He arrived to small but cheering crowds on Sunday at the start of a historic visit to Cuba that opened a new chapter in U.S. engagement with the island's Communist government after decades of hostility between the former Cold War foes.
He was met by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, the top Cuban official present. The formal welcoming ceremony will be on Monday when Obama meets the Cuban president at the presidential palace.
U.S. officials appeared unfazed by Castro’s absence from the airport welcome, even though he personally met and greeted Pope Francis in September. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump tweeted that Obama’s visit was a “big deal” but that he got “no respect.”
Obama will hold talks with Castro – but not his brother Fidel, the revolutionary leader - and speak to entrepreneurs on Monday. He meets privately with dissidents, addresses Cubans live on state-run media and attends an exhibition baseball game on Tuesday.
The trip carries both symbolism and substance after decades of hostility between Washington and Havana.
Traveling with first lady Michelle Obama, her mother and their daughters, Sasha and Malia, Obama took in the sights of the colonial-era neighborhood and was given a tour of Havana's 18th century cathedral by Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who played a role in secret talks that led to the rapprochement 15 months ago.
The Obamas dined at the San Cristobal restaurant, run by an Afro-Cuban as part of a cautious opening to private enterprise since Fidel Castro handed power to his brother in 2008.