Teresa Sanchez -Travel Specialist

Teresa, a first generation Cuban American, first visited Cuba in 2012. A scholar of Cuban music, she lived on the island doing research until early 2014. She is passionate about Cuban history and culture in general and continues to research Cuban music in the New York City area, where she now lives.

Teresa is passionate about helping her clients have a fun and authentic experience in Cuba, whether it’s a short, last minute trip or an extended stay. She brings her personal experiences of living on the island and her enthusiasm for Cuba to the Cultural Island Travel team.


What Our Customers Say About Cultural Island Travel

Teodora Todorova

April, 2018


My names is Teodora and I am writing to share my great experience with Teresa, who made me  deciding to have my  Cuba Trip in a blink of an eye.

I was just surfing on the Internet looking for places and trips for New Year’s Eve 2019. I  have always wanted to go to Cuba, but never made the step towards researching.

Your company was one of the few I picked and decided to contact.

Starting  with the amazingly built  Cultural Island Travel Web Site, to all  the testimonials and pictures there to the kind and very helpful Teresa…. My trip to Cuba was the fastest  trip choice I have ever made in my life!

Teresa responded right away. Was very nice and friendly. Answer  all the questions I had and quickly e-mailed me what she thought I would like. After couple more back and forth sentences it was all done….

She kindly helped with where to go and find a plane ticket, to pick my payment plan, to fill all forms and etc. ….

And here I am – already set up  for the New Year’s Eve and not anywhere , but in a 5 Star Hotel in Havana, Cuba!!!

Originally I am from small country called Bulgaria, located in  Eastern Europe! Our Customer Services there ( in general) is far from the one developed in the USA. I also am a traveler, been to many places, but one more time …… I have never made  a trip choice so fast as this one…

I am incredible happy to travel with Cultural Island Travel!



Donna and Rob

May, 2017

Hola Teresa,

Where do we begin? We did our homework before leaving and our four-day Cuba trip exceeded our expectations.

The Sevilla Hotel is lovely, friendly, and we learned to look forward to the music in the bar and in the lobby. The breakfast buffet lacked nothing! We loved being able to walk to dinner and to cafes nearby.

The itinerary for our 4 day trip was perfect; not too much, just enough of the things we wanted to see.

The transportation was tops! Gerardo and daughter Dianylis (I did not spell that correctly!) were wonderful and it was fun having lunch with them each day. Everything started and finished on time and that kept the day running smoothly.

Rob and I really enjoyed all the places we went for lunch, different from dinner choices. There were endless choices of new food and the lunch plan was extremely generous. At some point Rob and I had to eat less!

Our guide, Ari…where do we begin? We loved being with twenty-somethings. They support their home and country but were willing to chat outside the lines to the extent that they felt comfortable. We learned a lot from each of our guides in Old Havana, in the art museum and from Ari and novia, Ebony. SMART young people!

Ari is intelligent, relaxed and in the right job! He knows Havana’s nooks and crannies and pointed them out. He understands Americans/North Americans and their expectations and leaves no room for complaints or concerns. For Rob and me, our every need was anticipated and met! He surpassed expectations when we missed the craft market because it was closed. He and Dianylis put their heads together and took us to a wonderful flea market (for lack of a better word) where we found the Cuban flags for our nieces, posters and more! (We’d go back there…friendly, fun, intelligent vendors who wanted to talk!) Ari went above and beyond.

When others asked who we were traveling with we passed out the name of Cultural Island Travel so perhaps something good will come from that. From signing up online, asking you unending questions, getting every document we needed, that process was flawless!

Thank you for all you do! I hope we will find time next year to work with you again.


Donna and Rob

Kenton and Mitch

May, 2017

Hola Teresa,

Thanks for helping us to organize our trip. Mitch and I had a wonderful time. Cuba is indeed mesmerizing – what an interesting mix of culture, soul, warmth and time warp. The Cuban Art Museum and the Viñales community art project were my favorite sights, although I liked everything.

Mario was a fantastic tour guide. He took very good care of us, and made sure we were all happy. Victor, Fernando, Camille, and Patricia were also helpful and knowledgeable.

We loved Maritza and Margarita’s B&B. They were awesome. Their hospitality was wonderfully motherly. Breakfast was sumptuous. Felt so comfortable at their place. They were so patient with me when I was practicing my halting Spanish, which I really appreciated. Highly recommended.

Nicholas and Regina

September 2017

Hi Teresa,

Thank you for your assistance with our recent Cuba trip. The tour was fabulous and Irma was an outstanding tour guide. We experienced no challenges arriving, during, or leaving Cuba. Everything was actually perfect.

Nicholas and Regina

Amy and Terry

May, 2017

Hi Teresa,

Terry and I are most excited to write you about Ari and the tour

From the moment that he met us at the airport to our farewell, Ari was gracious, warm, informed and so personable and engaging.

Ari has a wealth of knowledge about the history and culture of Cuba in addition to a very complete list of good restaurants. If he was unable to answer our questions, he would come back the next day with the answer.

There was no question that he was unwilling to take on. For a young man, he knows a lot about human nature and how people function.

In the long and short of it, you at Cultural Island Travel have a gem in Ari. He makes everyone feel at ease.

We also both so enjoyed our tour emphasizing the music and dance culture of Cuba in addition to the gleaning the unique history of the island.

Thanks again,

Amy and Terry


March 4th, 2017
Hi Teresa,
Sorry it has taken awhile to write. Been crazy busy at work since we got back.
I’m sure Sandy covered most things with you, but really, overall it was an awesome trip, and exceeded everyone’s expectations.
Ari was fabulous and it wouldn’t have been the same without him.
We learned alot about Cuba on the trip, and appreciated everyone’s honesty.
The tour guides Ari arranged were all great.
Favorites were the Fine Art Museum, private jazz concert, convertible ride, Fusterlandia, music and dancing in Trinidad.
The private restaurants Ari took us to were awesome, and my weight gain can testify to that.
Thanks to all for making this a great trip!
Ari, say hi to Ebony for me!

Cecily Fasanella

March 1, 2017
Hi Teresa and Culture Island team!
My name is Cecily Fasanella and I recently went on a tour of Havana with my father Bob Fasanella, and aunt Kathy Fasanella.

I would like to express my thanks to your team, but especially Mario. From the minute we arrived he made us feel very welcome and comfortable.

Mario gave us lots of individualized attention, taking all of our likes and interests into account over the course of the trip making for an unforgettable experience. In addition to all the wonderful items planned on our itenary that we accomplished he also included a chat with Fernando a local mechanic for my car enthusiast father, great bar suggestions for my aunt, and tips how to make the most of a night at La Fabrica de Arte Cubano for me.

Mario answered my endless questions about the Spanish language, Cuban culture, and his own experience growing up in Cuba. I believe that we never would have had such an amazing and unique experience without him. He is a priceless source of information and fun. I would reccomend Culture Island, AND Mario to all friends and family (and have already) without hesitation.

Is there anywhere else I could leave a positive review of Mario and your travel group?

Nina Cummings and Allan Tannenbaum

March 1, 2017
Hi Teresa,
It is with pleasure that I write a note of comment on our experience with Cultural Island Travel.
While I mostly was not involved in the intricacies and details of the trip planning and travel itinerary , the questions and issues I did pose were answered expertly and in a timely fashion. Everyone we dealt with was responsive and friendly . We appreciated being able to engage Irma as our personal travel agent , as she had come so highly recommend by Barbe’s friend Robin. Prior to the trip , Irma connected to us through Facebook and we were already positively predisposed to her due to her friendliness and willingness to engage us.

Upon meeting Irma in the airport , We were immediately impressed by her open friendliness and professionalism. She was in control of ALL the details of our needs and the upcoming travel agendas . She expertly tuned into each one of us and graciously ( without judgement ) spent the entire 8 days balancing what we wanted and needed emotionally and physically and what would be good for us to experience in Cuba.

We all fell in love with Cuba and the amazingly friendly and seemingly happy people in the country . Irma’s pride and love of her country infected all of us , and she engaged us intelligently and wisely in prolonged and deep conversations about the history and desires of the Cuban people. Each day held new and wonderful mysteries about Cuba and we all looked forward to spending the day with Irma as she exposed us to art, architecture , Cuban music and of course delicious food EVERY single day. There were NO disappointments at all. And when we ran into difficulties like our truck breaking down, losing a wallet and visa, getting ill…. Irma stayed calm, positive and was extremely professional and helpful at all times . She is wise and mature beyond her years and can handle high levels of stress with good problem solving skills and fortitude . She is unparalleled as a travel guide , and I believe all 6 of us consider her a special friend.

I would recommend CIT , Theresa and Irma to future travelers without hesitation . Our lodgings , food and overall Cuban experience surpassed all expectations . We are a highly travelled group and this trip will stand out as one of our favorite , mostly because of Irma and her warmth, intelligence and infinite patience. Cuba will forever be in our hearts . Thank you!!

Sandy Koshkin and Barbara Levin

March 3, 2017
Hi Donna,
I am happy to write a review of our fantastic trip to Cuba:
We are so fortunate to have booked our Cuba trip with Cultural Island Travel. From the beginning of making all the arrangements to the last moment at the airport, this was a trip that exceeded expectations. Teresa planned our trip with precision and was always responsive to our questions. We appreciated her expertise and professionalism.

Most important was having Irma as our travel guide in Cuba. We have traveled extensively throughout the world and Irma’s ease of connecting with our group made for a perfect beginning. She also was able to connect with other tour guides we met as well as many local people to set the tone for a rich experience.
In addition, her knowledge of history, culture and everyday life in Cuba was priceless. We had discussions that lasted the whole day without realizing how much time had passed. This will stay with us for a long time. Her enthusiasm made us appreciate the music and dancing on a daily basis.

This experience will be with us for years to come and we will highly recommend Teresa of Cultural Island Travel and Irma to anyone we know who plans to visit Cuba.

We are grateful for this opportunity.

Kristy Hall

December 8, 2016
After reading a few of the testimonials of travelers in Dec. 2016 and Jan. 2017 I would have to remark that our experience with Cultural Island Travel company was equally on par with other travelers’ comments. The representative, Teresa, was extremely helpful and patient with regard to our many inquiries, accommodated our request of different side tours, and even expedited receipt of our visas.

Our tour director for the week, Arian (Ari), was as good (if not better) than directors of other tour groups. Obviously, the company hires only top notch people as directors and drivers. All the same qualities: knowledgeable, respectful, friendly, organized, courteous, observant, flexible, etc, etc can be applied to our Ari. We included him in most meals (dinner as well) and often included our driver, Nordiel (sp?), because we enjoyed and appreciated them both so much.

Cuba itself is a unique and interesting island. In spite of a lot of Cubans being in mourning for the first four days of our trip, we still experienced fantastic meals, tours and activities. Personally, I easily got hooked on Mojitos! Our friendship with Ari expanded to his lovely fiance, Ebony, who also displayed the same high standard in a tour director.

As evident in our countless photos, our group of eleven friends returned with happy and fun memories. From meeting us at the airport to staying with us until the last possible moment of departure, Ari was fantastic! His exceptional ‘customer service’ made this unconventional, educational vacation all the more pleasant. Muchas gracias!

We are grateful for this opportunity.

Mary Alice Lynch

Flo, Teresa, Mario….
Thank you, Cultural Island Travel, for your expertise in organizing our trip…. from working with us on the itinerary, travel dates, hotel accommodations, Visas, Insurance, pre-departure information, travel affidavits, and last but not least – providing us with our guide, Mario J. Otero Acosta and our driver, Victor.

Air travel to and from Cuba went better than we could have imagined. Our accommodations were wonderful.
Your guide, Mario, and his driver, Victor, were the best!!!! Mario made sure our itinerary requests were met. The tour guides he hooked us up with at the art gallery, Old Havana’s famous plazas and UNESCO historical architectural sites, and the city tour of Trinidad were extremely knowledgable and informative.

The restaurants were five stars! From the Mediterranean Paladar, to lunch with Ivan Chef Justo, to lunch at Sol Ananda (Trinidad), to a sushi lunch at a fisherman’s home, to an organic lunch at Patio Pelegrin…. and many more lovely places not mentioned… We never had to wait to be seated. Tables were set and ready for us the moment we walked in the door. Mario introduced us to the chefs, helped us with meal recommendations, listened to and accommodated our dietary preferences.

Even though we had a busy itinerary, we never felt rushed. Mario would pick us up by 10:00. We never had to worry about the day ahead… he had everything planned out for us and more! The unexpected visit to a mechanic’s garage and a ride in a 1920 Model T was over the top wonderful!

So many wonderful memories. We loved Trinidad. The beach was beautiful. We loved driving through the country side, visiting the tobacco factory, spending time at Patio Pelegrin, interacting with the wonderful people of Cuba.
We were so comfortable with our taxi driver, Victor. He was the best!!!!

I forgot to mention how much we enjoyed the jazz concert!
Mario was more than accommodating to meet our needs. He had his phone/contacts working to give us the best possible experience we could have.

We are highly recommending that our friends consider visiting Cuba… using Cultural Island Travel and requesting Mario as their guide.

Thank you for helping make our trip to Cuba so memorable.

Janet Gessford Buhler

December 16, 2016
Dear Teresa,
The Cuba Experience was very enlightening and fun. We especially enjoyed the 2 women who joined our group. The Parque Central Hotel was perfectly situated and extremely nice with excellent food at the restaurants. We enjoyed the touring selections and tour guides, especially Yanni and Patricia stood out. All aspects of travel went very smoothly, no surprises or glitches. Our favorite experience was the San Cristobal restaurant.

I will absolutely share your travel agency with any and all family or friends who desire to experience Cuba as we did. Thank you all for all of your efforts to ensure this trip met our expectations.
Happy Holidays!

Charlotte Rios

Dear Teresa and Donna,
Roxanne and I cannot keep quiet about the awesome tour you arranged for us. Happiness shared with so many people!

Laurita is excellent as a Tour Director, but also, as a person. Even more, as a person. She is attuned to the needs and wishes of older travelers. She seems to be able to sense our thoughts and responds quickly and nicely. She is not just an observer, she is a participant observer. She is professional and sensitive as well. We are so very fortunate to have had her as a Director.

Andy is good as well, and really in tune with younger travelers, which is just fine. He is a very good choice for Tour Guide.

Thank you again for all your and Donna’s work setting this up. Now, I hope to return.

Ed and Martha Greenberg

November 20, 2016
Thanks to you and your people for putting together for the four of us a fabulous, magical trip to Cuba. Mario was the perfect tour guide, taking us to great places and helping us meet interesting local people, scouting out several really good restaurants and music venues, and guiding us with a light hand, being attentive to our needs while allowing a good deal of free time as well. He is a terrific young man and I suspect among the people who might help shape Cuba in the future.
Again, muchas gracias.

Lillian Silha

November 17, 2016
Honestly, I cannot say enough good things about our trip with Cultural Island Travel!! We had a truly wonderful trip and really fell in love with Cuba. Our accommodations were wonderful.. Hotel Miramar couldn’t be more beautiful and the service was tremendous. The meal we asked them to prepare was really delicious and bountiful. The restaurants we went to were also wonderful and it was so unexpected that we were able to order off the menu! We enjoyed all of the places we visited. Highlights for me were the visit to the school where the young children danced and the Compas Dancing School.
Ebony was certainly a wonderful guide. We enjoyed her love of Cuba, her vast knowledge, her willingness to answer our questions (and we asked a lot of them!), her patience with us, that she was flexible with the schedule, and most of all her choices of restaurants. She really helped us develop a love of Cuba!! We’re all anxious to learn more about Cuba and continue to follow its progress.

I have already recommended Cultural Island Travels to several of my friend to many friends who are interested in going there. Thank you, thank you, thank you for a fabulous experience!!!! I have traveled quite a bit and this was the best trip ever!

P.S Also very important is that the price was so good!!!


November 10, 2016
Hello Teresa and Donna –
Being able to travel to Havana was always a dream, one I never thought would be possible…until this year when the restrictions were lifted for Americans to travel to Cuba. And then I jumped at the chance to go, but had no idea how to make the dream a reality – that is, until I found Cultural Island Travel and the wonderful team of Teresa and Donna. Teresa and Donna listened to my millions upon millions of questions, asked me some further details about my dream trip to Cuba, and then magically created the best adventure for me! I cannot express how thorough they were, how every large and tiny possible issue was resolved to my satisfaction, and how any question I had was quickly answered with their expertise on the subject. From the moment I planned the trip with them, to the moment I returned, everything was as it was supposed to be, as it had been planned for me, and more importantly, was everything I dreamed Havana would be. They set up a phenomenal tour guide named Mario who treated me like a queen for the long weekend I was there. He was so kind, friendly, helpful, funny, a trouper when I wanted to veer off the itinerary, and became a true friend in just three short days. They even set up a few surprises along the way for me, as I was visiting Cuba on my birthday. They truly made not only my birthday but the entire weekend a truly special time, and one I will not soon forget. I cannot rave enough about Cultural Island Travel, Teresa, Donna, and Mario. If you’re looking for a long weekend in Havana, like I did to test the waters, then use them without a second thought. If you’re planning something longer like a week to travel the country, use them. If you’re wanting a tour specific to your desires, and don’t want to be lumped into a large tour group hopping on and off the bus and seeing only one sight a day, use them. You will not be disappointed with Cultural Island Travel. I loved my trip so much, that after my weekend in Havana, I called up Teresa and said, “I’m going back before the end of the year – can you help me plan another trip?” And the answer was, “Of course!” To which I responded, “YES!!” See you (again) in December, Havana!

As you know…I’m thrilled to be going back and can’t wait to see Raymond’s face when we visit some of the wonderful places in Havana (again). And he’s beyond ecstatic to be going for the first time. We are like kids in the candy store and can’t wait!! Thank you, again, to both of you for all your help to make both my trips so wonderful. I am truly so lucky to have worked with you both.

Emilie and Herb Klagsbrun

November 2, 2016
Teresa and Donna
Herb and I want to thank you for all the wonderful arrangements that you made for us. Our trip to Cuba was marvelous, everything so beautifully taken care of. Ebony our guide is just amazing. Not only is she charming and brilliant but she is warm and so easy to be with. She is very knowledgeable about Cuba and gave us wonderful off the cuff information. and for me being a bit clumsy saved the day a few times when I almost fell. She was always by our side.

Ebony made the trip so very personal and when we saw bus loads of tourists we were so happy to be with her on such very personal tour. Our driver German is a true Cuban gentleman ,smart and interesting to talk to. Born in Havana he is very loyal and committed to his country and shared some interesting insights. The whole experience was wonderful and i can’t wait to go back.

Thank you for all that you have done on our behalf

Melissa and Marley

July, 2016
Thank you so very much for planning such a fantastic trip for us!

I was a bit nervous in planning (as I’m sure you were well aware of!). I’d never heard of you, never left the country, and hadn’t planned on a communist island in July!

You’re plans for us were exactly what we were looking for. Ebony has become like a daughter to me, and I cried leaving her at the airport. What a privilege it was to have her all to ourselves!

We’ve shared your contact with numerous friends who want to visit, and we’re planning our next trip for early 2017. We’ll let you know when!

Thank you so much!

Bill Fernandez and Family

June, 2016
Teresa we wanted to write and let you know how much we appreciated you and “Cultural Island Travel” for your complete and cooperative, friendly handling of our family trip to Cuba this last June. This was an adventure we had no idea as to what to expect due to the lack of information coming out of Cuba and you made it comfortable and exciting to envision this trip which on the outset was to reconnect with relatives of our father’s roots. But it turned into much more especially due to our guide Mario Otero. Such a fun guide. He was exciting, informative, completely flexible to our ever changing plans, went way out of his way on several occasions to make it easy, willing to answer all questions about any subject and exciting to be around. Mario is an asset to this new opening up of the tourism there.
We learned so much in our short time and the insightful information for future tourism we received from Mario, will help us in advising others when venturing there.

Lenore Cymes

April, 2016
I know I thanked you before leaving on my trip as you made the options and planning a simple process. Now that I am back (alas) I want to thank you again. Everything was fantastic and went smoothly, except perhaps, running over the crabs. Having been to Cuba once before, I knew what I wanted to experience this time and feel real lucky to have come across your website. Ari was wonderful and took care of us like a protective Papa – which was funny since we were both much older than him. He made sure we got to see and do and dance.
If I were to get a bit more serious, the way CIT runs its business is exceptional. All your suggestions worked out beautifully and was very pleased I listen to your experience of using Euros instead of $$$ and to take the early plane to Miami instead of the later one. We thanked you in the airport as the 2:30 plane didn’t leave till 5, which meant we would have not made our connection home. I don’t know what time 4:30 plane left but it was well after 5:30. The Miami airport is an experience and lllllong walk to get to the next flight
Without any hesitation, I have already begun to recommend you to friends expressing an interest, but not sure they believe me when I tell them how smoothly everything went, all the activities (for lack of a better word) that we were able to experience. I just may be back – and you will hear from me again. Thank you, once more for everything – especially ISA…….that was so special, your restaurant recommendations were on target and especially overall patience/attention to detail.. I feel like I have made a friend.

March, 2016

Charles E. Crutchfield III, M.D. and family
We took an educational trip to Cuba 2 weeks ago coordinated by Cultural Island Travel and it was a trip of a lifetime. CIT arranged everything including visas and air transport from Miami. We had a private tour guide, Mario, who was absolutely marvelous. He met us at the airport and escorted us to all the best spots in a private car with driver. We saw artists co-ops, art schools, historic sites, farms, rum factory tour, a private jazz concert and the very best restaurants. We even took a historic car ride through Havana. The people were warm and the music and food were fantastic. Our hotel was great and my family is already looking to travel back to Cuba again. We would not do it without CIT. The trip will be a lifetime best memory for my family. I’d give the trip and the arrangements made by CIT a pure A+.
If you are thinking about traveling to Cuba, this IS the way to go.

Ronald D. McCray

December, 2015
What a fantastic trip!
Your tour to Cuba was wonderful – mostly the result of Patricia – a smart, caring, personal, energetic and knowledgeable guide, who made a complex Cuba so accessible and understandable for those of us so eager to learn and to explore. Love her!

Havana, the rest of Cuba and the Jazz festival, which offered a rich but complex blend for the palate, ears, eyes, head and heart were a wonderful backdrop to an experience of a lifetime.

A number of friends plan to travel from the US to Cuba; I will be sure to refer them to Patricia! I plan to get my musician colleagues on board, too!


December, 2015
I believe I speak for everyone when I tell you that I just had the most amazing week of my life. Patricia is awesome! She sets the standard for Tour Guides. In fact there are not enough superlatives to describe her adequately. Your itinerary plan was excellent. My hotel, the Capri, was great. Juanito and Joaquin were extremely helpful. And we were lucky to have a great mix of people in our group. We all jelled and had a lot of fun, all with Patricia’s skilled guidance, of course. Our concert with Jorge Pacheco was unbelievable. I’ve seen many piano players, but none could play with his speed and facility. His compositions are superb. He’s unique, truly one of a kind. When he gets to the US his career.

Call us today for legal travel & $200 OFF our packages booked by March 31!
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