Imagine roaring through Cuba on a motorcycle. How awesome!
As Cuban children recite daily in school: you too can “be like Che.”
Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara’s epic motorcycle journey through Latin America in 1952 with his pal Alberto Granado is one of the world’s great odysseys, as regaled in Che’s book Motorcycle Diaries and the blockbuster movie of the same name.
Although he never rode through Cuba, Che later served as a comandante in Fidel Castro’s Rebel Army and as Cuba’s Minister of Finance & Industry was a seminal figure in the Revolution that followed on behalf of the poor. His legacy is everywhere in Cuba. And his son Ernesto keeps his dad’s flame alive and can be spotted riding around Havana on his 1948 Harley.
Best yet, motorcycling through Cuba is not an impossible dream. Even for U.S. citizens. It’s hard to imagine a more exciting itinerary and adventure.
Yes, you too can be like Che. Here’s how…
Acclaimed motojournalist, news personality, and Cuba expert Christopher P. Baker literally wrote the book on motorcycling through Cuba. The author of Mi MotoFidel: Motorcycling Through Castro’s Cuba—a literary travelog recounting his 7,000-milejourney by BMW in 1996 — leads group tours that make the most of his extensive knowledge of Cuba and Cuban personalities.
Chris Baker’s Motorcycle Tours is licensed by the U.S. Treasury Department to offer people-to-people trips in Cuba. Using BMWs, Harley-Davidsons, Suzuki V-Stroms, and even Triumphs, Chris leads exciting itineraries that take in the best of the island.
The trips follow well-paved roads easily navigated by any experienced motorcycle touring enthusiast.
His 10-day itinerary of Western & Central Cuba, called ‘Motorcycle Diaries,’ for example, roars out of Havana and heads to Santa Clara—with its close association with Che, who led the attack that seized the town in December 1958, causing dictator Batista to flee Cuba. The itinerary then takes you over the pedraplen (causeway) to the snow-white beaches of Cayos de Villa Clara before crossing the island via Sancti Spíritus to the enchanting colonial city of Trinidad, overlooking the Caribbean.
Then it’s along the Caribbean shoreline via Cienfuegos for lunch at the Bay of Pigs before continuing west—with time to visit Museo Ernest Hemingway—to tobacco country of Pinar del Río province. You’ll bed down in casas particulares (private room rentals) in Viñales. Here the itinerary includes a visit to Cuevas de los Portales, a giant cave where Che headquartered during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Plus, you’ll get to visit the Casa-Museo Comandancia de Che, Che’s headquarters immediately following the revolution.
And since President Obama’s relaxation of travel restrictions in March 2016, you can even fly in early and/or extend your visit using an individual “people-to-people” license to explore Havana in greater detail on your own self-guided itinerary.
Chris’ 14-day all-Cuba trip follows an even more in-depth revolutionary trail to the far east of the country, including Fidel’s birthplace at Birán, plus scenically astonishing Baracoa (oldest city in the nation), Guantánamo, and the hotbed of the Revolution—Santiago de Cuba.
Chris will also introduce you to his friends Ernesto Guevara (yes, son of Che), who runs his own tours using Harley-Davidsons; and Dr. Alberto Granado, a Cuban whose father rode pillion with Che during the ‘Motorcycle Diaries’ journey in 1952.
Plus you’ll get to ride alongside Cuban harlistas—owners of pre-revolutionary era Harley-Davidsons.
No motorcycle rentals are currently available in Cuba, as the government maintains a monopoly on all vehicle rentals and does not offer motorcycles other than flimsy scooters at beach resorts.
True, you might be able to rent a funky Ural with sidecar, or an equally aged and unreliable Jawa or MZ from the Soviet era. But you better bring a big tool bag and patience for the times when your bike is sure to break down in the boondocks.
Many motorcyclists have shipped their bikes to Cuba, which issues a temporary importation license usually good for 60 days.