Trip Overview 

The Jardines de la Reina ("Gardens of the Queen") archipelago is perhaps the most popular and most well-known fishing destination in Cuba. The size of this area approximates that of the Florida Keys. The entire fishery is exclusively leased by our outfitter, Avalon Cuban Fishing Centers. While there are several live-aboard options that can be utilized to fish the area (including several mobile motherships and yachts that are great for groups of four to 12), the well-known “La Tortuga” houseboat has for 18 years been been a favorite for anglers from around the world. The floating hotel is a 110-foot, double-decked houseboat that is basically a permanently-moored, floating lodge with seven guest cabins that can accommodate two anglers each. This massive, steel houseboat is permanently secured in a small, protected channel of a big island, which means that it never moves, regardless of bad weather or wind. It is extremely stable and level at all times so there is never any chance of guests getting seasick.

This area is very popular for tarpon fishing in the April, May and June timeframe, and for large bonefish, permit and medium-sized resident tarpon that can be found on a year-round basis. To reach the Jardines, guests travel by bus from Havana (approximately five to six hours) and then by boat to the islands (approximately three hours). It is a bit of a journey, but well worth it once you arrive. If you were to do one big trip to Cuba, this is the option to put at the top of your list.

Email info [at] yellowdogflyfishing [dot] com or call 888-777-5060 for more details.

Destination Quick Facts 

LOCATION:  Jardines de la Reina, Cuba

SEASON:  Mid-October through late August

CAPACITY:  14 anglers per week

CLOSEST MAJOR AIR HUB:  Havana, Cuba (HAV)

TARGET SPECIES:  Bonefish, permit, tarpon, 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
La Tortuga houseboat - a 110-foot, double-decked base of operations - is located and permanently moored in the Jardines De La Reina, a huge archipelago located 50 miles to the south of the main island of Cuba. La Tortuga functions as a floating hotel with seven guest cabins that can accommodate two anglers each. La Tortuga is a massive, steel houseboat structure that is permanently secured in a small, protected cove so that it never moves, regardless of bad weather, large seas or wind. It is extremely stable and level at all times so there is never any chance of guests getting seasick.

Avalon completely renovated and refurbished La Tortuga in 2008 at a total cost of $1.5 million. The guest cabins on the upper level all have their own individual bathrooms with sink, toilet and a legitimate shower with plenty of hot water. Each cabin has its own easily-adjustable remote-controlled air-conditioning system. On the lower level you will find the air conditioned dining room along with a foredeck and aft deck lounge area complete with chairs and tables. The outdoor lounge areas are perfect for setting up your tackle, tying flies, enjoying cold drinks with friends, and relaxing after a day of fishing. La Tortuga has plenty of rod racks and storage areas, as well as good facilities for washing and cleaning your tackle after each day of fishing. The foredeck is everyone’s favorite place to enjoy appetizers like pizza and your favorite beverage before dinner. Overall, the spacious social areas of La Tortuga are great places to kick back, relax, enjoy the perfect mojito, or smoke a great Cuban cigar while taking in the beauty and scenery of one of the most remote areas in the Caribbean. 

Electricity on board La Tortuga is supplied by generators (located on a small island nearby) and is available twenty-four hours a day. There are many outlets on board that provide both 110 and 220V. 

Food and Beverages 
Dining on board La Tortuga combines fantastic Continental Italian cuisine, fresh seafood every day, and traditional Cuban favorites, such as rice and beans, black bean soup and fried plantains. If you are someone who enjoys fresh seafood, then you will be in heaven. Beverages available on board the Tortuga include bottled water, various soft drinks, beer, rum and imported wines. If you prefer liquor other than rum, you can bring this with you and the bartenders will be happy to provide whatever mixers you need.

Typical Length of Stay
The week on La Tortuga houseboat in the Jardines de la Reina area is six (6) nights / five (5) full days of fishing. A normal week includes five (5) full days of fishing and one or two half days, depending on your schedule and mode of transportation to and from Jucaro, the departure port for the Jardines de la Reina archipelago. 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 Jardines de la Reina and other fishing areas can also be arranged. Please contact Yellow Dog for more details. 

Non-Angling Activities and Options
This is a remote, houseboat-based operation located in the mangrove wilderness of the Jardines de la Reina. This means that non-angling (and non-diving) activities are limited.  If you are interested in diving, Avalon’s dive program is incredible and the Jardines are considered by many to be one of the finest, most pristine dive and snorkel destinations in the entire world. Even anglers can participate in a shallow-water dive program on a few afternoons of their trip. This can be taught after your day of fishing, and can culminate in a trip where you dive with the area’s famous Silky Sharks.  Overall this specific destination is best suited for anglers and divers.

Internet/Communications
Wi-Fi via the Avalon Hot Spot is available free of charge to guests on La Tortuga. While this sattelite internet access is slow and at times spotty, is is available! Guests should bring their own laptop, iPad or other device to access the internet. Keep in mind that U.S. cell phones currently DO NOT work anywhere in Cuba. Also, satellite phones are strictly prohibited in Cuba and will be confiscated at the airport on arrival.

FISHING

General Information
Fishing hours during a stay aboard La Tortuga are longer than in most Caribbean fishing destinations and are totally at the discretion of the clients. The day normally begins with breakfast at 7:00 AM and guides are ready to head out any time after 7:45 AM. Some anglers elect to return to La Tortuga for a nice lunch and a break from the sun - especially during the summer season. Many of the flats are within fifteen minutes of the boat, and it is usually possible to take a lunch break in the shade and relax a bit before fishing a long afternoon. On other days, you will want to explore more distant waters that see little fishing pressure, which means that you will need to request a packed cooler lunch the evening before. You can run as far as you like with the guides and your skiff to the most distant flats in the island system, as Avalon does not put any limitation on the amount of gas used each day. Guides will know to bring extra gas when they need it! Another bonus is that Avalon allows clients to fish late into the afternoon if they like. In the Jardines, it is common to have stronger wind in the mornings followed by calm, making for superb late-afternoon and evening fishing, especially for bonefish.  

One thing to keep in mind is that this particular area - and Cuba in general - is by no mean “Disneyland” when it comes to flats fishing. While the angling pressure is extremely light compared to all other saltwater destinations, Cuba has in fact been fished by many anglers from Europe, Canada and even the U.S. for more than 15 years. Some people have the perception that this area has been totally locked off and untouched for the past 60 years and that a trip to Cuba will allow them to be the very first to ever fish these areas. That is simply not the case, given that other countries have not had the same travel restrictions in place as those implemented by the U.S.

That said, when it comes to the Jardines, this fishing area has a “footprint” that is roughly similar to that of the Florida Keys in size. And in that area, no more than a few dozen anglers can fish the entire fishery on any given week! Imagine how good the Keys would be with no traffic, no boats, no people, no development of any kind, and only a few hundred anglers annually. That is the Jardines. These fish receive very little pressure and as a result, are more likely to cooperate and eat a fly. This is what Cuba offers.

Boats and Equipment 
The fishing boats used by Avalon are Dolphin Super Skiffs outfitted with Yamaha 60 or 70HP motors. Radios and life jackets are carried aboard every skiff. While Avalon adverstises a limited number of rental fly rods and reels that are available on the Tortuga (at the cost of 25.00 CUC per day) it is recommended that anglers always bring their own equipment.  Flies, leaders, tippet, all terminal tackle and all accessories should be packed as well, as very few items are available anywhere in Cuba. Yellow Dog will provide a compelte pre-trip packing and equipment list for fishing Cuba.

TRAVEL DETAILS

How To Get There  
Since your Avalon package begins upon arrival into Havana's Jose Marti International Airport (HAV), you can fly in and arrive from just about any place in the world. There are numerous daily flights in and out of Havana 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. citites that currently fly directly to Havana. Most U.S. guests choose to fly to Havana from Mexico City International Airport (MEX), which is a relatively quick and easy trip. It is our experience that the safest, most reliable and most problem-free flights are the AeroMexico flights from Mexico City (MEX), which operate on a daily basis. Upon arrival into Havana (HAV), you will clear immigration and customs before heading to the main reception area of the airport, where you will be met by a representative from Avalon who will be waiting for you. From the airport, you will be transferred via taxi to a hotel in downtown Havana, where you will overnight before departing for the port town of Jucaro very early the next morning (a private charter bus ride of approximately  six hours that typically leaves Havana at 4:30 AM).

Arrival and Departure Details / Times 
Anglers typical fly into Havana's Jose Marti International Airport (HAV) on a Friday, where they overnight in the city. The next morning (Saturday), a bus will depart the hotel in Havana for the port town of Jucaro, the “jumping off” point for the Jardines. This private charter bus usually departs around 4:30 AM and the trip takes approximately six hours. Once you arrive in Jucaro, you will then board the transfer boat that will shuttle you to the Jardines de la Reina where La Tortuga is moored. This is a large “water taxi” type transfer vessel that is comfortable and dry. This water transfer takes approximately three hours. The group will usually arrive at the Tortuga around 2:00 PM. You can then rig your gear and head out for a long afternoon and evening of fishing. The guides will usually fish you until late evening on arrival day, giving you as much fishing time as possible. On the following Friday, you will have the option of fishing for several hours in the morning before departing the Tortuga on the transfer boat at approximately 10:30 AM. You then repeat the boat and bus trip back to Havana, arriving back at the hotel in the city later that evening. Many visitors choose to add an extra day or two in the city to explore Havana and the surrounding areas.

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. 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. Prices listed for all Cuba packages are per person and quoted in US Dollars (USD).

Prices per Angler (week starting Saturday and ending Friday)
 
Low Season
$4,400.00 USD per person
September 7, 2016 - March 7, 2017 and June 28 – September 5
 
High Season
$5,500.00 USD per person
March 4 - June 30
 
Peak Season
$6,350.00 USD per person
April 29 – June 2

What's Included 

  • Meet-and-greet reception upon arrival in Havana's Jose Marti International Airport (HAV) 
  • Two (2) nights accommodation in double room in 5-star hotel in Havana (on arrival and departure nights) 
  • Land and water transfers to/from Havana to Jucaro and La Tortuga
  • Seven (7) nights accommodations on La Tortuga
  • Three meals per day (all-inclusive meal service)
  • Six full days of guided fishing (two anglers per skiff) 
  • 30 non-alcoholic beverages and 10 beers while aboard La Tortuga
  • Taxes and GSTs  

What's Not Included 

  • International flights to Havana's Jose Marti International Airport (HAV) from Mexico or Toronto (These can be arranged through Yellow Dog.)
  • Cost of taxi transfers from Havana Airport to hotel in Havana on arrival and departure days
  • Optional VIP meet-and-greet and reception services in Havana
  • Travel paperwork (Yellow Dog will assist with this process)
  • Entry Visa
  • Meals, drinks, taxis and any additional expenses while in Havana
  • Fishing tackle, equipment, flies and all terminal tackle 
  • Gratuities for guides and staff (must be paid in cash with CUCs) 
  • Beer (beyond the allotted 10 beers per guest) and rum (Guests must bring their liquor if they would like something other than beer or rum.)
  • Non-alcoholic beverages beyond the allotted 30 per guest
  • Other items of a personal nature

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.

OTHER INFO

ABOUT THE "GARDENS OF THE QUEEN"   
The Jardines de la Reina is a 75 miles-long archipelago of mangroves and coral islands situated 60 miles off the southern coast of Cuba. Designated a national park in 1996 by the Cuban government, the Jardines de la Reina is closed to commercial fishing, inhabitation and any other visitation. Jardines de la Reina is Cuba's second largest archipelago and is formed by more than 600 cays and islands.

CURRENCY AND CREDIT CARDS
You can easily exchange money at the airport or at any bank for Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUCs). The best currency to bring on your trip to Cuba is either Euros or Canadian Dollars. Presently there is a 10% penalty in addition to the exchange rate for US dollar exchanges, although this may change in the near future. The Tortuga DOES NOT accept credit cards and you will need cash for all purchases, bar tabs and gratuities. At the present time, US credit cards do not work anywhere in Cuba, althought this is expected to change in the near future. This will be applicable while in Havana and traveling throughout the country.

LAUNDRY SERVICES
Laundry services are available onboard the Tortuga, and laundry can be done on a daily basis. This means that you can travel and pack light. We suggest leaving a gratuity for the housekeepers at the end of the week for laundry services (in CUCs).

BEVERAGES ABOARD THE TORTUGA 
It is recommended that you drink only bottled and purified water while in Cuba. During you stay on the Tortuga, you have a total allotment of 10 beers and 30 non-alcoholic drinks (bottled water or soda) that will be included in your base package price. Beyond those numbers, the staff on the Tortuga is happy to keep an open and running bar tab for you, payable at the end of the week. Bar tabs must be paid in cash (in CUCs). 

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.