Cuba
Educational Programs
 
 
  Comments  & Testimonials From Participants
  "The most important element of this program has to be the cultural exchange.  Cuba has a rich culture. Our outdated political differences provide such a distorted view of the country. By sharing a meal with real Cubans, observing the genuine love and concern for their children, their commitment to education, artistic traditions, baseball on the streets, immaculate small farms in Pinar del Rio, a visitor cannot help but come away with a desire to resolve the political issues and establish normal ties with these people.  An IBF-style visit to Cuba helps us Americans understand the people better. As more Americans come to appreciate the Cuban culture, and as the Cuban people meet more American visitors in a spirit of friendship, we will collectively find a way to a better future."
Ron H.

I really like the idea of using local guides and small group structure because it just made everything more personal. I didn't feel like a tourist, I felt like a welcome cousin with Pedro as our guide. We behaved well and the people enjoyed interacting with us. As someone who lives in a tourist destination, there's nothing more disheartening than seeing a busload of tourists unloading into the streets. I liked meeting people at hospitals, the orphanage and at the various homes where we stayed. It was very valuable to learn what people think."
Donna P.

"Some of the cabins were beyond rustic, there were no toilet seats, and there were more potholes than road... but, and this is a BIG 'but':  the Cuban hosts were wonderful...    Pedro & David. Click to enlarge

"Thanks to Pedro, Craig, Alfredo, and Dave for helping us have a great adventure."
Nita S.

Pedro (the guide) ran out of water so we stopped off at a farming collective house and asked for water. The lady who gave us water acted like she was an old friend or sister. We had a nice conversation. People here are so warm and friendly and hospitable. You have a sense that the whole country really is your family. I don't know if this experience could happen in the USA at some strangers house. I think socialism has given the people in Cuba a greater sense of family... The food here is so incredibly good. I think I might actually gain weight."
Victor O. (Victor's 1998 Cuba Journal, Victor's 1999 Cuba Journal, Victor's 2001 Cuba Journal)

"Pedro, the guide, was superb. Very easy going, despite a gaggle of Americans sometimes acting like Americans."
Ken H.

"I was one of the lucky few that took the January 25 trip to Cuba with Pedro and with Gerardo serving as translator extraordinaire. I can't say enough good about the trip. It was incredibly enriching and enlightening, not to mention a great vehicle for developing killer thighs. The Cuban people, the variety of experiences we had, the sense that we were not tourists but guests were remarkable. And Pedro did a good job of keeping an itinerary but also being very flexible with group wants and needs."
Lena C

"I really enjoyed the interaction we had with homestay hosts and people in towns...

"From the nation's present political system to its rich history, we experienced Cuban culture first-hand.  Veterans of the Revolution, doctors, school teachers, students and farmers all shared their stories and answered our many questions.  Unfailingly, we were treated with kindness and warmth the likes of which I have rarely found in my other travels.

"IBF makes a conscious effort not to deplete Cuba of its tradition and culture or to contribute to the deterioration of the environment....  I cannot recommend this organization and its tours enough.  The pre-departure information is incredibly thorough.  As a first-time cycle tourist, I had many questions, all of which were patiently answered.  The tours are well organized and have a great balance of cultural study and enjoyment."
Becky D.

"Riding in the country: gorgeous! Staying in private houses was wonderful."
Valerie G.

"The Cuban bike trip was one of the most incredible things I have ever done. It was a wonderful combination of bike trip and learn about Cuba trip. The people were warm wonderful and helpful. I would love to do it again and would tell everyone they should go. Thanks."
Ann R.

"I realized I'd forgotten to let you know how the Pinar Del Rio Cuba trip went for me. I may have put this off simply because I dreaded searching the English language to find enough superlatives to let you know just what a fantastic trip it was. I haven't had such a good and interesting time since my wife and I went around the world 8 years ago!

"It worked on so many levels. The group was, for the most part, a good one.  The Cubans we met were exceedingly friendly, and had no animosity toward me as a US citizen. Pedro, Nurkya, Claudia, and Alfredo were the best tour guides and goodwill ambassadors you could ask for. The political, cultural, and historical angles were a daily source of mind-bending wonderment. And, of course, the cycling, through the beautiful Southeast Asia-like countryside and the colonial splendor of Havana, was far better than I could have imagined.

"When you're on or off a bicycle, waving and talking to schoolchildren, farmers, cyclists, and other folks from every walk of life, it doesn't get more "people-to-people" than that!"
Victor C.

"In the past, I have been on many organized bike rides; ranging from fund raisers such as AIDS ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, Cycle Oregon, and an organized ride cycling Saigon to Hue.  All of these trips were centered around cycling.  What made the Cuba trip so special was the fact that biking was secondary.  It was only a means of transportation.

"The Cuba trip was much more cultural.  The visits to orphanages, schools. doctor's offices, in the city and countryside, brought the trip to a level I never experienced before on any of my previous bicycling journeys.  Stopping in cottage industries one moment and then organized industries such as rum making and a cigar factory made the trip educational.  Finally, attending a baseball game in the stadium where the Baltimore Orioles played, followed the next evening by attending the National Ballet made this trip far more cultural than any bike trip I've enjoyed in 15 years of participating in these endeavors."
Fred G. (after Pinar del Rio)

"Another great experience in Cuba. You got so lucky with Pedro!  That guy is the extra margin in those trips. Patience of Job and treats every person the same.  Watch the positive responses you are going to get from this group; Which was much more diverse than the group I went with last year.  Everything went well! I particularly like the contrasts from Pinar. The trips are different with the undercurrent the same!"
Fred G (after El Corazon de Cuba)

"I have never had a more interesting and enjoyable vacation."
James B.

"Just a note of thanks for the work that your organization afforded me in visiting Cuba. Pedro did an outstanding  and very professional job. All of my expectations and more were met.  I cannot say enough good about him . He exhibited a great sense of intelligence, organization as well as telling an occasional good joke."
Chris S.

"I learned much about Cuba -- especially since I'm old enough to remember Castro's coming to power, Che's death, the Bay of Pigs, etc.  It was good to learn about the progress the country has made."
Ann W.

"Educational opportunities: Wonderful.  Always more than I could absorb.  Makes me want to read and learn more about Cuba."
Lynn G.

"The trip was excellent. Pedro is the organization and he is a marvelous host. The group was terrific as well. Your point about this being primarily a "cultural" experience and a biking experience secondarily was on the mark. Many thanks for doing this as I would never even have considered going to Cuba for any reason other than the availability of this program."
Ed K.

"The juxtaposition of the cultural varieties of the tour tweaked my emotional brain. Going from a Cuban peso eatery and miles of remote roadway to a Caribbean beach resort complete with pool and palapa bar is more than stretching from extremes of physical comfort. I think this showed us the contradiction of Cuba at it’s finest.

"The pace was perfect for me. Although I'm physically fit, I hadn't been cycling much before the trip (winter makes it difficult!) I loved cycling through the variety of landscapes and terrains. I seldom felt like I wanted more but it never felt like too much!"
Melanie M.

"It was nice to have the opportunity to talk with many different Cubans about their country and ours.  I learned a lot about Cuban history and Cuban people.  I came home wanting to learn more."
Lynda O.

"I thoroughly enjoyed the program in Cuba.  It was a big experience that will remain with me the rest of my life.  I was fascinated by the people, the culture, the social/political/economic structure.  Our Cuban leaders and assistants welcomed us and watched over us -- they are very dear people.

"I had first had experiences that give me insight to the American-Cuban  political arena.  People are wonderful -- governments are bureaucratic and brutal."
Diana C.

"It was all wonderful.  The opportunity to see the country, see the cultural and educational locations and events, interact with the people.  Just a beautiful experience.  I still think about it often and long to go back."
Gary F.

"...The exchanges continued long after the program was over. Last year, my daughter's kindergarten class received letters from the children at the school in Vinales. Last week, I sent the two teachers two small packages of books and school supplies (due to postal regs, I couldn't send more than 64 ounces at a time)."
Victor C. (from a note a year after he returned from Cuba)

"In a nutshell, the experience was perfect and far exceeded expectations."
Jeff S.

"[The best part of the program was] the way in which Pedro was open to comments and meeting our needs for cultural exchange.... It was the best cultural bike trip that I have been on, and I have been on cycling trips throughout the world...  I want to return to Cuba through your trips.  I am a professor at ********* University, and would like to take a group of students along as well.  My area of expertise is the Third World, and I found Cuba to be the most educational experience that I have ever had in the Third World. "
Craig A.

"[There were] many opportunities to learn, especially to get another view about Cuba. Thought going to the Bay of Pigs museum was great and very educational. Liked to spontaneous stop at the primary school."
Gail F.

"I wanted to tell you how VERY GREAT the program was!  Truly, better than I could have expected, and I'm ready to do the Santiago program next year.  Good tour, Pedro is an excellent guide, and nice, small group."
Barbara K.

"I enjoyed riding through the cities and observing the people and their lifestyles.  Staying in the homes and visiting the school was great. (The people-to-people activities) were the best part of the experience."
Curt H

"I've been selling other friends of mine on going on this program because I feel it's really good for Americans to see how other people live. It's kind of a wake up call."
John E.

"Best vacation ever. Got to see real day-to-day living.  Everyone got a lot more education about Cuba's systems, priorities, etc.  It was very impressive and enlightening.  We really got into places we couldn't have seen on our own.  It's a great package. Thanks for being there making these opportunities available."
Karen S. #1

"Having been to Havana two times before, it was nice to see the real Cuba."
Jeff F.

"I loved that there was a balance of ... educational/social activities (meeting with a local “Communist”, talks with Pedro and others in the community about Socialism, visiting the school and orphanage), physical activities (biking, of course), and cultural activities (finding local food, going to local stores, enjoying local entertainment).

"The educational opportunities were excellent:  We visited the school and orphanage, and talked with the local communist about the political system. In addition, we saw how cigars were made, we visited the local consultorio (doctor), talked with a local woman about woman’s issues, and Pedro patiently answered any and all questions we had. I think he provided a balanced perspective, telling us that what he said was his opinion, and that some Cuban people disagreed with him.

"The cross-cultural / people-to-people experiences were excellent. Much of the cross cultural/people-to-people experiences happened by accident just biking through the country: getting whistled at by the men, watching Pedro give spare change to a mentally disabled man, being offered help when I was looking for something, and watching Cubans make suggestions not to advance their own cause, but to make sure we were doing what was best for us.

"Pedro, was a terrific guide. He answered all questions we had, was well organized, patient, had a good sense of humor, and provided structure while remaining flexible based on what we wanted/needed as a group. I found it well organized, I had a lot of fun, and I felt safe at all times."
Karen S. #2

"The trip was fantastic!"
Jenny S.

"It was a fabulous way for me to return to my home land. As a sculptor and Cuban American I am finally beginning to make sense of the trip and will begin to exhibit an installation called Cuban Journal" in June of 2004. Your program was a great inspiration and I wanted to thank you."
Ana F.

"Pedro is great.  He alone makes the program worthwhile.  He is intelligent and can look at issues from different cultural and political perspectives.  Alfredo was also excellent. Great team who helped make the trip a success."
Marc S.

"We really enjoyed our interactions with Cubans. Pedro was a fantastic guide and gave us a real feel for Cuban culture!"
Heath S.

"The program was really organized.  The pre-trip information was perfect. I knew exactly what to expect. Had a great time and always felt safe.  Thanks for putting together a wonderful program. It was a great experience and one that I will recommend to others."
Suzanna S.

"What was the best part of the program? Hmmm, really hard to answer. I very much enjoyed our home stays. Cuban people are lovely - warm, gracious, and fun. All the interactions were very positive. I've never taken a bike trip before. I found that I really enjoyed the pedaling (especially when someone else fixed my flats!) and loved seeing the countryside that way. There aren't many places I would go back to (mostly because there are so many places to see), but I would go on another ibike trip to a different part of the country."
Sharon Z.

"I just returned on Friday from Cuba and "WOW" is the best way to describe our trip. It was just fabulous with everything going extremely smooth. In spite of really cold weather for Cuba, the group really enjoyed each other and the beautiful country.

"Again, Pedro and his driver Alfredo exceeded all expectations. He did everything possible to make the entire group feel welcomed and comfortable. He outdid himself. The rooms were available and meals went without a hitch. It was also very comforting to know that Alfredo was "back there" behind you to pick you up if things went poorly. ( He did by the way fix approx. 8 flat tires - no one ever got their hands dirty - wasn't that nice of him?)

"These two guys really work well together. The educational part of the trip was really great - we had a meeting with a communist hard liner who was very open to "all" of our questions. It was enlightening.

"Our donations were handled by Pedro with care both for the recipients and the givers. He gently guided the process so as to respect the dignity of both parties.

"Whenever one of us had a questions that was not answered during our education sessions we would just ride up next to Pedro on the bike and he would very carefully and completely answer our questions, always making sure that we understand that this was just his opinion. What a great teacher.

"I wasn't happy just seeing a cigar factory so one night Pedro came up to me and said he had arranged a special meeting at a cigar rollers home where we could ask questions and actually "roll" our own. It was a special night. Another time, we wanted to go to a baseball game so he untiringly asked until we discovered it was impossible to see a game. In the hotel we stayed at their happened to be two baseball teams staying so he handled being sure we got all the autographs, caps and shirts that we could handle. He didn't have to go that extra mile but he always did.

"You have a special guide in Pedro."
David M., Chuck Y. and Daniel H.

"I thought the balance of the trip was great.  I loved the meetings at night.  Talked with a friend of mine who went on as trip with a different group than Atenas de Cuba and he was jealous that we learned so much."
Ellen C.

"[The best part was the] topics of discussion and subsequent experiences in the community (i.e. learning about the health care system in Cuba and having the opportunity to visit clinics or learning about the role of women in Cuba and then being able to talk to several women about there experience and there are many more examples).  Also, most of the cycling was very pretty."
Margie C.

"Everything about this was interesting.  Lots of educational opportunities...  Never have any trouble coming back to the U.S.A."
Pat K. (five time participant)

"REALLY like time spent with families. I am a teacher and find it very educational... and heart warming."
Ron Z.

"I learned so much on so many levels: Cuban politics, spirituality, geography, culture, history and got to speak Spanish for two weeks!  Pedro is the best guide I've ever had on any of my several walking / biking tours."
Mary Ann H. (two time participant)

"(The best part of the program is) meeting people and becoming friends with them. People who have the same interest as you (biking.) I love the people in Cuba. They do not have much but they're happy."
Pat K.

"Please keep up your good work.  In this age of blatant media and government misinformation, your trips help remove false barriers between people and help make the world smaller, friendlier and a less feared place to live in.  Thank You."
Bin B.

"The experience in Cuba was very special, and the camaraderie and friendships that were developed during the trip will travel with me for a lifetime."
Anne Z.

"Great to stay in homes. Talked with lots of folks on the street. Saw so many different types of people, places.  I think biking and people-to-people style is the perfect way to travel in Cuba."
Barbara L.

From an evaluation form asking for "Comments on the educational opportunities:"
"Might be tough to pack more in."
Ken W.

"What a great trip. Thanks for putting it together. The food and facilities were certainly better than I had anticipated, and I can't give enough praise to Pedro for the job that he performed in setting things up and actually overseeing the whole ride."
Bill L.

"It was just the kind of trip I love."
Rick H.

"[The cross-cultural / people-to-people experience was] probably the highlight of the trip whole trip.  The constant contact with the Cuban people made this a very special experience.  I learned a great deal about Cuba that I would not have been able to pick up if I traveled on my own."
Floyd K.

Greetings and a huge belated thank you for the providing my husband and I with the best bicycle trip of our lives. Everything about it surpassed our expectations, and Pedro and company were fantastic. We had the best group of people ever. I enjoyed incredible bicycling in probably the only place in the world where people actually kindly share the road. Staying in the people's homes made the trip even more special. It was sad on the plane to hear visitors with other groups who had actually met no real people! I do wonder though, why Eldertrek can have a license, but not your group."
Mrs. and Mr. R.

"I will take this opportunity to tell you that the last trip was absolutely great. Pedro has learned a lot and is doing a great job in explaining the what is going on in Cuba and having good discussion meetings in the evening."
Shana S.

"Enjoyed speaking and listening to all the people we met.  I really enjoyed visiting the small rural grade school."
Lee T.

"I think the visit to one of the rural clinics and the chat with the doctor and his dentist wife was a high point for everyone."
Tom S.

"Loved Cuba, trip was educational, fun and a good value."
Rich V.

"We did much and saw a lot and learned quite a bit about Cuba and experienced Cuba from the other perspective. Pedro was right up there addressing our needs and answering our questions. It was actually more than I expected. Thanks again. Do you offer other tours to other countries?"
John C.

"[Educational opportunities were] one of the best parts of the program.   Among historical sites and museums, Pedro had us visit a clinic, a school, and a farm.   I really liked being about to hear these people talk about their perspective on their jobs and how the system works.  We had as much contact with Cubans as we wanted.   Many were eager to talk with us to hear where we came from, what we thought.   With our helmets, we looked really different and as we rode through the countryside, many people called out greetings, especially children."
Patti P.

"Pedro did a great job explaining the Cuban way of life."
Megan O.

"We have nothing to say except wonderful things about our recent trip. Pedro is the best and the experience was nothing short of sterling not to mention deeply humane. Three years ago we visited Cuba with a health education mission and got an intellectual introduction to the bundle of contradictions that is Cuba. This time we got a much more earthy, gritty personal experience which helped a lot to fill in the reality of Cuba today. Our group was small with unique personalities, but Pedro kept us all together and perking for the two weeks with good feeling all around, I believe. As he says, "I have the heart of a socialist and the brain of a capitalist." He's good."
James H.

" It surpassed my expectations, a quality experience for relatively little money.  I felt like a welcomed guest in Cuba, not an intruder. I learned a great deal about Cuba that I would not have been able to pick up if I traveled on my own.  The [people-to-people experience was the] highlight of the whole trip. The constant contact with the Cuban people made this a very special experience."
Floor K.

"The home stays were the best. Only 2 nights were spent in a hotel. We discussed a variety of issues with our hosts."
Jürgen D

"You will never know how much I appreciated those trips, and they occurred in a time of my life at an age of reflection. I know, I know, I do not have to say it. BUT THANKS."
Fred G. (Multi-program participant)

"This was an awesome trip for me. I love the program you've put together, and your philosophy of travel. Thanks for letting me join in at the last minute and all you gave of yourself."
Kathy S.

"Best vacation ever. Pedro and interacting with the owners of the casa particulars and the other Cubans was the highlight. I especially like the farm and school we visited. Staying in the casa particulars made a big difference in the trip, as opposed to staying in hotels. Also our experience with the different types of vehicles for our transportation was more enjoyable than being limited to one charter bus."
Sally W.

"The best part of the program is Pedro's considerable abilities in several areas; customer service, contacts, language, hard work, experience, sensitivity, sense of humor, honesty, intelligence, language skills, more :) . The farm was on highlight, but there were others."
David W.

 

 
Tour Main Page About this tour Route map of Pinar del Rio
Pinar de Rio Map
Route map of El Corazon de Cuba
El Corazon de Cuba Map
Route map of La Cuna del Espiritu Cubano
La Cuna del Espiritu Cubano Map

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