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5 top things to do in Baracoa

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What are the 5 top things to do in Baracoa? It is hard to choose as this small coastal town has something to suit everyone, particularly those who love nature, good food and beautiful pristine beaches. Here are our top 5 things to do in Baracoa:

1.Hike up El Yunque

‘El Yunque’ is Spanish for anvil, and when you look at the shape of this mountain it becomes clear why it has this name. The 545m high mountain just inland from the city is easily seen from all around Baracoa and it is well worth climbing for the wonderful panoramic views from the top over the lush countryside and coastline. Access to the trail head is by jeep and our local specialist guide will tell you all about the flora and fauna and show you some of the endemic birds and insects in this area as you hike. This is one of the iconic hikes in this part of the island.

2.Visit a cocoa farm

Our director Kath Bateman recently went to a small family run farm on the outskirts of the town. Seedlings are supplied by the government and local farmers then carefully nurture the plants until they are able to produce pods which contain the cocoa seeds. Many of the local cocoa farms are small family run businesses, and other produce is also grown such as mangoes, bananas and yucca. We can organise a guided visit to a local farm for you to learn all about the process from start to finish. Che Guevara officially opened the state controlled chocolate factory in Baracoa and chocolate features heavily in local drinks and desserts as well as being exported for manufacturing into luxury chocolate bars.

3.Eat delicious local food

Baracoa is famous in Cuba for its unique cuisine based on locally sourced ingredients such as coconut, cocoa and seafood. A small vegetarian restaurant tucked away at end of the seafront Malecón – no sign outside and no advertising – specialises in organic produce grown on the owner/chef’s own farm. Aristides Smith is an affable host, happy to discuss his dishes and to talk about the benefits of organic produce. He also offers free meals to kids under 10 years old and to pregnant woman and provides free cookery classes to the local community. For a fixed price, guests are invited to arrive at a specific time to share a delicious vegetarian buffet-style meal, complete with local hot chocolate sweetened by organic honey. For those who have a different taste, La Cocina de Restaurant Ortiz has established itself as one of the top restaurants in Baracoa. Chef Ineldis Ortiz is a local man who learned his trade cooking in fine restaurants in Havana, but decided to come home to Baracoa to open his own place. His grilled lobster with garlic was one of the tastiest we have ever eaten, and for a very reasonable price. Definitely worth a visit.

4.Walk in the Alexander Humboldt National Park

This is a top national park in Cuba and recognised as one of the most important biosphere reserves in the Caribbean. It is not visited as much as many other more accessible locations on the island despite being declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2001. Named after the eponymous German explorer and geographer who visited Cuba in 1800, the Alexander Humboldt national park is part of Cuba’s extensive protected areas and is home to many endemic species of insects, birds and plant life. Bird watching is particularly good in this park and you can see a wide variety of birds including the Cuban trogons, bullfinches and todies.

5.Eat Cucurucho

Cucurucho is a speciality of Baracoa and is a sweet mix of sugar, coconut and honey with nuts or pineapple wrapped in a palm leaf rolled into a cone shape.  It is a delicious treat and is sold by local vendors on the roadsides and beaches and in local markets too.

About the Author
Kath Bateman founded Caledonia in 1996 and still has a very active role in the company. As a linguist and avid traveller, Caledonia brings together many strands of Kath’s personal and professional interests. She is a Modern Languages and Tourism graduate and has worked as a tour leader and trilingual guide, ski rep and salsa teacher, cultural events organiser, salsa club promoter and English language teacher. She lived and studied in France and Austria and has travelled widely elsewhere in Europe, Latin America and particularly in Cuba. Kath is still very much involved in the business and is as motivated by what Caledonia does as when she first set up the company in the spare room at home all those years ago.