Baracoa, a natural Cuban treasure, is being discovered … again. First by Columbus and now by the appreciative traveller.
Baracoa’s tranquil colonial village is surrounded by virgin rainforests threaded with streams, rivers and secluded beaches; it is overlooked by flat-topped El Yunque and populated with citizens who welcome you as part of their daily lives. Baracoa is not on the beaten tourist path yet so go soon.
Yadmicel y Neoris
Yadmicel y Neoris welcome you to their casa particular near the center of town on Calle Marti and instantly make you feel like a special friend. They have one guestroom which hosts two beds (double & single), small 3 piece ensuite bathroom, small fridge, fan and air-conditioning. Their home is clean and well kept. The front porch is a good place to take a break and watch villagers going about their daily chores.
Well priced meals are plentiful, freshly made, tasty and served at the dining table just outside the bedroom door.
Some English is spoken and with hand gestures communication was good.
Address: Calle Marti 145-A, Baracoa, Guantanamo, Cuba
Phone: 216-41118 or 216-42441
SIGHTSEEING IN BARACOA
The Village is very walkable, mostly flat but venture up the different side streets and staircases to appreciate the views. If you need a reason to go up, take time to see the very modest Cave Museum located in a group of post-Pliocene, Phreatic caves in a neighborhood on the southern hill just east of the El Castillo Hotel (beyond the Ranchón).
Cocoa Tour and Yumuri River. The tiny village of Yumurí is 22 miles (35 kilometers) from Baracoa and can be reached on a highway bordered by lush vegetation and dotted by cocoa trees. For tour arrangements, ask your casa particular hosts.
Hike up El Yunque. On the 27th of November 1492 Christopher Columbus wrote in his diary “and at the head of it in the south east part, stands a cape in which there is a high and square mountain that looks like an island…”.
Night Life Yes, in the cool of the evening this tranquil village comes alive with an enthusiastic night life, filled with music and chatter … in the street, on the dance floors, in bars, cafes and restaurants. Laugh and dance like a local.
FOOD & DRINK IN CITY/TOWN
For decades Cuba has been criticized for its bland and unimaginative food. Other than street pizzas, pastries, etc, Cubans tend to eat at home … mostly for economic reasons. When Cuba reopened it’s doors to tourists in 1997 and began allowing casa particulars (similar to B&Bs), visitors to this country now have an opportunity to enjoy home cooked meals. Some of Cuba’s best and most reasonably priced meals can be enjoyed in casa particulars. For dinner and lunch the choice is usually chicken, pork, fish or vegetarian.
Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner:
In Baracoa we ate all breakfasts and dinners at our casa particular. Breakfast was enough to carry us through to dinner with just a little street snack mid-day.
Water: Drinking water in Cuba for visitors should be bottled. Most Cubans boil the water they use. Having ice cubes is usually safe at hotels, restaurants and casa particulars which cater to tourists.
Drinks: Cuba is famous for it’s rum. Individual purchased drinks are tourist priced. Buying bottles of rum and mix at a bar or mercado and mixing your own is common in Cuba (and ridiculously inexpensive). Beer brands ‘Bucanero’ and its lighter version ‘Cristal’ are the two most popular beer offered.
Snacks: Pop, chips and cookies are luxury items and are sold in Cuban convertible pesos (CUC$). If you have national pesos (CUP) you can buy local goods like street pizza for approx 45¢ US, a loaf of bread approx 12¢, ice cream cone approx 7¢ and a glass of sugar cane juice approx 8¢. Chocolate bars: Baracoa is famous for its cocoa and their Fantasia dark chocolate bar is excellent. Interestingly, we purchased the freshest bars from street vendors at a view stop on the way into town. The vendors also offered the local favourite ‘cucurucho’, a mix of grated coconut, fresh fruit and sugar wrapped in a palm-leaf cone. A popular street stand by the yellow Hotel Encanto La Rusa on the waterfront promenade serves a type of deep fried dumpling. Casa del Chocolate, the town’s ice cream shop, sometimes does and sometimes doesn’t have ice cream and bored waitresses outnumber customers.
GETTING AROUND CITY/TOWN
An easy, comfortable and inexpensive way to go between most cities in Cuba is by ViaZul Bus, however, at the time of writing, they did not go to Baracoa.
By air into Gustavo Rizo Airport.
By taxi or transfer car from Guantanamo or Santiago de Cuba.
GAP Adventures has a number of tour options for Cuba; the longest being their 15 day Colonial Tour which includes Baracoa.