Trip Overview 

The newest Cuban offering to hit the angling scene is based on and around the small islands of Cayo las Brujas and Cayo Santa Maria – an area on the northern coast of Cuba referred to as “The Gardens of the Kings” or “Jardines del Rey” in Spanish. Known as the Tarpon Paradise of the North Coast of Cuba, this is a solid land-based option for anglers that really want to focus their efforts on jumping and catching good numbers of resident tarpon in the 100 to 50-pound class while still having the chance to hunt for Cuban bonefish, permit and snook. This is one of the most affordable trips that we offer in Cuba and one of the best overall values in the Caribbean when it comes to a focused tarpon fishing destination. Located approximately 4.5 hours drive-time from Havana, the fishery is in the north-central part of the main island near the recently established Buenavista Bay UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and just north of the towns of Caibarién and Remedio.

Destination Quick Facts 

LOCATION:  Cayo las Brujas and Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba

SEASON:  While this is a year-round fishery, the months of April through July are considered peak season for tarpon at Garden of the Kings.

CLOSEST MAJOR AIR HUB:  Havana, Cuba (HAV)

CAPACITY:  Maximum group of 8 anglers per week

TARGET SPECIES:  Primarily tarpon bonefish and permit, with some possibilities for snook, jacks, snapper, barracuda and more

DOCUMENTS REQUIRED:  Valid passport and a Cuban visa are required for citizens of most countries

CONTACT US FOR MORE INFO     888-777-5060     INTL 01-1-406-585-8667       info [at] yellowdogflyfishing [dot] com

ACCOMMODATIONS

Lodging Details
Accommodations for all Garden of the Kings packages are at the Iberostar Resort on Cayo Ensenanchos, located in the northern keys of Villa Clara province. It is approximately 25 miles from Caibarién city via a causeway over the sea, located only a short drive from the Las Brujas Cay Airport. The area is located 230 miles east of Havana, an overland drive of approximately 4 to 4.5 hours.

Spanish owned and operated, Iberostar Ensenachos is an all-inclusive resort and beach hotel that offers a variety of lodging options including family-friendly and adult only areas. It is the only hotel on Cayo Ensenanchos and is your typical Caribbean ‘large-scale luxury hotel’ with Colonial style architecture of large, yellow buildings framed in white columns. Unless requested otherwise, anglers stay in the Spa Suites in the Grand Village section, which is set apart from the other areas of the resort and reserved for travelers without children. If you would like to bring the family to enjoy the amenities of the resort that are tailored to kids while you fish, we have the option to accommodate you and your family in the Park Suites section. The grounds of the resort are lush, well maintained and manicured. The resort has two beaches – (Megano and Ensenachos) that can be enjoyed during your stay at the Iberostar. Spa services are also available at the resort include massage, saunas, Turkish baths, wraps and facial treatments. Other amenities include a tennis court, water park for the kids, and a gym.

The resort features several different bars and restaurants including two swim up bars, a beach bar and a bar in the main lobby. Food is served buffet-style in the main building with additional restaurants on the resort grounds offering a variety of different cuisine. Keep in mind, this is Cuba, so global cuisine is under the interpretation of a Cuban chef working with relatively limited ingredients. All rooms have A/C, a TV and a safe for valuables.

Food and Beverages
Breakfast is included each morning at Iberostar, and is served buffet-style in the main building. You will be provided with a box to pack your own lunch at the buffet which can be enjoyed each day on the water. Dinners for all packages at the restaurants of Iberostar are ordered off of the menu that usually includes several fresh fish options, chicken, shrimp, beef and pork. Lobster are available at an additional charge. Beer, good Cuban rum and sodas are available at any of the bars (wine, energy drinks and tobacco products are not included), but if you prefer any liquor other than rum, you should plan on bringing this with you from Havana or from a duty free shop en route. During the days on the water, beers and beverages are included.

Typical Length of Stay
A week at the Garden of the Kings includes seven (7) nights and six (6) fishing days, starting with your Saturday arrival in Havana and ending on the following Sunday. Your first night in Havana (typically a Saturday night) is included with the package followed by seven nights at the Iberostar Resort on Cayo Ensenanchos. A normal week includes six (6) full days of fishing. Additional days in Havana or on other parts of the island can easily be arranged and itineraries can be fully customized. Combo trips between the Gardens of the King and other fishing areas can also be arranged. Please contact Yellow Dog for more details. 

Non-Angling Activities and Options
This is a fairly remote hotel located in the mangrove wilderness of the northern Cuban coastline. This means that non-angling activities are somewhat limited. Overall this specific destination is best suited for anglers, nature-lovers and those that love to sit and relax on a beach. (Again, the hotel’s beach is amazing and very private.) The island of Cayo Ensenachos and nearby Cayo Santa Maria are presently undergoing a large development phase, with numerous large-scale hotels and resort being built. At the Gaviota Marina (where you meet your fishing guides each day) they run daily catamaran party boats and also rent or charter small speedboats and snorkel boats. There is also a “tourist” area nearby where you can find small stores, restaurants and bars. In and around Havana, of course, there are numerous activities, sites and options for non-anglers. 

Internet/Communications
Although Iberostar Ensenachos does have Wi-Fi is available in the main lobby and reception area, the reality is that it can be slow and spotty. Guests should bring their own laptop, iPad or other device to access the internet at Cayo Ensenachos or in Havana. At all hotels in Cuba it is necessary to buy an internet scratch card, purchased for about eight dollars and good for one hour of internet access. You will be able to check emails and communicate while at Ensenachos. Keep in mind that most U.S. cell phones currently DO NOT work anywhere in Cuba, although that is expected to change soon. Also, satellite phones are strictly prohibited in Cuba and will be confiscated at the airport on arrival.

FISHING

General Fishing Information
Cayo Las Brujas, Cayo Santa Maria and the numerous tiny islands found throughout the Jardines del Rey area [the King’s Gardens] are best known for fantastic tarpon fishing during the spring and summer months. This is the same area – home to mangrove wilderness, sandy beaches, and spectacular turquoise waters – immortalized in Ernest Hemingway’s famous Cuban novel, Islands in the Stream. Cayo Santa Maria is one of the key areas in the UNESCO Buenavista Bay Biosphere Reserve, and the marine eco-system is still largely untouched and very pristine. Throughout the year, resident tarpon inhabit the area waters in decent numbers, with strong numbers arriving and passing through the area during the March through July timeframe. Resident tarpon that run anywhere from 10 to well over 50 pounds can be caught on a year-round basis, and larger migratory fish well in to the triple digits are found during the spring and summer months. Bonefish, permit, snook, barracuda, jacks, snapper and other species are also in the area and found on a regular basis.

The opportunities available to anglers in this part of Cuba consist of fishing in and around the mangroves, on crystal-clear flats, and in slightly deeper water for tarpon. There are also huge flats where bonefish, permit and other shallow-water species can be found throughout the year. Fishing in and close to the channels can at times be productive for tarpon and other species, which is why anglers should bring both floating lines and intermediate to full-sinking lines for tarpon. Throughout the course of the week you can expect to poll the shallow flats in search of tarpon, bones and permit, and blind-cast in deeper water where tarpon are either rolling or where the guides know the fish to congregate. The interior of the Las Brujas “lagoon” is prime bonefish habitat, and the guides can usually find good numbers of two-to-four-pound bonefish feeding in skinny, crystal-clear waters. Due to soft and muddy bottoms and flats, most fishing throughout the area is done from the boat. That said, there are a few locations where you can wade or walk the beaches. As with all Yellow Dog trip packages, detailed packing lists, equipment recommendations and fly lists are all provided as part of our pre-trip planning process. 

Boats and Equipment 
The Garden of the Kings / Las Brujas fishing program utilizes Dolphin Super Skiffs outfitted with Yamaha 60 or 70HP motors. Each boat is outfitted with comfortable seats, storage lockers, an ice chest and a poling platform for the guides. Radios and life jackets are also carried aboard every skiff. It is recommended that anglers bring all of their own fishing equipment. Flies, leaders, tippet, all terminal tackle and all accessories should be packed, as very few items are available anywhere in Cuba. 

TRAVEL DETAILS

How To Get There
Most Cuban fishing packages begin at Havana's Jose Marti International Airport (HAV), and you can fly into Cuba and arrive from just about any place in the world. There are numerous daily flights in and out of Havana (HAV) from Mexico, Canada, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Italy, and numerous other countries. There are also direct, third-party charter flights from more than ten major U.S. cities that currently fly directly to Havana. Many guests choose to fly to Havana from Mexico City (MEX), which is a quick and easy trip. For the best commercial option, Yellow Dog currently recommends direct flights from Mexico City (MEX) aboard AeroMexico. (They have the largest number of daily flights, and they are by far the most reliable commercial air carrier servicing Havana).

No matter how you fly to Cuba, upon arrival into Havana, you will clear immigration and customs before heading to the main reception area of the airport to catch a cab into the city. From the airport, you will be transferred via taxi to a hotel in downtown Havana, where you will overnight before departing from Havana (HAV) for Cayo Santa Cruz the next morning. The transfer to the Garden of the Kings usually involves a private ground transfer that takes 4.5 hours. This is a great way to see and experience the real Cuba outside of Havana, and something that we really do recommend. Domestic flights from Havana to the Las Brujas Cay Airport can also be arranged upon request, but anglers should be aware that this flight process (from pick-up times at the hotel VERY early in the morning to check-in at a domestic airport in Havana to the flight itself) always takes at least five hours!  Again, we recommend a private ground transfer that allows you to stop, see the sites and arrive sooner.

Arrival and Departure Details / Times 
Anglers typical fly into Havana's Jose Marti International Airport (HAV) on a Saturday, where they overnight in the city. The next morning (Sunday) you will meet in the hotel lobby to board a van for Iberostar Ensenachos and the Garden of the Kings. At the end of your fishing package (the following Sunday) you will be transferred back to Havana (HAV) to either catch your departure flight or overnight once again in the city. The hotel for the first arrival night is included in your package. Additional hotel nights on the back end of the trip are not included. Many visitors choose to add an extra day or two in the city to explore Havana and the surrounding areas. Be aware that hotels in Havana are in very short supply, and demand is high.

Documents Required
A valid passport is required for all visitors to Cuba and must be valid for at least six (6) months beyond the duration of your stay. Citizens of the United States are also required to have Visas with proof of authorization to travel under one of the 12 approved categories of travel. (The BTT letter will cover this if needed.) A Cuban entrance visa can be secured when checking in for your direct flight to Havana. The visa can be purchased for approximately USD $25.00 (payable in cash) when checking in for the flight. 

Travel Arrangements
Yellow Dog offers a full in-house travel and reservations system and can assist with airline tickets, hotels, transfers and all travel logistics for every destination that we offer. Contact us at 888-777-5060 or travel [at] yellowdogflyfishing [dot] com for more details on airfare ticketing, travel services and trip insurance.

RATES

Package Rates

Remember that Yellow Dog's services are completely free! When you book a trip with Yellow Dog, you never pay more than when you book directly with the lodge or outfitter. 

Low Season: USD $3,640.00 per person based on double occupancy
September 19, 2015 through February 26, 2016
July 30, 2016 through August 27, 2016

Mid Season: USD $4,460.00 per person based on double occupancy
February 27, 2016 through March 25, 2016
June 25 through July 29, 2016

High Season: USD $5,320.00 per person based on double occupancy
March, 26, 2016 through June 24, 2016 

*Single skiff / solo angler supplement: Add $2,000.00 to above prices

What's Included 

  • One (1) night of hotel accommodations in double room in Havana (on arrival night)
  • Seven (7) nights accommodations at Iberostar Ensenanchos Resort Spa Suite (double occupancy)
  • Breakfast each morning 
  • Dinner each evening 
  • Pack lunches (build your own) and beverages each day on the skiff
  • Six full days of guided fishing (two anglers per skiff) 
  • Beer, drinks, soda, water and juice while at the resort
  • Taxes and GSTs  

What's Not Included

  • International flights to Havana (can be fully arranged through Yellow Dog.)
  • Cost of taxi transfers from Havana Airport to hotel in Havana on arrival and departure days
  • Land transfers to/from Havana to Cayo Santa Maria and Iberostar Ensenachos Resort ($150 per person for group sizes up to 4)
  • Cuban visa and all related visa paperwork (Yellow Dog will assist with this process)
  • Meals, drinks, taxis and any additional expenses while in Havana
  • Select dinner menu items including lobster, and non-fishing-day lunches (if applicable)
  • Fishing tackle, equipment, flies and all terminal tackle 
  • Cuban entrance visa (approx. USD $25.00)
  • Cuban departure tax (25.00 CUC to be paid in cash at the airport before leaving) 
  • Gratuities for guides and staff
  • Specialty bar items (energy drinks and wine) or tobacco

Trip Deposit and Trip Cancelation Information 
For all Cuba trips less than 90 days out, full payment is required to secure guides and reservations. For trips outside of 90 days, a 70% deposit is required within 10 days to hold and confirm reservations. Payment for all Cuba trip must be made in US dollars and can be made using check, money order or wire transfer only (no credit card payments for Cuba trips will be accepted and PLEASE do not write 'Cuba' in the memo of checks). Any cancellations on Cuba trips will incur a $250.00 Yellow Dog handling fee regardless of timing. Passport number, date of birth and full name (as printed in passport) is required to confirm any Cuba reservation. Outside of 180 days from start of trip, deposits are refundable minus an $800 Cuban operator handling fee, which will be held and retained by the operators unless trip is resold. Inside of 180 days of start date of trip, all deposits and payments are non-refundable unless Yellow Dog or Cuban operator are able to resell your spot(s). No refunds are available for unused portions of packages. Trip cancellation insurance is highly recommended. Please note that credit card payments cannot be accepted for any incidentals or expenses once in Cuba. All programs and execution of programs remain subject to weather and other unforeseen circumstances. Claims for refunds from Cuban operators will not be accepted.

CUBA F.A.Q.'S

CUBA:
Frequently Asked Questions

As new rules take effect and the restoration of diplomatic relations thaw, the situation and what it means for traveling anglers will continue to evolve and change. Below are some specific answers to common questions about the new rules:

Can anyone travel to Cuba now?
No. General tourism is still technically banned. Shortly after the landmark announcements of December 2014, however, the US Treasury and Commerce Departments unveiled new rules that further ease travel to and trade restrictions with Cuba, thereby greatly expanding the leeway applicable to US travelers visiting the island. One of the most notable changes is that Americans will no longer be required to obtain pre-approval from the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) before embarking on a trip to Cuba. As long as Americans certify that they are traveling in one of 12 legal and approved categories — which include educational, religious, people-to-people, scientific, journalistic and humanitarian trips — they can simply head to the island without applying for permission in advance of their trip. Traveling to Cuba solely as a tourist (or an angler), remains prohibited UNLESS you qualify for one of the 12 approved categories. We can assist in obtaining a legitimate People-to-People License allowing for legal travel to Cuba as an American.  Obtaining this license allows you to buy airline tickets and make travel arrangements through any travel service or airline that provides services to Cuba, including Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures.

How can I buy an airline ticket?
The new regulations allow agents and airlines to sell tickets to travelers to Cuba as long as they can demonstrate that they have a specific license from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Yellow Dog can help you obtain a license once you have booked your trip to Cuba with Yellow Dog.

We are already seeing US air carriers selling flights to Cuba directly from major US cities (including Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, Baltimore, Dallas-Fort Worth, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico). We expect more routes to open and new services to be announced in the months ahead as direct flights begin their services direct to Havana.

For now, most of the direct US-to-Havana flights are being operated by third-party charter companies. US air carriers like American, Delta, Jet Blue, Sun Country and several others already operate chartered flights to the island. Currently, direct flights are available between many US cities and destinations outside of Havana and across Cuba (Santa Clara, Cienfuegos, Holguin, Camaguey, Cayo Coco and Varadero) which will make getting to and from Cuba much easier. Direct flights between many US cities and Havana will start operating in the fall of 2016 which will make getting to Cuba much easier.

For now, anglers wishing to book their own travel to Cuba can book one of the direct US-to-Havana charter flights. If you would like Yellow Dog to book your flights, we can assist with the process and provide guidance for you based on your departure city. Please contact Yellow Dog for more information on flights and travel, and please be aware that this is something that is changing and being updated on a frequent basis! Things are changing fast.

How many cigars and bottles of rum can I bring back if I travel to Cuba? 
As of October of 2016, the US has removed limits on the value of Cuban rum and cigars that American travelers can bring back from Cuba.

How can I fly from the U.S. to Cuba?
Most of the direct US-to-Havana flights are being operated by third-party charter companies. US air carriers like American, Delta, Jet Blue, Sun Country and several others already operate chartered flights to the island. Currently, direct flights are available between many US cities and destinations outside of Havana and across Cuba (Santa Clara, Cienfuegos, Holguin, Camaguey, Cayo Coco and Varadero) which will make getting to and from Cuba much easier. Direct flights between many US cities and Havana will start operating in the fall of 2016 which will make getting to Cuba much easier.

Can I use my American Express, Visa or MasterCard when I go to Cuba?
Yes, eventually. It will take time for banks to establish the infrastructure needed to handle credit and debit cards in Cuba. Travelers should first check with their credit card companies to find out when such services might begin. It is worth noting that travelers are now able to use some US credit and debit cards in Cuba, with more coming on-line in the near future. There is no longer a per diem rate for how much visitors can spend once they reach the island. All this being said, there are few places that will actually ACCEPT your credit cards, so Yellow Dog still recommends that you carry cash for eventualities.

Can I purchase trip insurance and Global Rescue policies for my trip to Cuba?
Yes! US. travel and trip insurers are now authorized to provide coverage for travel insurance policies for individuals who travel to or within Cuba. In fact, Yellow Dog recommends that you make this investment into protection for your trip and is happy to get the process started for you.

Is it safe to walk around Havana?
Cuba is known as one of the safest destinations in the Caribbean, but as should be the case everywhere, common sense should be taken into account for your own safety. It is recommended that you leave flashy jewelry at home, refrain from showing large quantities of cash in public, and not accept rides or buy things from unknown people in the streets. In general, be prudent and be smart.

What is the currency situation in Cuba?
There are two types of currency in Cuba: 1.) The Cuban peso that can only be used by Cubans in places that require it, and, 2.) the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) that is used in all restaurants, stores, museums, hotels, etc. The CUC is basically the tourist currency and the official currency of Cuba. US dollars are widely accepted in Cuba, but CUC’s are preferred.

How do I purchase a Cuban entrance visa?
Visas / tourist cards are available for purchase in advance of your trip to Cuba and is largely dependent on how you plan to get to Cuba. The visa ranges in price from $25 to $100 and Yellow Dog can guide you through the process of the best means of obtaining your visa based on your travel plans.

What is the departure tax when leave Cuba?
The departure tax is now part of the airline ticket price. You do not need to pay any departure tax upon leaving Cuba.