Summer 2018 Applications Accepted Starting October 1st Notify Me

How can Cuba economically “globalize” without becoming culturally “Americanized?"
Days: 14 • Group Size: 8 • Ages: 15 - 18
June 23 - July 6 Full
July 22 - August 4 Full
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Cuba: Preserving Culture, Sustaining Community

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Cuba Summer Program

Is it legal to travel to Cuba and what does the new US State Department Advisory mean for travel to Cuba?

Cuba. Once the Caribbean’s most prosperous island, a vibrant cultural history combined with decades of isolation and the legacy of communism has created a destination unlike anywhere else on the planet. Ask a Cuban about their relationship with the past and they will tell you, “It’s complicated.” You have to be there to even start to comprehend Cuba. And now is the time to do it, while Cuba is in “transition” and a new era of post-Soviet cooperation between the US and Cuba is unfolding.

In this Sustainable Summer Program…

  • You’ll learn about Cuba’s fascinating cultural and political history
  • You’ll interact with the Cuban people daily
  • You’ll dance and sing and get caught up in the magic of Cuba’s arts scene

Your Sustainable Summer experience will span from Havana’s old town to the colonial cities of Trinidad and Cienfuegos and to the verdant countryside of rural Cuba, where farming communities and ecologically important reserves blend seamlessly into the colorful cultural landscape.

Our Cuba summer program is ideal for high school students with a strong interest in environmental sustainability, and particularly those who are curious to understand how Cuba can integrate into the global economy while still preserving its rich cultural history. The program has a special emphasis on cultural sustainability and questions of economic justice, and is a great option for students that have an interest in the creative arts and the issue of cultural preservation in the face of global economic forces, in addition to those interested in our more “typical” themes connected to human-environment interaction.

Not sure if this is the right option for you? Use our Compare Programs page to help you assess which Sustainable Summer is the best fit for your interests and comfort zone.


Explore La Habana

Cuba's enchanting capital where new meets old like nowhere else in the world


Cuban sustainable agricultural practices and culinary traditions in a 5-day farming and cooking apprenticeship


the self-sufficient communities and cascading waterfalls in rural Cuba

2018 Facilitators *

Josh Frye Photo

Joshua Frye

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Haley Ross

Haley Ross

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Cuba Testimonials

Andrea had an incredible experience with SS this summer… Life changing from what I can tell and all for the good! She continues to be in touch with others from the group and I hope she will maintain those ties! There is special “chemistry” that happens when people travel and experience something like SS together. […]

  Connie,  parent from Ipswich, MA

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More On Cuba...

Core Curriculum & Program Components

Much More Than A Tour

Amazing destination? Check. Fun and authentic experiences? Absolutely. A smart, down-to-earth group of like-minded teens? Yup. An awesome itinerary and first-in-class lodging are just the start. Our programs prepare teens to become environmental leaders through a collaborative, multidisciplinary, challenge-based learning approach.

Field Studies
How can Cuba economically “globalize” without becoming culturally “Americanized?" This essential question guides our experience studying sustainability in . Participants – through discussions, workshops, site visits, and fieldwork – will investigate sustainability with the understanding that truly sustainable solutions take into account not only the environment, but also the people, culture and economy of a given place.
21st Century Leadership
A “global citizen” is someone who identifies with being part of an emerging world community and whose actions contribute to building global values and practices. Frugality, integrity, humility, and cultural awareness guide our mission in creating the next generation of environmental leaders and responsible global citizens. Instead of a "leadership" curriculum, we infuse our program with activities that develop global citizenship in our students.
Developing Lifelong Skills
Challenge-based learning is a collaborative learning experience in which educators and students work together to learn about compelling issues, propose solutions to real problems, and take action. This unique approach asks students to reflect on their learning and the impact of their actions and publish their solutions to a worldwide audience. This component takes many forms on the program - including team-building challenges, natural and cultural exploration, case studies, site visits, interactions or lessons with local experts, cultural exchanges, service projects, and formal opportunities for student leadership. The goal of this challenge-based learning approach is the development of lifelong skills that help create economic, social, or cultural value.

Program Tuition

Each program has a tiered tuition rate: standard (full tuition), tuition assistance (80% of tuition), or scholarship (15 - 70% of tuition).

How It Works

$ 3695
  • This represents a 20% reduction of the standard course fee. Participants at this tuition rate cover only their direct participation costs, including lodging, meals, activities, in-country staff and transportation, and support for local projects. Participation at this level is based on the honor system. It is available to all families - no documentation required. We simply ask families to honestly consider their financial resources and ability to pay the full tuition rate.
$ 675 - 3145
  • Additional scholarship funding is available for students that are unable to participate at either of the other rates. Scholarship participants receive a 30 - 85% reduction of the standard course fee. Due to the limited availability of scholarship funds, a separate application is required, including a parent financial statement and recent tax return.

What's Included


in casas particulares (Cuban guest houses)


3 meals daily while in-country. Local cuisine, served family-style, is on order most days. Dietary restrictions can typically be accommodated.

Immersive Activities

Guided activities, from the adventurous to the cultural, are a regular part of the itinerary.

Dynamic Learning Opportunities

Place-based. Interactive. Fun. Our programs prepare teens to become environmental leaders.

Ground Transportation

Once in country, all travel will be by private coach when we are traveling any significant distance, although we may occasionally use other transport when traveling locally. This can range from a cattle truck to the local bus. Traveling like a local is part of the experience!

2 Full-Time Professional Facilitators

Our international field team includes returned Peace Corps volunteers, college professors, seasoned wilderness guides, sustainability graduate students, and similar.

Pre-Program Materials and Support

Students and parents receive comprehensive and prompt pre-program support.

Not Included

Tuition does not include round trip airfare from Miami (see Flights section below for more info), 25 CUC (approximately $28 USD) airport departure tax, or tourist visa ($85 USD). Personal expenses such as laundry, snacks, souvenirs, and internet or international phone calls, and other incidentals are also not included.


We designate an international group flight for students. Students traveling to Cuba are expected to travel on this flight, which we arrange for the group. Very detailed travel and booking instructions will be provided to all participants upon enrollment. We provide the below information as a courtesy to prospective families for planning purposes.

Our designated round trip group flight:

Escort On Outbound Flight Only

Outbound Flight

Miami (MIA)
Santa Clara (SNU)

Return Flight

Havana (HAV)
Miami (MIA)


  • Do not make any flight reservations until explicitly directed by Sustainable Summer. Enrolled families - please check your MySummer account for more information. This is the only source of completely accurate and up-to-date information about our flight logistics.
  • There will be a staff escort only on the outbound flight from Miami, not the return.
  • Students typically arrive in MIA the day of the outbound flight to Cuba, but we can also arrange a hotel stay for the night prior if needed.

14-Day Itinerary

  • Arrival in Trinidad Cuba

    We'll arrive into the Santa Clara airport, a short 1-hour flight from Miami and a 2-hour drive to a hostel in the Topes de Collantes national park, near the coastal colonial town of Trinidad. We like to start our programs out with a bit of adventure and this is the staging point for a mini-expedition into the nature reserve the next day.

    Day 1
  • Topes de Collantes
    We’ll go on a one-night camping trip in the Topes de Collante national park. Taking just the essentials with us, we’ll hike with local naturalists to learn about endemic species and herbal remedies; visit a coffee farm to see Cuba's agricultural system in action; and then - with the help of our guides - set up camp and dine al fresco under the starts. Day 2
  • Waterfalls and Weaving
    We’ll start the day with fresh-brewed coffee and breakfast at our campsite and then a hike to a nearby waterfall, before returning to our first night's hostel where we'll retrieve our luggage, and then continue on to the colonial town of Trinidad, check into our casas particulares, and get cleaned up after our camping adventure.

    Casa Particulares are similar to a bed and breakfast in the US and are both an example of the growing role of private enterprise in Cuba as well as a wonderful opportunity to interact closely with Cuban families. In Trinidad students will be housed in a single large casa but at other points during the program we'll house students in two gender-segregated casas on the same block with one of our staff in each home.

    After getting settled into our new home and becoming acquainted with our hosts, we’ll visit a museum, a factory where workers weave, and other parts of town to examine the role of tourism as the primary driver of the local economy.

    The next day we’ll continue our focus on the role of tourism in the Cuban economy through interactions with local people. For instance, at a lunch with an artists' collective we'll learn about the (un)availability of materials and subsequent creative and improvisational methods that artists have developed. Dinner at a paladare following by dancing at the Casa de la Musica to finish out an incredible two days in Trinidad.

    Day 3 & 4
  • The Bay of Pigs, Fish Cave, and Arrival in Havana

    Travel to Havana. On the way, we’ll visit the Bay of Pigs museum for insight into Cuba's official narrative and values. We’ll also stop for a swim and snorkel at Fish Cave, a cenote that connects underground with the sea. Upon arrival in Havana we’ll check into our casas for our time in Havana.

    We'll end the day with an evening excursion to the Cuban Art Factory, a public/private partnership, to better understand the new Cuban economy.

    Day 5
  • La Habana Vieja

    Havana is a magical place that combines old world charm with the vibrance of Cuban culture. We’ll visit four of the five historic plazas containing the largest collection of remaining colonial-era architecture in the Western hemisphere and then meet with representatives of Grupo de Desarrollo Integral de la Ciudad (City's Integral Development Group) for a presentation on Planning, Restoration, and Urbanization in Old Havana. In the afternoon, we'll meet a small state-supported women's choir and an independent dance company. Evening cooking class with the incredible Chef Yamilet. We'll also enjoy a post-dinner walk along Havana's Malecon, the waterfront that is a hub of local life.

    Day 6
  • Vedado

    Day in the Vedado neighborhood with visits to residential areas and hotel/casinos representative of Cuba prior to the Revolution, and a meeting with Cuban entrepreneurs to understand the rise of small private businesses in Cuba including a bakery/cafe and an auto garage. We'll also visit a ration store and a public/private produce market. Evening at the Fabrica de Arte, one of the best cultural spots in La Havana where these is theater, jazz, contemporary dance, concerts, DJ's, art exhibitions, and more.

    Day 7
  • Farm Stay in Vinales
    We’ll travel west to Vinales, in the rural Pinar del Rio province, to Finca Paraiso for a 5-night farm stay. We’ll stop in Las Terrazas, a farming community and a model for self-sufficiency and sustainability on our way. Cuba's farms and other creative self-reliance measures were essential for survival during the "special" period that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s and Cuba's economic isolation from the rest of the world. We'll spend four full days on the farm, studying sustainable agriculture production during the day and learning about Cuban cuisine in the evenings in cooking classes, with progressions in both disciplines designed to build upon skills learned in previous sessions. On our final full day in Vinales, we’ll go on a horseback ride through the countryside, a verdant landscape of lush green punctuated by stunning karst rock formations, which gives this area a much deserved reputation as one of Cuba’s most beautiful places. Day 8 - 12
  • Return to Havana

    Cuba's urban farms and other creative sustainability measures were essential for survival during the "special" period that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s and Cuba's economic isolation from the rest of the world. Returning to Havana, we'll stop for the morning at an urban organic farm on the outskirts of Havana, learning about the farm, and helping to prepare a farm to table lunch.

    With just one final night in Cuba, we'll enjoy a great meal and some live music before settling in to our casa to reflect on our experience and have our closing ceremony.

    Day 13
  • Departure
    Flight home to Miami. Day 14
  • An Important Note About Itinerary Changes

    Sustainable Summer reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the program itinerary. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in weather or road conditions; to take advantage of a new activity or unscheduled opportunity (such as a local festival or event); to accommodate the health needs of an individual participant; or due to changes in activities or schedules of our local partners and providers.

    The itinerary shown here is based on previous programs and the anticipated day-to-day activities for this program. However, as with any travel experience, some changes may occur.