Reviews

From Our Travelers

CUBA CANDELA provided travel services for 137 Harvard students and friends visiting Cuba during Harvard's Spring Break in March 2016.


Going to Cuba is an important life experience. Even when the world impact of the internal changes of Cuba will not be as big as those from the USSR, East Germany or China, Cuba’s current and possibly future reforms are a live laboratory to prove many theories and hypothesis. Anyone interested in government, business, law, education or any other aspects of civilization should find Cuba’s current situation a great place to think about our current state of affairs, where our institutions come from and how important they are. Cuba is also fun, beautiful and exotic. Like all secretive places it is not easy to navigate. CUBA CANDELA proved to be key for the objectives of my trip.
— Roberto Charvel, Harvard Business School Professor

CUBA CANDELA provided the spring break experience of a life-time. While relationships with the US are improving and the country is becoming easier to visit – it is still far from absent of troubles to book and plan individually. CUBA CANDELA abstracted away any of these cumbersome complications and provided such a streamed line and holistic experience of the country, it was a true cultural immersion and a huge amount of fun! Our itinerary covered sights and events in both Havana and Varadero (beautiful beach town). We explored around old Havana, drove in classic cars, visited their cigar factory, toured Ernest Hemingway’s property, had lunch at an unbelievable finca and the list goes on. Make sure to try a few (or more) authentic mojitos and soak in some sun, buy a painting or two, and chat with the locals! The last part was fascinating as the locals were very open to talk about anything from personal life to politics and I found them very welcoming to the improving relations between our two countries. This is truly a unique time to visit Cuba and I am incredibly happy to have traveled with CUBA CANDELA.”
— Brandon R. (Harvard Business School)

Wow! Cuba is an amazing country! Beautiful scenery, wonderful & warm people in an energetic and vibrant culture found nowhere else. I want to give a HUGE thank you to Chad & Cuba Candela for making this unique experience possible. I had the trip of a lifetime. I definitely recommend others to book their adventure through Cuba Candela. You will not be disappointed!
— Kelly J. (New York City)

Going to Cuba with Cuba Candela was an amazing experience. We drove vintage cars through Havana, danced salsa, and enjoyed a beautiful Caribbean beach. It was everything we could have hoped for and more — truly one of the best Spring Breaks I’ve ever had.
— Jeremy S. (Harvard Law School)

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Cuba, thanks to the work of Chad and the Cuba Candela team. We had a great mix of informative sessions regarding the state of the country and sightseeing at historic locations, with plenty of opportunities to explore the local nightlife mixed in. I considered every minute well worth the time and money invested.
— Andrew S. (Harvard Graduate School of Education)

Cuba is a beautifully contradictory country. The Cuba Candela team made sure that we had a comprehensive experience - we attended talks on politics and health, went to the beach, shopped, and saw all the major sights. It’s an experience I’ll remember forever!
— Shivanee S. (Harvard Graduate School of Education)

Dear Chad, I am writing to thank you for a wonderful experience in Cuba, thank you for opening my eyes to the Caribbean! I will certainly make multiple voyages back!
— Harvard Kennedy School student

My Spring Break trip through Cuba Candela was a great way to see a wide range of aspects of Cuba – from the beaches of Varadero to the bustling streets of old Havana. It was a great opportunity to get a unique view of Cuba today, from learning about how the lifting of the embargo is impacting the economy of Cuba to learning about the history of the revolution and how it led to the current political situation in the nation. This was all balanced with time to experience the day-to-day life of Cuba, from walking along the Malecón (boardwalk) to experiencing local restaurants, bars and clubs. Overall, it was definitely a unique opportunity to see a unique country like no other I’ve visited.
— Patty M. (Harvard Business School)

Outstanding and easy way to access a country previously closed. Good value. An outstanding group of students from other schools to share the experience with.
— Harvard Medical School student

I had an incredible spring break trip in Havana and Varadero as part of Cuba Candela’s inaugural student trip to Cuba. I had a wonderful time and would recommend their service to others looking to visit Cuba and not worry about any legal restrictions or any of the planning. Cuba Candela put together a wonderful itinerary including visiting Old Havana, a Cuban cigar factory, the presidential palace, the home of Ernest Hemingway, farm-to-table meals at local Cuban farms and in the homes of local artists, driving in classic cars, as well as many other great activities. Cuba Candela works with a local tourist agency on the ground and our guide was funny, knowledgeable and a great guide to the city. While in Cuba, be sure to drink many wonderful mojitos and get out at night to the awesome salsa clubs. I found the locals to be very friendly and welcoming and I was happy to visit at such an interesting and important time in US-Cuba relations.
— Sara G. (Harvard Business School)

It was incredible to be able to see Cuba while it was still relatively closed off to Americans. I really cherished the opportunity to learn about their economy and culture from the Cuban perspective, and the people were so warm and friendly
— Archana S. (Harvard College)

I really enjoyed my time in Cuba through Cuba Candela. As the inaugural group to go on this trip, we experienced some challenges and glitches but those were expected due to the size of the group and the first time trip. I loved our guide, through her I became familiar with the nuances of the culture. I also loved the built in free time. The organized activities were nice, especially the visit to the medical clinic and the university, but nothing compared to being able to explore on our own and speak to residents about their lives. People watching there is so much more than observation: Cubans are joyous, full of life and exuberance, so grateful I had the chance to experience Cuba with great friends!
— Dominique D. (Harvard Graduate School of Education)

I had a blast during my Spring Break trip to Cuba through Cuba Candela. Cuba is an amazing place and I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to beat McDonald’s there. It is a timeless beauty and you really feel a sense of old world magic.

While I enjoyed the beautiful beaches of Varadero, and the timeless architecture of old Havana, what I loved most about my trip was the opportunity to learn from the locals. Hearing their perspectives and learning from distinguished guest speakers, it was a truly memorable experience and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to experience it with the Cuba Candela team and my HBS classmates.
— Ching Ching C. (Harvard Business School)

If you’re new at international travel to Cuba, or if you want to find a fun group of people to travel with, Cuba Candela is a great company to make your trip to Havana amazing. Cuba is a beautiful country with extremely kind people—there is so much to see and experience. However, tourism is still developing, so it is a bit difficult to travel to and from Havana without encountering a few missteps, such as delayed flights. This is a normal part of traveling to Cuba. With Cuba Candela, we were able to transform these otherwise unpleasant aspects of the trip into really fun ones. On top of that, we had the opportunity to see and experience everything that Havana and Varadero have to offer without having to worry about planning out each day ourselves—Cuba Candela takes care of any travel and lodging arrangements. Because of this, we didn’t need to worry about where we would be going next and instead could really immerse ourselves in the experience. I had an amazing, unforgettable time and made friends that I know I will stay in contact with for the rest of my life. It was great.
— Alana M. (Harvard Graduate School of Education)

Overall, very positive. Everyone was super friendly and Cuba felt extremely safe. Food was only negative point - wasn’t that different / interesting. Great group of people. Variety in what we saw / did (historical tours, art museum, history museum, beaches).
— Anonymous

Extremely fun engaging experience. Though we had to go on group tour (which I’m not really a fan of when I visit a foreign country) the tours were interesting and engaging, plus we had plenty of free time for us to go explore the city by ourselves so it was great to learn history though a tour and through the locals. Cuban people are really open and easy to talk to.
— Alex H. (Harvard College)

Cuba Candela was an awesome way to experience a country that is otherwise largely inaccessible. I’m not sure I’d want to travel with such a big group all the time but for Cuba it was great. I wish the schedule hadn’t been quite so busy - especially in a hot climate it was punishing at times - but I understand the current embargo rules played a part in this. My tour guide was amazing. Honestly I can’t say enough good things about her. Friendly, knowledgeable, easy to talk to, etc. She worked tirelessly to make sure we had a great trip, even going on above and beyond by booking concert tickets and coming out dancing with us.

I found Cuba to be beautiful and endlessly fascinating. Our guide would answer one question about Cuban life and I’d immediately think of 10 follow up questions. Such a strange and interesting place. For all their economic hardships, the island was shockingly clean and you can tell people take pride in their neighborhood, appearance, and personal belongings.

I was surprised to sense so little resentment toward US citizens. Our tour guide explained that Cubans understand the difference between average citizens and the actions of our government, but I didn’t get the impression they feel negatively towards the gov’t either (though this could be related to Obama’s visit coming right after ours). Contrasted with years of having to pretend you were Canadian when traveling in Europe while Bush was president, this was particularity striking.
— Anonymous

Travel to Cuba is difficult to arrange and the trip was generally well coordinated.
— Anonymous

Cuba is an amazing, beautiful and welcoming country. The people I was able to chat with were super friendly and helpful, and did not seem like they wanted to take advantage of tourists (we’ll see how that changes!). Culture is super interesting and diverse. I would love to learn more about the way Cubans connect (or disconnect) with their African heritage.

I liked getting to talk to Cuban people — our tour guides, professors, young people who attended our dinner, people at local bars and clubs. It was cool to get their unique, diverse and authentic perspectives, rather than to hear it second hand from Americans who visited Cuba.
— Anonymous

The trip was well-planned with opportunities to engage with many industries (health, education, agriculture). Yet, there remained much autonomy for us to be able to engage with locals more deeply if we choose to. It was really helpful to have friends who spoke Spanish who could help translate our conversations and learn more about the local’s experiences in Cuba. Marketing the program in a way that appeals to bilingual students may be more advantageous for Cuba Candela.

I was really taken aback by how friendly and welcoming everyone was! On several occasions, a door on a street was open, and when asked where we were from and upon hearing our responses be “USA”, the doors opened even wider. We were allowed to step into a few living rooms and people were VERY proud to have us there and be able to share their lives and accomplishments with us. It was truly amazing:)

I liked the conversations with our guide the most. She was always able to quickly deconstruct our experiences and debrief much of the context we otherwise wouldn’t have known about many of the places we were visiting and seeing—and not to mention, she was able to give us a local’s perspective on how these systems impact her and her community!
— Whitney H. (Harvard Graduate School of Education)

For me, the highlights of the trip were the salsa lessons on Monday and clubbing in Varadero on Thursday. Salsa dancing is one of the best methods of inducing pure ecstasy on the planet, and I would have been totally okay with mandatory, nightly salsa parties.

I had previously taken salsa lessons in California from an instructor who learned from a Cuban instructor who fled after the revolution, and I remember him repeating ad nauseam that salsa is a reflection of Cuba’s soul – and it is a happy soul.
— Kyle G. (Columbia grad student)

I enjoyed the experiences we had lined up-particularly eating at the specific restaurants throughout the week and visiting the farms. Our tour guide, Yani, was excellent. You want her on the next tour! I found the Cuban people to be very welcoming and warm and curious about the US.

I enjoyed the ability to ask our taxi driver questions about his impressions of the changes between our countries and what life was like for him. 2/3 people in our taxi spoke Spanish, so we were able to have a rich discussion. The walking tour through Havana was nice, as well.
— Anonymous

Cuba is a very interesting place. The people were very welcoming and excited to have us visit. I learned a lot through talking to individuals about their lives. Many people in the tourism industry expressed the fact that they had advanced degrees, but could earn more money through tourism. I had never considered this to be an issue. I actually really did not know too much about Cuba before I went. My history is rather spotty, so visiting contextualized a lot for me and inspired me to want to learn more.

The music was wonderful everywhere we went— although our tour guide had to arrange to see the Buena Vista Social Club, which in my opinion should not be missed as this is quintessentially Cuban! Why was this not part of the tour to begin with?!

The restaurants and food overall were delicious.

I really enjoyed seeing the health clinic as it lent a unique lens into one element of Cuba that is very unique compared to other countries.
— Anonymous