawk (Accipiter gundlachi) and others.

Packed lunch.

Afternoon: visit to Soroa’s Orchid Garden, created by Cuban naturalist Camacho. The Garden features a collection of 250 orchids endemic to the island, and over 700 from around the world, along with numerous species of exotic plants that thrive here thanks to the local climate. Today, there is also an Orchid Research Center belonging to the University of Pinar del Rio.

Relax by Soroa Waterfall. Soroa is often called "the rainbow of Cuba" because at certain hours, it is possible to observe a small Rainbow at the waterfall as the sunlight defuses through the mist.

Evening: celebrate New Year’s Eve at a venue of your choosing tonight (optional/ not included in tour costs). Your tour guide will give you advice on the numerous venues in the city where you can partake in the celebrations for New Year’s Eve. He will also help you book your favourite dinner and event. Your hotel tour desk can also help with booking events for this special night where one more anniversary of the Cuba Revolution is also celebrated.

Day 4. Sunday 1 January 2017. Soroa- Las Terrazas- Peninzula de Zapata

Morning: visit to Las Terrazas eco-community in Sierra del Rosario, first UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Cuba.

Four rivers run through the evergreen and semi-deciduous tropical forest of Sierra del Rosario, natural habitat to one of the world's smallest frogs and more than 115 bird species including a large number of migratory birds that nest in Cuba’s tropical climate.

We will be looking for:

Cuban Trogon (Priotelus temnurus), the national bird of Cuba, Red-legged Honeycreeper (Cyanerpes cyaneus), Gundlachs hawk (Accipiter gundlachi) and others. Later we visit the ruins of a French Coffee Plantation built in 1801 where we will have lunch.

Afternoon: transfer to Peninsula de Zapata National Park, declared UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and Ramsar Site, located in the southern coast of the island.

It covers an area of 5000 square kilometres of woods and seacoast vegetation, marsh and mangroves. The park is the natural home to over 160 bird species and 900 varieties of higher plant families. It is also a favourite stop for tens of thousands of migratory birds!

This is the habitat of endemic bird species such as the Zapata Rail (Cyanolimnas cerverai), the Zapata Wren (Ferminia cerverai) and Zapata Sparrow (Torreornis inexpectata). The swamp is also the natural habitat of the Cuban Crocodile (Crocodrylus rhombifer Cuvier), considered as a national symbol after its resemblance with the geography of the island.

Check in at Villa Playa Larga. Dinner at hotel

Day 5. Monday 2 January 2017. Hatiguanico River

Morning: early breakfast and enjoy a boat ride in Hatiguanico River for observation of typical flora and fauna. Birding expedition to Hatos de Jicarita.

We’ll be looking for:

Zapata Rail (Cyanolimnas cerverai), Zapata Sparrow (Torreornis inexpectata), Zapata Wren (Ferminia cerverai), Bare-legged Owl (Gymnoglaaux lawrencii), Bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae) (the smallest bird in the world), Blue-headed Quail Dove (Starnoenas cyanoce) and others.

Lunch at Fiesta Campesina.

Visit to Guama Crocodile Breeding Farm, that has successfully bred one of the largest reptiles of Cuba since 1974: the Cuban Crocodile (Crocodrylus rhombifer Cuvier), considered an endangered specie that can be found at the Zapata Swamps and Lanier Swamps only.

The Cuban Crocodile (Crocodrylus rhombifer Cuvier) is one of the two most aggressive species of crocodiles in the world and endemic to Cuba.

Return to your hotel. Time for a go snorkelling in the warm waters of the Caribbean.

Day 6 Tuesday 3 January 2017. Las Salinas- Trinidad

Day excursion to Las Salinas Wildlife Refuge, unique Cuban site for birdwatching where two continental corridors of migratory birds coincide.

UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Peninsula de Zapata, is the largest protected area in the Caribbean. There are numerous areas designated for environmental conservation, such as the Zapata Swamp Natural Reserve and Las Salinas Wildlife Refuge.

The swamp is not only known for its size but also for being the best preserved wetlands in all of the Antilles, designated as a "Wetland of International Importance" by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in 1971.

We will be looking for the Roseate Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber), Sand hill Crane (Grus canadensis), Yellow-headed Warbler (Teretistris fernandinae), Spoonbill (Ajaia ajaja), Clapper Rail (Rallus longirostris), Common Black Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus) and others.

Packed lunch.

Afternoon: we journey on to the historic city of Trinidad.

Guided walking tour of UNESCO World Heritage Site, Trinidad’s Historical Center, a perfect relic of the early days of the Spanish colony with beautifully preserved streets and buildings with hardly a trace of the 20th century anywhere.

We will stop at a mirador (lookout) over the Sugar Mill Valley, where the sugar barons used to have their countryside mansions and mills. This site is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Trinidad is well known for its pottery makers. We meet with a family that has been passing the tradition for generations: the Santanders.

Check in at all-inclusive Trinidad del Mar Beach Resort. You'll have time for dinner and a swim in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea.

Day 7. Wednesday 4 January 2017. Topes de Collantes- Havana

Morning: we will board former Russian army trucks for Topes de Collantes in the Escambray Mountain Range, Cuba's second highest mountain range- reaching 3,700 feet atop Pico San Juan. The mountains are home to small mountain villages and are a delight for birders and walkers alike. Slopes are swathed in Caribbean pines, ancient tree ferns, bamboo, and eucalyptus.

Bird watching session along Curva de Juana trail, visit to Javira Reserve and El Cubano park.

Topes de Collantes National Park in the Escambray mountains in Central Cuba is a perfect place for encountering the Cuban Emerald (Chlorostilbon ricordii), Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus), Cuban Parrot (Amazono leucocephala), Fernandina’s Flicker (Colaptes fernandinae)…

Lunch at El Cubano restaurant.

Afternoon: transfer back to Havana city. Check in at your hotel Habana Libre hotel.

Day 8. Thursday 5 January 2017. Departure

Early morning departure to Havana City International Airport for departure.
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