DANCE IN CUBA! (December '16)

Ramon Ramos Alayo
  • Email address verified
10 reviews
Dec 15 - 29, 2016
Group size: 5-25
DANCE IN CUBA! (December '16)

Ramon Ramos Alayo
  • Email address verified
10 reviews

Deposit: $800
Dec 15 - 29, 2016
Group size: 5-25

About this trip

Join “Dance in Cuba” for an unforgettable travel experience, hosted by Ramon Ramos Alayo, Amy Draizen, Yismari Ramos Tellez, Susana Arenas and Amara T. Smith. Some of the best dance teachers in the Bay Area will join with some of the best dancers in Cuba for a dynamic cuban dance workshop. You will also enjoy great sightseeing, go on local excursions, and experience immersion into traditional Cuban culture. We will spend one week in Havana, and one week in the picturesque city of Santiago de Cuba.


The program features daily workshops in popular and folkloric Cuban dance styles, taught by master teachers from celebrated dance companies. Each day will begin with three hours of classes. Popular dance styles will include Salsa, Rueda de Casino, Cha Cha Cha, Mambo, Son, and Rumba. Folkloric dance styles will include Afro-Cuban, Yoruba, Afro-Cuban Haitian, and Drumming. All levels of dancers are welcome.

Afternoons will be spent sight-seeing in the city or in the surrounding area, with possible excursions to destinations such as the beach, museums, or a tobacco farm. There will also be plenty of free time so you can explore the wonders of these diverse cities as you please.


Evenings we will dine in some of the great restaurants and paladars, and then venture out to enjoy the plentiful and colorful nightlife, whether that is live salsa music and dancing, a dance or music performance, or just a walk along the legendary malecón. 

You will also have the option to take excursions outside of the city: in Havana we will go to the magnificent region of Pinar del Rio, and in Santiago we will go to the famed El Cobre Cathedral. Both outings are optional, but provide wonderful opportunities to see more of this magical island!


Perhaps best of all, in each city, you will meet local Cubans, make friends, and enjoy a traditional Cuban party hosted by our local teachers to experience authentic food, music, dance, and allegría “a lo cubano.” A gosar!!

We look forward to having you join us in December for “Dance in Cuba!”

General Schedule:

December 15 - Leave from San Francisco

December 16 - Arrive in Havana
December 17 - 18 - Dance classes in Havana 
December 19 - Trip to Pinar del Rio (opt) / Dance Classes in Havana
December 20-21 - Dance classes in Havana

December 22 - Drive from Havana to Santiago 

December 23 - 24 - Dance classes in Santiago
December 25 - Tour of Santiago/El Cobre / Free Day 

December 26 - 28 - Dance Classes in Santiago
December 29 - Fly to San Francisco

This program has been qualified for legal entry to Cuba.Trip costs:
$2735 double room / $3015 single room

One week option, either Santiago or Havana: $1975.

** IMPORTANT UPDATE!!**  WE WILL NOW FLY DIRECTLY FROM SAN FRANCISCO, FOR JUST $300 MORE!! If you are staying for just one week, the rate for the RT is $500. 

What this means: Instead of getting ourselves to Miami independently, and flying together from there, the group will now leave together from San Francisco, and will be booked all the way to Cuba. For this convenience have added an additional $300 to the trip price. (a great deal!!) ($500 if you are only staying for one week.) We will book the trip, get all tickets, visas, licenses, etc. You just show up at SFO!! And, since we will be flying directly to Cuba, no need for a hotel room in Miami (another savings!) Please check the $300/500 travel option on the payment page. 

Registration closes November 15th. Advance registration is required and enrollment is limited to 25 people. A non-refundable deposit of $800 is required to register, book flights and visa arrangements. Full amount to be paid by November 25th, 2016, by cash or credit card.

Travelers who wish to extend their stay may do so for a $100 administrative fee.

For further details or questions, please contact:

What’s included

Round trip airfare from San Francisco to Cuba (please add $300 to price listed,) accommodations, two meals a day, local transportation, house parties, and all dance classes.

Not included

additional outings and excursions, nightlife (admission to clubs, etc), private dance lessons, gratuities.

Before You Go


- We will be flying from San Francisco on Thursday, December 15th, at either 9:30 or 10:30 pm. Some travelers will go through Fort Lauderdale, others will go through JFK and then direct to Havana. 

- We will provide you with all the necessary visas, paperwork, etc. prior to travel.

- Expect an airport departure tax of $25. (One time fee, no need to pay upon return)

- Each traveler is allowed 2 bags weighing a maximum 50 pounds each. The first checked bag is $20, the second is $35. 

- Our return flight will be on Thursday, December 29th to San Francisco.


- In Cuba we will be using CUCs, (pronounced “kooks” or “say-oo-says”) which is essentially money for tourists; Cubans use a different currency - cuban pesos. 

- Cash only!! US Credit cards are not accepted yet, and there are no ATM's. It is useful to bring money in larger denominations ($100’s are good.) 

- Please bring $500 to change upon arrival. The official rate is 87 CUC/dollar. (ie. $100 USD = 87 CUCs) but we may be able to get you 90 CUC’s/dollar. After that, you can change money as needed.

- How much to bring? Suggested amount is $1500. If you plan to purchase art or other more expensive items, you’ll need to bring more. You’ll want to budget what you bring carefully, since there is no easy way to get more!!

- What will you need money for? Lunches, water, taxis/buses, going out at night to clubs or concerts, private lessons, gifts, rum! But most important, please bring enough money to tip the wonderful dance teachers who will be making your trip so special. We will be dancing with two separate companies, one in Havana and one in Santiago, and you will want to tip them both. Thank you in advance for your generosity.

Paying for our Cuban friends/teachers: Most Cubans do not have any dispensable income, so if you want to go out with your Cuban friends and teachers, expect to pay their way. ($5-25 entrance at a club, plus drinks, maybe a cab home…) On at least some of the nights you can decide as a group to treat the teachers and all share the expense. They will be very appreciative of the opportunity to go out with you, and you will get to have some of the best dancers in Cuba to dance with. It’s a win-win!! It is a good idea, however, to set clear limits when you invite someone out about what you are willing to pay for, so there are no surprises at the end of the evening.


- We will be staying in casa particulares, which are private homes, similar to bed & breakfasts. Each room will have air conditioning and a bathroom. Shared rooms will have at least two beds. Casa particulares are a more authentic way to experience Cuba, and you will be able to get to know the families who house you.

- In Havana we will be staying in Central Havana (Centro Habana), a colorful neighborhood just blocks from the Parque Central, The Capitolio, Havana Vieja, the Malecon, Casa de la Musica, the museums, and many other sites. You can walk almost everywhere!

- In Santiago we will be staying in the historical center of Santiago de Cuba, near the Plaza de Marte, which served as a parade grounds for military ceremonies and slave auctions during colonial times. Today it is the center of important social and cultural activities. From there you can access all the city’s most important spots: Heredia Street, Casa de la Trova (House of Traditional Cuban Music), museums such as the Museum of Rum, the Carnival Museum, the Museum of Poet José María Heredia and the Ambientación Museum. 


- Laundry is usually available at the casas for a small fee. Well worth it!!


- Breakfasts and dinners are provided. We will most likely eat breakfasts in our individual casas, and eat together at one central casa in the evening. The food is very good, and usually consists of rice and beans, some sort of meat/fish/chicken, salad, and a starch such as potatoes, yucca, or plantains. They can usually accommodate some special requests (ie vegetarian options.) Breakfasts will be between 8-9, and dinner will be at 7pm. Everyone needs to eat at the same time; our wonderful hosts cannot be expected to serve several different meals! If you won’t be there at the agreed upon dinner time, you will have to make your own arrangements.

-There is now a proliferation of really good restaurants, many of them “paladares,” or in-home restaurants, authorized to serve food to tourists.  

- Only drink bottled water! You can buy water at any nearby market, where it is about 1 CUC for a 1-liter bottle. Make sure to have a bottle with you at all times, and keep some extra bottles in your room. If you’re not sure, it is ok to ask if food has been prepared with purified (or boiled) water.

- Rum!! It is delicious and cheap! (You will have to decide whether you prefer Havana Club or Ron de Santiago!) Best to buy at the local markets. And yes, you are allowed to bring it back with you!


- We will have three hours of class a day. We will leave for the theater at 9am, and have classes from 9:30 - 1pm. They are high energy and fun, so pace yourself accordingly!

- Classes will be a variety of folkloric, rumba, Cuban-Haitian, as well as popular dance including cha cha cha, mambo, etc. The final class of each day will be salsa.

- As a group, we can decide which classes to focus on each day.

- We will divide into levels when appropriate.

- If you would like to explore a particular genre further, you can arrange for private lessons with the teachers for $20/hour. 

-Don't forget to bring water, and hydrate!!


- We will provide transportation to and from the airport, to class on the first day (after that we can walk!), for selected outings, and of course for the trip to Santiago! The bus will be comfortable, air-conditioned, with a bathroom, and plenty of room for you to stretch out.

- Taxis are generally available in town, and essentially every car is a potential ride! Be sure to ask how much the ride will be first, and negotiate a price if there is no meter.

- There are buses as well. Ask Ramon for the best options. 


- There is now fairly accessible internet in Cuba, although it will be slow! In Havana, all the hotels will have internet. Hotel Parque Central, about 3 blocks from our casas, has a comfortable business center that usually has open computers. In Santiago, Hotel Libertad will have a few computers available. The Hotel Melia Santiago (near to the Teatro Heredia where we will be dancing) has the nicest air-conditioned computer center. 

- You will usually need to purchase an internet card for about $6-15 for one hour of computer time. You can purchase from the hotel, or search for a better deal and buy on the street. We will also have some internet cards available for purchase. 

- You can now find “hot spots” around the city, and will see people on their phones in the parks!

- You can use your Verizon phone in Cuba, (but not AT&T!) 

- To call the US from Cuba, it is a good idea to have an international calling plan in place that includes Cuba. You can also purchase a pre-paid phone card for about $2/minute for use in public pay phones.

- Outlets are the same as in the USA so you can use electric devices.

- Bring extra batteries if you might need replacements.


- It will be hot, so dress accordingly!! Bring summery dresses, shorts, sandals, etc. You will want to wear as little as possible! 

- Bring workout/dancewear for classes. Shorts and lightweight clothing is best. If you have a folkloric skirt you might want to bring it. In some classes you will want to be barefoot, and in others you will want dance sneakers.

- Comfortable shoes for walking are a must.

- Cubans like to dress up for going out at night (especially in Havana) so bring a few fun evening outfits. Most of the time, however, it is fine to go out dressed casually, in shorts and sneakers or flats.

- You will need a sweater for air-conditioned venues and for the bus ride. What you wear on the plane should be enough. 


- A copy of your passport to bring with you when you go out at night

- A folkloric skirt if you have one. (If not, you can purchase one there for $20)

- A small towel to bring to class (we will be sweating!) 

- Washcloths for the room. Bath towels will be provided.

- Sunscreen and bug spray

- All necessary prescription medications, plus a personal supply of Advil, Immodium, Neosporin, band-aids, etc.

- Extra sunglasses, glasses

- Wet wipes, hand sanitizer

- toilet paper or tissues 

- Feminine products - you will be able to find there, but not as high quality

- Ear plugs (could get loud in the city!)

- Snacks: protein bars, nuts, jerky, etc.

- bathing suit

- small umbrella


- Tips will be much appreciated by our hosts, teachers, hotel staff, etc. 

Some gift ideas:

- dance clothes

- chocolates

- new/used electronics, phones, ipods, speakers, computers

- American music cd’s

- American sports paraphernalia, T-shirts, hats, etc

- sunglasses

- cosmetics/ nail polish/ creams

- medicines

- school supplies/markers/books for children (especially in español)

- SF related souvenirs


- Cuba is generally very safe. But, as in most large cities, it is a good idea when walking around to be aware of your surroundings, don’t carry too much money, and travel with a friend.

- Your things will be safe in your room in the casas; someone will be there at all times. Lock your money, passport and return ticket in your suitcase.


- Hot!! There may be occasional rain, so a small umbrella could be useful.

Available Packages

Adult Traveler

Per person charge, for double room. For a single room, please add the supplemental fee below to this amount.

Deposit: $800
One week option

Come for one week in either Havana or Santiago

Deposit: $800
Pre-paid deposit

For people who have already paid their deposit


For Portsha and M

Deposit: $800

Special for you!

Deposit: $800

Adult Traveler
Past Trip


Fly from SF to Miami
December 15
We will leave in the evening on an overnight flight to Florida, where we will connect to our morning flight to Havana.

Your Organizer

Ramon Ramos Alayo
10 reviews
Ramón Ramos Alayo is a Cuban-born dancer, teacher, choreographer and the founder and artistic director of the Alayo Dance Company and CubaCaribe. Ramos was selected by the Cuban government to study dance in Santiago de Cuba at age eleven. In 1990 he earned a masters degree in contemporary and folkloric dance and dance education from Havana’s National School of Art. He was the principal dancer with Danza del Caribe in Santiago and Narciso Medina Contemporary Dance Company in Havana and performed in Cuba, Europe, Canada, Belize and the U.S. Since moving to California in 1997, he has performed with some of the most respected choreographers in the San Francisco Bay Area. Amy Draizen has been traveling to Cuba to study dance since 2002, and now works with CubaCaribe doing fundraising and events. She is thrilled to be able to share her passion for Cuban music, dance, and culture as Trip Leader for Dance in Cuba.


Thank you Ramon & Amy! I had a wonderful time with the great group of dancers and teachers and family hosts Cuba is a fascinating and beautiful country, very warm and welcoming people. The only problem for me was with lack of internet communication in Santiago and not always knowing when meet up times were. Cheers, Barbara
By Barbara Hunt for Dance in Cuba! Dec 2017 on Jan. 08, 2018
Thank you, Amy and Ramon, for a fulfilling dance trip to Cuba. I couldn't have asked for better instructors, both in Havana and Santiago. Their professionalism and teaching abilities were high quality. The number of drummers we had at each class made for such a powerful immersion. Our accommodations in both locations were very comfortable and in great locations. The food was also delicious. I really appreciated knowing in advance that we could schedule private classes with the teachers and what the rate would be, and then to have the teachers ready and willing to schedule classes on the fly when we were there. They couldn't have been more accommodating to our needs as dance /drum students. This trip is definitely one that can meet the needs of any type of dancer -- from a professional to a social dancer. It is one where you get out of it what you put into it, and what you choose to do with your time there. Amy and Ramon offer a great balance of structure and flexibility, and I deeply appreciated both aspects. Thanks for providing a life-changing dance experience. Cuba is forever a part of my heart. xo
Amazing. Ramon arranges to have very high-quality dance instructors that impart knowledge of the culture and meanings of afro-cuban dance traditions along with teaching us the dances. There are a solid 3 hours of dance class each day, with a mix of folkloric afro-cuban classes along with more popular dances (salsa, rumba, rueda). Also, you get to learn afro-cuban Haitian dances that come from eastern Cuba, a unique opportunity. Importantly, for the popular dance classes we are assigned a professional dance partner to dance with us -- what a treat! They were all amazing dancers and we got to dance with them every day. In addition, this trip attracts a mix of interesting adventurous people who are respectful and open to learning about the Cuban culture. The dance classes end by about noon each day, leaving ample time for participants to explore Havana and Santiago as they wish. Also, Ramon arranges for a local person to be our "guide" ensuring that we figure out practical issues (like exchanging money, getting laundry done, finding cabs, etc.) as well as an artistic/cultural guide, who helped us learn about cultural opportunities (good museum exhibits, art venues, etc.) and shared interesting historical and cultural perspectives on Cuba. Ramon also arranges for us to eat at interesting paladares that were delicious and that we could not find on our own.
By Leticia Miranda for Dance in Cuba (May) on Jan. 13, 2017
This was a dance focused trip to Cuba- 3 hours a day of instruction by expert teachers and live drummers, plus lots of opportunities after for practice. It was without a doubt one of my favorite trips - beautiful country with warm and welcoming people, rich culture and an immersive experience! The extra day Ramon organized to the river was definitely one of the highlights! Muchas gracias!!!!
By Kyoko Yamada for Dance in Cuba (July) on Jul. 24, 2016
I cannot express in enough words what an amazing experience it was. I cannot wait to go back.
By Melanie Greene for Dance in Cuba (July) on Jul. 19, 2016
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