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'Selfdrive Birdwatching in Cuba'

What makes this trip special?

Forest birds

Forest birds

Soroa

Surrounded by the Sierra del Rosario, Soroa's forested areas are home to amongst others Cuban Vireo, Cuban Pygmy Owl, Great Lizard-Cuckoo and a selection of warblers.

Highland birds

Highland birds

La Guira National Park

An interesting birdwatching area of semi-decidious tropical forest, with two specialities being found quite easily, the near-endemic Olive-capped Warbler and the endemic Cuban Solitaire.

Coastal birds and rare endemics

Coastal birds and rare endemics

Zapata

Often described as the top birdwatching site in Cuba, this area of mangrove, thick scrub, forest & coastal habitat is home to the Zapata endemics; Zapata Wren, Zapata Sparrow and Zapata Rail.

Open forests and palm groves

Open forests and palm groves

Sierra Najasa

Sierra Najasa is the region to look for two hard to find endemics: Giant Kingbird and Cuban Palm Crow.

Birds of the Coral Keys

Birds of the Coral Keys

Cayo Coco

Coral cays reached by a causeway, with low islands, mangroves and litoral habitats, are home to the endemic subspecies of Thick-billed Vireo, Mangrove Cuckoo and Bahama Mockingbird.

Day-by-day itinerary for 'Selfdrive Birdwatching in Cuba'

DAY 1

Havana

You are met on arrival at Havana airport and transferred to the splendid Hotel Nacional set in gardens overlooking the sea in Havana’s Vedado district for one night.

DAY 2
BLD

Soroa

You might step out for some early morning birding in the gardens or along the seafront before you pick up your hire car and drive west into the countryside to arrive at Soroa in plenty of time to spend most of the afternoon birdwatching.

DAY 3
BLD

In the morning you would bird the forest near Soroa looking for your first Cuban Vireo, Cuban Pygmy Owl, Great Lizard-Cuckoo and a selection of warblers including the lovely Black- throated Blue and Black-throated Green Warblers. There is the chance to see Ruddy, and possibly Grey-headed, Quail Dove. Lunch at Soroa. Driving westwards into the limestone hills, you might target Cueva de los Portales, the cave that was Ché’s base during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. As well as being an excellent spot for swifts there can be good chances of finding Cuban Solitaire. Continue to your hotel, El Mirador at San Diego de los Baños, for 2 nights.

DAY 4
BLD

La Güira National Park

La Güira National Park will be your main birding area today. It’s an important reserve that protects some of the best and most productive forests on the island, mostly broadleaf forest, but with areas of pine descending to the coast. In a very enjoyable day’s birding you should find the Cuban Trogon, Cuban Tody, and Cuban Emerald (one of just two hummingbirds on Cuba) and a good number of others. The hotel will provide a box lunch.

DAY 5
BD

Zapata

Time to head round to Cuba’s Caribbean coast by a choice of routes, each of 5-6 hours on the road, to reach the Zapata area. If you time it well you should have some productive birding in the early part of the day, and arrive in time for a late afternoon session.

DAY 6
BD

Three full days of birding in and around Zapata - the richest area for birds in Cuba, and arguably the entire Caribbean. The Cienega de Zapata National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and Ramsar site, protects a range of habitats from semi-deciduous forest down to coastal mangroves. Birding opportunities are really excellent, ranging from the world’s smallest bird - the Bee Hummingbird - to Great Flamingo. The impressive Gundlach’s Hawk is a speciality of the forest here. The park’s swamps are home to rare Zapata Wren, which you may well get, and supposedly the Zapata Rail, which you certainly won’t. There are many others. Bring insect repellent. La Salina and Santo Tomás in Zapata National Park are good sites, and there are several others in the vicinity, such as the trails around Playa Larga and Playa Girón, Jicarita cattle ranch where Zapata Rails have been claimed, Palpite, Soplillar for Fernandina’s Flicker, Montemar NP which is home to wintering American warblers such as Black-throated Blue, Black and White, Magnolia and Palm Warblers and American Redstart and ‘Cueva de los Peces’ restaurant for Blue-headed Quail Dove, Ovenbird, Northern Parula, Bermejas. You’re going to be busy.

DAY 7
BD

Birding in and around Zapata NP.

DAY 8
BD

Birding in and around Zapata NP.

DAY 9
BD

Sierra Najasa

Today you drive to Sierra Najasa, a well-regarded birding destination, via Camagüey. Depending how your journey goes you may manage some late afternoon to dusk birding on arrival.

DAY 10
BLD

With an early start you can hope to see the threatened Cuban Palm Crow among the Cuban Crows in a nearby palm grove and forest, along with other uncommon or rare species such as Plain Pigeon, Rose-throated Parrot and Cuban Parakeets. This area of forest akin to those on Hispaniola is home to the rare West Indian Whistling Duck and Masked Duck along with Cuban Martins. There is a chance to see Northern Crested-Caracara and Limpkin. You can also look for the very uncommon Cuban Grassquit and the rare Giant Kingbird. Another busy day with lots to look for.

DAY 11
BD

Cayo Coco

Leaving Najasa you drive to the north coast, taking a causeway on to the beautiful Cayo Coco for three nights. You’ll be based in an all-inclusive resort, venturing out to explore coral cays, mangroves and mixed littoral habitats to find a wonderful mixture of birds along this lovely coast.

DAY 12
AI

In the wooded habitats you can find Cuban Gnatcatcher, Bahama Mockingbird and Thick-billed Vireo along with Key West Quail-Dove and a whole host of other species. In the more open areas you can relax and watch an abundance of wetland species including Reddish Egrets, a pink haze of American Flamingos, Tricoloured Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, White Ibis and Roseate Spoonbill. These are often accompanied by an odd variety of more familiar species such as Red-breasted Merganser, Merlin, Clapper Rail, Ring-billed Gull, Caspian and Sandwich Terns, Belted Kingfisher, Prairie Warbler and Yellow Warbler.

DAY 13
AI

Birding at Cayo Coco.

DAY 14
B

Havana

Sadly you are turning back to Havana today, where you deposit your car and check into the historic Hotel Nacional for your final night on the island. You could break the long journey at Santa Clara to visit Ché’s mausoleum and the Tren Blindado.

DAY 15
B

Your morning is free to relax on the Nacional’s terrace over the Malecón, explore the sights of Vedado, or we can arrange a guided walking tour of Old Havana for you at extra cost. By mid-afternoon you will be transferred to Havana airport for your international flight home.

Guide prices for 'Selfdrive Birdwatching in Cuba'

options based on all year low season mid season high season peak season other season
2 people 2 people sharing
Prices are per person and include:
  • Cuba visas
  • airport transfers
  • all accommodation
  • hire car from Day 2 to Day 14 incl,
  • meals where specified, B = breakfast, L=lunch, D= dinner
Prices do not include:
  • international flights
  • travel insurance
  • airport and departure taxes
  • items of a personal nature such as drinks, tips, laundry, etc

Customer reviews for 'Selfdrive Birdwatching in Cuba'

Recent reviews are shown here from holidays based on this initial design. In each case the itinerary may have been modified (a little or a lot) to suit the individual traveller.

Average

Seasonal information for 'Selfdrive Birdwatching in Cuba'

Along this route in January

Day Location Max °C Monthly rainfall

Typical weather for January

rainchart

Max °C figures are the average daily maximum temperatures for the month. Rainfall is the average precipitation for the month.

Hotels for 'Selfdrive Birdwatching in Cuba'

Day 1

Hotel Nacional, Havana

rating

Average rating 4.1 (48 ratings)

The historic Hotel Nacional, a short taxi ride away from Old Havana and overlooking Havana's seafront Malecón, has enjoyed the patronage of many distinguished guests in its time, Winston Churchill and Franklyn Roosevelt to name but two. There is oodles of atmosphere and the hotel is always lively. It has a lovely terrace and gardens overlooking the Malecón - a great place for that evening mojito. This is a hotel to watch people and it is a meeting place for Cubans doing business with non-Cubans. The rooms are standard business hotel type rooms but the majestic lobby and regal gardens add a certain frisson.

Hotel Nacional, Havana
Day 2

Hotel Horizontes Villa Soroa

Villa Soroa

Hotel Soroa is located in Pinar del Río, the westernmost province of Cuba, surrounded by the spectacular Sierra del Rosario, defined since 1984 as  a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.  Only 75 km from the City of Havana, Hotel Soroa provides an attractive and yet relaxing environment for nature lovers, from bird watchers to trekkers and horse riding. Close to the Hotel, there is a 21-meter waterfall and the largest orhidarium and orchid gardens in the country, with over 700 varieties of orchids. From here you will be able to visit old coffee plantations originally owned by French settlers that fled to Cuba from the Haitian Revolution over 200 years ago.

Hotel Horizontes Villa Soroa
Days 3 - 4

El Mirador, San Diego de los Banos

This is a pleasant, modest hotel in a practical location for touring and birdwatching in the Pinar del Rio area.  Rooms are small with air-conditioning and also de-humidifiers that the Cubans themselves tend not to switch on, which means that people think the rooms are damp! There is a restaurant and also a bar patio area and swimming pool. Cubans visit San Diego for the mud therapy treatments and non-resident locals are allowed to use the hotel's swimming pool which can make it bustling with people particularly at weekends. A good opportunity to watch Cubans at play. In the lush hills and therefore more humid than the surrounding plains. Good base for birding at La Guira.

El Mirador, San Diego de los Banos
Days 5 - 8

Playa Larga, Zapata

This hotel is adequate and the nearest and preferred hotel for birders wishing to visit the Zapata National Park. There is also good snorkelling here.

41 rooms in small bungalows with bathroom, sitting room, fridge, tv and hot water. There are also 8 family bungalows of 2 bedrooms. The hotel has a swimming pool, tennis courts, scuba diving centre and restaurant.

Playa Larga, Zapata
Days 9 - 10

Finca La Belen

This is our birders' preferred choice when birding at Sierra Najasa. The accommodation is simple but pleasant with two rooms each having one queen-sized bed. Home cooking and right where the birds are. NB The photo is a compliation of various similar properties in rural Cuba. We hear the property has been recently extended to add more rooms and is possibly not as attractive and comfortable as previously experienced.

Finca La Belen
Days 11 - 13

Tryp Cayo Coco

Cayo Coco

The Tryp Cayo Coco All Inclusive Resort is in the northern keys off the coast of the province of Ciego de Avila, one of the richest natural environments in the country, caught between a spectacular lagoon and an extensive beach-lined coast. The hotel has excellent amenities and very comfortable accommodation.

It is suitable for families particularly if they have been touring and would like a beach break that would please the children. Rooms are available for 3 adults + 1 child or 2 adults with 2 children. We use this hotel for our birders, as this is the hotel they prefer for birding in the cays.

Tryp Cayo Coco
Day 14

Hotel Nacional, Havana

rating

Average rating 4.1 (48 ratings)

The historic Hotel Nacional, a short taxi ride away from Old Havana and overlooking Havana's seafront Malecón, has enjoyed the patronage of many distinguished guests in its time, Winston Churchill and Franklyn Roosevelt to name but two. There is oodles of atmosphere and the hotel is always lively. It has a lovely terrace and gardens overlooking the Malecón - a great place for that evening mojito. This is a hotel to watch people and it is a meeting place for Cubans doing business with non-Cubans. The rooms are standard business hotel type rooms but the majestic lobby and regal gardens add a certain frisson.

Hotel Nacional, Havana