Cuba Photo Workshop Adventure
with Juan Pons and Rick Sammon
March 8 - 17, 2020
March 2 - 11, 2021
Cuba the "Forbidden Fruit"
Cuba is a country infused with passion, culture, and above all, the bond of family. All of these elements create a dream setting for photography unmatched anywhere in the world. This 10 day (9 night) workshop in Cuba will provide you with a truly authentic opportunity to connect with the people, culture and landscape of Cuba.
Although Cuba is changing quickly, Cubans strong sense of culture and community present is the foundation upon which daily life revolves. During this workshop we will experience a large variety of unique and truly engaging photo opportunities unmatched anywhere else. From the timeworn but striking architecture, to the classic cars that course their way thru Havana, to the mountainous region of Viñales, the Ciénaga de Zapata National Park and the charming town of Trinidad (a UNESCO World Heritage) this will be a workshop with a truly stunning variety of photo opportunities.
Yes, Travel to Cuba is still permitted for US travelers. We have the know-how and the permits to make this a legal and safe travel adventure for you. We will get to Cuba by taking a short commercial flight from Miami, it is that easy.
What sets my Cuba Workshop apart
I am originally from Puerto Rico and my first language is spanish. Cuban and Puerto Rican culture share a special affinity towards each other, as a Cuban friend of mine told me once “Cuba and Puerto Rico are two wings of the same bird”. Over the half dozen trips I have made leading photo workshops in Cuba I have made and cultured many strong friendships and developed a knowledge of our destinations like few have. On this custom workshop I have selected the absolute best destinations based on my years of experience in Cuba. Rest assured you will not be disappointed with this trip.
What to expect
My workshops are pretty intense, and as such you should not expect this to be a leisurely vacation. My goal is to capture the best images we can during our trip. What this means is that our days are long, typically starting before dawn and ending after sunset. However, we typically will take a long lunch to rest and recuperate.
Within 2 working days of registering and placing a deposit for the workshop you will receive a confirmation email. Within a few weeks you will receive the travel details you need to book your airfare to and from Cuba. I will then be emailing you periodically with any pertinent information about the workshop, including checklists for clothing and gear to bring.
About 2 to 3 months prior to the workshop, you then start hearing from me on a more regular basis. At that point I will provide you with detailed lodging and contact information, go over more details of the workshop and get you excited and thinking about the images you want to capture during the workshop. At this time you will also receive from me a list of recommended clothing, equipment and even discounts for equipment you may want to acquire for this once on a lifetime trip.
About a month before the commencement of the workshop you will receive a call from me to go over any details and answer any other questions you may have.
Keep in mind that I am always available to answer any questions you may have leading up to the workshop.
Tuition for the workshop is $6,995.00 USD for double occupancy per person, all inclusive.
If you would like a single room this is an option for an additional fee of $800. There are a limited number of single rooms so please make sure to sign up quickly if you want this option.
If you would like to reserve your spot on this workshop you can do so with a $2,995.00 USD deposit. The balance of the workshop fee ($4,000) is due December 1st 2019.
What is Included
• All Lodging
• All Meals
• All Gratuities
• Ground Transportation
• Water in the vehicles at all times
• All permits & fees
• A great time
What is NOT Included
• Alcoholic Drinks
• Airfare to Miami and Cuba - I will be sending you detailed information on flights. The flight to and from Cuba is inexpensive, less than $300 round trip.
The Fine Print
• You are responsible for making your own flight arrangements to and from Cuba. Don't worry, I will help you with flight arrival times and departures
• Deposit is fully refundable up until December 1st, 2019
• No refunds after December 2nd, 2019
Detailed Itinerary in Cuba
Day 1 • Sunday, March 8
Arrival to Havana (pending flight info).
Meet your local guide at the exit of the terminal, change money, use bathroom and board bus to Pinar del Rio.
Arrive to Viñales. Considered by many to be the most beautiful place in Cuba, the Viñales Valley National Monument holds stunning landscapes. The area is also famous for being the premier tobacco growing area in the world.
Check-in at bed and breakfasts, known as “casas particulares,” or “private homes.” Since the 1990s Cuban families have been permitted to rent rooms out of their family homes to foreigners. Featuring comfortable accommodations and ample privacy, it’s a great way to interact with everyday Cubans.
Welcome dinner with your host family at your local bed and breakfast.
Day 2 • Monday, March 9
Sunrise photo walk at the Plaza.
Photos at the lookout at hotel Los Jasmines offering a panoramic view of the beautiful valley and the unique Mogotes that surround it.
Visit the home of Benito, a local tobacco farmer who will teach us about the cultivation and production process, followed by a rolling demo. He might even light up a cigar or two for the group.
Enjoy a farm-to-table experience on the grounds of a local farm, Finca Paraiso Agroecologica (the agroecological Paradise Farm), where we will learn about Cuban agriculture and tobacco production, while indulging in an organic meal.
Spend the afternoon in Viñales, ultimately winding up at Los Jasmines hotel for an afternoon photo shoot.
Depart for Havana. Stop for sandwiches en route.
Arrive in Havana. Check-in at the Hotel Parque Central, Trip Advisor’s selection as the best hotel in Havana. Located on the corner of Central Park and along Prado Boulevard, the hotel is just steps from the Capitol building, the Great Theatre and the famous Obispo Street.
Day 3 • Tuesday, March 10
Sunrise photo shoot at Morro Castle. Today we will take the bus to Morro Castle, where we can get a view of the sun rising above the Alamar Housing projects and Eastern Beaches.
Photo walk along Prado Avenue and Havana’s seawall (Malecon). Catch Cubans on their way to work and school, and all the hustle and bustle of the city, followed by breakfast.
Visit to local boxing gym, where we will meet with adult boxers. The first hour should be warmup, sparing and time for some portraits, the second hour should be 5-minute bouts.
Lunch and Photo workshop. At Hotel Parque Central conference room. (Pizza or sandwiches and drinks for lunch)
Walking tour of the Old City. Wander through the Plaza de Armas, a scenic tree-lined plaza formerly at the center of influence in Cuba. It is surrounded by many of the most historic structures in Havana as well as important monuments. See the Plaza de San Francisco, a cobbled plaza surrounded by buildings dating from the 18th century, dominated by the baroque Iglesia and Convento de San Francisco dating from 1719. Visit the Plaza Vieja, surrounded by sumptuous houses of the Havana aristocracy from the 18 th and 19 th centuries. Visit Plaza de la Catedral and the Catedral de San Cristóbal de La Habana.
Dinner at Al Carbon paladar. Created by the owners of the immensely popular Iván y Justo, this new restaurant strikes out in a different but equally successful direction, specializing in traditional Cuban dishes cooked over charcoal.
Day 4 • Wednesday, March 11
Sunrise photo shoot and ride on Old American Cars.We will end up at the Christopher Colon Cemetery, a national monument and one of the oldest and most prestigious cemeteries in Latin America.
Tour and photo shoot at Christopher Colon Cemetery, a national monument and one of the oldest and most prestigious cemeteries in Latin America.
Lunch and discussion with journalist Marc Frank. Author of Cuba Revelations and one of the longest serving foreign correspondent in Cuba, Frank writes for Reuters, the Financial Times and the Economist, and is an authority on the Cuban economy. He will offer insight into important economic, political and social issues on the island and share colorful stories about being a reporter in Cuba. At Hotel Parque Central conference room.
Enjoy a performance by Habana Compás Dance company, which encompasses the rich rhythm and flow of the island, performing traditional and modern dances born from their Spanish, Cuban and Afro-Cuban heritage.
Drinks and sunset photo shoot on the rooftop of La Guarida, famous not only for its delectable dining, but also as the location for the film “Strawberry and Chocolate.” It is housed on the third floor of a large, old town house carrying the charming ambience of the early 1900s.
Dinner at La Guarida Paladar.
Day 5 • Thursday, March 12
Visit a centuries-old mansion in Vedado neighborhood. Step inside this stately residence to discover what lies behind the crumbling facades of Havana’s impressive mansions. Josie, who has lived in the house for over 60 years, will show us around and explain its rich history.
Visit to agricultural market, 19 y B, Vedado to take in the local market, where Cubans buy fruits and vegetables.
Lunch at Mas Habana, a new paladar in Old Havana which has become very popular for its great food and ambiance.
Free time to explore and shoot on your own
(Optional) Take pedestrian ferry across Havana Bay to the community of Regla, a working-class, Afro-Cuban community with a thriving local culture. Regla is especially known for its strong ties to Santería and other Afro-Cuban religions. Explore the town for photo opportunities and visit the shrine to the Virgin of Regla.
Private tour of La Fábrica de Arte Cubano, the country’s most successful art and music venue. Cuba’s top artists and photographers display their work throughout tens of thousands of square feet of wall space. Meet with Enrique Rottenberg, one of Cuba’s premiere photographers and resident artists.
Dinner reservation at Tierra, Havana’s newest international dining spot. Located inside a container in the Fábrica de Arte Cubano, the restaurant mirrors the eclectic crowd, serving dishes from around the world. Calle 26, between Calle 11 and 13, Vedado
Day 6 • Friday, March 13
Early check-out and depart for the Ciénaga de Zapata National Park, to the south of the Matanzas province, it is famous for the Zapata Swamp, home to hundreds of endemic species of animals and plants, and the Bay of Pigs, the place of the invasion in 1961.
Wildlife photo shooting in Zapata with a local specialist guide.
Visit Caleta Buena, located at the entrance of Bay of Pigs, it is a translucent protected cove with superb rock landscapes and abundant undersea life. Shoals of surgeonfish and striped red mullets can be found along the spectacular rocky outcrops, scarcely troubled by the moray eels that have found a home there.
This spot is one of the most accessible and popular snorkeling sites in Cuba.
Enjoy a packed lunch followed by free time.
Continue on to Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its cobble-stoned streets, pastel colored homes and small-town feel. We will stop at the lookout point to capture the sunset along the southern coast of the island.
Arrive to Trinidad. Check-in at a bed and breakfast, Casa Lola. Since the 1990s Cuban families have been permitted to rent rooms out of their family homes to foreigners. Featuring comfortable accommodations and ample privacy, it’s a great way to interact with everyday Cubans.
Group dinner at Casa Lola.
Day 7 • Saturday, March 14
City Sunrise photo shoot. Walk to the highest point of the city to shoot the sun rising over the bell towers and colonial homes of historic Trinidad.
Breakfast discussion with Nancy Benítez, a local architect, historian and restoration specialist. Ms. Benitez will provide an overview of the city’s history from an architectural, economic and infrastructural point of view.
Visit to the city’s historic houses with a local expert. Families will allow us throughout the homes, where we can snap photos of a number of antiques from the 1950s and well beyond.
Lunch at Sol Ananda, situated in one of the town’s oldest houses (dating from 1750) it tackles an ambitious cross-section of global food from traditional Cuban (excellent lamb ropa vieja) to South Asian (fish kofta and samosas).
Afternoon free to explore and shoot - photo walk to catch the sunset.
Group dinner at Casa Lola.
Day 8 • Sunday, March 15
Head to Playa Ancon for sunrise.
Visit to the archeological site San Isidro de los Destiladeros, near the city of Trinidad, it was a typical sugar plantation, operated with slave labor in the late 18 th and early 19 th centuries. Remnants of this thriving and historically underappreciated industrial heritage survive: an impressive owner's house, three-story tower, cistern, main sugar factory, ancillary buildings, and dikes. Almost all are in ruins or in imminent danger of collapse. We will discuss about sugar cane in Cuba and slavery.
Stop at the Lookout on the way back to Trinidad.
Enjoy lunch at Paladar San José, a private restaurant with a diverse menu featuring everything from lobster to pizza.
Photo walk around Trinidad’s town.
Group dinner at Casa Lola.
Day 9 • Monday, March 16
Check-out and return to Havana
Along the way, visit Cienfuegos, one of the country’s oldest and most beautiful cities. Often referred to as the “Pearl of the South,” Cienfuegos is one of Cuba’s only cities to display French and Spanish architecture. Housed on one of the country’s largest bays, the city offers beautiful ocean front landscapes, and is deeply rich in culture.
Photo Walk of Cienfuegos with Omar Valenti who will show us the ins and outs of this beautiful port city.
Lunch at El Lagarto. With views and breezes from the bay of Cienfuegos, the location of El Lagarto is unbeatable. We will be joined by Omar Valenti, a local photographer.
Visit to Castillo de Jagua, a local fishing village located near the entrance to the Bay of Cienfuegos. Explore the area and interact with neighbors.
Continue on to Havana.
Arrival. Check-in at Hotel Parque Central.
Farewell dinner at Grados, a private restaurant defender of the traditional Cuban cuisine and member of the slow food movement. Each dish has a history which is thoughtfully laid out by chef Raulito Bazuk.
Day 10 • Tuesday, March 17
Morning free to explore on your own and take part in activities to support the locals – lunch on own.
Pick up at hotel and transfer to airport.
Visit to La Finca Vigía. Formerly the home of Ernest Hemingway, today it still houses his expansive collection of books. It was here where he wrote two of his most celebrated novels: For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. The beautiful grounds and bizarre tales from Hemingway’s many years in Cuba are captivating.
Continue to airport.
Arrival at Havana Airport. Say farewell to Cuba and your Guide.