(Update October 2018)
I was very glad that Baracoa was my last stop in Cuba. Although it was Cuba’s first Spanish settlement – some say in 1511, some 1512 – and even used to be the capital from 1518 to 1522, until today it’s totally secluded and cut off from the rest of the island by a mountain range with only one road.
|View of Baracoa and the Bahia de Miel, the Honey Bay, from the Hotel El Castillo.|
Wrapping me in its relaxed, homey atmosphere, Baracoa would have spoiled me for the rest of Cuba.
|I presume you don’t blame me for having spent every day at a couple of hours on this beach.|
It’s this mix of local everyday life, some mildly touristy facilities and lots of time and space to create your own blissful vacation.
|Lobster overlooking the ocean where the good people of Playa Maguana caught it just minutes ago.|
The village itself is nice, but of course not very exciting.
But the surroundings are just exquisite: the ocean, mountains, rivers, wild beauty of nature.
Baracoa has a city beach which is not very nice, but as you keep walking east, you get to the pretty secluded Playa Blanca.
|Beats me why they call a beach full of black rocks Playa Blanca.|
But first you have to cross a bridge over a river – which is incomplete, so that there is a boat waiting at one end of the rotten bridge, picking up passengers and taking them to the other side. Quite fun – and very Cuban.
|Necessity is the mother of invention – I assume this slogan was created in Cuba.|
Although everything is nearby, due to the terrible dust roads with huge potholes it takes a while to get for instance to paradisiac Playa Maguana or the Parque Alejandro de Humboldt.
To get there, just take a jeep at the Parque Central. There are also travel agencies organizing trips – whereby ‘organizing’ isn’t the correct word. Since these agencies are government owned, the employees are not…overambitious. While in Cienfuegos my day trip with Cubanacan was just great, in Baracoa there either was nobody at the office or for some reason they were not able to book anything or….finally I organized my rides and trips with the guys hanging around the main square.
As a matter of fact, the son of my hosts in Baracoa is a biologist and offers tours to the Parque Alejandro de Humboldt. If you want to check with him, please refer to this post’s rating section where you find all the contact details I was able to get.
|Alejandro de Humboldt overlooking the Parque Nacional that the good people of Baracoa named after him|
Serious hikers will enjoy a tour on the 575 meters high mountain El Yunque – located about seven kilometers west of Baracoa.
|View of El Yunque…from where you have a grand view.|
A very nice day trip goes first to a cocoa finca; cacao, coconuts, and bananas are the main products from this region. On the finca, you get to see how cacao grows and how it is proceded. You can also stock up on cocoa products like beans, powder, cream, and of course chocolate. Unfortunately, I must say that I got to use only the beans that I did grind together with coffee beans which give the brew a chocolaty taste. The rest rotted pretty fast, even chocolate stored in the fridge had some sort of parasites in it. But maybe it was just bad luck.
Another good option to try chocolate from Baracoa is in the town center: At the Casa del Chocolate on calle Maraví you can sample it in drinks and foods – but don’t expect a smile or ambitious service: It’s a government-owned place.
|Cocoa fresh from the tree.|
The trip continued to Río Yumurí where a boat took us to some small islands where we were floating with the current of the clear, ice cold river.
|Floating in ice-cold waters certainly was refreshing.|
At sunset, there’s no better place to be than at Hotel El Castillo way up high over Baracoa. The food is…sorry to repeating myself: it’s a government-owned restaurant…not good. But have a mojito – as always for 3 CUC – and just enjoy the view.
|Buenas Noches, Baracoa!|
It takes about four hours to get to Baracoa from Santiago, and it takes an entire day to get from Baracoa to Havana. But there are domestic flights from the Gustavo Rizo airport. However, if you have an international flight from Havana, I recommend to include a time buffer of at least 24 hours; at least. I had two nights before my flight out: I got to Havana in the morning, left my stuff at the Casa Particular, spent the day on one of Playas del Este, had a nice dinner and a last mojito and left the next morning. If for any reason the flight was canceled, I’d had more than 24 hours to make it to Havana by bus or by cab.
Actually, I’m sticking to this timing anywhere in the world – and definitely in Cuba.
|A truly tropical journey from Aeroporto Gustavo Rizo.|
This map should show you all the places worth visiting and mentioned in this post:
Do you want to read about all the other beautiful places I’ve visited in Cuba?