Baracoa is one of the most interesting places to visit in Cuba. Located in the Guantanamo Province, on the south-western tip of the island, not many travelers make it all the way there, because it is actually quite hard to reach. Most will bus their way down from Havana and once they are out of time, they will rush back to the capital to catch their flight.
When I visited, I did exactly the opposite. After visiting Havana, I flew to Santiago de Cuba and from there took the bus to Baracoa, then made my way back to Havana. This is how I recommend doing it, actually. Because you see – Baracoa really is one of those hidden gems that would be a pity to miss.
I recommend spending at least 3 full days in Baracoa Cuba. For as small as it is, it has a lot to offer and you will honestly enjoy it so much that you will be sad to leave.
In this post, I highlight all the things to see and do in Baracoa and share some useful tips that will help you make the most of your time there.
In a rush? These guided tours will help you make the most of Baracoa:
- El Yunque guided hike – El Yunque is the best hike to do in the area of Baracoa and one of the best in Cuba. You will need a guide to do it, and Civitatis sells the best guided tours in the region.
- Yumuri Canyon tour – one of the most scenic places you will see in the country, this guided tour includes a boat trip.
- Rio Miel river mouth trip – this river is so clean that you will want to jump in. The tour is an excellent way to enjoy it.
- Alejandro de Humboldt National Park trip – a great guided tour sold on Civitatis that goes to a few of the best places to visit in the region, including a beach.
- Playa Maguana Beach Transfer – you get to spend up to 6 hours in one of the most beautiful beaches in Cuba.
Continue reading to discover everything you need to know about Baracoa.
10 Cool Things To Do In Baracoa, Cuba
Explore the city
Believe it or not, Baracoa was the first capital of Cuba. The city was founded in 1511 by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar in an area that was isolated from the rest of the country – an isolation which continued well into the 20th century.
The city isn’t as beautiful as others in Cuba – especially if you compare it to Havana or Trinidad. Most of its colonial charm has long gone, and Baracoa has a beaten up look thanks to the incessant wind, the regular rain, and the hurricanes. Yet, it is a pleasant city to explore, probably because it is incredibly laid back and unpretentious.
It will take no more than a couple of hours to explore it. Make sure to visit the Cathedral, to admire the many murals celebrating Guevara, the revolution and other prominent figures of that time, and to go to the Malecon, the city’s waterfront.
Eat the delicious food
Food in Cuba is good but it will hardly awaken your taste buds. Except in Baracoa, where you can expect to have one glorious meal after the other. Cuisine in this part of the country is simply different from that of other places – full of flavors, significantly more eclectic, and by no means obvious. You will dream about the food in Baracoa for the rest of your trip – that surely happened to me when all I could find for dinner was (fresh but) boring grilled fish with white rice.
Among the dishes you absolutely have to try in Baracoa there is shrimps, octopus or even lobster in coconut sauce. It just is heavenly.
Learn about chocolate
The area around Baracoa is packed with cocoa plantations. Chances are you will cross them many times unknowingly, and stare at the strange large nuts hanging from the trees without knowing what they are. I saw many such plants on my way to El Yunque.
One interesting thing you can do in Baracoa is learning about the chocolate making process – from the harvesting of cocoa to the toasting of the seeds and the production of milk and dark chocolate. It tastes nothing like the one you are used to – it’s rougher in texture, almost as if sugar had not fully melted in it. But I assure you it is good.
Then have a chocolate drink
Once you are done learning about how chocolate is made, you can stop to taste a chocolate drink at the Casa de Cacao in Calle Maceo 121 – basically the main street in Baracoa. First of all, it is worth pointing out that although some call it the Chocolate Museum, this is not a museum at all. It basically is just a café where you can have all sorts of chocolate flavored things – cake, pastries, chocolate pralines and drinks.
The cakes are frankly nothing special, but the drinks are good. You can have hot or cold chocolate, with or without rum, and with or without a chocolate ball inside. There is no lactose free option, unfortunately, so this is definitely not a suitable place for vegans.
Hike El Yunque
If there is one thing you can’t miss when in Baracoa, that’s hiking El Yunque.
This cone shaped, flat at the top mountain can be seen all the way from town and its peak reaches 500 meters above sea level. Hardly an altitude – yet this is a challenging hike.
Keep in mind that you are in the heart of the Caribbean, in a region that is incredibly humid and where the air is heavy to breathe. It rains pretty much every day at some point, and so the trail is muddy and slippery. To get to the beginning of the trail, you have to cross the river (either on a traditional boat called cayuca, or on foot, which means you have to strip of your clothes and carry your backpack on your head) and walk through a cocoa plantation.
From the beginning of the actual trail, it takes about 2 hours to get to the top, from where you can enjoy beautiful views. The overall hike, including the walk from the visitors’ center where you have to stop to hire a guide (this is mandatory) takes 6 hours and includes a stop at some beautiful waterfalls too.
TIP: Wear hiking boots, a hat and take a swimsuit and a quick dry towel with you. Make sure to carry enough food and water as well.
If you want, you can book this guided hike via Civitatis here.
Explore Yumuri Canyon
Yumuri Canyon is located at around 30 km from Baracoa. It makes for a great, easy day trip during which you get to drive along the coast and pass the Tunel de los Alemanes (German Tunnel). The canyon is 180 meters deep. A good tour typically includes a boat ride and the chance to swim in the clear waters. You can even bike there. If this is something you want to do, make sure to leave nice and early. The bike ride is fairly easy, but it is around 60 km and the terrible heat will make it hard.
You can book your Yumuri Canyon tour here.
Go to Parque Nacional Alejandro Humboldt
Baracoa is known as the city of 29 rivers – that’s how much water there is there. Such a lush place means that there is incredible biodiversity, which can be best admired at Parque Nacional Alejandro Humboldt, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There, you will be able to admire various species including hummingbirds, falcons, lizards, the smallest bird, various frogs, scorpions and bats. Through a path in the jungle you can reach a viewpoint from where you will be able to enjoy great views.
You can book your Alejandro de Humboldt National Park trip here.
Go to Playa Maguana
Not far from Baracoa, there are various beautiful beaches where you can spend a few hours relaxing. My favorite is Playa Maguana. Locals love it; and it is getting more and more popular among tourists. You won’t find much in terms of services – there is nowhere to rent equipment, and a few nearby local restaurants. The beach itself is stunning: fine, golden sand; incredibly clear waters and a coral reef you can reach on an easy swim.
At about 5 km west of Playa Maguana you will find the even more secluded Playa Nava.
TIP: Playa Maguana and Playa Nava can be visited on the same day. There is no public transportation to get there, so you can book a Playa Maguana beach transfer here. Alternatively, enquire with your casa particular for the cheapest option to get there.
Have a drink at Hotel El Castillo
Hotel El Castillo is easily reached from the main street in Baracoa Cuba. From there, you can enjoy nice views of the city and the coast below and then head to the pool at the back from a fabulous cocktail. There are several to pick from and they are all good, so for once try to be more adventurous and don’t order your typical mojito or pina colada!
Enjoy a night out at Casa de la Trova
Cuba is often associated with salsa. The best place to enjoy some salsa tunes (and practice your moves) in Baracoa is Casa de la Trova, not far from the Cathedral. There are daily salsa performances at set times, but if you go later in the night you can actually be part of the show and dance too.
Practical Information To Plan Your Trip To Baracoa Cuba
Guided tours of Cuba that also go to Baracoa Cuba
If you love traveling but hardly enjoy planning a trip, I can put together a custom made itinerary for you and give you the joy of traveling independently. If you’d rather join a guided tour, I recommend going with G Adventures. Their Cuba Colonial tour goes to all the best places to visit in Cuba, including Baracoa, in just 15 days and for a very reasonable price. You can check it out here.
Getting a visa for Cuba
All visitors need a Cuba Tourist Card for their trip. Ask Easy Tourist Card to arrange your visa for Cuba for just $35 USD!
Make sure to read my post “How To Get The Visa For Cuba In 8 Easy Steps (Also For Americans).”
Where to stay in Baracoa Cuba
Baracoa has a few good casas particulares. I stayed at Casa Colonial Gustavo y Yalina, in Flor Combret 125, phone number 0053 21 64 25 36. It is a nice colonial house with spacious rooms facing an internal yard.
These are some other good places to stay in Baracoa that you can book online:
- Casa Bella Vista is located in the center of Baracoa. Rooms are large and comfortable.
- Casa Yindra y Ruben is a convenient guest house that comes really recommended.
- Hotel El Castillo is just 5 minutes from the centre and is the only one in town with a pool.
How to get to Baracoa Cuba
Baracoa is connected to the rest of the country via La Farola (The Lighthouse Road), which was built in 1964. You can get there by Viazul bus from Santiago de Cuba (there are 5 daily buses) but you will have to make sure to book a few days in advance either via the website or in person by going to the bus station. It is a lovely ride over the hills, that lasts around 5 hours depending on the amount of stops.
When to visit Baracoa Cuba
Baracoa is located in the most tropical region of Cuba. This means one thing: rain, rain and more rain. Don’t get me wrong though. You will get plenty of sun if you visit between December and April, but expect a good daily shower. In general, the weather is hot and humid.
Other useful information
Make sure to get a good guide book for your trip to Cuba. Keep in mind that you won’t be able to rely on wifi there so you want something handy to get information when needed. These are a few good options:
All travelers need a good travel insurance to travel to Cuba. Make sure to read my post “Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”
Make sure to read my other posts about Cuba to help you plan your trip:
- A Great Guide To The Things To Do In Havana
- The Most Fantastic Things To In Do Cuba: The Ultimate Guide
- How To Get The Visa For Cuba In 8 Easy Steps (Also For Americans)
- The 31 Best Beaches In Cuba
- Trinidad Cuba: The Most Complete Guide
- The 7 Best Places To Go Hiking In Cuba
- 10 Fabulous Day Trips From Havana
- A Great Guide To Viñales Cuba
- A Great Guide To Cienfuegos Cuba
- The Most Delicious Cuban Food: 35 Mouthwatering Cuban Dishes
- A Short Guide To Camaguey Cuba