We are a team of hospitality, culinary and tour professionals. We have fully researched and selected accommodations, restaurants, bars, private clubs, historical sites and well known personalities to deliver the best possible experiences to you.

Our Team

martaMarta Hernandez

Tour Guide

Marta Hernadez was born and raised in central Havana and attended the University of Havana. She went on to work as a culinary educator at the prestigious Escuela de Hoteleria and Tourismo Sevilla, and served as Vice President of The Culinary Federation of Havana. Her local knowledge and connections, large family, vitality and quick wit make her a highly admired member of the Cuba Up Close team.

mannyManny Mercado

Culinary Tour Manager

Manny Mercado has many years experience in the Miami, Florida culinary world working for top chefs and managing culinary tours to Cuba. He is bi-lingual, an avid bicyclist and percussionist and has extensive knowledge of food and beverage as a chef and culinary tour manager. His fun loving spirit and spontaneity add a well received dimension to the tours as he navigates the many challenges of Cuba’s idiosyncrasies with ease and efficiency.

Jean-Fuller-Gest-smJean Fuller Gest

Coordinator

Jean Fuller Gest began her career in the tourism industry managing and owning a group of restaurants in the Northeast geared towards tourists on the Connecticut coast. She is a past Vice President of Connecticut Restaurant Association, past two time nominee for Restaurateur of the Year by Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, former Assistant Director of Marketing for Hearst Magazines and Certificate holder from the University of Houston: Conrad Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management. Jean’s professional and personal contacts in Cuba, Miami and Washington, DC have secured interesting, authentic and off the beaten track connections, not otherwise available through cultural tours.

flaviaFlavia Caldas

Tour Guide

When she isn’t traveling with Cuba Up Close, Flavia Caldas is a photographer, blogger and tour guide in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami. Flavia brings depth to the tours with her knowledge of Cuban American culture and the varying viewpoints towards the newly renewed diplomacy between Obama and the Castros. She is tri-lingual, an accomplished Flamenco dancer and is well versed on Cuban traditions and culture.

Anais Bello-200Anais Tamayo Bello

Tour Guide

When she is not touring with Cuba Up Close, Anais is a top guide at a Cuban UNESCO world heritage site. She speaks four languages and attended the prestigious University of Havana’s School of Foreign Languages. Anais has an extensive knowledge of Western Cuba’s tobacco and sugarcane growing regions and grew up in Cuba’s rich cultural heritage. Her humor and intellect combined with a warm welcoming manner make her a top requested guide at the central biosphere where she guides tourist from all over the globe.

dayron profile-1Dayron Gonzalez

Lead Coordinator

Born and raised in Central Havana, Dayron graduated from the School of Foreign Languages at the University of Havana with high excellence. He was then selected for the prestigious role of professor and taught for 6 years. Additionally, he worked in the tourism division of the Cuban government for 10 years, leading tours on Architecture, Art, Nature, History and Culture in Cuba. A valuable member of Cuba Up Close, Dayron has a great sense of humor, is detail oriented, very friendly and always knows the inside scoop on the street.

Nelson AlvarezNelson Alvarez, AIA

Nelson Alvarez is a Cuban born architect, photographer and current professor at the University of Miami School of Architecture. His warm welcoming demeanor and keen knowledge of the inside workings of Havana’s architectural past and present captivates his audiences whether he is speaking to one person or one hundred. Mr. Alvarez’s extensive background as a project manager and consultant of restoration and design collaboratives in Venice, Italy and throughout Havana make him a valued addition to the Cuba Up Close team.